The Tories are struggling in the marginals

New polling by Survation in Labour marginals Great Grimsby and Dudley North shows the party neck-and-neck with UKIP.

Two months after the conference season, Labour's poll lead remains stubbornly high at eight points, and there's more bad news for the Tories this morning. After last week's poll putting them in third place in marginal seat South Thanet (behind UKIP), two new surveys commissioned by UKIP donor Alan Bown, and carried out by Survation, show a similarly grim outlook for Cameron's party.

In Labour-held Great Grimsby and Dudley North (the 9th and 10th most winnable Conservative targets), support for the Tories has fallen dramatically since the election, leaving them neck-and-neck with UKIP. The party's vote share is down by 11 points to 20% in the former and by 12 points to 25% in the latter, with support for UKIP up by 16 points in Grimsby and 14 points in Dudley. Support for Labour has risen by seven points to 40% in Grimsby and by six points to 45% in Dudley.

While the Tories hope to win over UKIP defectors by warning that a divided right will put Ed Miliband in Downing Street, there's less potential than they'd like to do so. Just 30% of UKIP supporters in these seats voted Tory in 2010, with 10% voting Labour and 20% not voting. 

It's further evidence, if needed, of why a Conservative majority is the least likely of all the plausible outcomes of the next election. In both seats, the swing to Labour is greater than that shown by the national polls, suggesting that Miliband's party is winning support where it most needs it. That finding is line with Lord Ashcroft's recent marginals survey, which gave Labour a 14-point lead in the 32 Tory seats where it is in second place. 

Ashcroft has responded by quipping that the Tories will commission another "comfort poll", a reference to an alleged private poll showing the party two points ahead of Labour when the Tory incumbents are named.

I wrote recently to the British Polling Council asking whether the poll should be published in line with BPC guidelines which state that "in the event that the results of a privately commissioned poll are made public by a third party (i.e. external to the organisation that commissioned the survey, its employees and its agents — for example the leak of embargoed research) the survey organisation must place information on its website within two working days in order to place the information that has been released into proper context." The BPC replied that since the poll was carried out "by a non-member" (Crosby Textor?), it is not required to be published. For now, the Tories' "comfort polling" remains for their eyes only. 

Conservative ministers listen to David Cameron speak at the party's conference in Manchester. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Getty
Show Hide image

Andy Burnham quits shadow cabinet: "Let's end divisive talk of deselections"

The shadow home secretary reflected on a "profoundly sad" year. 

Andy Burnham will leave the shadow cabinet in the reshuffle to focus on his bid to become Manchester's metro mayor in 2017. 

In his swansong as shadow home secretary, Burnham said serving Labour had been a privilege but certain moments over the last 12 months had made him "profoundly sad".

He said:

"This is my tenth Conference speaking to you as a Cabinet or shadow cabinet minister.

"And it will be my last.

"It is time for me to turn my full focus to Greater Manchester. 

"That's why I can tell you all first today that I have asked Jeremy to plan a new shadow cabinet without me, although I will of course stay until it is in place."

Burnham devoted a large part of his speech to reflecting on the Hillsborough campaign, in which he played a major part, and the more recent campaign to find out the truth of the clash between police and miners at Orgreave in 1984.

He defended his record in the party, saying he had not inconsistent, but loyal to each Labour leader in turn. 

Burnham ran in the 2015 Labour leadership election as a soft left candidate, but found himself outflanked by Jeremy Corbyn on the left. 

He was one of the few shadow cabinet ministers not to resign in the wake of Brexit.

Burnham spoke of his sadness over the turbulent last year: He was, he said:

"Sad to hear the achievements of our Labour Government, in which I was proud to serve, being dismissed as if they were nothing.

"Sad that old friendships have been strained; 

"Sad that some seem to prefer fighting each other than the Tories."

He called for Labour to unite and end "divisive talk about deselections" while respecting the democratic will of members.

On the controversial debate of Brexit, and controls on immigration, he criticised Theresa May for her uncompromising stance, and he described Britain during the refugee crisis as appearing to be "wrapped up in its own selfish little world".

But he added that voters do not want the status quo:

"Labour voters in constituencies like mine are not narrow-minded, nor xenophobic, as some would say. 

"They are warm and giving. Their parents and grandparents welcomed thousands of Ukrainians and Poles to Leigh after the Second World War.

"And today they continue to welcome refugees from all over the world. They have no problem with people coming here to work.

"But they do have a problem with people taking them for granted and with unlimited, unfunded, unskilled migration which damages their own living standards. 

"And they have an even bigger problem with an out-of-touch elite who don't seem to care about it."

Burnham has summed up Labour's immigration dilemma with more nuance and sensitivity than many of his colleagues. But perhaps it is easier to do so when you're leaving your job.