Why Cameron will struggle to win a majority

New poll suggests that the Conservative leader is unlikely to win the 117 seats he needs.

The headline from the latest Times/Populus poll, "Labour and Tories neck and neck in marginals", thrilled Labour tribalists this morning. Had Michael Ashcroft's millions really had so little effect?

It turns out that it depends which marginals you're talking about. The poll excluded the 50 Labour-Tory battlegrounds with the smallest majorities, presumably under the assumption that the Conservatives will pick these up easily. Instead, it included 51-150 in the list of Tory targets.

In these seats, the poll shows a swing of about 6.7 per cent to the Tories since 2005. According to UK Polling Report's Anthony Wells, a swing this large in the marginals is the equivalent of a 10-point lead nationally.

The Tories have made significant progress in the marginals since 2005. The survey puts them on 37.6 per cent, up from 31.4 per cent at the last election.

But even with these qualifications, the poll still won't make happy reading for David Cameron. With the Tories now holding only 193 seats (16 fewer than Labour in 1983) a swing of 6.7 per cent in the marginals still isn't large enough to guarantee Cameron an overall majority.

To secure a majority in the Commons, the Conservatives need to win no fewer than 117 seats. So even if, as the poll suggests, the Tories win 97 seats off Labour, they still need to gain at least 20 seats from the Liberal Democrats and others for an overall majority.

This task is more daunting than it sounds. First, Lib Dem MPs have a deserved reputation for digging in deep and winning a local following. Second, in a significant number of these seats the Tories are not in second place but third, putting these out of reach of the party.

Thus, we can draw two conclusions from this poll. First, that the Lib Dems are likely to deny Cameron victory and second, that the election is now likely to result in a minority Conservative administration and a second election this autumn.

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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It's Gary Lineker 1, the Sun 0

The football hero has found himself at the heart of a Twitter storm over the refugee children debate.

The Mole wonders what sort of topsy-turvy universe we now live in where Gary Lineker is suddenly being called a “political activist” by a Conservative MP? Our favourite big-eared football pundit has found himself in a war of words with the Sun newspaper after wading into the controversy over the age of the refugee children granted entry into Britain from Calais.

Pictures published earlier this week in the right-wing press prompted speculation over the migrants' “true age”, and a Tory MP even went as far as suggesting that these children should have their age verified by dental X-rays. All of which leaves your poor Mole with a deeply furrowed brow. But luckily the British Dental Association was on hand to condemn the idea as unethical, inaccurate and inappropriate. Phew. Thank God for dentists.

Back to old Big Ears, sorry, Saint Gary, who on Wednesday tweeted his outrage over the Murdoch-owned newspaper’s scaremongering coverage of the story. He smacked down the ex-English Defence League leader, Tommy Robinson, in a single tweet, calling him a “racist idiot”, and went on to defend his right to express his opinions freely on his feed.

The Sun hit back in traditional form, calling for Lineker to be ousted from his job as host of the BBC’s Match of the Day. The headline they chose? “Out on his ears”, of course, referring to the sporting hero’s most notable assets. In the article, the tabloid lays into Lineker, branding him a “leftie luvvie” and “jug-eared”. The article attacked him for describing those querying the age of the young migrants as “hideously racist” and suggested he had breached BBC guidelines on impartiality.

All of which has prompted calls for a boycott of the Sun and an outpouring of support for Lineker on Twitter. His fellow football hero Stan Collymore waded in, tweeting that he was on “Team Lineker”. Leading the charge against the Murdoch-owned title was the close ally of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and former Channel 4 News economics editor, Paul Mason, who tweeted:

Lineker, who is not accustomed to finding himself at the centre of such highly politicised arguments on social media, responded with typical good humour, saying he had received a bit of a “spanking”.

All of which leaves the Mole with renewed respect for Lineker and an uncharacteristic desire to watch this weekend’s Match of the Day to see if any trace of his new activist persona might surface.


I'm a mole, innit.