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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The big problem for the NHS? Local government cuts

Even a U-Turn on planned cuts to the service itself will still leave the NHS under heavy pressure. 

38Degrees has uncovered a series of grisly plans for the NHS over the coming years. Among the highlights: severe cuts to frontline services at the Midland Metropolitan Hospital, including but limited to the closure of its Accident and Emergency department. Elsewhere, one of three hospitals in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland are to be shuttered, while there will be cuts to acute services in Suffolk and North East Essex.

These cuts come despite an additional £8bn annual cash injection into the NHS, characterised as the bare minimum needed by Simon Stevens, the head of NHS England.

The cuts are outlined in draft sustainability and transformation plans (STP) that will be approved in October before kicking off a period of wider consultation.

The problem for the NHS is twofold: although its funding remains ringfenced, healthcare inflation means that in reality, the health service requires above-inflation increases to stand still. But the second, bigger problem aren’t cuts to the NHS but to the rest of government spending, particularly local government cuts.

That has seen more pressure on hospital beds as outpatients who require further non-emergency care have nowhere to go, increasing lifestyle problems as cash-strapped councils either close or increase prices at subsidised local authority gyms, build on green space to make the best out of Britain’s booming property market, and cut other corners to manage the growing backlog of devolved cuts.

All of which means even a bigger supply of cash for the NHS than the £8bn promised at the last election – even the bonanza pledged by Vote Leave in the referendum, in fact – will still find itself disappearing down the cracks left by cuts elsewhere. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He usually writes about politics.