By Tim Montgomerie
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On 8th to 11th August Lord Ashcroft polled the voters of Corby and East Northamptonshire and has found that Labour is heading for a comfortable victory in the by-election caused by the resignation of Louise Mensch.
Compared to the General Election when Ms Mensch won the seat from Labour, the Tory vote is only down 5%. The LibDem vote has halved, however, down from 15% to 7%. The weakness of the LibDem vote is going to be a big problem for Tory MPs all over the country at the next election if they are facing a strong second-placed Labour candidate.
In terms of the reliability of this 15% lead for Labour it is notable that Lord Ashcroft surveyed just over 1,500 voters in the Corby constituency, a larger sample than most opinion polls. The survey found that 83% of people are fairly decided in how they'll vote. It will be an electoral miracle if Tories can win back enough voters in the next few weeks to overturn Labour's lead.
My hunch is that Labour will probably win by more than 15%. In the detail of Lord Ashcroft's poll he finds that 8% of current Tory voters would consider supporting UKIP when the by-election occurs. If UKIP run a good campaign – in a part of the country where they're traditionally strong – they'll erode the Conservative vote, in particular, and add to the Labour majority. Anything less than 10% from UKIP will be a poor showing. An early by-election, during the Labour Conference rather than in mid-November, is likely to limit the possibility for smaller parties like UKIP to build up momentum.
In his commentary on the poll Lord Ashcroft notes that Louise Mensch's former constituents are forgiving of her decision to leave them for her family life in New York. By 82% to just 12% local people agree that "she is perfectly entitled to put her desire for a better family life ahead of continuing as an MP". By 35% to 29% she was thought to be a good Tory MP.
Lord Ashcroft's poll confirms what many thought. Corby should be an easy Labour win. In the battle of expectations this poll helps to take the sting out of likely defeat. The battle is now to limit the damage and ensure the Tory vote is big enough to build upon for the general election and the opportunity for us to then win the seat back. If you'd like to help achieve this you can start on Saturday when Corby Conservatives hold an action day from 10am to 1pm. Please meet at Corby Conservative Club, Cottingham Road, Corby, Northamptonshire NN17 1SZ or go to Corby Conservatives for more detail.
I'm closing the comments below this thread so that all comments on this subject are in one place, underneath Lord Ashcroft's own commentary on his poll.