Nigel Farage could win by running for Thanet South. Photo: Getty
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Ashcroft polls: sealing Nigel Farage's seat as Thanet South?

Lord Ashcroft’s latest marginal polls put Ukip in first place in the constituencies of Thurrock and Thanet South.

The latest polling of marginal seats by Lord Ashcroft is good news for Ukip, may give Labour some cheer, but is a bit of a gloomy picture for the Tories.

Surveying the “battleground” seats – 14 Conservative-held seats with Labour in second place – the polling is noteworthy for Ukip now being first place in two (Thurrock and Thanet South), and for the nine-point fall in the Tory vote share since 2010.

Ukip’s rising popularity means has resulted in it now leading in two seats: Thurrock and Thanet South. It has also jumped ahead of Labour to second place, behind the Conservatives, in Great Yarmouth.

The Tory peer and respected pollster points out that this means Ukip’s overall vote share nationally won’t necessarily indicate how they’ll do in the general election: “their vote in these [battleground] seats ranges from 9 per cent in Hendon to 31 per cent in Great Yarmouth, 33 per cent in Thanet South and 36 per cent in Thurrock”. This suggests, if Ukip can hold on to such figures for ten more months, that Farage and his troops could do some significant damage on the ground, in spite of the national picture of their prospects.

And speaking of Farage, this polling could also tell us where the Ukip leader will stand as an MP. Thanet South is a likely seat for Farage to contest, and he has been tipped for it for a while. Its current MP, Laura Sandys, is one of a significant number of 2010-intake Tories to be standing down in 2015 after just one term, a decision that sparked speculation about where Farage will stand. Of course, he’s contested the seat before, in 2005, where he came fourth. Will the polling’s suggestion that he’d come top embolden him to try the same patch again?

And aside from Ukip euphoria, Labour could also be reading these polling results with a grin. As Ashcroft points out, although the opposition’s score remains unchanged at 38 per cent, the Tories’ nine-point fall in the vote share in these particular seats “points to a 4.5 per cent swing to Labour”.

If the election directly reflects this polling, Labour could win 53 Conservative seats. This combined with gains from the Lib Dems, as Ashcroft pointed towards in another set of recent polling, could put Labour on-track for “a small overall majority”. But rather than having the effect of Labour sitting comfortably and awaiting a replication of this polling in the election results, this is more likely to put the fear into the Conservative campaign machine, which some say has been optimistic about a Tory majority outcome.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.

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For the Ukip press officer I slept with, the European Union was Daddy

My Ukip lover just wanted to kick against authority. I do not know how he would have coped with the reality of Brexit.

I was a journalist for a progressive newspaper.

He was the press officer for the UK Independence Party.

He was smoking a cigarette on the pavement outside the Ukip conference in Bristol.

I sat beside him. It was a scene from a terrible film. 

He wore a tweed Sherlock Holmes coat. The general impression was of a seedy-posh bat who had learned to talk like Shere Khan. He was a construct: a press officer so ridiculous that, by comparison, Ukip supporters seemed almost normal. He could have impersonated the Queen Mother, or a morris dancer, or a British bulldog. It was all bravado and I loved him for that.

He slept in my hotel room, and the next day we held hands in the public gallery while people wearing Union Jack badges ranted about the pound. This was before I learned not to choose men with my neurosis alone. If I was literally embedded in Ukip, I was oblivious, and I was no kinder to the party in print than I would have been had I not slept with its bat-like press officer. How could I be? On the last day of the conference, a young, black, female supporter was introduced to the audience with the words – after a white male had rubbed the skin on her hand – “It doesn’t come off.” Another announcement was: “The Ukip Mondeo is about to be towed away.” I didn’t take these people seriously. He laughed at me for that.

After conference, I moved into his seedy-posh 18th-century house in Totnes, which is the counterculture capital of Devon. It was filled with crystal healers and water diviners. I suspect now that his dedication to Ukip was part of his desire to thwart authority, although this may be my denial about lusting after a Brexiteer who dressed like Sherlock Holmes. But I prefer to believe that, for him, the European Union was Daddy, and this compulsion leaked into his work for Ukip – the nearest form of authority and the smaller Daddy.

He used to telephone someone called Roger from in front of a computer with a screen saver of two naked women kissing, lying about what he had done to promote Ukip. He also told me, a journalist, disgusting stories about Nigel Farage that I cannot publish because they are libellous.

When I complained about the pornographic screen saver and said it was damaging to his small son, he apologised with damp eyes and replaced it with a photo of a topless woman with her hand down her pants.

It was sex, not politics, that broke us. I arrived on Christmas Eve to find a photograph of a woman lying on our bed, on sheets I had bought for him. That was my Christmas present. He died last year and I do not know how he would have coped with the reality of Brexit, of Daddy dying, too – for what would be left to desire?

This article first appeared in the 19 January 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The Trump era