By Tim Montgomerie
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Lord Ashcroft has completed a second poll of voters participating in the Corby and East Northamptonshire by-election. You can read his summary of the results on ConHome this morning. Posted below are a few highlights of the results.
The Labour lead is growing rather than narrowing. This was always likely. Although we've selected a good candidate in Chris Emmett we did not choose her quickly. Labour's Andy Sawford had a few weeks advantage on Chris. It is also likely that Labour activists are more up for the fight than Tories and have therefore piled in to the seat in a way that Tories haven't. The table below from Lord Ashcroft's survey certainly suggests that Labour activity levels are much higher than Tory levels:
The collapse in the LibDem vote is at least as big a factor in the scale of the likely Tory defeat as the reduction in the Tory vote. Jill Hope looks set to lose two-thirds of the LibDem vote at the general election. I've long believed that the LibDems will do better in seats they hold than the national opinion polls would suggest because of various incumbency effects. You can also be sure that LibDem HQ will target all available resources on the 57 seats they hold in order to try and again hold the balance of power after the next election. This resource allocation will make third-placed LibDem candidates even more vulnerable and will exacerbate 'the Gettleson effect' – diagnosed here. Every Tory MP who faces a strongly-placed Labour candidate in second place will worry about the collapse in the LibDem vote.
UKIP could get third place but it will be a poor third place. The Ashcroft survey suggests UKIP are ahead of the LibDems by 6% to 5%. While Nigel Farage will welcome beating Clegg into fourth place it is far from a spectacular result. UKIP hoped to win more than 15% of the vote in this by-election and will need a very strong finish to achieve that.
Even though the Conservatives are trailing Labour by 22% the Conservatives have a 15% lead when it comes to the best team to run the economy. This will encourage Tory strategists. The economy is likely to be the number one issue at the next general election. If recovery can get underway the Tories will hope that they can build on this advantage and become competitive overall.
The NHS is the big Tory weakness. The numbers below summarise the Tory advantage over Labour on some key issues:
Reforming welfare to stop scroungers and cut dependency +27%
- Cutting the deficit and the debt +19%
- Controlling immigration +16%
- Defending Britain’s interests in Europe +11%
- Dealing with crime +8%
- Getting the economy growing and creating jobs -3%
- Protecting the environment -5%
- Improving schools -14%
- Improving the NHS -24%
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