The Liberal Democrats could lose 17 seats to Labour next May, according to the latest polls revealed by Lord Ashcroft today.
The junior Coalition partner’s vote has fallen by half in seats where Labour are their main challengers.
Research conducted by the Conservative peer in Bradford East, Brent Central, Manchester Withington and Norwich South found the Lib Dem share down from 38 per cent to 19 per cent, with Labour up 11 points to 47 per cent.
Overall, this 15 per cent swing would allow Labour to sweep 17 Lib Dem seats if it is repeated across the nation at the election.
Recent research by Ashcroft, combined with today’s polling report, suggest that up to half of Lib Dem MPs could be wiped out in next year’s general election.
Ashcroft warned caution, however, noting: “As we saw in my polling of Conservative-Lib Dem marginals, swings are very far from uniform where the Lib Dems are concerned. It is also important to emphasise again that like all polls, this is a snapshot not a forecast.”
Labour is not the Lib Dems only primary challenger, however. One in seven Lib Dem defectors since 2010 has switched to the Green Party. Ashcroft’s survey identifies the Greens as the new non-of-the-above vote. He suggested the party could pick up urban youth voters disaffected with the main established parties in the same way Ukip is sweeping up votes among certain rural and coastal ageing populations.
Caroline Lucas, the sole Green MP in Westminster, is currently one point behind Labour in her Brighton Pavilion seat, so the contest will be closely fought.
In Lib Dem-Labour battlegrounds, 35 per cent of voters would rather see Ed Miliband as Prime Minister than David Cameron.
Six in ten voters in these seats said they wanted to see Labour in office after the next election, either governing alone (45 per cent) or in coalition with the Lib Dems (15 per cent). Fewer than 25 per cent wanted the Tories back in government.