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17 March 2010

Tories still struggling in the north and Scotland

Cameron's Conservatives are losing ground in the north and 17 points behind in Scotland.

By George Eaton

If David Cameron is to win an overall majority at the election, he will need to gain a tranche of seats in the north. So a new polling analysis by the Financial Times showing that the Tories’ lead in the region has evaporated will trouble some in the party.

The study, based on polling data from the past three months, found that the narrow 4-point lead enjoyed by the Tories in September has been wiped out, leaving the party neck-and-neck with Labour.

It’s worth pointing out that this still represents a huge swing to the Conservatives — Labour’s lead at the last election was 19 points. But with Cameron needing to win 117 seats to secure just a single-seat majority in the Commons, he cannot afford to lose ground in any area.

There’s worse news for the party in Scotland, where Labour leads by an average of 17 points. Only one of the 59 Scottish MPs at Westminster is Conservative, and the party is unlikely to add hugely to this.

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Senior Tories concede the party is likely at best to pick up only two or three more Scottish seats. “They’ve more or less had to write off Scotland,” Peter Kellner, president of pollsters YouGov, said.

The significance of this is that the Scottich National Party is likely to use the Tories’ minuscule presence in Scotland to bolster the case for independence.

The growing distance that many Tories feel from Scotland was revealed by a ConservativeHome poll of 144 party candidates, which found that while 54 per cent believe “the Union should be defended at all costs”, 46 per cent would not be “uncomfortable about Scotland becoming independent”.

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