Those who watch the political media will be following the various polls that Lord Ashcroft has commissioned in a number of “marginal seats”. Of course, his primary definition of such a seat, being a card-carrying paid-up member of the Conservatives, is that of a Conservative-Labour marginal. However, in such marginals where UKIP is also showing well, they have tended to become 3-way marginals.
Thus far he has polled 114 English and Welsh seats, and the results are listed here. How does it look for UKIP in these? The honest answer is, in most of them, not brilliant, although there are quite a few “predicted” second places. I have to be careful using that word in relation to Lord Ashcroft though, as he insists that polls are “snapshots”, not “predictions”. The other factor is, naturally, and far be it from me to question the integrity of Lord Ashcroft, but we know that all pollsters have a political bias, and that bias may come to bear on the methodologies they use to process the raw poll results.
Our strengths, according to Lord Ashcroft, lie in 3 main areas: East Coast, Black Country and the South West. So, here goes, area by area.
First, there is Camborne and Redruth. Once a centre of tin mining, it retains some industrial character. He polled there last June, and here’s the result. A 3-way marginal, the winner may only take 30% of the vote. His poll showed the Tories (incumbents) on 29%, UKIP on 26% and Labour on 24%. My own projection, based on the 2014 Euro results, had UKIP 2000 votes short of the Tories, 64th most likely UKIP seat, so I would say this is a fair assessment.
Still in Cornwall is St Austell and Newquay. The first town is the centre of the clay mining industry, and Newquay is a busy tourist town. Lord Ashcroft polled it twice, in June and September. The second poll is an even more spectactular 3-way marginal than Camborne and Redruth – the winner could end up with as little as 27% of the vote! He shows the Tories on 27%, Liberal Democrats (they currently hold the seat) on 26% and UKIP (David Matthews standing for us) on 25%. My projection did not credit the Lib Dems with as much support but also had UKIP short of the Tories by 2000 votes, 62nd most likely UKIP seat.
Finally, let’s admire the view of the Tamar Valley from the Saltash Bridge as we move into Devon and the Plymouth Moor View constituency, where Penny Mills represents UKIP. The Goodwin/Ford social analysis has shown this is an area with a lot of UKIP-supporting “left behinds”, and Ashcroft’s December poll shows it, Labour (incumbents) on 35%, UKIP on 30% and the Tories on 26%. The projection from the Euro polls shows the constituency as 33rd UKIP hopeful, just 1000 short of the Tories winning. There seems to be some conflict on the relative order of Labour and Conservatives here.
The projection I did from the Euro results, factored down to lose the “EU protest” voters, showed Wyre Forest as 76th UKIP hopeful, with us 3000 votes shy of the Conservative incumbents. Lord Ashcroft’s November poll shows UKIP (Michael Wrench standing for us) on 27% in a clear 2nd place to the Tories 32% but with Labour way down on 16%.
Things get better as we move north to Dudley North, where Bill Etheridge MEP is standing for UKIP. Lord Ashcroft’s December poll here suggests Labour (incumbents) would be on 37%, UKIP on 34% and the Tories well behind on 24%. My projection shows this as the 13th UKIP hopeful, taking the seat with a 550 majority.
And just when you thought they couldn’t get any better, we move to Cannock Chase where Graham Wiggin is standing against the Tory incumbents. Lord Ashcroft’s October poll shows a 3-way marginal with Labour gaining it with 32%, UKIP snapping at the heels on 30% and the Tories trailing on 27%. The projection from the Euros also shows a 3-way marginal with UKIP winning with a 700 majority – our 11th most hopeful seat in my view.
I promise you, I’ve left the best till last!
Starting at the northern extreme of the “East Coast effect”, is Great Grimsby where our Victoria Ayling will stand against Labour in the former constituency of Austin Mitchell. Lord Ashcroft’s December Poll showed it as a close run thing with Labour on 35%, UKIP on 34% and the Conservatives well behind on 20%. However, I beg to differ, the projection from the Euros gives Victoria an 1100 majority, making it UKIP’s 5th most hopeful seat.
To the southern extreme of the “East Coast effect” is Thanet South, where Conservative Laura Sandys has decided to retire as an MP rather than stand against Nigel Farage MEP. Lord Ashcroft’s focus is on this seat, having polled it 3 times in May, July and November, although Nigel was not formally selected till August. Here’s the selection of them:
The latest poll, the November Poll, shows a tough fight for Nigel with the Conservatives safely home with 34%, with UKIP on 29% and Labour on 26%. However, my projection makes this our 4th most UKIP-friendly seat, with a 1600 majority.
At the most easterly part of Britain is Great Yarmouth where the Conservative incumbents have a 2-way challenge from both UKIP and Labour. The Euro projection sees this as our 3rd best chance seat for Alan Grey, our candidate, with a 1850 majority. However, Lord Ashcroft’s July Poll shows the Tories having the best chance of retaining the seat with 33%, but UKIP close behind on 31% and Labour taking 28%.
And finally Thurrock, nestling in the quiet waters of the Thames Estuary, but not so quiet politically, where Tim Aker MEP is standing. This is the only one of Lord Ashcroft’s giving UKIP a winning poll result, in his July Poll. UKIP are shown on 36% beating Labour on 30% and the Tories on 28%. I happily concur: it’s Number 1 in my analysis, with a 3000 majority.
Whither Clacton and Rochester & Strood you might ask? Lord Ashcroft is unlikely to tackle Clacton with Douglas Carswell MP as our sitting representative, as the pundits are pretty much agreed he can retain it, but in Rochester & Strood the same pundits all believe it will be a tough fight for Mark Reckless MP against the Conservative’s Kelly Tolhurst. We await with bated breath for Lord Ashcroft’s poll of that seat.