Lord Ashcroft has published a new batch of constituency polling. I hesitate to call it marginals polling, since we’ve moving up into some less marginal territory with today’s polls. Ashcroft has polled four different groups of seats in this set (all the tabs are here.)

The first is the next cohort of Lib Dem -v- Conservative marginals, this group are those seats with a Lib Dem majority of between 9% and 15% over the Conservatives, so we are no longer looking at ultra-marginals. The average swing from the Liberal Democrats to Conservatives in these seats is 2%, nowhere near enough to win seats like these. However, as we’ve seen in previous Lord Ashcroft polls of Lib Dem marginals there is an awful lot of variation between individual constituencies – some seats (Carshalton & Wallington and Thornbury & Yate) are actually showing swings from Con to LD. At the other end of the scale two seats are showing large enough swings for the Conservatives to win the seat (North Devon and Portsmouth South, which has a chunky 9 point swing from LD to Con, presumably at least partially connected to the scandal around Mike Hancock).

The second group of seats consists of two more Lib Dem seats with Labour in second place. Lord Ashcroft’s previous polling in LD v Lab seats essentially showed a complete Lib Dem collapse, raising the possibility of an almost complete wipeout for Liberal Democrat MPs where Labour was the main opponent. One of the seats here – Burnley – follows that pattern, with a ten point swing from LD to Lab. The other, Birmingham Yardley, represented by John Hemming, bucks the trend. There is still a 2.5% swing from LD to Lab, but it is smaller than we’ve seen in other LD -v- Lab seats and would be small enough for Hemming to hold on.

The third group of seats is two unusual seats – the close three-way marginal of Watford, and Wyre Forest, an Independent seat between 2001 and 2010. Neither of these really fit into any broader category, but looking at them as individual seats Watford shows little relative movement for the three main parties – all are down a little, UKIP are up a lot but still in fourth place, meaning the Conservatives retain a narrow lead. Wyre Forest was held by Dr Richard Taylor between 2001 and 2010. He’ll be standing again come the next general election for the National Health Action party, but I think under the same Kidderminster Health Concern label that he won on in 2001 and 2005. Ashcroft’s poll currently has the Conservatives holding the seat on 32% with UKIP in second on 27%, Labour 16%, Lib Dem 7%, Green 5%, Other 13%. The others aren’t identified in the poll, but is presumably largely Dr Taylor’s supporters.

Finally Ashcroft polled three of the four seats that will be contested by the main party leaders come the election – Sheffield Hallam, Doncaster North and Thanet South (presumably he didn’t do Witney because he thought it would be too boring… it would seem there comes a point when even Lord Ashcroft saves his money!). Party leaders normally do pretty well in their own seats. It is extremely rare for them to lose their own constituency and they very often outperform their party nationally. Such is the collapse of Liberal Democrat support however people have seriously raised the possiblity of Clegg losing his own seat – Ashcroft’s poll has it very close. Clegg is on 31%, Labour on 28%, just three behind (and this is on the question prompting people to think about their own constituency, the standard voting intention question had Labour a point ahead). Ed Miliband’s Doncaster North seat is traditionally a very safe Labour seat that should pose no concerns for him, but there was some speculation about how well UKIP might do. The BNP have held their deposit there at the last two elections and their was some significant support for the English Democrats too, with the far-right parties now collapsing and UKIP hoovering up that right-wing protest vote it looked as if there could be some potential. In fact Ashcroft’s poll did find UKIP in second place in Doncaster North, but 12 points behind Ed Miliband. Finally Thanet South, the seat where Nigel Farage plans to stand at the general election. Current figures there are CON 34%, LAB 26%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 29% – so UKIP in a strong second place, but not currently quite enough to send Farage to Westminster.

529 Responses to “Ashcroft polls of the Lib Dem battleground and leaders’ seats”

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  1. Phil Haines (fpt)

    While it will be fascinating stuff no doubt, sometimes we need to make sure that we don’t lose sight of the person commissioning the research and that he isn’t doing it entirely out of the goodness of his heart but also in order to try and shape a particular narrative.

    Oh quite. The leader’s polls were carried out 18-24 November and you wonder if it was a last minute distraction away from the rest of the results which are actually quite good for the Lib Dems. Only North Devon (within MoE) and Portsmouth South (obvious reasons) are shown as losses – even Birmingham Yardley is held. And Watford is still a 3-way fight.

    By leading with the Doncaster North figures[1]:

    Lab 40% (37)[2]

    Con 23% (24)

    Lib Dem 4% (3)

    UKIP 28% (31)

    Greens 1% (2)

    Other 3% (3)

    and pretending that Con and UKIP could merrily unite behind one candidate and defeat Miliband’s 12 point lead, Lord A is a best being mischievous and at worst squirrel-pointing. As Anthony points out the more interesting figures are actually for the other two leaders.

    [1] Unusually for Ashcroft the three seats are in a separate summary which may also distract attention away from the more general results. It can’t really be justified on then not being Lib Dem seats because he’s included Wyre Forest with those, but Sheffield Hallam (but not Whitney) with the leaders.

    [2] Figures in brackets standard question, main percentage the ‘constituency’ ones. These are both Ashcroft’s adjusted figures

  2. On those polls it looks as if UKIP may come 2nd quite often but won’t win more than 10 seats.

    Were that so, that could still give them space in government in the event of a Con/LD/DUP/UKIP coalition.

    My money is still on a Lab/LD/SNP-PC coalition though….

  3. The credibility of the Doncaster North poll is rather undermined by its finding that Tory support is higher than 2010.

  4. As I said yesterday all this polling is just the phoney war!

    Once the local MPs get out campaigning in their constituencies the incumbency factor will start to become a much big factor for all the parties. Not everywhere, but it will definitely be a factor in many areas.

    Additionally, according to the poll even Farage isn’t on track to win (in Thanet) and there can be very few opposition candidates that get as much publicity!

    Re:Lord A is a best being mischievous and at worst squirrel-pointing. As Anthony points out the more interesting figures are actually for the other two leaders.

    Did you notice that he didn’t look at VI in Witney?

  5. Sorry just noticed that Antony mentioned it but I’d already written the post for the previous thread – apologies for not checking first.

  6. In Thornbury & Yate might we actually have that rarity of constituents actually noticing that their MP’s performance as a minister is above average and being willing to recognise that in the way they cast their votes.

  7. In the spirit of non-cherry-picking, that Sheffield Hallam poll looks a bit dodgy for Nick Clegg, doesn’t it? Either 3% ahead or 1% behind Labour, depending on how you cut and dice the figures? I’d say he’s an awful lot of trouble come May next year.

    Probably a question for Anthony here, and notwithstanding particular marginal seat idiosyncrasies, doesn’t this Ashcroft hotchpotch of a poll fall broadly in line with yesterday’s ComRes poll of the marginals(i.e. Labour roughly 1% ahead in the polls and a 4% Tory to Labour swing since 2010) or is it suggesting a slightly different national picture?

  8. In Sheffield Hallam, Labour are basically tied with Clegg despite having one-third of the contact rate. There are 10% Greens, 60% of whom prefer a Labour government to a Tory one.

    I don’t want to count chickens, but we may yet dare to hope here…

  9. @Roger M

    I agree that the poll is a good one for the LDs in the sort of seats which will make a difference to whether their losses to the Conservatives are in the teens as opposed to single figures. Good spot re the date of polling and your explanation is entirely plausible as the polling in normal LD seats was several weeks ago.

    What is striking is just how much the LD vote improves in the “candidate/constituency” poll. Our views differ on this. You have in the past said that it may still understate the incumbent vote compared to one that mentioned the candidates by name. Mine is that it will tend to favour the incumbent MP until such time as many become aware of the name of the opposition candidates, which I don’t think is yet. Secondly, I think that the two stage process is questionable because it may act as a prompt to reassess the first answer (i.e. Haven’t you just asked that…oh no, I see, you want me to focus on the candidates around here now rather than just the party….we’ll at the moment I only know of one of them so….). Given what a big difference it makes in LD seats, I think some control testing is in order – asking 50% of a panels the candidate/constituency alone and 50% the same question as a second stage as of now. For me the candidate/constituency question is the important one, but I’d be more confident of it if it were not asked as a secondary one.

  10. CB11,

    Sheffield Hallam, regardless of the actual winner, will probably be one of Labour’s best results in terms of swing in the general election. It looks genuinely possible they might double their vote.

  11. Welh Borderer (fpt)

    ” If respondents had been told the outcome of the first vote and only then asked what their constituency vote would be”

    But respondents won’t have been told the responses of others to Q1 before they answer Q2.

  12. Bad polls for ukip and cons. Good for Ed( if he holds his set) and LDs(who will be forced to elect a new leader.

    Still a long way to go and a lot of canvassing to be done, so things could change drastically, but more record immigration figures will fuel ukips fire.

  13. (I’m not normally that fast – that was mainly prepared for the previous thread).

    I’ve pointed out before that Lib Dem vote premium varies a lot depending on the sitting MP (and if they are re-standing). Clegg in Sheffield Hallam is an interesting case. On paper this should be the Lib Dem’s third safest seat – in terms of number of votes it has the biggest majority of the lot by a couple of thousand. But Ashcroft’s figures are:

    Con 19% (23)

    Lab 28% (28)

    Lib Dem 31% (27)

    UKIP 11% (11)

    Green 9% (10)

    Other 1% (1)

    (figures based as above)

    It’s now actually the most marginal of the Lib Dem held seats here and Clegg’s incumbency bonus at +4 is, I think, actually the lowest we have seen in any of the Lib Dem seats since Ashcroft started polling. Even Portsmouth South got +9, though whether than is people backing Hancock, not knowing he is gone or people relieved that he has, is another matter[1].

    In part this may be because local voters may be more aware when they have a high profile MP and any premium may be built into the more general question, but that makes the fact that he is actually behind Labour on that one even worse.

    Labour may also be heartened that there is a substantial Green vote to squeeze, maybe even some UKIP. MrNameless may be a fairly happy bunny.

    [1] Another good reason why Ashcroft should now be using names of candidates when known. As Anthony hints it reaches it’s ridiculous zenith in Wyre Forest where not only was Dr Taylor not shown in the list but neither was the Party he will stand as. Ashcroft is wasting his money more when he’s failing to adapt his polling for specific circumstances than he would be polling ‘safe’ seats such as Whitney.

  14. It always amazes how slow some of the bookies are to readjust their odds when we get these constituency polls, apart from Ladbrokes who are right on the ball with adjusted odds having suspended all their constituency markets yesterday as a precaution.

  15. Roger Mexico,

    If you think I’m a happy bunny, the CLP secretary has been hopping around Facebook.

  16. Ukip to squeeze the Tory vote and win in Doncaster North? They did it in H & M.
    The more I look at the resukts , the more I worry for NC, but would Labour want rid of him?

  17. Has this Survation/Uni of Exeter poll for Camborne & Redruth been mentioned yet?


    UKIP 33% : Con 30% : Lab 22% : Grn 7% : LD 6% : MK 1%

  18. Roger M – asking for your expert estimate.
    Lab/LD seats – as I see it the first 6 are nailed on plus Redcar which is a special case.
    After that only in Scotland do others gains look likely with Birmingham Yardley, as this poll suggests, favouirite to hold but may go.
    So 8 maybe 9 depending on Scotland imo
    Tory/LDs are more complex and the potrential for the UKIP factor to affect seats disproportionately greater than in LD/Lab seats.
    What is you best estimate of the number of Tory seat gains from LDs based on current polling.
    (Whether a GB wide uptick in LD VI will make much difference anyhow in key seats I dont know?)

  19. @ Anthony Wells
    The talk about various coalition marriages is interesting. Can you tell me, if Labour have support of some kind from the SNP, can that be valid if the SNP only have jurisdiction in Scotland?

  20. As a newly revived Labour activist, I have always had a split attitude to polls and elections. I want to see my party do well, but I’m also fascinated by the psephology. So even in the 1983 debacle, I found lots of interesting things in the results. Here I am now in a Tory held ultra marginal where we are very hopeful-but in any given seat the deviation from the mean swing could be very significant, so complacent we are not. It seems to me this far out from the election the only safe conclusion from all these polls is that we live in interesting times.

  21. Camborne and Redruth constituency/candidate specific polling Q

    Con 34% : UKIP 28% : Lab 18% : LD 13% : Grn 6%

    Quite a change!

  22. Feel a bit sorry for Andrew Mitchell just now – not because of the consequences of his behaviour, but because he has been badly let down by poor advice from so-called friends who were more interested in using him to advance a political agenda than what was best for Mitchell himself.

    They’ve cost Mitchell his reputation, his career, and a large amount of money.

  23. JCB – the most interesting GE in my adult life (was 11 in 1974 which must have been interesting)
    Since 1979 who would have most seats was clear; only in 1992 and 2010 was there any question which was would the Cons get an OM?

    It is possible that by Easter most seats will be clearer but I think unlikely.

  24. One really interesting issue is whether Labour can squeeze the Greens where it matters. In this context I would love to see an analysis of what Green voters think about Labour, their policies, and Milliband (leadership, competence, sympathy)

    For what it is worth, I believe it is possible. But not thorugh any criticism of the Greens as being naive or attacks on Lucas or anything like that (as Khan has already done), but only through identifying green voters on the door steps and then sending them targeted material about Labour’s / Milliband’s radical policy proposals.

  25. @MrNameless

    “Sheffield Hallam, regardless of the actual winner, will probably be one of Labour’s best results in terms of swing in the general election. It looks genuinely possible they might double their vote.”

    I always read your posts with interest, not least because my youngest son is, like you, a student at Sheffield University. He’ll still be there next May, he’s in his final year, and I’ve told him that he’s not to show his face back at home again until he’s played his full part in Clegg’s downfall in Hallam!


  26. Hoof Hearted,

    The Sheffield Hallam Labour campaign has little national involvement, and its members very much do want rid of Nick Clegg.

    Plus, imagine the chaos that would result if the Lib Dems lost their leader electorally. It would turn what will probably be a muddy mess of an election result into a major triumph for Labour – bigger than Portillo in 1997.

    It would be the first time since the 1970s that a party leader has lost their seat, and the first time since the 1930s that a sitting party leader has done so.

    Of course, it is entirely possible that Labour might win Sheffield Hallam and lose the election, which would be utterly weird.


  27. Anthony,

    Further on my previous post, given that the Greens now regularly poll 5-6% in YouGov polls, why is there never any breakdown of what Green Party voters think about all the other questions you tend to as there is for the other big four? And even if the numbers are so small that there would be a large MOE, surely aggregated over time it must be possible to answer such questions?

    Christian Schmidt

  28. One Hallam-specific point is that Labour’s candidate works with green industry in the Sheffield City Region, while the Greens’ candidate is a former Lib Dem. They’re looking pretty squeezable from here.

  29. Sorry for all the posts, people.

    Crossbat11, you’ve intrigued me now, since there’s not an insignificant chance I might know him.

  30. People like myself had plenty to say about Labours decline in the Medway towns. However, I lived in Sheffield Hallam 30 years ago and it was a very safe Tory seat. Of course the rest of Sheffield was as red as a ripe boil, but not the “posh end”. I suppose the death of the coal mines and British Steel have changed all that.

  31. “while the Greens’ candidate is a former Lib Dem. They’re looking pretty squeezable from here.”

    Yes, there should be plenty of Green votes (9%) for the Lib Dems to squeeze – after all who’d want Labour in on their environmental record.

    Plus there is a LARGE Tory vote (19%) to squeeze, based on that poll. So Nick Clegg *ahead* and votes to win too.

    Sounds good to me.

  32. A good few of these constituency polls are likely to be outliers – the problem is knowing which ones! Doncaster North looks very odd and Watford seems a bit volatile. Thanet South on the other hand appears consistent with earlier polls and still points to a close 3-way contest.

  33. Mitchell losing the libel case is going to be all over the headlines tonight, competing with Scottish tax and EVEL. Given what was IMHO a weak performance by Labour in agreeing to impractical tax arrangements*, this is likely to be good for Labour in a weak, “not as bad as it could have been” sort of way

    Whatever else, a finding in a court of law that Mitchell said “pleb” is going to add weight to the already strong “them and us” feel about this government.

    *I live in Scotland and work in England (or vice versa). What tax arrangements apply?
    Instead of income tax, it should have been NI (and land-based tax including council tax and business rates, and a portion of VAT) that Scotland was given power over. These all have a very clear relation to locality (unless you are Amazon, of course), and are therefore administratively much easier to handle.

  34. David in France

    “On those polls it looks as if UKIP may come 2nd quite often but won’t win more than 10 seats”

    I think the gradual drift to Ukip (roughly) radiating out from the south and east in certain types of seat will probably not be quick enough for the GE – quick enough to throw a lot of seats up in the air but not enough for the sort of wins they might be looking at in a year or so.

    Barring black swans of course.

  35. Robin

    “*I live in Scotland and work in England (or vice versa). What tax arrangements apply?”

    If you live in Scotland, you will have an “S” tax code from HMRC, and Scottish rates will apply. If you live elsewhere in rUK, their rates will apply.

    That would have happened anyway under the procedures developed for the 2012 legislation to come into force in April 2016.


    Not really the place for it here but it seems that the judge didn’t believe that the officer in question was intelligent enough to make it all up. The real lesson is never ever sue for libel (or anything else).

  37. @MrNameless

    Like your own intriguing soubriquet, the name of my son will remain forever incognito, certainly on these pages! :-)

    Does the fact that he’s an avid Villa fan like me give him away??

  38. So far, I’d say a pretty poor day for the Tories. These marginals polls suggest hoovering up Lib Dem seats won’t be as easy as they thought, and it also looks like UKIP are still causing damage.

    The High Court verdict is a pretty comprehensive demolition of a former ministers protestations [fascinating timing of the Sun’s publication of another former Tory ministers treatment of another working man – surely no coincidence, when the jury were out to ponder Mitchell’s case) and then of course there are the immigration figures.

    On those figures, it really is about as bad as it gets. Yes, Cameron can huff and puff about the EU and claim he will negotiate something that fixes the problem, but one huge embarrassment is the fact that non EU immigration also increased by 30,000 – where HMG has complete control to do as they please.

    The BBC has finally managed to talk about this as a matter of credibility, and in the context of UKIP still appearing to be strong, only 5 months from the GE, these are really bad news stories.

  39. Old nat

    Surely the S tax code is applied to where you work, rather than where you live? Otherwise how do they separate out those who work in Scotland but live in the rUK? I was one of those until last year!

  40. One other point that may or may not also be bad for Tories is the Smith Commission.

    While I can see Labour’s reasoning behind opposing full transfer of income tax, it was never going to hold against the tide of public opinion. Whether this helps save Labour seats I don’t know, but it must make life a bit easier for them.

    I’ve not read read the commission’s report, so others might be able to help, but I was wondering if there are proposals to confer greater borrowing powers to Scotland.

    This, rather than tax policy, is economically far more important if Scot’s really do wish to protect public services. The ability to borrow counter cyclically, at a time when Westminster is becoming swamped by the inward migration of modern debt fetish thinking would offer Scot’s a far greater ability to protect themselves against any rightward drift in the UK as a whole.

  41. Interested

    No. It applies to where you live. Had the system been in operation last year, your employer would have deducted the rUK tax rate under PAYE.

  42. Can we recognise that Lord Ashcroft does a terrific service, spending his own money to do the type of polling that even newspapers can’t afford, rather than nit-picking over his selection of seats? Without him we would know far less than we do about likely 2015 scenarios.

    He surely hasn’t done Witney because he doesn’t want to waste his money when the result is in no doubt. The other three leader’s seats are all interesting – people had been speculating about UKIP possibly challenging in Doncaster so it made sense to check.

    The last few rounds, probably more so than the early ones which focused on 2010 ultra-marginals, have been really informative in showing us that:

    1. It will be very hard for CON to make the gains in the South West that would be required for a majority, though they certainly have a chance of taking some of the LD-held seats round that area.

    2. There does seem to be quite a strong LD incumbency factor in these seats, though less so in London and parts of the North.

    3. It is hard to find many seats where UKIP are actually in the lead, suggesting that unless they move even further forward they’ll struggle to get more than a handful of MPs.

    4. I sense – and I haven’t done the maths to double check this I’m afraid – smaller CON-LAB and LD-LAB swings in the Midlands than in the North and the London area.

    5. At an aggregate level the pattern in the seats he’s polled matches the national pattern quite closely.

    6. It really is all to play for with the results in many seats uncertain.

  43. Alec

    “but one huge embarrassment is the fact that non EU immigration also increased by 30,000 – where HMG has complete control to do as they please.”

    I agree that makes it a bad day for the Tories on immigration but of course there are no signs that a change to a Labour government would change immigration levels. The one party really committed to controlling immigration is of course UKIP and they are most likely to gain from Tories, Labour and LibDems on this issue.

  44. @OldNat

    Why should England residents pay Scottish tax? They won’t get free prescriptions or university will they? And if I live in Scotland but pay tax in England should I get those things? Just because they’ve made administrative provision to do things this way doesn’t make it fair or even sensible.

    It’s not arisen as an issue so far because no-one has been disadvantaged by it. But once rates vary you can be sure that the manure will impact the rotating ventilation device.

  45. Alec

    “To balance this increased financial responsibility, the Parliament will be given increased borrowing powers, to be agreed with the UK Government, to support capital investment and ensure budgetary stability.”

  46. OK, cheers Old Nat!

  47. @Old Nat

    What if I live in Newcastle during the week but in Roxburgh at the weekend?

  48. Robin

    “Why should England residents pay Scottish tax?”

    They won’t.

  49. Robin

    As I understand it, it’s your principal residence that determines your tax location. Nothing new in that.

    What happens if you live in Liverpool through the week but in Douglas at the weekend?

  50. How Watford remains a CON seat remains a mystery as its nothing to write home about and indeed lost it’s Waterstones long ago. Clearly it has its posh bits with parkland and towards St. Albans borders – but it has no university presence and other areas are quite drab in the rain. However its only what 15-20 mins to London, it has a social/ethnic mix and therefore given some shift from the LibDems it could be recaptured by Labour. Not UKIP territory.

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