Lord Ashcroft has produced another round of marginal polling – full details here. His last batch of polls revisited the Con-held ultra-marginals with Labour in second place. This time they deal with some Conservative held marginals with slightly larger majorities and revisit some Labour held marginals. The latter aren’t of much interest at the moment (with Labour ahead in the polls there is no realistic chance of the Conservatives gaining seats from Labour, so until and unless the Conservatives start showing a lead over Labour in national polls polling Labour-held Conservative targets is a little bit academic, though I may return to them in a future post), for the immediate future the Con-held marginals are more relevant.

Lord Ashcroft’s earlier polling of Con-marginals took the eleven Con-Lab seats with majorities under 2 percent. This round of polling took the seats with majorities between 2 and 3 percent, eight of them. The average swing across these seats was 6 points from Con to Lab, the equivalent of a 5 point Labour lead in the national polls. A little larger than in national polls at the moment but, as with Lord Ashcroft’s previous waves of polling in Conservative -v- Labour seats, not that different.

As usual with Lord Ashcroft’s polls this wasn’t a poll of a group of marginal seats, it was eight fully fledged polls of individual constituencies and looking at the individual seats spits out a few interesting findings. Lord Ashcroft used the two stage voting intention question for the constituency poll, first asking people a generic voting intention question and then asking people to consider their own constituency and the candidates likely to stand there in an attempt to squeeze out tactical or incumbency effects. Normally this has a huge effect in seats where the Liberal Democrats are in contention, and very little effect in seats where they aren’t. The effect of the two stage question here was illustrative – in four seats the Conservatives did very slightly better in the second question (what we’d expect from the incumbency effect). In Warrington South (a three way marginal) and Bedford (which has a strong local Lib Dem presence) the second question boosted the Lib Dems. In Stroud the second question boosted Labour, perhaps because the ousted Labour MP David Drew is seeking to return at the next election (Patrick Hall is also seeking to return in Bedford, where the second question also showed a slightly bigger swing to Labour). Also worth noting was the healthy performance by the Greens in Stroud, up on 12%.

A final observation: Southampton Itchen, one of the four Labour held seats, showed a swing of 0.5% from Lab to Con, putting the Conservatives and Labour neck and neck on 33%. This seems unlikely, while John Denham is standing down in Southampton Itchen the last time Ashcroft polled the seat in May it had an eight point Labour lead. A more likely explanation for the rather odd result is probably that suggested by Lord Ashcroft himself in his commentary – that Southampton Itchen has a substantial university population (students and staff) who wouldn’t have been around when the poll was conducted.

382 Responses to “New Lord Ashcroft marginal poll”

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  1. Oldnat

    “The good guys and bad guys analysis of” anything struggles everywhere because it is transparent cobblers!

    What about the Spanish Civil War?

  2. that should read “arbitrary” boundaries.


  3. Amber

    I think that the FSA & residents of Aleppo can explain about ISIS right now.

    There is a frightening future scenario set out in my paper today:-

    ISIL consolidate the Caliphate in southern Syria & northern Iraq. Iraq collapses into a rump Shia south & an expanded Kurdistan. Iran moves into what is left of Iraq to “protect” Shias & provide a buffer against IS.
    With ten years, Syria, Lebanon & Jordan cease to exist as sectarian & factional fighting allow IS to enlarge the Caliphate-now stretching from the Med to the Tigris.IS pledge to “regain” north Africa and “El-Andalus”
    Turkish Kurds press for separation -to join Kurdistan. Turkey is in a de facto war with Kurdistan.

    Russia, USA, UK, France, Qatar & Saudi all “support people who need & deserve assistance” as you put it-arming them & pouring petrol on the flames.

    The Caliphate becomes a medieval , post-apocalyptic , territory where schools & hospitals no longer exist & females live in lifetime slavery. There is no economy save barter for the masses & the vast oil wealth of the Caliph & his gang.

    And then there is Israel !

  4. In case this hasn’t already been posted, the full breakdown of the West Midlands PCC by-election by local authority area can be found here:


    I was surprised that Labour managed over 50% first preferences on a low turnout, given that the Conservatives are consistently ahead on postal votes. Had the turnout been in the expected single figures it might have been closer.

    From what I’ve heard reported Lab and Con both leafletted very patchily but there was nothing from UKIP or the LDs who just relied upon the all-party brochure sent out by Freepost. I think the vast majority of electors won’t even have realised that an election was going on during polling day – especially the politically disengaged voters whom UKIP seem to rely on. That’s in contrast to a local authority by-election where the small area makes it possible to generate the atmosphere of a campaign with very limited resources.

    Although such a low turnout is unrepresentative, those figures suggest that Labour is ahead in most of the key West Midlands marginals, the exception being Halesowen and Stourbridge, although bear in mind that the Conservative candidate hailed from Dudley.

    Shame that there wasn’t a supplementary vote run off. 3/4 of the votes available to transfer would have been UKIP and 1/4 LD. Had there been one we would have had a pretty clear indication of UKIP 2nd preferences across the West Midlands.

  5. COLIN
    The whole area is a snake pit of religious sectarian hatred.

    Except for the mass of the population which is too busy obtaining a livelihood, mainly from small-scale farming or trading, observing their own brand of Islam, traditionally tolerating small Christian and other sects as their neighbours.
    The reason why most one-party, man with a big stick, governments work tolerably well in both the Middle East and elsewhere is that the majority are not young male zealots, do not have kalashnikovs. They also do not have the intervention of Western politicians with ideas for peace on earth and the Millenium, the support of a self-serving military intelligence industry, and little real experience or knowledge of poor, non-democratic but otherwise stable countries.

  6. Upholding international boundaries is a principle that is adhered to to provide security against border wars in many parts of the world. It is nothing to do with who created the boundaries in the first place (or why).

  7. CANDY.
    I agree with your post concerning the attacks on Ed Miliband.
    The TIMES, this morning: Saturday, has some powerful correspondence about what it feels like to be Jewish at this time in the UK.
    I hope the GE campaign does not go down any nasty roads like this.
    We can all remember Smethwick Man in 1964; those of us of a certain age.

  8. @ JohnPilgrim

    The whole area is a snake pit of religious sectarian hatred… and a mass of competing interests in oil and gas pipelines aimed at supplying Europe.

  9. @hal

    “Upholding international boundaries is a principle that is adhered to to provide security against border wars in many parts of the world. It is nothing to do with who created the boundaries in the first place (or why)”

    Which international boundaries to uphold – and the effort put into upholding them – is very often to do with who and why created them in the first place – and that is dirven by geo-politics and access to resources. Resources like oil. Found in large quantities in northern iraq.

  10. JOHN

    I don’t see much stability in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq…………

    As to the “local population”. In the Ninevah Plain, the Sunni heartland appears to have offered no resistance to IS.
    Yesterday, 65 Sunni’s were gunned down in their mosque in Diyala Province.

    And on & on it goes. You can allocate blame to Western Governments all you like-and who would not have criticisms of their policies?.
    But the slaughter we see now is borne of factional power struggles & poisonous sectarian hatreds within .

    A brilliant summary of what happened from 1914 onwards in the ‘Middle East’ may be found in Piers Brendon’s ‘The Decline and Fall of the British Empire. Chapter Ten.

    Nasty stuff.

  12. SYZYGY

    @” and a mass of competing interests in oil and gas pipelines aimed at supplying Europe.”

    Sure is :-


  13. Paul A

    Since the Spanish Civil War had atrocities committed by both sides, that’s a good example of my point

  14. DAODAO says- ‘IMO, what UK citizens get up to abroad, in other jurisdictions, should not be the concern of the UK government.’

    But it has to be concerned with what they learn and think and want to get up to if allowed back in to the UK.

  15. Colin
    At the time of the first Iraq war, Enoch Powell pointed out that the long term historical reality was that the region was dominated by whoever had control of what we now call Iran and what we now call Turkey. When these two powers are strong, there is nothing else; when they are weak there are countries like Iraq and Syria.
    Medium term it looks as if Turkey will be first to expand its role. At any rate I don’t think there ill be a long term vacuum.

  16. In the Spanish Civil War atrocities were committed by both sides.. but there very clearly was a right and wrong side.

  17. ^^^ Barney Crockett – there really wasn’t a right side. According to wiki, the Labour party in the ’30s was split over the war, with the Catholic members horrified at the murder of 20% of the clergy by Republicans and the rest horrified at the entry of the Nazis on the side of the nationalists.

    Neither side in that war had positions that we would consider to be normal and acceptable in a parliamentary democracy.

    Basically the Spanish Civil War was the first war where Wannabe Superpowers – the Nazis and the Soviets in this case – piled in, using a local war as a proxy for their wider ambitions.

    And the result was a proper horror.

    So OldNat is correct.

    When you read about what happened, it’s amazing the Spanish have gotten over it and come out the other end fairly sane.

  18. Candy
    Don’t try repeating what you are saying in Spain or you will find out exactly how far they have got over it.
    In fact at an EU event I was savaged by the Spanish delegation for even saying that atrocities had been committed by the anti-fascists though they were assuaged by the information I sent on about Aberdeen’s small role in the anti-fascist struggle.
    Volunteers from a Cathoic background played a leading role in the Scottish contribution including Aberdeen’s Bob Cooney.

  19. I think the “oil conspiracy” is massively over-played by commentators on various conflicts. The fact is we (and everyone else) get to buy the oil at world market prices whoever is in charge of the country. It isn’t a motive for getting militarily involved. More pressing reasons are security (including control of terrorist groups) and a wish to “do something” about impending genocide.

  20. Hal
    You are I think right. Many thought the second Iraq war was about oil. I floated the idea with one of the top oil managers in the world and he looked right through me and said that if big oil thought that large scale production was likely in Iraq for the next many years then they would not be considering investment in things like gas in Saudi. They would be preparing for long term low prices which even now they are not doing.

  21. @HAL

    Control of oil is pretty much the most important factor in dictating super power foreign policy. The whole global economy is based on it. Disruption of and/or uncertainty over supply drives oil prices up. Any sustained rise in oil prices stops global economic growth and triggers recessions.

    Why do you think the great powers have installed and maintained such appalling regimes as Saddams Iraq or the house of Saud? Why is the west so exercised over Iranian regional hegemony? (hint – the saudis dont like it) Not to mention drawing national borders around oil fields – which is exactly why Kuwait was invented.

  22. @Hal and Barney

    You’d need to distinguish between “oil conspiracy”, that oil companies lobbied hard for an invasion in order to get cheap oil extraction and the “oil conspiracy”, the rather well documented fact that western governments, for obvious reasons, like oil supplying countries to have stable governments, of whatever type, that are preferably beholden, or dependent in some shape or form, on said western governments.

  23. BARNEY


    Turkey is fascinating. Ataturk’s legacy is under attack by Erdogan it would seem. I can see tensions there-secular vs religious….young vs old. I don’t think the educated, urban middle classes will let him turn the clock back from the outward looking, Western facing modern Democracy they were becoming.

    If I had to bet on first expansionist out of the traps , it would be Iran. Particularly if Iraq cannot recover the Sunni terittories from the Caliphate.

  24. If USA self sufficiency becomes a reality:-


    This will change its attitudes in the Middle East , big time.

    If you no longer need Saudi oil ( the homeland of AQ) , and your strategic interest is now aligned with Iran, who cares what the Saudis think ?

  25. Reg
    You are right about Kuwait. But that was before oil played a significant role in the world economy. It was about securing oil as the fuel for the Royal Navy. However true the generalities are about oil and the world economy (and as a politician in an oil city, I am unlikely to disagree) big oil mostly knows that military interventions are likely to have more important unseen outcomes than foreseen outcomes and tend to be firstly short-term sceptical and secondly long-term strategic. See for example the strength of BP’s recently expressed commitment to Russia and China

  26. Colin
    The Turkish economy is I think huge compared to Iran and as for the army… check the figures. But both will grow in importance.

  27. BARNEY

    Army strengths

    Turkey c 400K
    Iran c 350 K

  28. Turkey GDP $790bn
    IranGDP $ 514 bn

  29. That quote from Mr Murdoch’s interview in The Bulletin (Feb 2003):

    “The greatest thing to come out this [invading Iraq] for the world economy, if you could put it that way, would be $20 a barrel for oil. That’s bigger than any tax cut in any country.”

    As it turned out the oil price didn’t halve, it doubled.

  30. Billy bob
    Exactly. Big oil was I am afraid much more sophistocated than R Murdoch

  31. Colin
    Point take. Still quite a gap in gdp

  32. We have polls of marginal seats, but what about safe conservative seats where UKIP might do well? Like where they got more than 40% of the vote in the 2014 Euro?

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