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. HAL

    I don’t think you are right about Scotland.

    A big reduction in the Labour vote still represents a swing towards the Tories in Scotland.

    Therefore, for any given point after that collapse, for Labour to have the same GB figure as before they must be gaining a larger swing in England and Wales.

  2. Ken Clarke is good, and has been for at least 20 years, because he has the luxury of been able to speak the truth as he is wealthy and principled and has had in effect two careers at the top, both the Thatcher years and the Latter era. Most politicians say what they need to stay in power. I mean if people were principled, Brown would have had the guts to vote against Iraq, but would have cost him his job. That’s why I thought Robin Cook was great from the Labour side.

  3. @ Ken Smith

    I think that has been factored into the projections we are seeing.

  4. On top of the rumours that the Conservatives are taking it easy in Hallam to help Clegg , there are similar reports in the North East of Scotland and East Dunbartonshire .

  5. James
    The current models all account for the different swing in Scotland. Deducting Scotland and Wales to calculate an England only swing does give Labour a boast, but not as much as you might think due to the relative size of England.
    It turns a national swing of 3.6% into one of 5%.

  6. Mikey
    I’ve just realised your treatment of the Cruddas name reminds me of the comedy programme featuring Chris Barrie as Mr Brittas. He received some American visitors at his leisure centre who insisted on calling him ‘Mr Bright Ass’..

    That tickled me and doubtless poor Jon Cruddas suffers similarly. Then of course there is the finnish racing driver Valtteri Bottas.

    We need some light relief from this ghastly stuff about ‘what if for Scotland’ stuff. Let’s have the election first..

  7. Mikey:

    “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”

    That”s exactly right. After Cameron ducked out, what was originally planned as a “leaders’ ” debate was reframed as a “challengers” debate. I’ve seen a report in which the Dems state that they have made repeated requests to the broadcasters for inclusion, but been turned down.

    Seems unfair to me, that because Cameron won’t participate, Clegg is thereby excluded?

  8. @Ken Smith

    Yes, it is factored into the seat projections (at least it is into mine, and I assume the rest also do the same).

  9. Rich,

    It may be a rarely-noticed advantage of having politicians who have (or could have) a life outwith politics: they know that even if they get deselected, it’s the loss of a job not a living.

  10. In some cases it can even allow a near-excess of independence e.g. David Owen always had a medical and diplomatic set of opportunities to fall back on.

  11. @ Hal,

    The thing is, SNP-style EVEL is a nightmare mess for the Tories- no EVEL on the stuff they care about, like income tax or NHS privatisation or Right to Buy, because that all has spending implications, but a bill that can be trumpeted by Labour as an answer to the West Lothian question. And the SNP can’t vote for FFA before 2016 (or probably at all, ever) because of the massive spending cut it would impose on Scotland, which is the only motive the Tories would have to pass FFA in the first place.

    Plus you have the unseemly spectacle of the two parties going into the lobbies together, which Labour could exploit both in Scotland (“Tartan Tories!”) and England (“Boris/May/Osborne/Whoever is in Salmond’s pocket!”)

    So while a wrecking alliance seems plausible in theory, I think it might prove difficult for them in practice to agree on the wording of the amendment. If it passes everyone would be stuck with it, and apart from screwing Labour the Tories and the SNP don’t really share short-term objectives.

    Take a look at the front page of today’s Natty, too :

    SNP rhetoric on EVEL is changing faster than the oil price.

  12. Rich and Bill

    That must apply to a lot of them (the PM and the Chancellor just for a start).

  13. @ hal

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


    Potentially it does. At least it does in terms of seats in England. And that could matter hugely.


    Leaving aside Wales and with a bunch of hypothetical figures….
    assume for the sake of argument that, in 2010, CON got 40% nationally and LAB got 40% nationally.

    Now assume that LAB got 6% of that UK vote share from Scotland and CON got just 2% of that UK vote share from Scotland.

    That left CON at 38% in England. And it left LAB at 34% in England. A 4% deficit for LAB in England where most of the seats are.

    Now it is 2015…..

    For the sake of argument CON are on 40% again with 2% coming from Scotland again. Giving them 38% in England.
    Just like in 2010.

    LAB are also on 40% this time too. Only instead of 6% of those votes coming from Scotland, only 2% is coming from there.
    So that means that in England, this time around, LAB are getting 38% too.

    Where most of the seats are, LAB have caught up 4%.

    Like I said these figures are made up. But you can hopeufully see why, if you take Scotland out of the equation, LAB look like they are doing better in the rest of the UK this time around than last time around….

  14. Saffer

    I totally agree with you. It is appalling that Clegg has been denied his place in the debate tonight.

  15. Bristolianhoward.

    Aha. Two dds in Cruddas and just the one l in Miliband. I would be rich the number of times folk post Milliband.

  16. @ Ken,

    The Lab/Con swing we’re seeing from Ashcroft’s constituency polls seems roughly in line with the national polling, not with the national polling – Scotland. Could be incumbency factors or Labour gains being concentrated in London and the North rather than the critical Midlands seats, but at this point if we assume the constituency polling is accurate there doesn’t seem to be compelling evidence that the polls are underestimating Labour’s prospects.

  17. Rich

    Agree with you re principled politicians. Far more popular with the public for occasionally going off script and saying what they think rather than sticking to the party line.

  18. Assuming that the polls are broadly correct, the two main parties end up neck-and-neck, the SNP get 45 – 50 seats and the LDs 20 to 25, then the most likely outcome would appear to be a coalition/understanding of Labour with SNP and Lib Dems.

    It is difficult to imagine Clegg continuing as LD leader, and his most likely replacement is Tim Farron, who is left-leaning.

    A three way arrangement of this kind gives many advantages to EM as Prime Minister: he has a comfortable majority, he is not linked entirely to, and dependent upon one party, and all parties can congratulate themselves on kicking out the Tories. Importantly, any one of the parties can abstain at any time without jeopardising the ‘alliance’.

    I am not advocating this arrangement, but simply saying that this seems the logical outcome to the current predicted voting patterns.

  19. @david in france
    “But you can hopeufully see why, if you take Scotland out of the equation, LAB look like they are doing better in the rest of the UK this time around than last time around….”

    They certainly are, but the problem is that Labour’s swing in England is not uniform. It occurs to me that people who talk about a 4 or 5% swing in England switching loads of marginals are going to get a distorted picture. If Labour’s England swing is, say, 4%, you can’t just take a 2010 Lab-Con Midlands marginal and slap your 4% swing on it.

    We either need *far* more constituency polls or some serious regional polling, because the regional disparity in England is bloody huge.

    Even just taking England and subtracting London might help, but as @louiswalshvotesgreen said earlier, the London-only polls are weighted differently so I’m not sure if you can use them with England crossbreaks.

  20. @spearmint

    We can assume the constituency polling is accurate, but there hasn’t been enough of it to really test the swing.

    A while ago I came across a map of GB which showed all the seats Ashcroft has polled in green. There wasn’t much green IIRC. Does anyone know what I’m talking about and have a link to it?

  21. Chasglas

    Although in the South West Clegg is urging all non-Cons to vote LD so as to keep the Cons out.

  22. Nevermind I found another map. All the seats Ashcroft has polled in England and Wales

    Unfortunately a few of these date back from last summer when the polling was showing a strong Labour lead but some of them are polled twice

  23. @CASCLC:”Although in the South West Clegg is urging all non-Cons to vote LD so as to keep the Cons out.”

    …whilst presumably urging the Tories of Sheffield Hallam to do the opposite. What could possibly go wrong with that strategy?

  24. Muddy Waters

    Yeh I did wonder if his recent strategy of attacking the Tories for various coalition policies might be to his detriment in Sheffield, where many Tories that might have stuck by him instead might think ‘you reap what you sow’ and abstain.

  25. Muddy Waters: Perhaps he’s doing the same in all LD seats. Totally alienating all Con, Lab and SNP MPs post election.

  26. @ GARYO

    I think if they are Tories they will vote Tory rather than abstain. But I agree with your general point

  27. Assuming the result is as the polls currently predict (ie no tory or labour majority)serious negotiations will ensue-this time without civil service hysteria about the markets opening on monday.It might take a while.

    However as in 2010 leaders could fall on their swords.Who leads the negotiations or will that parties negotiating credibility collapse overnight.

    Ditto within the Parliament ,say a vote of confidence is lost -does the leader go in which case who tries to put a government together,who leads -the deputy ? ,the president .Are party rules up to this ?

    I think we should be told
    Pass the sick bag alice

    See p94

  28. Richard Desmond £1m to UKIP. Will Express follow that lead, and if so could it affect polls/election?

  29. CASCLC

    I think we must assume that the Express and Star will throw their weight behind UKIP. I doubt many of the Star’s readers choose it for its political editorial’s though.

  30. Well that’s a lot of money. On the face of it, bad for the Tories and therefore good for Labour

  31. Damn


  32. Jo Brand doing the labour ppb tonight with voice over from doctor who/broadchurch.

  33. @Omnishambles

    Here’s another map which I’ve just made: UK map of constituency polls It shows mostly Ashcroft polls, plus a few others, coloured by predicted majority (more washed-out the colour, the narrower the majority).

  34. CASCLC

    Very possibly. It’s only right that he completes the job he’s worked so hard on for the last five years. I think it would show what a conscientious fellow he is.

  35. omnishambles

    “an important question seems to be: are there many marginals in the North?”

    Ashcroft has polled them, particularly the band of constituencies roughly from Liverpool to Hull that flipped from Lab to Con in 2010. Also Stockton South (Con) and Redcar (LD), both of which revert to Labour.

  36. Jo did a good job -reckon they might repeat that one -as the tories did with their first one .

  37. Little Red Rock: “Vote UKIP, it’s what Di would have wanted”?

  38. @ 07052015,

    All these bloody celebrity endorsements for Labour… has Pressman gone over to the enemy?

  39. Come on Anthony…..pull your finger out, you’ve got a whole load of boring sado’s waiting for your next post!

    (I thought you ought to feel some if the pressure the main protagonists feel! Take it as a compliment!)

  40. Spearmint

    Personally, I’m a bit sad, too, that we’ve been deprived of the “Cam the Man” campaign which he promised us. I was looking forward to that.

  41. Five forecasts have changed today.Of the seven forecasts, five have Labour winning most seats, while two have the Conservatives winning most seats. The average is now showing a tie with Labour and the Conservatives both on 275 seats.

    See tables here:!465038&authkey=!ALFAFE2ZxIWSpCQ&ithint=file%2cpdf

  42. @CASCLC

    Not quite a LOL but definitely a CA (Chuckled audibly)

  43. @07052015
    “Jo Brand doing the labour ppb tonight with voice over from doctor who/broadchurch.”

    Hopefully with the accent he used in Broadchurch rather than the one in Gracepoint.

  44. I’m not sure if this shows Tories in panic mode or if it was always the lan or if it is merely one constituency, but…
    Local press reporting major fall out between defending Tory MP in Aberconwy (Bebb) and constituency chair. Bebb accused of being on it only for himself. Bebb accuses chair of being an idiot on grounds that Crosby instructed him to fight on his own name and downplay the Tory brand.

    Now a threeway marginal? ( tory, Lab, Plaid with Lib collapsing to Lab and Plaid, and UKIP taking votes from Tory and Lab)

    Thank you; the excitement than listening to Alan Green on Radio Five Live.

  46. Plan not Lan !

  47. @’Ken

    The thing about the Ashcroft polls is that they virtually stop at a swing of about 5.4% from Tory to Labour. Very few seats requiring a higher swing have been polled but we do have 7% swings in Crewe and Finchley. But we don’t know if there are other seats that will have this kind of high swing.

    The current average Ashcroft swing is about 4.5% which equates pretty much to a dead heat in GB polls. But if there are seats with a higher swing that we don’t know about it could be higher. The average is depressed by seats where the swing is low but this is not properly balanced by seats where the swing could be higher. If there are two 7%’s out there, there may be more.

    Given also the margin of error in these kind of polls – illustrated by the significant changes (and not changes relating to national trends) seen in some where there have been more than one Ashcroft poll – it would I think be hard to have any firmer conclusion than the marginals are not far off the national picture. But in this election !% either way may matter so we may just have to wait.

  48. @ukelect



    Yes, he has… looking at the maps, the North has had lots of attention from the Good Lord. The Midlands, not quite as much. Equal-sized constituency maps would be easier to look at though. Hopefully we’ll get more of the Midlands next week.

  49. @ Saffer

    “Seems unfair to me, that because Cameron won’t participate, Clegg is thereby excluded?”

    Other commentators have said it would be suicide for him to be there as the only representative of the coalition. So I’m not sure how much Clegg’s protests about being excluded from the debate are just for show – it could just be another part of the whole Clegg/Cameron act.

  50. @Gary Gatter


    The YouGov NowCast and its similarities and differences from my ukelect forecast interest me. I’m wondering why they are predicting 5 UKIP seats – I can only assume that their private polling data is showing a high degree of concentration of the UKIP vote in certain of the target seats.

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