The only snap poll on last night’s “challengers’ debate” was carried out by Survation for the Daily Mirror and it awarded the Labour leader a victory: Ed Miliband 35%, Nicola Sturgeon 31%, Nigel Farage 27%, Natalie Bennett 5%, Leanne Wood 2%.
Perhaps the most important question is whether and by how much David Cameron will have been hurt by staying away.
Survation also asked respondents who, in a straight contest, should be elected better prime minister, David Cameron or Ed Miliband? And Miliband came out ahead by 45 to 40 per cent, with the other 15 per cent undecided.
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A straw in the wind perhaps but, on the face of it, ample justification for Miliband’s decision to take part in the five-way debate.
An interesting post-debate tweet came from the managing editor of the Cameron-friendly Sun newspaper, Stig Abell. “Just to be clear. Cameron preferred 20 minutes of roasting by Paxman to a series of uninterrupted pitches on broad subjects. Looks daft.”
His boss, Rupert Murdoch, thought otherwise, tweeting: “No-show Cameron only winner in UK debate as Scot Sturgeon clobbers Miliband and Farage stumbles.”
Miliband went into the debate with leads in two new opinion polls. The Ipsos-MORI poll for the Evening Standard gave Labour a two- point advantage: Con 33 (unchanged), Lab 35 (up 1), Lib Dems 7 (down 1), Ukip 10 (down 3), Greens 8 (up 2).
The lead with Panelbase was just one point, suggesting that the same pollster’s six-point Labour lead a week ago was a blip, as many suspected: Con 33 (up 2), Lab 34 (down 3), Lib Dems 8 (u/c), Ukip 16 (u/c), Greens 4 (u/c). These figures bring Panelbase close to the current polling average.
This morning’s YouGov poll – with fieldwork carried out before last night’s debate - shows a tie: Con 34 (up 1), Lab 34 (u/c), Lib Dems 5 (u/c), Ukip 14 (up 1), Greens 6 (u/c).
The key question as ever is how the polls translate into seats.
YouGov have come up with an answer in their updated ‘nowcast’ (as opposed to a ‘forecast’). They suggest Labour will have 279 seats Conservatives 266, the SNP 50, the Lib Dems 27, Others (including any wins Ukip and the Greens might achieve) 22.
That means a second coalition of Tories and Lib Dems would be way short of the 326 needed for a Commons majority. A Labour-SNP partnership, however difficult that might be to negotiate, is the only obvious combination that adds up to a majority.
As YouGov’s Freddie Sayers says, with 20 days to go, “The campaign swing to the Conservatives, predicted by many commentators and pundits, has so far failed to materialise.”
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