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19 February 2015

New Ashcroft polling shows Ukip could win three more Tory seats

Ashcroft polls show Ukip are competitive in three seats where the Tories won by big majorities in 2010.

By harry harry

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In 2014 Ukip won its first MPs, when two Tories – Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless – defected and won by-elections under the purple banner.

Since then they have held up at around 14-15 per cent in the polls (they won just 3 per cent in 2010). But can they convert all those votes – 14-15 per cent is nearly 5 million voters – into many seats?

Current election forecasts for the party range from 2 to 7 seats. Ukip are eyeing Tory seats like Thanet South, where Nigel Farage is standing; Thurrock, where the Tories have a 92-vote majority; and Great Yarmouth, which is demographically suited to vote Ukip.

But a new round of Ashcroft polling has shown they are also competitive in three other Tory seats: Castle Point, Boston & Skegness and South Basilson & East Thurrock. They are within 1, 3 and 6 points in the three seats. (He also shows they are not competitive in a fourth Tory seat: North East Cambridgeshire.)

On the one hand, the polls are slightly disappointing for Farage and co.

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On the one hand, the polls are slightly disappointing for Farage and co. Survation put them Ukip ahead in Boston & Skegness by 20 in September. That may have been off the mark, or Ukip’s 22 year old candidate could now be hindering them.

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And in Castle Point, where Farage kicked off his party’s election campaign last week, Ukip are slight bookies’ favourites. Given many pundits think the Tories will recapture some lost votes by election day, Ukip arguably need to be ahead at this point.

But it’s easy to glaze over how stunning these polls are. Three years ago, when Ukip were polling little higher than the 3 per cent they won in 2010, it would have been inconceivable to think Ukip could win these seats. The Tories won Boston & Skegness by more than 12,000 votes in 2010, and Castle Point by nearly 8,000. Compared to 2010, Ukip are up by 19, 23, 25 and 36 points in the four races.

The fact they are even competitive confirms the party could win up to 10 seats in May: the two they hold, the three they’ve long targeted, these three, and a pair of others (the bookies give them an outside chance in Thanet North and Labour-held Great Grimsby). They could also win just one: they are strong favourites only in Clacton.

We add all the latest Ashcroft polls to May2015’s election-forecasting machine. These results won’t actually change any of our seat predictions, but will turn three strong Tory seats into toss-ups. We move Ashcroft’s results over time as the national polls move, so if Ukip start polling higher before May, Castle Point could easily move into Ukip’s win column.