Nicola Sturgeon's SNP now seem likely to win more than 50 seats in May. Photo: Getty.
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New Ashcroft polls: Labour to be wiped out in Scotland and lose Gordon Brown’s seat

The SNP lead are set to win more than 50 of Scotland’s 59 seats, including Charles Kennedy’s and possibly even Jim Murphy’s.

Read this post - and stay up to date with the latest polls - on our election site May2015.com.

Labour is set to lose Gordon Brown’s seat to the SNP – a seat it won by more than 50 points in 2010. It’s also trailing to the SNP in three other seats it won by big majorities in 2010: Ayr (which it won by 22 points in 2010), Edinburgh South West (19 points), and Dumfries (14).

The SNP lead by 4-11 points in these seats. In East Renfrewshire, seat of Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy, Labour is ahead by just 1 point – they can’t even be sure of winning there.

These findings, based on constituency polls released by Lord Ashcroft this evening, confirm the scale of the SNP surge in Scotland. They confirm that Scotland’s nationalists are set to win more than 50 of Scotland’s 59 seats in 64 days, as May2015 has predicted for the past month.

It now seems plausible that the SNP will win more than 50 seats.

The SNP currently hold 6 Scottish seats. For the first four years of the coalition, that seemed unlikely to change greatly in 2015. Then the party started to surge late last summer, on the eve of the Scottish referendum in September. National polls began to show they could win dozens of Labour seats in October (Labour hold 40 of Scotland’s 59 seats).

By January, the bookies were predicting the SNP would win 25 or so Scottish seats. In the past two months, that estimate has risen to 40. But it now seems plausible that the SNP will win more than 50.

Lord Ashcroft polled three other Scottish seats: two held by the Lib Dems (who have 11 Scottish seats) and one held by the Tories (the Tories’ only hold one).

They paint the same picture. The SNP lead in both Aberdeenshire West (by 14) and Charles Kennedy’s seat of Ross Skye (by 5) – a seat they lost to the Lib Dems by 13,000 votes in 2010. The SNP and Tories are tied in Dumfriesshire.

The SNP lead in Charles Kennedy’s seat of Ross Skye – a seat they lost by 13,000 in 2010.

Today’s polls follow Ashcroft’s first batch of Scottish polls last month. Those 16 polls put the SNP ahead in 15 seats, and showed uniform swings to the SNP across Scotland of more than 20 points.

Six of today’s eight Scottish polls show the same thing: 20-22 point swings to the SNP. In Kirkcaldy, Gordon Brown’s seat, the swing is even greater: 28 points. (In Tory-held Dumfriesshire, a border seat, it is less dramatic: 13 points.)

Ashcroft has now put the SNP ahead in 21 seats out of 24. He has polled nearly half of Scotland.

English marginals

Ashcroft also polled four Tory-held seats which Labour hope to win in May. These are crucial seats which forecasters disagree over: we rate all four as among the closest marginals in the UK, but the bookies think most of these seats lean Tory.

As this graphic shows, we were predicting all four seats – Colne Valley, Vale of Glamorgan, Norwich North and High Peak – as giving majorities of less than 1 point in May.

Ashcroft has confirmed this. His polls show Colne Valley, High Peak and Norwich North are one-point races, with only Glamorgan clearly Tory (they lead by six).

This suggests that May2015’s current forecast – Tories 280, Labour 263 – is not far off. Ashcroft is showing that the seats our model predicts are extremely close, are extremely close (our model is based on national polls where Ashcroft hasn’t polled a seat).

The upshot of today’s poll is that the SNP are headed for more than 50 seats, as we and the Guardian currently predict. A pair of academic forecasts and the bookies have a prediction closer to 40, but that will likely now increase.

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Levi Bellfield, Milly Dowler and the story of men’s violence against women and girls

Before she was so inextricably connected to the phone hacking scandal, Milly Dowler was one of many women maimed and killed by a violent man.

The name Milly Dowler has meant phone hacking since July 2011. The month before that, Levi Bellfield (already imprisoned for the murders of Marsha McDonnell and Amelie Delagrange, and the attempted murder of Kate Sheedy) had been convicted of killing her, nine years after her death. But almost immediately, she became the centrepiece of Nick Davies’s investigations into Fleet Street “dark arts”, when it was revealed that News of the World journalists had accessed her voicemail during the search for her.

Suddenly her peers were not McDonnell, Delagrange and Sheedy, but Hugh Grant, Leslie Ash, Sadie Frost, Jude Law. People she could only have known from TV, now her neighbours in newsprint. Victims of a common crime. She had attained a kind of awful fame, and remains much better known than McDonnell, Delagrange and Sheedy.

There is a reason for that: with Milly Dowler, there was hope of finding her alive. Weeks of it, the awful hope of not knowing, the dull months of probability weighing down, until finally, in September 2002, the body. McDonnell, Delagrange and Sheedy were attacked in public places and found before they were missed. It is not such an interesting story as the schoolgirl who vanishes from a street in daylight. Once there were some women, who were killed and maimed by a man. The end.

Even now that Bellfield has confessed to kidnapping, raping and killing Milly, it seems that some people would like to tell any story other than the one about the man who kidnaps, rapes, kills and maims girls and women. There is speculation about what could have made him the kind of monster he is. There must be some cause, and maybe that cause is female.

Detective Chief Inspector Colin Sutton (who worked on the McDonnell and Delagrange murders) has said insinuatingly that Bellfield “dotes on his mother and her on him. It's a troubling relationship.” But it was not Bellfield’s mother who kidnapped, raped, killed and maimed girls and women, of course. He did that, on his own, although he is not the first male killer to be extended the courtesy of blaming his female relatives.

Coverage of the Yorkshire Ripper accused his wife Sonia of driving him to murder. “I think when Sutcliffe attacked his 20 victims, he was attacking his wife 20 times in his head,” said a detective quoted in the Mirror, as if the crimes were not Sutcliffe’s responsibility but Sonia’s for dodging the violence properly due to her. Lady Lucan has been successfully cast by Lucan’s friends as “a nightmare” in order to foster sympathy for him – even though he systematically tried to drive her mad before he tried to kill her, and did kill their children’s nanny, Sandra Rivett. Cherchez la femme. Cherchez la mom.

I know little about Bellfield’s relationship with his mother, but one of his exes spoke about him earlier this year. Jo Colling told how he had terrorised her while they were together, and stalked her after she left. “When I knew he was with another woman and not coming home it was a relief, but now I know what he was capable of, I feel guilty,” she said. “I did get an injunction against him, but it only made him even angrier.”

Colling fears that she could have prevented Bellfield’s murders by going to the police with her suspicions earlier; but since the police couldn’t even protect her, it is hard to see what difference this could have made, besides exposing herself further to Bellfield’s rage. Once there was a woman who was raped, beaten and stalked by the man she lived with. The end. This is a dull story too: Colling’s victimisation is only considered worth telling because the man who victimised her also killed Milly Dowler. Apparently the torture of a woman is only really notable when the man who does it has committed an even more newsworthy crime.

Throughout his engagements with the legal system, Bellfield seems to have contrived to inflate his own importance. Excruciatingly, he withheld his confession to murdering Milly until last year, leaving her family in an agony of unknowing – and then drew the process out even further by implicating an accomplice, who turned out to have nothing at all to do with the crime. He appears to have made the performance into another way to exercise control over women, insisting that he would only speak to female officers about what he did to Milly.

It is good that there are answers for the Dowler family; it is terrible that getting them let Bellfield play at one more round of coercions. And for the rest of us, what does this new information tell us that shouldn’t already be obvious? The story of men’s violence against girls and women is too routine to catch our attention most of the time. One woman killed by a man every 2.9 days in the UK. 88,106 sexual offences in a year.

Once there were some girls and women, who were tortured, stalked, kidnapped, raped, killed and maimed by a man. Dowler, McDonnell, Delagrange, Sheedy, Colling. More, if new investigations lead to new convictions, as police think likely. All those girls and women, all victims of Levi Bellfield, all victims of a common crime that will not end until we pull the pieces together, and realise that the torture, the stalking, the kidnaps, the rapes, the killing and the maiming – all of them are connected by the same vicious logic of gender. Then, and only then, will be able to tell a different story. Then we will have a beginning.

Sarah Ditum is a journalist who writes regularly for the Guardian, New Statesman and others. Her website is here.