Tories on course to comfortably win Newark by-election

Lord Ashcroft's poll puts them 15 points ahead of Ukip, but they trail Labour by nine points nationally.

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One can tell how frightened the Tories are of losing the Newark by-election to Ukip by the amount of resources they have devoted to the constituency, so Downing Street will be sighing with relief at Lord Ashcroft's poll which puts the Conservatives 15 points ahead (down 12 since the 2010 election) on 42 per cent, a margin significantly greater than the eight-point lead showed by Survation last week. For the first time since William Hague's victory in Richmond in 1989, the Tories are on course to hold a seat while in power.

Ukip are in second place on 27 per cent, with Labour, which emphasises that it has not fought to win, in third on 20 per cent (down two since 2010) and the Lib Dems in fourth on 6 per cent (down 14 since 2010).

But there is less happy news for David Cameron in Ashcroft's latest national poll. The Tories are down four to 25 per cent, their lowest figure in any poll for a year, while Labour is up three to 34 per cent. Ukip are up two to 19 per cent and the Lib Dems are down two to just six per cent (their joint-lowest figure in this parliament).

It is, of course, just one poll, but combined with other surveys giving Labour a small lead (Populus has them five points ahead and YouGov has them three ahead), it will encourage Tory fears that they still have more to worry about than the opposition. After the most difficult period for Labour since last summer, it will also lift MPs' morale.

George Eaton is senior online editor of the New Statesman.

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