Latest Ashcroft polls of Lib Dem seats: MP incumbency protects party in 10 out of 13 constituencies

by Stephen Tall on November 27, 2014

Michael AshcroftThe Conservative peer and pollster Lord Ashcroft has released the results of his latest polling of key seats for the next general election, including 13 seats currently held by the Lib Dems and one (Watford) which the party is actively targeting. These seats are ones with bigger majorities than those he’s previously surveyed, and include MPs who commentators have speculated are under threat, such as Ed Davey in Kingston and Surbiton.

Across all Lib Dem / Conservative battleground seats, 11 of the 13, the standard voting intention question (“If there were a general election tomorrow, which party would you vote for?”) shows the Lib Dems trailing the Conservatives significantly: Con 33%, Lib Dem 22%, Ukip 20%, Lab 17%. Based on this, the Lib Dems would lose all the seats polled.

However, as is his tradition, Ashcroft has also asked the really important voting intention question: “And thinking specifically about your own parliamentary constituency at the next general election and the candidates who are likely to stand for election to Westminster there, which party’s candidate do you think you will vote for in your own constituency?”

This produces a very different result: Lib Dem 36%, Con 27%, Ukip 17%, Lab 13%. On this basis, the Lib Dems hold 10 of the 13 seats surveyed:

ashcroft poll - ld-con marginals - nov 2014

Five quick points:

  • Most of these Lib Dem-held seats show okay majorities on the basis of the second constituency question: 7 of the 10 seats would be held with majorities greater than 5% according to this polling;
  • Of the 3 seats where the Lib Dem candidate is currently behind, 2 are by small margins: Nick Harvey in North Devon (trailing by just 1%) and Gerald Vernon Jackson in Portsmouth South (5%). In the latter seat, the circumstances are exceptional as the current MP, Mike Hancock, is suspended from the party and the Lib Dems there will clearly have a fight on their hands;
  • Two seats show a swing from the Conservatives to the Lib Dems – Tom Brake in Carshalton and Wallington and Steve Webb in Thornbury and Yate – though this is due to the intervention of Ukip, which hits the Tory vote harder;
  • In the two Lib Dem / Labour battleground seats surveyed, the Lib Dems would hold one, John Hemming (Birmingham Yardley), and lose one, Gordon Birtwhistle (Burnley);
  • In Watford – which the Lib Dems will be hoping the popular mayor Dorothy Thornhill will win for the party – the Lib Dems are very closely behind the Conservatives in what looks like being a tight contest.
  • All of the above comes with a couple of caveats I insert every time I cover Lord Ashcroft’s fascinating polling. First, the point he continually makes: these are snapshots, not forecasts. Secondly, while his focus on the second constituency voting intention question is commendable, it remains a shame he is not naming candidates. When done in private constituency polls commissioned for the party, I’m told this boosts Lib Dem MPs further.

    PS: if you’re wondering why Wyre Forest was included in the mix by Lord Ashcroft even though it isn’t part of the Lib Dem battleground, it’s because he was curious given it has previously voted for an independent MP, Dr Richard Taylor.

    * Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.