By Tim Montgomerie
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Over the last year, since March 2012, the percentage of Tory members thinking that Cameron and the Conservatives can stay in power after the next election has shrunk from 62% to just 25%. The percentage thinking Cameron can win an outright majority has shrunk from 23% to just 7%. The specific expectations are:
- 31% expect an outright Labour majority;
- 9% expect a minority Labour government;
- 34% expect a Lab / Lib Dem Coalition;
- 8% expect a second Tory / Lib Dem Coalition;
- 11% expect a minority Tory government;
- And 7% expect a Conservative majority.
We then asked the same group which of the three tasks was harder. Members believe that uniting the Tory vote may be harder than capping Labour's support:
- 62.1% of Tory members regard Stopping Tory-minded voters
from defecting to UKIP as the hardest task facing the Conservative Party at the
- 28.9% regard Unseating Liberal Democrat MPs who are dug
into their seats as the hardest task.
- 9.0% regard Presenting Ed Miliband as a high-taxing,
high-spending Labour leader who is not up to the job of being prime minister.
Tory members are NOT saying that exposing Labour is a less important task than stopping defections to UKIP. My hunch is that they are answering the specific question. They worry that while the British people may be very open to believing that Ed Miliband isn't the right choice for these tough economic times they are worried that a large number of normally Tory-minded voters are going to choose UKIP over the Conservatives and it's going to be difficult to win them back. A 6% to 7% showing for UKIP at the next general election won't produce a single MP for Nigel Farage but it may be enough to prevent Cameron from winning an overall majority. Key to Tory thinking is that if the election is framed as a straight Cameron v Miliband choice then many UKIP voters will prefer the Conservatives to Labour. Lord Ashcroft's polling certainly suggests UKIP voters do prefer Cameron to Miliband but it's far from clear that that preference will be enough. As I've argued before, a split centre right/ Eurosceptic vore could install Ed Miliband as PM on the back of just 35% of the vote.
The Times (£) carries a front page report on the survey.
> The poll was conducted in advance of ConservativeHome's Victory 2015 Conference. 1,844 took part in the survey.