Tories struggling in Lib Dem marginals

New figures suggest Lib Dems will hold on to almost all of the seats the Tories need to win.

The headline figures from the latest opinion polls may be fascinating but they are a poor guide to the likely outcome of the election. For a better understanding, we need to look at what is happening in the key Lib Dem-Tory marginals.

Thankfully, PoliticalBetting's Mike Smithson has published a subset of data from the latest Angus Reid poll which goes some way to enabling this. The figures show that in the 62 seats currently held by Nick Clegg's party, the Lib Dems are on 44 per cent, the Tories on 23 per cent and Labour on 19 per cent.

A lead of this size suggests, as Smithson writes, that the Lib Dems will keep almost all of the seats they won in 2005. This finding correlates with one from last week's Crosby/Textor poll for the Telegraph (carried out before Cleggmania) which found that that the Conservatives would fail to win any of the 20 key Lib Dem-Tory marginals.

It's all bad news for David Cameron. Of the 117 seats his party needs to gain for a majority of one, 23 are currently held by the Lib Dems.

The performance of Clegg's party is all the more impressive given the huge funding disadvantage suffered by the Lib Dems. New figures published by the Electoral Commission show that the Tories received £1.46m in donations in the first week of the campaign, with Labour receiving nearly £800,000 and the Lib Dems just £20,000.

It looks as if fears that Lord Ashcroft's millions would scoop up the marginals for the Tories were overstated.

 

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Tom Watson rouses Labour's conference as he comes out fighting

The party's deputy leader exhilarated delegates with his paean to the Blair and Brown years. 

Tom Watson is down but not out. After Jeremy Corbyn's second landslide victory, and weeks of threats against his position, Labour's deputy leader could have played it safe. Instead, he came out fighting. 

With Corbyn seated directly behind him, he declared: "I don't know why we've been focusing on what was wrong with the Blair and Brown governments for the last six years. But trashing our record is not the way to enhance our brand. We won't win elections like that! And we need to win elections!" As Watson won a standing ovation from the hall and the platform, the Labour leader remained motionless. When a heckler interjected, Watson riposted: "Jeremy, I don't think she got the unity memo." Labour delegates, many of whom hail from the pre-Corbyn era, lapped it up.

Though he warned against another challenge to the leader ("we can't afford to keep doing this"), he offered a starkly different account of the party's past and its future. He reaffirmed Labour's commitment to Nato ("a socialist construct"), with Corbyn left isolated as the platform applauded. The only reference to the leader came when Watson recalled his recent PMQs victory over grammar schools. There were dissenting voices (Watson was heckled as he praised Sadiq Khan for winning an election: "Just like Jeremy Corbyn!"). But one would never have guessed that this was the party which had just re-elected Corbyn. 

There was much more to Watson's speech than this: a fine comic riff on "Saturday's result" (Ed Balls on Strictly), a spirited attack on Theresa May's "ducking and diving; humming and hahing" and a cerebral account of the automation revolution. But it was his paean to Labour history that roused the conference as no other speaker has. 

The party's deputy channelled the spirit of both Hugh Gaitskell ("fight, and fight, and fight again to save the party we love") and his mentor Gordon Brown (emulating his trademark rollcall of New Labour achivements). With his voice cracking, Watson recalled when "from the sunny uplands of increasing prosperity social democratic government started to feel normal to the people of Britain". For Labour, a party that has never been further from power in recent decades, that truly was another age. But for a brief moment, Watson's tubthumper allowed Corbyn's vanquished opponents to relive it. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.