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

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.


May2015 is the New Statesman's new elections site. Explore it for data, interviews and ideas on the general election.

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How the shadow cabinet forced Jeremy Corbyn not to change Labour policy on Syria air strikes

Frontbenchers made it clear that they "would not leave the room" until the leader backed down. 

Jeremy Corbyn had been forced to back down once before the start of today's shadow cabinet meeting on Syria, offering Labour MPs a free vote on air strikes against Isis. By the end of the two-hour gathering, he had backed down twice.

At the start of the meeting, Corbyn's office briefed the Guardian that while a free would be held, party policy would be changed to oppose military action - an attempt to claim partial victory. But shadow cabinet members, led by Andy Burnham, argued that this was "unacceptable" and an attempt to divide MPs from members. Burnham, who is not persuaded by the case for air strikes, warned that colleagues who voted against the party's proposed position would become targets for abuse, undermining the principle of a free vote.

Jon Ashworth, the shadow minister without portfolio and NEC member, said that Labour's policy remained the motion passed by this year's conference, which was open to competing interpretations (though most believe the tests it set for military action have been met). Party policy could not be changed without going through a similarly formal process, he argued. In advance of the meeting, Labour released a poll of members (based on an "initial sample" of 1,900) showing that 75 per cent opposed intervention. 

When Corbyn's team suggested that the issue be resolved after the meeting, those present made it clear that they "would not leave the room" until the Labour leader had backed down. By the end, only Corbyn allies Diane Abbott and Jon Trickett argued that party policy should be changed to oppose military action. John McDonnell, who has long argued for a free vote, took a more "conciliatory" approach, I'm told. It was when Hilary Benn said that he would be prepared to speak from the backbenches in the Syria debate, in order to avoid opposing party policy, that Corbyn realised he would have to give way. The Labour leader and the shadow foreign secretary will now advocate opposing positions from the frontbench when MPs meet, with Corbyn opening and Benn closing. 

The meeting had begun with members, including some who reject military action, complaining about the "discorteous" and "deplorable" manner in which the issue had been handled. As I reported last week, there was outrage when Corbyn wrote to MPs opposing air strikes without first informing the shadow cabinet (I'm told that my account of that meeting was also raised). There was anger today when, at 2:07pm, seven minutes after the meeting began, some members received an update on their phones from the Guardian revealing that a free vote would be held but that party policy would be changed to oppose military action. This "farcical moment", in the words of one present (Corbyn is said to have been unaware of the briefing), only hardened shadow cabinet members' resolve to force their leader to back down - and he did. 

In a statement released following the meeting, a Corbyn spokesperson confirmed that a free vote would be held but made no reference to party policy: 

"Today's Shadow Cabinet agreed to back Jeremy Corbyn's recommendation of a free vote on the Government's proposal to authorise UK bombing in Syria.   

"The Shadow Cabinet decided to support the call for David Cameron to step back from the rush to war and hold a full two day debate in the House of Commons on such a crucial national decision.  

"Shadow Cabinet members agreed to call David Cameron to account on the unanswered questions raised by his case for bombing: including how it would accelerate a negotiated settlement of the Syrian civil war; what ground troops would take territory evacuated by ISIS; military co-ordination and strategy; the refugee crisis and the imperative to cut-off of supplies to ISIS."

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.