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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Photo: Getty
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Who will win in Stoke-on-Trent?

Labour are the favourites, but they could fall victim to a shock in the Midlands constituency.  

The resignation of Tristram Hunt as MP for Stoke-on-Central has triggered a by-election in the safe Labour seat of Stoke on Trent Central. That had Westminster speculating about the possibility of a victory for Ukip, which only intensified once Paul Nuttall, the party’s leader, was installed as the candidate.

If Nuttall’s message that the Labour Party has lost touch with its small-town and post-industrial heartlands is going to pay dividends at the ballot box, there can hardly be a better set of circumstances than this: the sitting MP has quit to take up a well-paid job in London, and although  the overwhelming majority of Labour MPs voted to block Brexit, the well-advertised divisions in that party over the vote should help Ukip.

But Labour started with a solid lead – it is always more useful to talk about percentages, not raw vote totals – of 16 points in 2015, with the two parties of the right effectively tied in second and third place. Just 33 votes separated Ukip in second from the third-placed Conservatives.

There was a possible – but narrow – path to victory for Ukip that involved swallowing up the Conservative vote, while Labour shed votes in three directions: to the Liberal Democrats, to Ukip, and to abstention.

But as I wrote at the start of the contest, Ukip were, in my view, overwritten in their chances of winning the seat. We talk a lot about Labour’s problem appealing to “aspirational” voters in Westminster, but less covered, and equally important, is Ukip’s aspiration problem.

For some people, a vote for Ukip is effectively a declaration that you live in a dump. You can have an interesting debate about whether it was particularly sympathetic of Ken Clarke to brand that party’s voters as “elderly male people who have had disappointing lives”, but that view is not just confined to pro-European Conservatives. A great number of people, in Stoke and elsewhere, who are sympathetic to Ukip’s positions on immigration, international development and the European Union also think that voting Ukip is for losers.

That always made making inroads into the Conservative vote harder than it looks. At the risk of looking very, very foolish in six days time, I found it difficult to imagine why Tory voters in Hanley would take the risk of voting Ukip. As I wrote when Nuttall announced his candidacy, the Conservatives were, in my view, a bigger threat to Labour than Ukip.

Under Theresa May, almost every move the party has made has been designed around making inroads into the Ukip vote and that part of the Labour vote that is sympathetic to Ukip. If the polls are to be believed, she’s succeeding nationally, though even on current polling, the Conservatives wouldn’t have enough to take Stoke on Trent Central.

Now Theresa May has made a visit to the constituency. Well, seeing as the government has a comfortable majority in the House of Commons, it’s not as if the Prime Minister needs to find time to visit the seat, particularly when there is another, easier battle down the road in the shape of the West Midlands mayoral election.

But one thing is certain: the Conservatives wouldn’t be sending May down if they thought that they were going to do worse than they did in 2015.

Parties can be wrong of course. The Conservatives knew that they had found a vulnerable spot in the last election as far as a Labour deal with the SNP was concerned. They thought that vulnerable spot was worth 15 to 20 seats. They gained 27 from the Liberal Democrats and a further eight from Labour.  Labour knew they would underperform public expectations and thought they’d end up with around 260 to 280 seats. They ended up with 232.

Nevertheless, Theresa May wouldn’t be coming down to Stoke if CCHQ thought that four days later, her party was going to finish fourth. And if the Conservatives don’t collapse, anyone betting on Ukip is liable to lose their shirt. 

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