ComRes have published a new poll of voting intentions in LD-Con seats in the South West for ITV. Full details are here. The topline figures are CON 44%, LAB 13%, LDEM 26%, UKIP 10%. Given these are all seats that the Liberal Democrats won in 2010 this is a huge turnaround – in 2010 the Lib Dems had an overall lead of 8.5% over the Tories in these seats, now they are 18 points behind, a whopping great swing of 13 points. If there was a uniform swing of this scale across these seats the Lib Dems would lose the lot.

Depressing for the Lib Dems, but wholly at odds with previous polling evidence in these seats. Lord Ashcroft has polled Lib Dem held seats pretty comprehensively, so we actually have constituency polls in 12 of the 14 seats included in this sample, and they paint a very different picture. Compared to the 13 point LD>Con swing in the ComRes poll Lord Ashcroft found an average LD>Con swing of about 4 points.

The difference between these two sets of polling is much larger than can explained by margin of error – they paint a genuinely contradictory picture. If ComRes are right the Lib Dems have collapsed in their heartland and face wipeout, if Ashcroft are right they are holding up against the tide and should retain around half those seats.

Explaining the difference is a little harder. It could, of course, simply be that public opinion has changed – some of Ashcroft’s polling was done late last year… but most of the Lib Dem collapse in support came early this Parliament, so this doesn’t ring true to me. Looking at the rest of the methodology both polls were conducted by telephone, the political weighting was much the same, the turnout weighting not vastly different.

My guess is the difference is actually a quite a subtle one – but obviously with a large impact! Both Ashcroft and ComRes asked a voting intention question that prompted people to think about their own constituency, candidates and MP to try and get at the personal and tactical voting that Lib Dem MPs are so reliant upon. However, looking at the tables it looks as though ComRes asked that as the only voting intention question, while Ashcroft asked it as a two stage question, asking people their national preference then their local voting intention. The results that ComRes got in their constituency question are actually extremely similar to the ones that Ashcroft got in his initial, national question.

This sounds weird, but it’s actually what I’d expect. When I first wrote the two stage voting intention question back in 2008 my thinking was that when people answer opinion polls they want to register their support for the party they really support, not a tactical vote or a vote for their local MP… and even if you ask the question slightly differently, that’s the answer you are going to get. If you really wanted to get people’s local voting intentions, you needed to first give them the opportunity to express their national support and then ask them their local support.

That though, is just the theory. As I’ve written before when writing about constituency polls of Lib Dem seats and marginal polls of Lib Dem battlegrounds, we don’t really have the evidence from past elections to judge what the most accurate methods are. Hopefully we’ll get enough different constituency and marginal polls over the next three weeks to give us the evidence to judge in the future.

Meanwhile tonight’s YouGov poll for the Sun has topline figures of CON 34%, LAB 35%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 13%, GRN 5%

320 Responses to “How badly are the Lib Dems doing in the South West?”

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  1. @swebb

    I think Labour will win both Edinburgh S and N, so YouGov showing too close to call, favouring Labour isn’t surprising. I am a bit surprised by Edinburgh E, which I think SNP will win. There are rumours of further Ashcroft polling in Scotland this week, so we may have more concrete data soon.

    Interesting that the YouGov nowcast has Dagenham as favouring UKIP (albeit “too close to call”). I hadn’t previously seen that mentioned as a likely / possible UKIP gain, although perhaps that had passed me by.

  2. @ Swebb

    “In Scotland, particularly in Edinburgh, seats that are still too close to call are seeing Labour edge ahead of the SNP as election day nears.”

    I really don’t know how Nowcast can make a judgement like that yet. I can’t remember seeing any specific Edinburgh Constituency polling, Ashcroft did a dozen or so Scottish seats but I don’t think any were in that area.

  3. @ MIBRI

    I wonder if that comment was “On message”. Seems a foolish thing to say.

  4. @ Crossbat11

    “His notes should contain just one message, writ large. “Permission to vote Labour”.

    If he promotes that message tonight to the voting viewers he may well get a well deserved one or two finger response in the general direction of their TV screens.

    I really hope he does!!

  5. The 5 lean SNP to lean Lab seats is a bit of a surprise, but predicted margins in some of those are narrow so I guess a smallish swing (or local pattern) could do that.

    The prediction that surprises me is Dagenham and Rainham to lean UKIP from lean Lab.

    Lab were 40.2% at last election. Con 34%. I can see it being a UKIP friendly place, but would expect Lab to rise to 45% or so in 2015 on national/London polling. Previous other parties included Con 34.2%, plus UKIP (prev 3.5%) plus BNP (prev 11.2%) – close perhaps if they all got together but I believe a BNP candidate is standing and surely not all Con will go to UKIP. LD (prev 8.6%) unlikely to have more going to UKIP than Lab.

  6. Barbazenzero


    I take it back – the majority target is therefore 323.

    In which case all of the forecasts I supplied above for a Centre-Right coalition need to be reduced by 1 seat (as I included the Speaker in the Con tally).

    In which case my point stands – only Kellner is predicting that a Centre-Right government could be formed and command a small majority.

  7. @James

    Dagenham is quite interesting. The first Nowcast had it too close to call UKIP – you can see it here

    If you compare that screenshot of the first nowcast (Cons 19-31) to the latest Nowcast (Cons 15-27) it does look like the Conservative vote is being squeezed, “vote UKIP to prevent Labour winning here” seems to be the message on Tony Emin’s timeline, and that Conservative vote is going down week by week, and the UKIP one increasing.

    This could well be a UKIP win if this nowcast is correct, and the Conservative squeeze continues.

  8. @bantams

    The only Ashcroft poll in Edinburgh so far was for the South West seat (Alistair Darling’s patch until dissolution), which had SNP in front by a fair bit. Although it seems from the YouGov data that the two western seats are better for the SNP than the other three.


    The Nowcast uses some sort of constituency based element from it’s national polling. This is not publicly released but does inform the Nowcast.

    From the explanation:
    “The YouGov Nowcast, involving data from 170,667 voters across the country, has today been updated with 33,148 fresh interviews in the past week and other publicly available data such as constituency polls.”

  10. @James

    I wondered if the East Dunbartonshire was a bit No heavy but on reflection it may not be far off as I would expect the Yes vote to be much higher in Kirkintilloch (the bit of East Dunbartonshire council area not in the Westminster seat) than in Milngavie and Bearsden.

    I note that the poll prompted initially with some Jo Swinson do you look on her favourably questions which may move the numbers up a digit or two compared to the Ashcroft methodology.

    I suspect this will be a very close race and that is what the poll shows.

    Its value to the Lib Dems may be in attempting to garner tactical unionist votes from local Conservatives by proving Jo Swinson is the contender with the best chance of beating the SNP.

  11. The YG nowcast now has the potential FFA/EVEL axis very slightly under water: Con+SNP+Grn+PC+SDLP is 322. All would depend on UKIP!

  12. Splendid polling, although i expect conservatives to gain closer to the election as people realise that the money for all the promises needs to come from somewhere (SNP increasing defecit +74%, Green increasing +178%) .

    Very excited to see whether Cameron or Milliband will get the keys. See both of them increasing nearer the time. Splendid polling ahead!

  13. What does outwith mean? Outside?


    Thanks for that. Still a massive move to UKIP from Con and BNP required, assuming Cruddas is not a complete exception to the Lab VI gain in London. The Nowcast predicts only a 1%ish increase for Lab.

    Again, we have to assume that Yougov has data to back their prediction up.

  15. Labour back to two points ahead. I guess if this continues after the weekend the Tory’s will be start to be in headless chicken mode next week…….

  16. I’d also expect Edinburgh South and Edinburgh North & Leith to be 2 very good chances of Labour holds.

    I personally hope Mark Lazarowicz hangs on in N&L as he is definitely one of the good guys in LiS.

    Edinburgh East is of course the Scottish Greens only target seat and that may be having the effect of splitting the Yes vote there helping Labour to potentially sneak in. Some Ashcroft polling or evidence from the Nowcast etc could help SNP try and squeeze the Green vote with a Vote Green get Lab message!

  17. SWEBB
    In which case my point stands – only Kellner is predicting that a Centre-Right government could be formed and command a small majority.

    That seems to be the case right now, but there’s still plenty of time for rabbits to be pulled out of hats, or even just to do well in the remaining UK and national debates.

    I do note that the use of the word “assumption” [and words closely related to it] seem heavily used on these threads. Despite not being a theist, that drove me to discover that the RC feast of the assumption isn’t until 15 August. A reason why the UK doesn’t have summer elections, perhaps.

  18. @casclc

    Well there was this tweet as well, that came out after the first Nowcast had UKIP in the lead there

    SouthHaveringLabour [email protected] · Apr 2
    The threat from UKIP in Dagenham and Rainham is very real. Please contact Jon Cruddas’ office if you can help with campaigning.

    So that does make it sound more real. RAF is apparently the expert on London Labour so perhaps he can chime in with more on the ground knowledge. If you read the constituency section of this website they refer to an overspill from the UKIP campaign in neighbouring Thurrock which is definitely on their target list.

  19. @HAL

    “Con+SNP+Grn+PC+SDLP is 322.”

    Hmmm…as if….

  20. Anyone noticed the news item about misplaced billboards in Carlisle and Cleethorpes? Smile.

  21. Normal service is resumed.

    The Big two level, Labour might be slightly ahead. If this is the position on 7th May then Cameron is out.

    So does he:

    1) Panic now
    2) Panic at some later stage (in which case, when)
    3) Concentrate on Lynton’s plan and hope that either late swing or a shy Tory factor saves him at the last minute.

    If I were him, my choice would be 3. Not because I am sure it would work but because I think 1 or 2 would likely makes things worse.

  22. @Bantams

    I’m sure there will be plenty of voters like you who will be putting two fingers up at Miliband tonight, maybe even throwing things at the TV screen too, but voters like you, or me for that matter, aren’t important on these sorts of occasions. We know how we’re going to vote and have prejudices to burnish rather than minds to be turned. Miliband isn’t after people like you tonight; you’ll be watching hoping to see him fall flat on his face. He’s after centrist voters whose hearts may be saying vote Labour but whose heads might be tilting them towards the Tories. The head part of their motivation might be harbouring doubts about Miliband has a leader but, because of where their hearts are, have a temptation to back Labour.

    They need permission to back Labour, and if Miliband can give them that then he’s in business. Hence my suggestion that this thought should inform what he says tonight.

  23. Do YouGov prompt for the BNP? Dagenham is one of the few seats to have a BNP candidate and given they won a large number of votes there in 2010 I imagine that will hurt UKIP.

  24. Practically speaking, for everything except perhaps confidence votes (not sure what the rules are there) the Speaker and three Deputy Speakers cancel out- 2 Tory, 2 Labour, none can vote.

    So if you think Sinn Fein are likely to lose a seat the total for a majority is 324.

    In the event of an exact tie the Speaker has to vote for the status quo. That means bills and no confidence votes fail, but I’m not sure what it means for government formation, a Queen’s speech vote or the positive confidence vote required by the FTPA after a confidence motion brings down the government. Since Cameron is technically the Prime Minister and the Government the Government until he resigns, it seems to me that the status quo at the moment is confidence and Bercow would have to vote with the Government. But once a no confidence vote passes it switches to a default state of no confidence, and Bercow would have to vote no confidence in a new Government (and therefore for a dissolution and a new general election).

    I think it’s probably a non-issue, though, because in the event of an exact tie I doubt either the DUP or the Lib Dems will support the Conservatives.

  25. Difficult to believe Dagenham and Rainham -not sure where yougov gets its figures from.

    Cruddas was dep leader candidate,blue labour ,policy review facilitator ,part author of manifesto ,very well connected in the trade union world.So ideally suited to the constituency.

    There is a bnp candidate so that will take votes away from ukip.

  26. HAL
    Con+SNP+Grn+PC+SDLP is 322

    Was that a joke which I am too dense to understand? If so, please explain. If not, please consider….

    Reasons why SNP might wish to consider FFA in exchange for EVEL can be imagined, but it would hard not to imagine at the same time what a boon this would be to LiS in the 2016 GE. Short of someone’s insanity, it’s not going to happen.

    Why PC or SDLP would join the SNP in such folly is even harder to imagine. Neither party has substantial enough representation in their national assembly to be able to do anything with it or implement it, were it offered.

  27. @northumbrianscot

    “Other” (presumably Greens) are in third place in Edinburgh East on the YouGov nowcast, albeit with ~9% of the vote (range 6.5 – 11.2). Labour about 1.5% ahead of the SNP at each midpoint.

    The odd thing about it is that the total of the midpoints of the five ranges is way below 100%. Hmm.

    Lab 29.0 – 37.7 = 33.4
    SNP 27.4 – 35.9 = 31.7
    Other 6.5 – 11.2 = 8.8
    Con 5.2 – 9.4 = 7.3
    LD 3.7 – 7.2 = 5.5

    Total = 86.7%

  28. Rumour that Richard Desmond to donate £1million to ukip and confirm that the Express stable will endorse them?.

    Reckon farage should be able to get a small bounce to ukip tonight just by saying his normal stuff.But knowing him he will go over the top.

    No doubt he will offer to bail the tories out if labour and the prog alliance get together.

    Good Afternoon.
    The SDLP will never join with the Tories in any arrangement; as you know they take the Labour Whip.

  30. Milngavie and Bearsden are said to be among the more desirable areas of Glasgow to live in, with a high non-Scottish population.

  31. CHRISLANE1945
    The SDLP will never join with the Tories in any arrangement; as you know they take the Labour Whip.

    Indeed I do, but there are murmurings re joining the Progressive Alliance/Bloc[k] or whatever the current buzzword is, and Maguire’s “abstention in person” on the 1979 vote Lab lost by one is not forgotten.

    Personally, I regard the whole idea as risible, as I thought my post made clear.

  32. Norbold, BBZ,

    It is a question of whether a minority Labour government could lose control of a Scotland Bill via an amendment in favour of FFA for Scotland. The parties I listed may well vote for such an amendment.

    In the case of the various nationalists, the rationale is obvious. For the Conservatives it would help them promote EVEL, perhaps at some later occasion, so I can see it being a rational decision for them.

  33. The opinion polls are national polls? The continual level pegging between labour and conservatives is misleading. Because the scot nats are doing so well this must reduce labours national polling total. Consequently Labour would be doing better in England because the national figure is being depressed by Scotland.
    So maybe Labour may seize more conservative seats than we expect. Can someone tell me if my reasoning is wrong.

  34. @ Barbazenzero,

    Maguire was an independent. Gerry Fitt was the SDLP MP who abstained.

    Very, very different circumstances, though. It’s a nonstarter this time around.

    And even setting aside the changed politics in Northern Ireland, I find it very difficult to envision a situation in which the Lib Dems would allow a Labour government to form and then bring it down mid-term. They’ll be bankrupt and mostly defending against Tory challengers- why on Earth would they want a midterm election in which the Tory opposition will be at its strongest? It makes far more sense for them to let Miliband stagger on for the full five years, collect all their Short money, hope the Tories suffer some attrition due to voter die-off and swingback, and then try to win some seats. And without Lib Dem cooperation a confidence vote narrow enough for the 3 SDLP MPs to matter can’t occur.

    If Labour form a government at all it’s going to take a Tory-SNP alliance to bring it down.

  35. Ken,

    Most polls are GB polls, i.e., excluding NI.

    The Cons are doing worse than Lab in Scotland, so removing Scotland from the totals does not improve the Labour lead.

  36. James
    Clarke is a class act – it’s a real shame he’s been pushed to the margins of the Conservative party in recent years.


    “No sign of any crossover yet, and if anything Labour edging slightly ahead”

    Well still a swing of 2,5 percent in the right direction. Its neck and neck, Labour lost its big lead overall and isnt ahead anymore. Lets see what the next ICM poll will show.

  38. Spearmint,

    Yes – that’s why the passage of a Scotland Bill would be so important to a minority Labour government.

    Suppose the Bill was “wrecked” in the government’s eye’s by the other parties. Would they press on with it or withdraw the Bill entirely? Either course of action could result in parliamentary chaos.

  39. Those comments from Ken Clarke, particularly the ones about personal attacks, say more about his character than anything else. A decent politician from a different time, whatever you think of his views.

    Quite possible that the Tories might have managed to claw their way back earlier had they had the guts to ignore Ken’s views on Europe and make him leader instead of IDS.

  40. eyes

  41. Im still not quite clear as to why tonights in an opposition leaders debate. I thought it was planned to be a leaders debate but that Cameron ducked out of it. I have heard that Clegg wanted to take part but as his party was in the coalition this was not agreed to.
    It would be interesting to clarify all of this.

  42. HAL
    For the Conservatives it would help them promote EVEL, perhaps at some later occasion, so I can see it being a rational decision for them.

    I can certainly see why Cons might try that approach, but the “taster” of it in the Con manifesto is surely more likely to make them push Lab as hard as they can for a constitutional convention with federalism on the table to sort out the mess of Blair’s a la carte devolution.

    EVEL on matters which have no impact on finances is or should be uncontroversial but the inclusion of a mention of income tax in the Con manifesto is a step too far.

    For a start, the unreformed HoL have no veto on “money” bills, They are not legislators I would want to retain, but at least if an EVEL bill did not have financial implications there would be a full discussion of it.

    Turning the HoC into a purely English parliament with a new elected Senate having adequate multi-national representation strikes me as much more logical.

  43. I hope it’s not getting too partisan to say that, if I was a Tory voter, Ken Clarke would be the kind of Tory I like and wish was more predominant in the party: a cautious state that doesn’t leap into the boardroom or the bedroom, but instead focuses on providing a select few public services efficiently and without racking up long-term debts.

  44. I think Cameron’s best plan is to keep chugging away, fingers crossed and hope the other lot make a mistake.

    If there’s no change soon, they will need last-minute deciders to plump for them.

  45. I would be surprised and disappointed to see Crudas lose his seat. The Labour party need MPs like him to make them remember not to be Tory lite.

  46. Bill Patrick

    I don’t think that’s too partisan. I think at the time of the Tory leadership election he took part in, he was by far more popular in the country and with Labour voters than any other candidate. Partly a virtue of face recognition, parly for being a moderate Conservative and for having been seen as a ‘successful’ chancellor for a long period of time.

  47. Ken, the forecasts are for Lab to gain a lot of English seats. Approx 35-50 from Con and 10ish from LD. Problem is with 35ish lost to SNP and Con gaining 10+ from LD, that leaves the forecasts of Con and Lab fairly level pegging.

    Maguire was an independent. Gerry Fitt was the SDLP MP who abstained.

    Ooops. You’re right. I mixed those two up at the time.

    I agree pretty much entirely with the rest of your post. SNP would have no reason to pull the plug on a Lab minority government before the 2016 GE but after that could be unhappy over a Scotland bill which Lab needed to get Con help to push through.

    Offhand, I can’t think of any other reason why they would stop giving confidence to Lab, while if Lab play silly Bs they won’t be getting much from the SNP on the supply side.

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