Tories still struggling in the north and Scotland

Cameron's Conservatives are losing ground in the north and 17 points behind in Scotland.

If David Cameron is to win an overall majority at the election, he will need to gain a tranche of seats in the north. So a new polling analysis by the Financial Times showing that the Tories' lead in the region has evaporated will trouble some in the party.

The study, based on polling data from the past three months, found that the narrow 4-point lead enjoyed by the Tories in September has been wiped out, leaving the party neck-and-neck with Labour.

It's worth pointing out that this still represents a huge swing to the Conservatives -- Labour's lead at the last election was 19 points. But with Cameron needing to win 117 seats to secure just a single-seat majority in the Commons, he cannot afford to lose ground in any area.

There's worse news for the party in Scotland, where Labour leads by an average of 17 points. Only one of the 59 Scottish MPs at Westminster is Conservative, and the party is unlikely to add hugely to this.

The FT reports:

Senior Tories concede the party is likely at best to pick up only two or three more Scottish seats. "They've more or less had to write off Scotland," Peter Kellner, president of pollsters YouGov, said.

The significance of this is that the Scottich National Party is likely to use the Tories' minuscule presence in Scotland to bolster the case for independence.

The growing distance that many Tories feel from Scotland was revealed by a ConservativeHome poll of 144 party candidates, which found that while 54 per cent believe "the Union should be defended at all costs", 46 per cent would not be "uncomfortable about Scotland becoming independent".

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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New Digital Editor: Serena Kutchinsky

The New Statesman appoints Serena Kutchinsky as Digital Editor.

Serena Kutchinsky is to join the New Statesman as digital editor in September. She will lead the expansion of the New Statesman across a variety of digital platforms.

Serena has over a decade of experience working in digital media and is currently the digital editor of Newsweek Europe. Since she joined the title, traffic to the website has increased by almost 250 per cent. Previously, Serena was the digital editor of Prospect magazine and also the assistant digital editor of the Sunday Times - part of the team which launched the Sunday Times website and tablet editions.

Jason Cowley, New Statesman editor, said: “Serena joins us at a great time for the New Statesman, and, building on the excellent work of recent years, she has just the skills and experience we need to help lead the next stage of our expansion as a print-digital hybrid.”

Serena Kutchinsky said: “I am delighted to be joining the New Statesman team and to have the opportunity to drive forward its digital strategy. The website is already established as the home of free-thinking journalism online in the UK and I look forward to leading our expansion and growing the global readership of this historic title.

In June, the New Statesman website recorded record traffic figures when more than four million unique users read more than 27 million pages. The circulation of the weekly magazine is growing steadily and now stands at 33,400, the highest it has been since the early 1980s.