Nick Clegg's party could lose 17 seats to Labour. Photo: Wikimedia
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Ashcroft polls: Lib Dems could lose 17 seats to Labour

The latest polling by Lord Ashcroft offers a snapshot of the wipe out facing Lib Dems in battleground seats against Labour.

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.

Lucy Fisher writes about politics and is the winner of the Anthony Howard Award 2013. She tweets @LOS_Fisher.


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Can Philip Hammond save the Conservatives from public anger at their DUP deal?

The Chancellor has the wriggle room to get close to the DUP's spending increase – but emotion matters more than facts in politics.

The magic money tree exists, and it is growing in Northern Ireland. That’s the attack line that Labour will throw at Theresa May in the wake of her £1bn deal with the DUP to keep her party in office.

It’s worth noting that while £1bn is a big deal in terms of Northern Ireland’s budget – just a touch under £10bn in 2016/17 – as far as the total expenditure of the British government goes, it’s peanuts.

The British government spent £778bn last year – we’re talking about spending an amount of money in Northern Ireland over the course of two years that the NHS loses in pen theft over the course of one in England. To match the increase in relative terms, you’d be looking at a £35bn increase in spending.

But, of course, political arguments are about gut instinct rather than actual numbers. The perception that the streets of Antrim are being paved by gold while the public realm in England, Scotland and Wales falls into disrepair is a real danger to the Conservatives.

But the good news for them is that last year Philip Hammond tweaked his targets to give himself greater headroom in case of a Brexit shock. Now the Tories have experienced a shock of a different kind – a Corbyn shock. That shock was partly due to the Labour leader’s good campaign and May’s bad campaign, but it was also powered by anger at cuts to schools and anger among NHS workers at Jeremy Hunt’s stewardship of the NHS. Conservative MPs have already made it clear to May that the party must not go to the country again while defending cuts to school spending.

Hammond can get to slightly under that £35bn and still stick to his targets. That will mean that the DUP still get to rave about their higher-than-average increase, while avoiding another election in which cuts to schools are front-and-centre. But whether that deprives Labour of their “cuts for you, but not for them” attack line is another question entirely. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.

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