Standing room only in the ConHome marquee for the unveiling of my latest polling. The new battleground research included some intriguing results on the Liberal Democrat battleground. They confirm that we should expect nothing like a uniform swing: the Lib Dems are clinging on in seats with quite small majorities and the Tories are ahead in some more ambitious targets. The UKIP factor makes some fights look particularly tasty: in St Austell & Newquay I found just two points separating the Conservatives, Lib Dems and UKIP. All the data is up at LordAshcroftPolls.com – including my presentation, in case you missed it.
As I took to the platform the speakers outside played Mr Blue Sky – yes, that’s me all right. The music just about drowned out the traditional protesters’ cacophony from across the road – this year, badgers and fracking. They seemed to be in favour of one but against the other, but since they were all shouting at the same time it was hard to be sure.
A useful reality check from Tim Montgomerie, who on Saturday found himself in conversation on a Manchester tram with a local man who was extremely knowledgeable about football, but had no idea that his city had just hosted the Labour conference. He was also very worried – the day before yesterday – that Scotland might leave the Union.
He was relieved to hear about the referendum result, which he had somehow missed.
Most of the time, most people are not paying attention to politics – another reason why today’s polls are a snapshot, not a prediction.
My first engagement at Conference is always the National Convention, where the PM was on upbeat form after the previous day’s, um, difficulties. He had a new version of the usual warning to UKIP voters of the risk of letting Labour in by mistake: “Go to bed with Farage, wake up with Miliband”. Will we be seeing that on the leaflets?
MPs seeking re-election for the first time have often done better than the average for their party. But this has not been a consistent pattern in my polls. People now talk about the incumbency advantage as though it is something that just happens because voters generously give first-timers another chance. I rather suspect it happens to those who earn it.