Ashcroft marginal polling dashes Tory hopes

Cheer for Miliband, disappointment for Cameron, as national trend towards Tories fails to feed through

Columnist Don Brind

Tory hopes that a narrowing of the gap in the national polls would hand them victory in key marginal seats have been dashed by a new batch of constituency polls released yesterday by Lord Ashcroft.

Ashcroft returned to eight Labour target seats which he last surveyed in the autumn when Labour was up to five points ahead in the national voting intention polls. The aim was to assess whether, now that the two main parties are virtually neck-and-neck in the national polls (see note at foot of column), this would be reflected in more Tory holds.

In fact, only one of the seats - Worcester - that looked likely to be Labour gains has switched to the Tory hold column. By contrast, Labour’s lead has increased in four seats - City of Chester, Halesowen & Rowley Regis, Nuneaton, Wirral West – while in Southampton Itchen a tie has been transformed into an eight-point Labour lead.

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The Political Betting website declares the new polling “will bring great cheer to Labour and much disappointment to the Tories, who would have hoped the national polling trends would feed into the marginals”.

It calculates that there is a five per cent swing to Labour across the eight polls which is actually greater than the swing in the previous batch of Ashcroft polling released in December.

The polling suggests Labour are on course to take around 40 Tory seats on 7 May. This would give Ed Miliband the chance of leading the biggest party in the House of Commons – depending on how grim the news is from Scotland where the SNP still looks set to make heavy inroads into Labour’s Scottish ranks.

NOTE: Today’s YouGov national voting intention poll for The Sun actually has the Tories two points behind Labour, but given the margin of error, that still counts as neck-and-neck: Con 34 (up 1), Lab 36 (up 1) Lib Dems 7 (u/c), Ukip 12 (down 1), Greens 6 (down 1).

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is a former BBC lobby correspondent and Labour press officer who is watching the polls for The Week in the run-up to the 2015 election.