Having made my way back from conference I’ve finally had a chance to look properly at Lord Ashcroft’s latest batch of marginal seat polling, this time looking mostly at Liberal Democrat seats – both the LD-v-Con battleground and the LD-v-Lab battleground. Full details are here.

Eleven of the LD-v-Con seats polled were the same as in the last round of Ashcroft polling. The picture in these seats is largely the same as it was then – a modest swing from Lib Dem to Con (2.9% average then, 2.5% average now), but significant variation. Then as now, the Lib Dems were doing much better in Sutton & Cheam and Eastleigh (both of which they’d hold), much worse in Chippenham and Somerton & Frome (both of which they’d lose). This round Lord Ashcroft also added four more LD-v-Con seats with slightly larger majorities. His polling found the Conservatives ahead in Berwick and in Taunton, neck-and-neck in Torbay but a hefty swing towards the Liberal Democrats in Eastborne. There is no obvious pattern to where the Lib Dems are doing better or worse in the LD/Con battleground. The Lib Dems are doing extremely well in Eastbourne where they have first term incumbent Stephen Lloyd, but they are also doing extremely well in Sutton and Cheam where Paul Burstow has been MP since 1997. They are doing extremely badly in Somerton & Frome where David Heath is standing down, but they are also doing extremely badly in Chippenham where Duncan Hames is a first time incumbent.

Ashcroft also polled five Lib Dem seats with Labour in second place. His previous polling of Lib-v-Lab seats was a little disappointing – he polled the four most marginal LD-v-Lab seats, all of which fell to Labour easily on huge swings. The more interesting question is what is happening in LD-v-Lab seats that have much bigger majorities, are the Lib Dems going to be wiped out there? In this round of polling Lord Ashcroft looked at some of those “safer” Lib Dem seats – Cambridge, Cardiff Central, Hornsey & Wood Green, Redcar and Bermondsey & Old Southwark. Four of these would need swings of 6-7 points to fall to the Labour, and Ashcroft shows them getting it relatively easily, the average swing across the five seats is twice that. The only LD-v-Lab seat where Ashcroft found the Lib Dems ahead was Bermondsey & Old Southwark – and there by only a single point.

Meanwhile the latest voting intention polls from the four companies who’ve polled so far this week are below:

Ashcroft – CON 32%(+5), LAB 32%(-1), LDEM 8%(-1), UKIP 17%(nc), GRN 4%(-2)
Populus – CON 34%, LAB 36%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 14%, GRN 5%
ComRes/Indy – CON 29%(+1), LAB 35%(nc), LDEM 10%(+1), UKIP 15%(-2)
YouGov/Sun – CON 31%, LAB 36%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 15%, GRN 5%


Having polled Lab -v- Con seats last month, Lord Ashcroft has now done a similar exercise in ultra-marginal seats between the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives. He polled 17 seats. 6 are Conservative held seats where the Lib Dems came a close second last time and need not unduly delay us, all show a shift from Lib Dem to Conservative and Conservative holds, the most interesting ones being Watford (which was a three way marginal in 2010 and remains so in this poll) and the two Cornish seats in the sample which both put UKIP in second place, more on that later.

Turning to the Lib Dem seats polled, Lord Ashcroft did fieldwork in the ten most marginal Lib Dem seats with the Conservatives in second place. He also polled the special case of Eastleigh because of the by-election and UKIP, but we’ll set that aside for now. The ten Lib Dem ultra-marginals represent seats with majorities of up to 6.4%, so they’d need a swing of 3.2% from LD to Con for the Tories to take them all at the next election. Based on national polling the Conservatives should do that easily (the national LD=>Con swing is about 5.5%), but as we know, Liberal Democrat MPs rely far more upon their personal support and tactical voting than MPs from other parties, and tend to be better able to confound a national swing.

Across the ten LD ultra-marginals the average swing from LD to Con was 3.4, so the Lib Dems continue to do far better in their own seats than in the country as a whole. However, “doing better” doesn’t mean completely immune from loss. If that was repeated across all LD-Con marginals they’d still lose all those ten to the Tories plus perhaps Eastborne. In practice there is variation between seats, so some seats with smaller majorities the Lib Dems would cling on to, some more distant targets they’d probably lose. Looking at these particular seats Ashcroft found the Lib Dems doing far better than average in Sutton & Cheam, which this suggests they’d hold with ease, and better than average in Cheadle which this also suggests they’d hold. Those two are the most urban of the two seats polled – but with limited data points its difficult to tell if that’s significant. North Cornwall’s swing isn’t far from the average, but would be too close to call.

If the Liberal Democrats lost only 10 or 11 seats at the next election they’d probably be quite pleased… but remember, the Lib Dems also have around 10 English seats where Labour is the challenger and 11 seats in Scotland that could be vulnerable to either Labour or the SNP, so this is not the only battleground for them. It’s the largest Lib Dem battleground, but not the one where they are most vulnerable.

Two other things to note. Seats that have had a by-election are changed by it, so Eastleigh is probably representative of nothing but itself, but for the record Ashcroft found voting intentions there of CON 27%, LAB 10%, LDEM 39%, UKIP 22%. Also worth noting is how well UKIP are doing in the Cornish seats included here. Because it’s a close LD v Con battleground Ashcroft’s sample happened to include five of the six Cornish constituencies, and UKIP were running in second place in three of them. Take the UKIP scores with a slight pinch of salt because the timing of the fieldwork (it was mostly done during or in the fortnight following the European elections, so when UKIP were on a bit of a publicity high), but it’s another potential pointer as to where they could do well.


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The weekly YouGov results for the Sunday Times are up here; topline voting intentions are CON 33%, LAB 36%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 15%.

Nick Clegg always scores badly on leadership ratings anyway, but following last week he’s broken his own records. 13% think he is doing well as Lib Dem leader, 78% badly, a net figure of minus 65 (which now nudges him below Gordon Brown’s worst ever figure of minus 62). 41% of people think that Nick Clegg should resign as Lib Dem leader, 32% think he should remain. However, amongst Lib Dem supporters (a small sample, given their decline!), 62% want Clegg to stay. YouGov asked about alternative leaders, but the most important finding there is quite how unknown they all are – the majority of people say they don’t know enough about Ed Davey, Tim Farron or Danny Alexander to answer, while opinions are evenly divided over whether Vince Cable would be better or worse. Bear that in mind when you see any polls asking about alternive Lib Dem leaders – the people answering don’t know who these people are.

There are similar divisions on attitudes to the Liberal Democrats and the coalition. Amongst the public as a whole only 30% want the Lib Dems to remain in coalition, 53% would like them to leave (26% to leave the coalition but allow a Tory minority government, 27% to leave the coalition and bring down the Tory government). Amongst Liberal Democrat supporters themselves 51% want them to stay in government, 40% would like them to leave (24% to leave and support a minority Tory government, 16% to leave and bring the government down). While most Lib Dem voters still back their coalition with the Tories, their hearts are elsewhere – if they had to choose 57% would rather work with Labour than the Conservatives.

YouGov also asked about Cameron’s planned EU renegotiation. Asked what they’d most like Cameron to look for in any renegotiation with the European Union immigration and the right of EU citizens to claim benefits in the UK are by far the most popular opinions – unsurprisingly given how much debate about the European Union seems to have become tangled up with immigration in recent years. Asked more specifically what they’d like to see, 37% would like a total ban on EU citizens claiming British benefits, 34% restrictions (15% would oppose either, and wish to keep present arrangements). On EU immigration the most popular choice was limiting EU immigration to skilled immigrants (43%). 19% would prefer a cap on EU immigration, 20% the status quo. 8% would like all EU immigration stopped.


Yesterday we had a selection of ICM polls in Liberal Democrat seats, initially released anonymously but eventually confirmed as having been commissioned by Lord Oakeshott. Oakeshott has now resigned, but left saying that Cable knew about the polls. The political row rolls on, but I’m just going to look at the polls.

Lord Oakeshott commissioned 6 constituency polls. The first was in Twickenham, and only asked about current voting intention. The other five were in Sheffield Hallam, Redcar, Wells, Cambridge and Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey and also asked about voting intention with alternate leaders. The tables are here, here and here.

All six showed the Lib Dems losing (to the Conservatives, Labour or SNP respectively). However, I’m always slightly wary of constituency polls in Liberal Democrat held seats – the effect of incumbency and tactical voting is far higher for Lib Dem MPs, and when you ask a generic voting intention I think many people give their national preference, rather than how they would actually vote in their own constituency. In most seats this is only a marginal difference – in Lib Dem held seats it can be substantial, as repeatedly shown in polls of Lib Dem marginal seats using a two-stage national-then-constituency voting intention questions (see here by Lord Ashcroft, and here by YouGov). It’s also worth noting that ICM didn’t do their usual reallocation of don’t knows according to the party they voted for the last election, and given there are a lot of past Lib Dems now saying don’t know that makes a difference. ICM specifically provided the data necessary to do the calculation ourselves in their tables, and with normal reallocation the Lib Dems would have been ahead in Twickenham and only one point behind in Sheffield Hallam.

The second part of Oakeshott’s polling was to ask how people in those seats would vote with different party leaders, which in these seats suggested they would do better with Vince Cable as leader. This is in contrast to a YouGov poll in the Times today which asked a nationwide sample how people would vote with Vince Cable as leader – in YouGov’s control question asking how people would vote with the existing party leaders the Lib Dems were on 8%, if the leaders were Cameron, Miliband and Cable the Lib Dems would still be on 8%. No change.

That aside, how would you vote if X was leader are incredibly crude tools. When a would-be leader is little known to the public they are as good as useless. Even when the would-be leader is relatively well known to the public, like Gordon Brown was pre-2007 or Vince Cable is now, they are of dubious use.

Essentially, an ordinary poll respondent who doesn’t closely follow politics might know what the would-be leader looks and sounds like, might have a pre-existing positive or negative view, they might have a vague perception of competence or incompetence. What they don’t know is what policies that new leader would announce, what direction they’d take the party, how the media would react to them and so on.

If the Liberal Democrats change leader it probably won’t be the personality and image of the new leader that makes the difference… it will be everything else that comes with it. Would it mean them leaving the coalition? Would it mean them repudiating the coalition and their role in it? Would it mean them opposing some of the policies they supported until now? And what would be the impact of that – would it win back supporters they’ve lost, or risk alienating their pro-coalition supporters too? While the departure of Nick Clegg may be a requirement for a change of direction, the big strategic question for the Lib Dems is really what attitude they take to their record in government – not which politician is voicing it.


This morning’s YouGov poll for the Sun has topline figures of CON 34%, LAB 38%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 13%. The four point lead is slightly lower than YouGov have been showing of late, but there was equally an eight point lead yesterday and both are entirely in line with an underlying average lead of around about six points. Tabs are here.

For the Times YouGov also asked the first recent questions about Lord Rennard and his future. 41% of people think he should leave the Liberal Democrats as he is damaging the party, 33% think he should remain as no wrongdoing has actually been proven. There is a noticiable difference between male and female respondents – men are almost evenly split, 40% think Rennard should stay, 39% think he should go. Amongst women 43% think Rennard should go, only 27% think he should stay.

As a caveat, YouGov also asked whether or not people were paying any attention to the Rennard story. Only 6% of people said they were following it closely, 30% said fairly closely, 25% not very closely, 39% that they were not following the story at all or were totally unaware of it. Generally speaking this should be a Westminster bubble story – it’s about a disciplinary procedure against a backroom figure most of the public have never heard of, in normal terms it should be the sort of thing that only the most politically minded notice and which is rapidly forgotten by next week. However, the fact that it is dragging on and on does increase the possibility of “normal” people noticing.