Lord Ashcroft has released another batch of constituency polls: four Conservative seats in England & Wales, and eight more Scottish constituencies. All the detailled results are here.

England and Wales

The four Conservative seats all have majorities between 8.8% and 10.6%, but other than the similarity in majority don’t have a huge amount in common. Two are relatively straightforward marginals: in High Peak Ashcroft finds a swing of five points from Con to Lab, bigger than the national average and enough to give Labour a one point lead; in Vale of Glamorgan Ashcroft finds a swing of only 1.5 points from Con to Lab, well short of the national average and hence leaving the Conservatives with a six point lead.

The other two seats are a bit more unusual. Colne Valley actually had the Liberal Democrats in second place in 2010 and could be fairly described as a three-way marginal. Given the Liberal Democrats’ national woes though Labour are obviously the main threat to the Conservatives – Ashcroft found a five point swing to Lab, leaving them just a point behind the Conservatives. Finally there was Norwich North – most of the Con-Lab marginals Ashcroft has polled are seats the Conservatives gained in 2010, so places where the Conservatives can reasonably expect to benefit from new incumbency. Norwich North is an exception, it was gained in a 2009 by-election so Labour had already lost their incumbency, and any Conservative incumbency was already factored into the equation in 2010. Here Ashcroft found a swing of 5.5 to Labour, again bigger than the national picture suggests and enough to put Labour a single point ahead.


Moving to Scotland, Lord Ashcroft polled eight seats. Two Lib Dem seats, five Labour seats and the sole Tory seat in Scotland.

The first batch of Ashcroft’s Scottish polling last month concentrated upon Labour seats in those areas where there was a high YES vote in the referendum, leaving open the question of whether the SNP would be doing quite so well in those areas that had voted NO. Today’s polls are from areas that voted NO and show the SNP surge almost as strong here. In the NO areas polled in January Ashcroft found a swing from Lab to the SNP of 25%, here he finds a swing of 22%. It may be a little smaller, or it maybe a little movement back to Labour, but this is still a huge swing and would still see some extremely safe Labour seats fall, most notably Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, the seat being vacated by Gordon Brown.

Ashcroft also polled East Renfrewshire, the seat of Labour’s Scottish leader Jim Murphy. This used to be a Tory seat, voted heavily NO in the referendum, and in 2010 the SNP were 42 points behind Labour. Ashcroft found Labour holding on by a single point over the SNP, with a 20.5% swing from Lab to the SNP.

Moving to the two Lib Dem seats, Ashcroft found a 14 point SNP lead in West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine and a 5 point SNP lead in Ross, Skye and Lochaber. The latter is a seat that people often include in seats they would expect to withstand the SNP tide due to the solid majority and incumbency of Charlie Kennedy. His presence clearly does have a substantial effect – the Lib Dem share rises 10 points in the seat when people are asked to consider their own constituency and candidates – but not enough to put him ahead.

Finally the lone Conservative seat in Scotland, Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale is spoken of as a potential hold for similar reasons to East Renfrewshire. It’s an area that voted heavily NO in the referendum where the SNP were in fourth place in 2010 and while Labour support has collapsed across Scotland, the rump Tory support seems broadly static. Even here though Ashcroft found the SNP competitive, equal with the Tories on 34% with a swing of 13.5% from Con to SNP.

In discussions of Scotland at the general election I keep seeing assumptions that the SNP will actually win 20 to 30 seats, that their support will naturally fall back to some extent as the election approaches, that this degree of landslide won’t really happen. That might end up being true – I am normally the first to sound a note of caution to people getting excited over polls showing some unbelievable shift in public opinion – but in this case, the polling is very steady and consistent in showing a surge in SNP support, the constituency polling backs up the national polls and the reality of First Past the Post is that a big lead in the vote can be exaggerated into an overwhelming dominance in seat numbers.

UPDATE: The YouGov/Sun poll tonight has topline figures of CON 34%, LAB 34%, LD 8%, UKIP 14%, GRN 6%, so back to neck-and-neck after two Tory leads. Not, of course, that the day-to-day back and forth really matters – it almost certainly isn’t the case that the Conservatives moved ahead for two days and moved back, the question is actually whether the average that lies beneath the day-to-day noise is moving. Only time will answer that question.

378 Responses to “Latest Ashcroft constituency polling”

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    Maybe my nuance was wrong. I did put “real life” in quotations.

    You see terrible cases as an MP and those in marginal seats have insecure employment. I don’t think being a QC or board member is going to add to that.

    I think what people mean by “real life” is when you experience something yourself.

    A healthy parliament should have a balanced cross-section of people from a wide variety of backgrounds, including PPE graduates (for what it is worth I am an Oxford PPE graduate myself). However the balance is wrong now and that is what is causing damage rather than people taking a cynical attitude.

  2. @Hawthorne

    I agree that we have too many identikit MPs, too many lawyers, too many politics graduates (may as well out myself, I am both).

  3. @LOUISWALSHVOTESGREEN – welcome from another native Irish abroad in the world – though I’ve lived here in UK since I was 3!

    I found your piece fascinating….I’m not a statistician though…

    The news seems to be PM decision not to debate – [snip] – is an easy one about which to make partisan points – and I guess DC will have expected a hullabaloo – but would not have done it unless the idea had been tested in the focus groups to see how it would play – and the backroom staffers therefore think he has something to gain and nothing to loose.

    The problem is things sometimes do not shake down how they were meant to in theory…now I guess we have to wait on the Broadcasters…but PM’s low calculation is that all the noise may not add up to more than a row of beans – equally it may not play that well with certain groups of voters who think – like public meetings once were – that TV debates now are part and parcel of modern politics…and that Mr Cameron’s refusal to meet his opponents on an equal footing makes him appear to be less loftily above the fray and more a bit too grand for his his own good…

  4. @northumbrianscot

    Comes from Holyrood elections so close to General Elections.

    Yorkshire is much bigger than Northern Ireland.

    Oh no it isn’t. HAWTHORN is about right.

    Yorkshire @ 11,903 km² is smaller than NI @ 13,843 km²

  6. And talking of Northern Ireland, the DUP is going to take the BBC to court for refusing them the opportunity to join in the Debates. So if the court backs them, Sinn Fein will be next. These debates are not, and never were a good idea……

  7. Welcome to Louiswalshvotesgreen (may we refer to you in future as LWVG?)

    A question for you: Does your wonderful system include any allowance for incumbency?

  8. Yes, welcome Louiswalshvotesgreen. Interesting analysis. Can I ask how you define your regions? Do you just take the EU constituencies or do you do something different? After all there are as many ways of defining where the North begins as there are posters on this site (at least)!

  9. Three people in my office are genuinely horrified by Cameron’s U-turn. They do not follow politics and two of them said they used the debates last time to inform them of policies and ultimately who to vote for. They insist that this is a backwards step and makes Cameron appear arrogant.

    I think this will hurt the Tories a little, as it gives all the other parties an (unnecessary) stick to beat them with between now and polling day.

  10. PS I say this as someone who voted Tory in 2010.

    Who on earth is advising him? He could claw back UKIP supporters in the big debates and hold his own against EM in the head to head.

  11. @ ToH

    “I don’t cast my vote on how people perform in a debate, but on policies and the result of those policies, and whether or not I believe they are in the best interest of Britain..”

    You surely don’t read the party manifestos of the Greens or Respect. But then how do you evaluate their policies and vis-à-vis your view of Britain’s interest? Surely not from newspapers or other biased media.

    The advantage of the debates is the controlled environment, and if I remember correctly, the 2010 debates were about policies.. Having media skills help, but not above everything. The debates also engage the electorate (even if they consume it like entertainment).

  12. Andy Shadrack

    “As Ashcroft reported last night some 58% of UK voters now believe “austerity” should end, which only leaves Conservative and UKIP with 42% between them.”

    It’s not that simple even Labour is committed to reducing the deficit substantially and the Tories & L.D.’s are not single issue parties.

  13. A comparison of elected English local government councillors reveals as follows in 2014, with 2010 in brackets:

    Conservative 8,207 (9,089)
    Labour 6,124 (4,135)
    LD 2,139 (3,621)
    Other 1,037 (1,380*)
    UKIP 331
    Green 161

    * Would include any Green and UKIP councillors:

    Effectively this means that since 2010 the LD presence on local councils in England has dropped from just under 1:5 to a little above 1:10.

    The Green Party while growing steadily over the last decade still only has less than 1% representation, though that is concentrated in, for example, 38% Norwich and 20% Solihul. UKIP at 1.8% has mostly grown in 2013 and 2014 so they have not gone through a full local government election cycle yet.

    That said my observation, some English local elections being on the same day as the GE, is that LD ground strength has effectively been cut in half since 2010.



    In Scotland LD have gone from 13.6% of the council seats to 5.8% and in Wales from 12.4% to 5.7%, noting UKIP have only 3 Welsh seats and none in Scotland, whereas Green have 12 in Scotland and none in Wales.

    But the pattern does seem quite distinct for LD and it is considerably down in terms of elected representation.

    For any Irish posters on this site, is there any danger in UUP and DUP splitting the vote and allowing non-protestant parties to sneak by them?

    I assume Alliance and Green are a mix, but Sinn Fein and SLDP mostly catholic in their base. I am thinking about the result in Fermanagh and South Tyrone and one of the Belfast seats in 2010.

    And then there’s Lady Herman and I am not sure how to categorize UKIP in NI.

  14. Andy Shadrack

    “I am not sure how to categorize UKIP in NI.”

    Where do we start? :-)

  15. @ Louis Walsh,

    I think it’s great we have another model not including the Ashcroft constituency polling- if it turns out to be completely wrong it would be nice to have forecasts that ignore it so we can see how good the models are without the Ashcroft polling throwing them off. My only quibble with your methods is that the Lib Dem incumbency effect isn’t just a minor thing Ashcroft discovered, it’s long-standing electoral reality. We won’t know how well it has stood up to Clegg until election day, but I suspect any model that doesn’t at least try to include it is going to end up making some bad predictions.

    I’m also intrigued by how many Labour gains you have, because I didn’t think they had so many targets in the region. Are they mostly gaining Lib Dem seats, or are they leapfrogging the Lib Dems in Tory-held seats to go from third place to first?

    @ Andy & Slam,

    To be fair the Lib Dem and Labour budget plans are virtually identical, so from an anti-austerity voting standpoint the Lib Dems aren’t much different in their own right. The real danger as in the current parliament is that you cast a vote for the Lib Dems campaigning against austerity and then find your Lib Dem MP voting for a Tory budget.

  16. I think the debates are very important. As far as I can tell, most of the day-to-day running of the country is done by civil servants and where politicians make a difference is in crisis situations. And that depends on character and temperament.

    It’s no good fronting the best party on earth with the best policies, if the man in charge crumbles under pressure. The debates are a chance to put them under pressure and see how they perform, how quick are they on their feet, can they keep their cool under fire, how do they compare to their opponents.

    As for all the stuff about local MPs being the most important thing – most people probably couldn’t name their MP, they are voting for the party and it’s leader.

    I actually got a close-up glimpse of my MP just before the last election and took a dislike to him though I liked his party. Then followed a debate with myself whether to abstain or to vote. In the end I voted with my fingers crossed that the MP concerned would remain safely on the backbenches not able to do any harm. And luckily that’s what happened.

    Voters in a constituency have so little control over who gets to be candidate in our patch. It really is a lottery whether you get someone who is a decent competent person AND they share your politics. And you’ve no idea if your MP will make a difference to anything – it’s out of your control whether he gets promoted, can convince/move his colleagues to a certain direction etc etc.

    The only certainty is that party leaders will shape direction – which is why people concentrate so much on the leadership skills and character of the potential Prime Ministers. What else have we got to go on?

  17. @ Spearmint

    I agree with your observation about LD, which I think makes determining the LD incumbency effect very difficult.

    What might happen, and I have no way of knowing this at all, is that the left leaning LD MPs might have a better survival rate than those closer to the Tories.

    I think I read recently about some LD MP resigning her position as PPC to a Minister over fracking. She might survive , for example, but Vince Cable might not, sort of thing.

    But it is a bit confusing. Take Solihul, for example, where the main reason that Green have 20% of the councillors is because incumbent LD switched parties and joined Green.

    So in GE what are the voters in Solihul going to do follow some fomer LD councillors and vote Green or go Labour. Either way the LD appers to dropping by as much as 75% to 80% where incumbency does not exist and up to a third or half where LD has held the seat.

  18. @Cover Drive
    PS I say this as someone who voted Tory in 2010.
    Who on earth is advising him? He could claw back UKIP supporters in the big debates and hold his own against EM in the head to head.

    It’s clearly a switch-hit from DC and a sensible one. Have we ever had in the UK a PM who believed they had a shot at remaining in situ volunteering for a PM debate?

    DC never wanted debates. What his advisers have tried to do is find a way of shifting the blame to Lab for them not happening. That was always going to be a tough assignment. Perhaps it would have been better if DC had ruled out the debates at the outset.

    Where his advisers have failed is in blaming Labour for the failure of the debates.

  19. @Cover Drives

    That final paragraph should have been lopped off before posting. Apologies.

  20. Perhaps Cameron should take Miliband up on his challenge, and offer to have a debate on top of Snowdon, or in a rowing boat 10 miles out at sea, with no-one there apart from a cameraman with a hand-held camera?

    It might engage those who normally don’t vote, especially if fisticuffs was involved.

  21. @ Andy,

    I suspect it’s going to depend a lot on the individual seat/MP, but on the whole it’s probably the Labour-facing or Scottish Lib Dems who stand the lowest chance of survival, regardless of their individual politics. This is why Sarah Teather, who is so leftwing she left the government, isn’t even bothering to stand again.

    Whereas someone like David Laws is probably pretty safe because leftwing voters know Labour can’t win and he’s so rightwing his small-c conservative constituents aren’t going to make a big effort to unseat him.

    The most interesting seats IMO are the ones like Sheffield Hallam that are supposed to be Tory-facing but now aren’t. It will be interesting to see how that one works out, and not just for the potential amusement value of a Portillo moment/seeing Mr. Nameless win the day.

    @ Pete B,

    I reckon Miliband can take him. He’s got those lanky spaghetti arms- longer reach.

  22. @ OLDNAT

    No I do not referring to coalitions but as all the polling suggests a hung Parliament then its glaringingly obvious we may end up with one.
    Now its possible a minority Lab or Con Govt may try to go it alone but that would hardly provide a stable administration.
    Its also possible that the SNP may come to a supply and confidence agreement with Lab but again that would leave Lab at the mercy of Sturgeon. So I suspect we will end up with a coalition and if I want to speculate about that then I will.

  23. I find it quite interesting that a majority of people want an end to austerity according to Ashcroft. I guess it all depends on what people understand by austerity.
    I am sure that if most people were asked should the UK borrow lots more money or live within its means then the latter course would be accepted as common sense. In fact it is the word austerity that is the problem. The people of Britain have never really experienced anything that could be realistically termed austerity. Austerity has however happened in Greece and to an only slightly less extent, in Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Italy. Even the French have experienced more in the way of austerity than we have which is partly
    why their unemployment levels are so high.

    The UK government have talked austerity but have sensibly implemented nothing of the sort. Instead they have made steady progress towards the goal of living within our means and avoided most of the mistakes made in the eurozone.

  24. Mikey

    I would never want to intervene between you and whatever scenarios you want to dream up.

    I simply point out that coalition is not necessarily something of any benefit to anyone, and that minority government can work perfectly well.

  25. @ Spearmint

    So I was playing around on the Election Calculus site the other night, plugging in various figures and it spat out the following seats being taken by “Other”, which I assume does not mean Green:

    Cambourne and Redruth
    Devon North
    Thornbury and Yate

    Looking at the three Lord Ashcroft English seats yesterday and thinking about his North Devon and Cambourne and Redruth polling, has anyone thought about a straight switch from LD to UKIP?

    When I looked at Norwich North as compared to 2010, and this is very crude, I observed 53% from LD to Green, 23% to UKIP and 21% to Labour.

    Of course unless you can trace all flow throughs your not going to be accurate other than to capture net flows, rather than gross ones.

    I suspect that many LDs could go to Conservative, in fact that is the only explanation I can see for the YouGov polls March 1 -4, but you could have a flow of LD to Conservative and then a flow from Conservative to UKIP that is offset by LD flow into Conservative, rather than direct to UKIP.

  26. @RMJ1

    Does it not depend on who you are and where you are positioned in the economic scale of things?

    For someone on UK benefits and just scraping by is not the imposition of the bedroom tax a heavy personal “austerity burden”?

  27. Having had occasion to watch a five leader TV debate in Canada in 2008 (all our federal leaders have to be fluent in two languages – imagine a UK debate in English and Gaelic or English and Welsh :), I am interested to know who all might be the winners and losers.

    In 2008 there was a point in the English debate when the four other leaders ganged up on the Prime Minister, simply because he was the target as he was leading in the polls. It might have cost him obtaining a majority and in fact the other four leaders went on to try and form a coalition government with the “nationalists” offering C&S.

    The Green Party just by being in the debate got a boost and had their best vote ever, and people opined after the English debate that they wished the Quebec nationalists would run candidates in English Canada.

    The big loser in all this, assuming the debtes happen, is going to be Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems, who having been seen as the third option in 2010 will now be see as one of the also rans in 2015.

    It is quite a climb down from being Deputy Prime Minister to not being included in the head to head debate between Cameron and Milliband.

    I also think Sturgeon and Wood will get a bounce if , Milliband does badly, and/or they are seen to hold their own against the “English” politicians.

    Finally there is Farage who runs the risk of having six others gang up on him, and it will not be the same as going head to head with Clegg in the Euros.

    Finally four if not five of the leaders could end up having to work with each other at least in terms of C & S after the election, and Cameron will not want to be seen as cozying up to Farage either.

  28. There have been so many posts on this thread that if I am repeating things other people have said please forgive me.

    I would like to pick up on a couple of things Anthony has said interpreting these polls.

    1. Anthony says that he expects the SNP share in Scotland to fall before the election. I disagree. I think the Scots have made their mind up and there is unlikely to be much change now. There will be an SNP landslide. Looking nationally, I am thinking back to the 1997 election when nobody believed that Labour could be getting as big a landslide as the polls indicated, but he did.
    Folowing up on this, people are discussing about the SNP holding the whip hand in a Coalition to extort yet more for the Scots. But surely if the SNP do get a landslide they should want to wihtdraw form Westminster to set up their separate Government.
    From an English point of view the Scottish people are being very cynical and dishonest. They have just voted to stay in the UK, on terms grossly over-favourable to them. Yet they are coming back for more.
    I think very strongly that the rest of the UK should call Scotland’s bluff. If they want independence, they should have it but without any financial assistance from England. The handouts to Scotland under the Barnett formula should stop immediately. Scotland should be responsible for the debts of compnaies located in Scotland, in particular RBS. The border should be closed until arrangements can be made to control immigration from Scotland. And Scotland should be quuite clear that England will never bail them out again. Scotland has in effect been bailed out, on excessively generous terms twice, in 1707 after the failure of the Darien Scheme and in 2008 after the banking crisis, when the banks worst affected were those based in Edinburgh. In future, if the Scots reduce their economy to being a basket case (as it probably is now given their dependence on Englaish handouts) it is their problem to be solved by themselves alone.

    2. Anthony reports a five per cent swing to Labour in London. This agrees with what I see happening on the ground in my limited visits to the capital. The consequence is that there is likely to be a slightly bigger swing to the Tories in provincial England than is indicated in the national polls.
    This factor could be increased if, as I again suspect, Labour is doing better in City seats in England at the expense of their performance in suburban and rural areas.
    I fear that the likely explanation is that Labour is acting as a “Rainbow coalition” party in which minority cliques are pushing their interests in a whole series of llocal parties, and white Labour PArty members are bending over backwards “not to be prejudiced”. Well, if this is so Labour IS being prejudiced, against people of English background.

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