Westminster may obsess over national polls, but they are an indequate guide to the outcome of the next election. To know where the parties really stand, we need numbers from the marginals - the seats which decide who enters Downing Street.
Lord Ashcroft will helpfully be publishing another of his super-polls at this Saturday's ConservativeHome conference but in advance of that, ComRes has carried out a new survey for the Independent of the 40 most marginal Conservative-Labour battlegrounds. The bad news for Ed Miliband is that his party is two points behind (35-33) in the 25 where the Tories are incumbent, suggesting that it is performing worse in these constituencies than nationally (a reversal of previous findings). If Labour is to become the largest single party, let alone achieve a majority, these are must-win seats. In the 15 where Labour is incumbent, the party is eight points ahead (39-31), but given the need to improve, rather than merely maintain its position, this is no consolation.
Of note is that across all 40 seats, both the Tories and Labour have lost votes since the last general election. Labour is down two points to 35 per cent and the Tories are down four to 33 per cent. Ukip is up a remarkable 14 to 17 per cent and the Lib Dems are down 10 to eight per cent. It is a finding that appears to confirm Labour fears that the Farageists are now eating into their vote share as well as the Tories'.