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4 December 2013

The Tories are struggling in the marginals

New polling by Survation in Labour marginals Great Grimsby and Dudley North shows the party neck-and-neck with UKIP.

By George Eaton

Two months after the conference season, Labour’s poll lead remains stubbornly high at eight points, and there’s more bad news for the Tories this morning. After last week’s poll putting them in third place in marginal seat South Thanet (behind UKIP), two new surveys commissioned by UKIP donor Alan Bown, and carried out by Survation, show a similarly grim outlook for Cameron’s party.

In Labour-held Great Grimsby and Dudley North (the 9th and 10th most winnable Conservative targets), support for the Tories has fallen dramatically since the election, leaving them neck-and-neck with UKIP. The party’s vote share is down by 11 points to 20% in the former and by 12 points to 25% in the latter, with support for UKIP up by 16 points in Grimsby and 14 points in Dudley. Support for Labour has risen by seven points to 40% in Grimsby and by six points to 45% in Dudley.

While the Tories hope to win over UKIP defectors by warning that a divided right will put Ed Miliband in Downing Street, there’s less potential than they’d like to do so. Just 30% of UKIP supporters in these seats voted Tory in 2010, with 10% voting Labour and 20% not voting. 

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It’s further evidence, if needed, of why a Conservative majority is the least likely of all the plausible outcomes of the next election. In both seats, the swing to Labour is greater than that shown by the national polls, suggesting that Miliband’s party is winning support where it most needs it. That finding is line with Lord Ashcroft’s recent marginals survey, which gave Labour a 14-point lead in the 32 Tory seats where it is in second place. 

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Ashcroft has responded by quipping that the Tories will commission another “comfort poll”, a reference to an alleged private poll showing the party two points ahead of Labour when the Tory incumbents are named.

I wrote recently to the British Polling Council asking whether the poll should be published in line with BPC guidelines which state that “in the event that the results of a privately commissioned poll are made public by a third party (i.e. external to the organisation that commissioned the survey, its employees and its agents — for example the leak of embargoed research) the survey organisation must place information on its website within two working days in order to place the information that has been released into proper context.” The BPC replied that since the poll was carried out “by a non-member” (Crosby Textor?), it is not required to be published. For now, the Tories’ “comfort polling” remains for their eyes only.