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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    I think the point here about immigration between LAB and CON, is as follows. CON, try to do something, fail very dismally. Or, LAB, don’t attempt to do anything in the first place. The Tories have abject failure and look like prats. Labour have achieved their goal, lots of foreigners. Which will the people like best?

  2. @OldNat

    “Principal” defined how? Will people be able to switch their principal residence according to their need? Why should someone be able to decide what rate of tax they pay simply by declaring one residence as their primary one?

    What about people who move home, perhaps changing jobs, part-way through a year? Will their tax rates and allowances be adjusted pro-rata? I can see all sorts of anomalies and complications arising from that.

  3. RMJ1

    What he actually said was that he “not the wit, imagination or inclination”

  4. @myself

    “I think the gradual drift to Ukip … will probably not be quick enough for the GE”

    Outside their peak areas I mean btw.

  5. @CalltheSociologist

    Watford constituency includes affluent villages such as Abbots Langley, Kings Langley, Langleybury whilst Watford itself has some affluent areas around the edge. I would assume that these areas are CON/ LD voting whilst the town centre itself votes largely for LAB. Hence why it is a marginal.

  6. Jack Sheldon
    “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”

    Indeed & well said.

  7. On the other hand, if you live in England but rent out a cottage in Scotland you should pay the tax in Scotland if international conventions apply. We are heading for dog’s breakfast territory.

  8. @Oldnat (the earlier post about Camborne and Redruth.)
    Wiki lists the candidates for 2015, except for UKIP
    Conservative and LibDem as in 2010 when the C vote was 15969 and their majority was 66. UKIP got 2152 votes.

    @Oldnat “it’s your principal residence that determines your tax location. Nothing new in that.” What will be new is that it may determine the rate at which you pay.

    What has Mitchell got to do with polling?

  9. About the same as tax payable in 2 countries of the Union, at a guess.

  10. Re details of Scottish tax rates.

    Those of you with concerns as to whether you would be liable, can simply ask HMRC.

    Regardless of whether the UK Parliament implements the Smith recommendations, the legislation for a Scottish tax rate was passed in 2012, as the UK Parliament inched its way along the path to further devolution.

    The procedural changes have already been established by HMRC and companies advised that they will need to have their payroll systems adjusted for its implementation in 2016.

    HMRC reckoned at the time that 95% of potential Scottish taxpayers could be easily assigned to the appropriate jurisdiction, although 5% might need closer examination to determine their principal residence.

    While the idea of those on the principal island of GB being within different tax jurisdictions may seem a little unusual, in reality, it is commonplace in most parts of the world.

    Within the UK employers already deal with situations where many of their workers live across an international boundary, and drive or get the bus to work every day.

  11. Regarding the tax situation, does anyone believe for a minute that there will be multiple tax rates within GB?

    The lesson from the last 14 years is that while Scots adore getting extra powers because it makes them feel more in control over their destiny, they are loathe to actually use them.

    So council tax is a devolved matter – but as soon as England froze council tax, Scotland promptly did the same. Income Tax varying powers were actually allowed to lapse.

    If anyone believes that the Scots will jack up top rate of tax to 50% while in England it remains 45%, I’ve got a bridge to sell them. They’ll only do it if England does it first.

    When it comes to actually paying tax, the unionist side of their brains always trumps the nationalist side. They don’t want to be different, they want to move in lock-step with the rest of the island.

  12. re – Brecon & Radnor – Plaid will not get close to 8%.

  13. Robin –
    As I understand it even now the Scottish government can vary the income tax rate. Bearing in mind that allowances are the same then if you move it ought not to be difficult to tax people according to where they are or whatever. If you change your job to a higher paid one or simply gain a pay rise then the IR can sort out your tax.

  14. @ Roger Mexico

    “But it doesn’t tie in with Ashcroft’s polling in LD-Con marginals. If you look the 15 he most recently polled:[weblink deleted] and consider the Constituency voting intention, then the Lib Dems are only losing 29% of their 2010 vote[1], not 50% plus 3 points as you suggest.”

    I have worked through the figures again and I am pretty confident that I am right. Over the 15 polls you mention, the LD drop works out at 58.2%, and so the arguments I was making do still hold.

    My guess is that your figure of 29% represents the percentage of the *total* electorate that has moved away from the LDs. My own calculations more or less corroborate this (with slight discrepancies as I felt there were 16 LD-Con marginals in that dataset).

    But in these seats the LDs started with an average of 50% of the total vote in 2010, so the 29% reduction represents a 58% loss of the vote they started with.

    As I said, the best fitting formula before today’s new set of polls was:

    Current LD VI% = 0.47 x (2010 vote share) – 3%

    The original question was whether in the seats they currently hold, the LDs are doing better or worse than suffering the 15% national average drop assumed under UNS models.

    The polling figures show that things are much worse for them than Uniform Swing would have us believe.

    A rough calculation is that they are losing half their votes in their best areas. If this pattern continues they will lose many more of their seats than the UNS model projects.

    That said, I haven’t had time to recomputed everything using the new set of Ashcroft marginal data. However, I don’t expect the story to have changed a great deal.

  15. P.S. I should have added that because the electoral cycles of Westminster and Holyrood are out of sync (Westminster being five year parliaments and Holyrood being four years), this development makes it LESS likely that tax rates will change.

    For example, say Labour will the UK general election in 2015. They won’t move on the top rate of tax till they know the outcome of the Holyrood elections in 2016. If Lab win in Scotland, then you’ll set a simultaneous rise in the top tax in England and Wales, and in Scotland. If they lose in Scotland, they’ll likely keep it at 45% in England and Wales and taunt the SNP to make the first move. But judging by their history, the SNP won’t, they’ll want to be no different to England and Wales.

    So this development means that taxes in the UK as a whole will far less likely to change than they were in the past. Whoever gets to set the last budget before this development (Osborne) gets to fix rates for the next decade or so, maybe longer.

    The only way out of that is to legislate so the Westminster cycle is four years and elections are held for both on the same day. And even that won’t really help unless the same party wins in both.

  16. Candy

    Scotland froze the council tax – and all councils agreed to the deal – in 2007.

  17. Well I got my prediction on MrN’s mental state right if nothing else.

    Phil Haines

    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….).

    You’re completely right that the main effect of the second question is usually to act as a ‘squeeze’, which some pollsters do do, though not Ashcroft’s weeklies (though effectively his reallocation does something similar). You can see this in the difference in most of the constituency polls – some people always shift from Don’t Know (and Lib Dems are often the beneficiary even in no-hope seats). So while it does what you say it does, that isn’t a bad thing, but a fairly standard way of polling.

    But there is also a very specific effect in most of these Lib Dem seats where some voters of all other parties actually switch when asked about constituency. This doesn’t happen as much in other seats and where it does to a much smaller extent. So if there is a more widespread incumbency bonus, it’s not great numerically – only a few points. In contrast the Lib Dems in these polls are mostly getting an increase in the high teens – enough in Yardley to move them from fourth to first[1].

    However given that normally it’s only a few points if that, I think you are being optimistic that any other candidate than the sitting MP would get anything at all, even nearer the time. There will be exceptions of course when a popular previous MP is standing (Stroud) or the candidate has been prominent and stood before (Berwick), but generally those advantages should be better reflected in the second question not the first.

    [1] They’re slightly behind the Tories in the tables, though rounded to the same. Looking at these figures you do wonder if the Lib Dems are suffering from a negative national bonus with people who intend to vote for them saying they won’t in general opinion polls to register their unhappiness with the leadership.

  18. Candy

    Yes it’s very interesting, judging by their history the SNP will be reluctant to put up taxes, but in order to fund the all policies they’re promoting (and the SNPs supporters appear to want/expect) I don’t see how they can’t. Maybe they just borrow for everything? But that also might cause problems electorally-if they get Scotland into lots of debt are they really doing whats best for Scotland?

    I expect they’ll just try to leave most taxes as they are and blame everything on Westminster!

  19. @Interested – I think they’re counting on Barnet to funnel English tax north to make up the shortfall. Though how long that can last without rebellion in England is anyone’s guess.

    Tax competition always forces downward pressure on taxes. You can see this in the United States and in the EU. And of course that’s why Osborne pushed so hard for it. It wasn’t really about “giving Scots what they want”, but ensuring he set the rates for the next decade regardless of whether Conservatives won the next election.

    It’s game, set and match to him and very well played. You have to admire his strategic abilities.

  20. Interested

    It’s usually best to judge any writer of history on the extent to which they get even the most basic of facts right :-)

  21. ON

    So which taxes do you think they will put up? Or do you think they can fund their ‘fairer society’ without putting up taxes?

  22. Candy

    Very interesting analysis – if that does turn out to be the case I will hate and admire him with equal measure!

  23. Interested

    I have no idea! Strangely, John Swinney hasn’t brought me in as an adviser. :-(

    Income tax on it’s own, isn’t a terribly useful redistributive tool. It’s most effective when balanced with a basket of other taxes.

    The Land Reform agenda may well produce some interesting opportunities.

    However, the relevance of the Smith Commission recommendations on this site is how they are seen by voters in Scotland.

    We have seen responses from politicians, STUC, SCVO etc, but not any polling yet.

  24. Ok, a couple of thoughts on the Ashcroft polling:
    (1) Miliband is, at the very least, in trouble. Last night I commented that 40-30-20 would be a different story for the seat than 45-35-20. UKIP didn’t quite make it to 35 in either poll, but they’re clearly in second…and this poll confirming that in both versions (standard VI and constituency VI) shows the room for some tactical voting.
    (1b) Tories aren’t known for tactical voting, true…but there hasn’t traditionally been any way for that to happen on the right: UKIP was always non-viable in FPTP, while the LibDems and SNP were usually seen as coalition partners for Labour, not the Tories.
    (2) Moving on to the marginals themselves, it looks like there is still something to the LibDems holding onto a substantial personal vote. This has me by surprise to some extent (I was expecting them to hold on less than they did). The LibDem MPs outpoll generic PVI by 14 points on average (which is /massive/), and outpoll by 13% in Watford (which makes it a viable LibDem pickup?!?); only Wyre Forest (where the LibDems let Dr. Taylor run his own show under the Health Concern label for a long time) doesn’t show this…and there, the beneficiary seems to be UKIP.

    How much this still holds in May is anyone’s guess, but it looks like the LibDems might well have two elections: One in their seats, where they hold on relatively well; and another in other seats, where they drop a bunch of deposits.

    FWIW, with this polling it’s sure looking like the 20s all over again in yet another respect: After 1923/4, the Liberals were basically in this position (holding a lot of seats and getting trashed elsewhere, losing ground as their MPs were defeated, defected, or retired).

    Even though it won’t be close, I do wish that Ashcroft had thrown in a poll for Witney.

    Finally, as usual I do wonder what the impact of these polls will be on tactical voting in various seats. A lot of the shift due to considerations in one’s seat versus standard PVI is inevitably going to come from “Well, X can’t win”…which in a few cases is clearly not the case for UKIP. A look at Thanet South shows the impact: This is a seat where UKIP has clearly been shown to be a possible winner, and so the “considering the conditions in your seat” falloff there is non-existent.

  25. Scotlandpollingreport is ON FIRE tonight!

  26. One more quick thought: Those seats showing a “Con-to-LD swing” are often only doing so insofar as the Tories have collapsed less than the LDs. More properly, the Tories have seen their vote collapse off to UKIP (which is happening everywhere) while the LD incumbent is holding their personal vote in good order.

    Moreover, in some seats, standard VI shows the Tories winning but local VI doesn’t (witness Cheltenham, where standard VI puts the Tories up 15 but local VI puts the LDs up 8). I do wonder how many Tories might “come home” if they think they can win the seat…

    …and this opens up a fun narrative question: I wonder if anyone is going to suggest a “Vote LibDem, Get UKIP” line?

  27. (Or, as a mildly frustrating addendum to the above, I wonder if a bunch of LD holds might not trigger Farage to allege that voting Tory is a sure way to get a renewal of the Coalition?)

  28. “Brent oil LCOc1 fell more than $6 to $71.25 a barrel after OPEC ministers meeting in Vienna left the group’s output ceiling unchanged despite huge global oversupply, marking a major shift away from its long-standing policy of defending prices.

    The wealthy Gulf states have made clear they are ready to ride out the weak prices that have hurt the likes of Venezuela and Iran – OPEC members which face big budget pressures, but cannot afford to make cuts themselves.

    Russia is already suffering from Western sanctions over its actions in Ukraine and needs oil prices of $100 per barrel to balance its budget.

    We interpret this as Saudi Arabia selling the idea that oil prices in the short term need to go lower, with a floor set at $60 per barrel, in order to have more stability in years ahead at $80 plus,” said Olivier Jakob from Petromatrix consultancy.”


    $60 pb !!


    Thanks – how can we forget those fairly affluent Hertfordshire villages close to Watford. but its interesting that it was held by Labour for the three elections preceding 2010. The Lib Dem defectors will call it I think.

  30. Colin

    Yes, I suspect the USA and Saudi Arabia, have done a bit of a dirty deal to try and destroy the Russian economy. Not really sure what’s in it for the Saudis yet but I guess time will tell!

  31. @Robin

    Lots of work for tax accountants. Nothing changes. :))


    Yes, I suspect the USA and Saudi Arabia, have done a bit of a dirty deal to try and destroy the Russian economy. Not really sure what’s in it for the Saudis yet but I guess time will tell!


    Some commentators think that the Saudis are managing to hit a lot of geopolitical targets at once, but that their principal aim is to undermine Fracking, and to a lesser extent the development of renewables. Certainly, current oil price completely undermines the economics of Fracking in the US, and they weren’t healthy before the Saudi action.

  33. It is entirely possible that Labour may win Sheffield Hallam and lose the general election. What kind of weird world do we live in?

  34. I have some sympathy for Mitchell and the fact that as well as having his political career and reputation roundly trashed, he may also have to pay up to £3 million in legal costs. And all this on the rather whimsical decision of a Judge who warmed to the “old-fashioned policeman’s” evidence that he thought, “on the balance of probabilities” was likely to be true.

    I have a horrible feeling that justice hasn’t been done here.

    Yet again.

  35. Alec

    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)

    For once we can clear the Sun of malice. The case was held without a jury before a judge which is the case with all libel trials nowadays. Which you might think is odd given that a jury should be the ideal instrument to consider what is usually about damage to someone’s public reputation. But such trials have become so expensive that both sides always agree to go before a judge to get a quicker trial.

    If you wanted a good example of how the English justice system has become completely warped by legal procedure and conduct this exemplifies it. The main result of such cases has become the enrichment of of a small number of specialist lawyers who can tailor their fees for mega-rich or corporate clients and prolong the legal process to the advantage of those with bottomless pockets.

    But the result also makes the very swift actions and court cases against those police who dared to disagree with Mitchell look particularly vindictive and partial. Of course many others who have complained about police misbehaviour in the past will have noted the difference in the way their complaints were dealt with and what happens when the aggrieved person is someone with all the right connections. Even if he is later ruled to be, shall we say, inaccurate.

  36. Not that the Mitchell affair has anything to do with current polling but the judgment did to one degree agree with my first take on the affair:

    Namely that if you were going to make up an allegation about being abused by a cabinet minister “Pleb” just seemed a really strange insult to pick.

    It just didn’t seem to me to be the language a policeman would choose for a fake report. I know plenty of police and fruitier language than that would be their choice of insult.

  37. Northumbrianscot

    “Not that the Mitchell affair has anything to do with current polling ”

    I don’t know about that. Jeremy Clarkson has “contempt for cyclists”, and seems to be popular among a section of the population.

    Now that a cyclist has not been not believed by a judge, I’d expect a big jump in UKIP support. :-)

  38. “Not really sure what’s in it for the Saudis yet but I guess time will tell!”

    Shale oil – question is will the state dept. trash the US economy before the Russian one or vice versa.


    “it looks like there is still something to the LibDems holding onto a substantial personal vote”

    The Lib core is a specific demographic so they should do well in seats where that demographic is concentrated regardless of how badly they do outside those areas.

  39. @Crossbat

    “I have some sympathy for Mitchell and the fact that as well as having his political career and reputation roundly trashed,”

    His reputation was trashed the instant he denied saying “pleb” but also refused to say what he DID say. From that moment it was apparent that he had said *something* that was politically toxic.

    And it’s his own fault for going to court with a case that was always going to be his word against several policemen. Bear in mind that it wasn’t them that made it public, and so why would they make *anything* up?

  40. @Roger Mexico
    “The main result of such cases has become the enrichment of of a small number of specialist lawyers who can tailor their fees for mega-rich or corporate clients and prolong the legal process to the advantage of those with bottomless pockets.”

    Actually there have been many changes as a result of the Jackson review, and ironically the “Mitchell” guidelines, that help to dicourage excessive or unreasonable costs in high value “multi-track” matters.

    You are correct however that few solicitors firms or sets of chambers specialise in media/defamation law

  41. Why is the letter ‘B’ £3 more expensive than the letter ‘S’?


  42. Northumbrian Scot,
    I feel you are right here.I remember my elderly mother commenting on this and
    saying I have no Idea what a pleb is?So I feel it is reasonable that a police officer would probably not either.Mitchell however as the recipient of a public
    school education would have known only too well.The judge obviously thought
    so too.

  43. @ Crossbat

    I think it is extraordinary to second guess a court judgment without an intimate knowledge of the case like having sat through 2 weeks of evidence.

    Additionally the libel laws are very much in favour of the person who made a statement having to prove conclusively that statement is correct with little or no requirement for the person suing to prove the statement is incorrect.

    I’m sure there are many injustices often caused by perjury or some technical aspect of the law but I think we have to accept a court ruling unless there is good reason to doubt it.

    What Anthony says about polling questions probably applies to this case as well (and to the phone hacking case). People will fit the verdict into their pre conceived views. That’s probably why the libel case made little sense-guilty or innocent many people would not have changed their views of Mitchell or their view of what he had or hadn’t done just because a court reached a judgment.

  44. Statgeek

    Probably something to do with the economies of scale. Though on that basis T and L are either overpriced, or they haven’t been honest about how few potential customers they have.

  45. So it seems to become increasingly clear that there isn’t going to be a massive sea change at this election.

    The LDs will lose some seats, but probably less than many expect; UKIP will win one or two but fall short in many others; the tories will probably lose out to labour on boundary advantage; turnout no doubt will be another record low.

    Plus ca change.

  46. @statgeek

    Seems to be rubbish, probably political propaganda put about by the MSM

    From 5 mins research, Tory mugs are a fiver, SNP also a fiver but out of stock, labour don’t sell ’em and – yes – UKIP are £8

  47. @Shevii

    You have more faith than I do in the rigour of our judicial system and the ability of many of our judges to always make sound judgements based on the evidence put before them. I understand that the “balance of probabilities” demands less proof than “beyond reasonable doubt”, but this rather homespun logic that an “old fashioned policeman”, what on earth that might be by the way, demands to be believed smacks of the sort of verdict that once led a judge to acquit somebody because “they’d served in a well regarded regiment.”

    At the end of the day, this was a classic case of believing one man’s word against another’s with very little third party witness evidence to assist. The judge plumped for the policeman and the world has now crashed on Mitchell’s head.

  48. Does anyone else feel the last few weeks have been strangely topsy-turvy?

    On the Labour side one silly inconsequential tweet led a a massive fall out, a political career trashed.

    Mr Mitchell’s case of using a coarse phrase in a fit of temper has led to another lost career, and literally millions spent on court cases and investigations. This phrase had one obvious swear word (one we all hear everyday probably) and a rather odd word that I’m sure most people would not take to that offensive at all.

    These two ‘great’ events caused so much uproar, when quite honestly a fulsome apology and a shake of the hand should have the end of it.

    Meanwhile, the working poor, those who rely on benefits, immigrants and others, are seriously demonised everyday for cheap political gain in our Parliament and in our media (so people vote for what the media moguls ‘want’ if you believe certain people.)

    I know what is grossly offensive……..and it isn’t that tweet of that rant to a policeman.

  49. Guymonde

    “Tory mugs are a fiver” – In the Lords as well as the Commons. :-)

  50. @Guymonde

    I was amaused that the Con and Lab mugs were equally priced. Probably terrified of a price war, so they came together and arranged a deal.


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