Coffee House

Lord Ashcroft’s poll shows a swing to Labour in Tory-held marginal seats

20 August 2014

One of the most fascinating things about Lord Ashcroft’s latest poll is not its content, but who in the Conservative party will be reading it. Naturally, those trying to hold onto or win in the marginal seats that the peer has polled will be very interested (but not cheered) by the findings. But besides those with a personal stake in individual seats, there will be two groups of MPs: those who comb through the full datasets that Ashcroft produces, and those who do not. These are, respectively, the pragmatists and the optimists in the party, and they naturally have quite different views of what will happen next May.

The optimists compare the two parties’ momentum, and judge that the Conservatives have the upper hand, with a good drip-drip of statistics that suggest their policies are working, and a better hearing in the press. They may feel that Labour’s summer tour, branded ‘The Choice’, is struggling to cut through, although it would be foolish for anyone to think that this has much to do with Labour’s campaign machine or the Tories’ ability to counter-attack: the simple truth is that with such a febrile international scene, few are paying attention, and rightly so.


But the pragmatists, who are numbers types hailing from the City and have less enthusiasm for feelings, will be reading the latest poll, and feeling even less like optimists than they did before the day got going. Here’s why:

  • In the eight seats from 13-20 on Labour’s target list, there is a 6.5 per cent swing from the Tories to Labour. This shows, as Ashcroft says, that Labour is marching deeper into Tory territory.
  • In four Labour seats that the Tories are targeting where Ashcroft previously found the smallest leads – Birmingham Edgbaston, Bolton West, Hampstead and Kilburn and Southampton Itchen – there was an overall swing to Labour of 5.5 per cent.
  • In Tory seats, 36 per cent said they wanted a Labour government after the next election, with 27 per cent saying they’d like a Tory government.

There are a few more positive kernels hanging about: 30 per cent of voters in Labour seats were satisfied with David Cameron’s performance as Prime Minister (compared to 29 per cent in the Conservative seats), but another 27 per cent preferred Cameron as Prime Minister over Ed Miliband, even though they were dissatisfied with Cameron’s performance. And 33 per cent said they’d rather have Ed Miliband. This is why the Tories want to make this election campaign presidential – because their greatest asset is Ed Miliband’s lack of appeal.

But those pragmatist Tory MPs will turn from the Ashcroft poll to the betting markets. And the bookies have responded to the Ashcroft poll: Ladbrokes have tightened their odds of Labour winning the most seats from 4/5 to 8/11.

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  • lakelander

    Labour brings UK to brink of financial extinction, educational ruin, ethnic chaos, etc. Five years passes with some modest but worthwhile improvements to the foregoing. UK electorate votes Labour back in. It will probably happen.

    People are stupid.

  • The Masked Marvel

    It appears the BBC’s strategy is working.

  • paul oxley

    The right are clearly finished in the UK as
    a viable force able to form a majority after
    this final desperate few years has seen the Tories lie about being compassionate
    conservatives and no longer the nasty
    party exposed as the sham it always was whilst the Lib Dems have gambled and lost on the idea that the public would accept a party abandoning its entire philosophy and ideology for the “national interest”

    The only future governments in the UK will now be Labour but the battle the left must
    win is to remove the Blairite rump and after the 35 years of failed free market dogma restore the decency and civilised Socialist values people yearn for

  • Mukkinese

    Well there is a difference between “lack of appeal” and downright dislike.

    This is what some Tory activists are missing. Just as more people actively like Cameron than Miliband, more people also actively dislike Cameron than Miliband.

    Miliband himself is not a drag on Labour prospects. Most people know little about him. To base a campaign on the idea that the electorate is afraid of him as a P.M. will simply cause a few raised eyebrows and little concern with the voters…

  • AdH2011

    The Tories made a bad choice of leader when it came to Cameron – in times of austerity in particular it gives Labour an open goal really as they can continually play the out of touch ‘Lord Snooty’ card.

    He’s done a decent enough job though in the circumstances and however much people hate Cameron, the idea of Ed Balls taking the reigns of the economy in 2015 is infinitely worse.

    If people want to cut off their nose to spite their face then fair enough though. Even a slightly split right wing vote will let Miliband in as Labour only need to convince around 35% of the electorate for a majority

    • lakelander

      About sums it up.

  • Mynydd

    Conservative members in these marginal seats should be on the look out for Mr Cameron on his next half term holiday.

  • Shotfirbraons

    I’ve said for a couple of years now that Labour will win the next election outright, albeit with a vanishingly small proportion of the vote. I’ve also said that they will be such charlatans that they will make Tony Blair and Francois Hollande look earnest by comparison. On those two predictions I’d say I’m doing pretty well. My third prediction was that the Labour win in 2015 would be followed not long after by widespread unrest, so let’s wait and see.

  • Conway

    30 per cent of voters in Labour seats were satisfied with David Cameron’s performance as Prime Minister (compared to 29 per cent in the Conservative seats)” Doesn’t that show that Cameron is not a Conservative?

    • HookesLaw


      • Jacques Strap

        Cameron says: jump!

        You ask: how high?

      • The Masked Marvel

        Indeed, it shows only that many C/conservatives aren’t interested in voting for the party under his leadership. Unless Cameron leaves the party, he’s still a Conservative. There is plenty of other evidence which does show that Cameron is not a conservative.

  • Slicer

    Labour pick up 75% of immigrants votes. £36 billion a year is currently spent on welfare in London which is effectively to keep Labour’s (mostly imported) voter base (which is expanding rapidly due to very high birth rates) housed and fed at taxpayers expense. The Labour Party is effectively the party of welfare junkies and low skilled/work shy immigrants. How can any old school Labour voter vote for a party that has betrayed them?

    • Mynydd

      “£36bn a year is currently spent on welfare in London” you should have also added, by a Conservative led government, and the Conservative London mayor Boris Johnson. The Labour party is not in power, therefore are unable to control spending. So complain about high spending to those in a position to do something about it, namely Cameron/Johnson.

  • swatnan

    ‘Happy days are here again …’

  • Alexsandr

    Why do the MSM talk about swings and stuff and don’t mention UKIP? Its like their articles on housing and GDP etc. when they don’t mention immigration. And these people get paid for these half-a-job articles.

    • Smithersjones2013

      Tory mouthpieces like Coffee House are not mentioning UKIP for the simple reason they are still polling in these polls around 18% and the big Tory theory that they will all come running back to the Tories like good little prodigal voters just isn’t materialising.

      • Tony_E

        It wouldn’t make much difference if they did though. The Ukip vote is like the tory one, fairly evenly spread. The swing to labour in particular marginals would not be offset by anything but a total collapse in the Ukip vote.

        Labour have been nailed on since the day Cameron took office. The country is addicted to big government. This will be the last conservative government I suspect. And if they ever do scrape past the post (and they didn’t manage that last time quite) then the left will unite to defeat them quite quickly.

        • Jacques Strap

          The UKIP vote is far more concentrated than you think. It is nowhere in London or Scotland. But it is reaching the 30s in many areas.

          • Tony_E

            But where are those areas? I know we have a strong UKIP vote up here in Norfolk , but I don’t think it will seriously challenge the incumbent Tory.

            If there are areas where it is reaching into the 30’s I suspect that those areas are in the North, because I’ve not seen anything like that much evidence of support in the shires. 10-15% maybe here, but this is an area where Labour are nowhere.

      • Jacques Strap

        A recent poll has them at 21%

    • Lady Magdalene

      They’re only allowed to mention UKIP when there is a negative story they can blow up out of all proportions.
      Otherwise, the instructions seem to be “don’t mention the elephant.”

    • Mynydd

      Because they are a minor party with no MPs and control no councils.

  • johnproblem

    I do wish Mickey Mouse were standing in the next election – we’d all have someone to vote for with a lot more nous than the present choice.

    • Aberrant_Apostrophe

      And if he did win he could his supporters a high five four…

  • Earlshill

    The optimists are deluding themselves. The UKIP vote will eat into the Tory share of the vote in all those shire and small town constituencies throughout England where contempt and even hatred for Cameron and his cronies has embedded itself. Nothing he and his clique say in the next eight months will make any difference to their voting intentions.

    • Cooper1992

      I think with UKIP it should be a case of looking at the long term. In the last year UKIP have been:

      1) Setting up more local branches
      2) Increasing membership numbers
      3) Recruiting people who have a good knowledge of a variety of topics (from farming to elderly care, African foreign policy to policing)
      4) Bringing in more political donors, and thus more money.

      UKIP’s strategy should be like the FN in France. The Labour Party will get in, fail miserably like Hollande has, then come 2020 with the Tories and Labour having failed and the Liberals still despised, then UKIP can really strike.

      If a Labour government in 2015, causes a stronger UKIP campaign in 2020, then I’m game.

      • Conway

        It’s certainly true that our branch has been increasing its membership. I would also add extending its councillor base.

        • Lady Magdalene

          Same here.

        • Shaun A J Stockdale

          refresh my memory, how many councils did they gain control of?

      • realfish

        Deluded rubbish.

        We saw how the last Labour lot left all of their placemen in key roles to ensure continuity – a Labour government in opposition.

        Wait till the opportunist / Marxist Miliband gets into number 10, he will see to it that there will be little left for anyone to change in 2020 – What’s left of Britain will delivered to the Socialist collective.

        • Mark B

          Correct !

          England will be broken up. But you cannot blame Cameron. The blame has to go to the likes of John Major, Heseltine, Clarke and Howe. And a Conservative Party, that lost its nerve and ditched its leader, well before an election.

          • Lady Magdalene

            Cameron is their creature. So, yes you can blame him as well.

            • Mark B

              True, Cameron ‘is’ their creature. But that was my point. It started with them. Just hating Cameron is simple. Letting the likes of, Major speak to the masses as if he is some sort of blameless nice guy when, he and his cohorts kicked this whole thing off.

              • Tony_E

                Cameron is a creature of the Blairite state. It would take any politician several terms in office to undo the changes to the state that Blair put in place. Put in that situation, a politician steps a fine line, he must undo what has been done, but he must not be seen to be doing so or the electorate will throw him out of office.

                Remember that the electorate is largely socialist, statist, and addicted to government largess. All roll back of the state must be done by stealth.

                I feel rather sorry for him – if he is strong then the BBC and the Guardian lead campaign after campaign against him, the civil service leaks like a sieve and the Lib Dems condemn him in public as the man that ‘takes away’.

                If he works stealthily and appears to do little, then the Telegraph and the Mail hammer him, and the BBC run with the Right wing press kicking a Tory PM. He was screwed from day one.

              • paul oxley

                Utterly deluded

                Major scrapped the barmy ones hated Poll Tax and had good growth figures under canny Ken for several years whereas she had the
                country in misery for most of her term of office despite having North Sea Oil revenues with two recessions and mass unemployment

                As a socialist Major was never getting my vote but he and Hezza etc were decent Tories whereas you could never find a bigger failure in terms of policy and legacy than the ex MP for Finchley

                • Mark B

                  She won three elections and took over a country that at the time, could not even bury its dead.

                  Yes, we had oil. Bit we had to use the money to pay off the IMF debts under the Socialists. We were fighting a Cold War and had to fight a real one thousands of miles away. Not only that, she had to deal with those Wets you seem to be so enamoured with, who would be only too happy to sell the Falkland Islanders out, to a regime that was known to murder its own people.

                  She took on the miners and the unions who previously ran the country into the ground.

                  The Community Charge or Poll Tax, was in principle a fair tax. We all use local government services, and so we all should contribute. Of course, you could do things the Derek Hatton (Liverpool Council) way, I suppose ? Just spend what you like and run the place into the ground.

                  No, she was not perfect. But she took office when no one at the time wanted the job. But since she has gone, where has the Conservative Party, under the skill of those I have mentioned previously gone ? It could not even win a majority, against a hated PM / Usurper and a Labour Party that, once again, trashed the economy, FFS !!!!

                  So spare me this please. We are going to get a Marxist in #10, all thanks to your jolly Dripping Wet friends.

                • paul oxley

                  A Marxist in no 10? If only!!

                  As a Socialist as regards the Malvinas most sensible people realise that saying we “own” a faraway island populated seemingly by a few Union Jack hat wearing buffoons is just beyond absurd and a tragic hanging on to the tiniest remnants of our Colonial past

                  So you support the Poll Tax? No surprise there but for me Ridleys crass question “Why should a Duke pay more than a dustman” in regards to the despised charge should be a more relevant “Why should a Duke have more money than a dustman? “

                • Mark B

                  I am glad you have said the things you have said.

                  Talk about shooting yourself in the foot.

                  Bye, bye.

                • Shaun A J Stockdale

                  the word GLOBAL economic crisis eludes you? or the fact the economy had started to grow before an unelected mob of shysters trashed it once more

                • Mark B

                  Global Economic Crisis. Yeah, the one that affected only the West. Which borrowed and spent like mad, running up huge debts. Turning a blind eye (he did have a blind eye) to the goings on with the banks. Soft touch regulation I believe ?

        • keggsie

          Great if it happens. Bring on Socialism. All for it.

  • @PhilKean1

    It sounds as though many real Conservatives –

    – are as determined as I am to vote against David Cameron.

    And shame on those who should know better, who have let Cameron know that their vote is in his bag no matter what he does.

    CH recently debated the economic arguments for and against leaving the EU. The conclusion from some of the weak-minded and treacherous cohort was that it would be too difficult and risky for Britain to leave because of this fictitious 50% of trade that we allegedly do directly with the EU.

    Ok, the 50% is probably another figure plucked from the air, and certainly doesn’t take account of the fact that Ireland is our biggest EU export market, or the Rotterdam effect.

    Can you imagine my anger, then, at Cameron AND those who stupidly support him, that, even after such conclusions, and the declaration from a Cameron-supporting Lord that it would be unthinkable to leave the EU due to the level of trade we do with them – we have the British PM urgently seeking to get the UK included in ADDITIONAL EU trade deals, with America, Canada and China, that will only INCREASE that so called argument.

    And do NOT forget that the new Treaties incorporate an insidious political element.


    • Mark B

      First thing first. Well done on having the debate.

      You might want to go over to Dr.R. North’s site, at EUReferendum. Through him and others, I have gained much insight to the working of the EU and how best to get the UK out of it.

      The argument and ground that Europhiles love to fight on, is the one of economics. It is the one that generates the greatest fear, doubt and uncertainty within peoples minds. Hence why they use it. You can see the same trick being played out in the Scottish referendum.

      To counter this, I respectfully suggest two things.

      1) Our membership of the EU is not one of trade, although that is part, but one of ever closer political, economic and monetary union. To that end, we must forever handover sovereignty too the EU. Therefore, I argue, that our membership of the EU is a question of sovereignty first and full most. ie who do we wish to govern in our name, and make our laws ?

      2) Exit is possible. Dr. North has written a proposal called; “Flexit”. In it, he describes the means by which we can leave the EU. Not in one big massive leap into the unknown, but by a series of carefully coordinated steps, which will ultimately lead too full sovereignty.

      This can be done by using the EEA agreement to maintain trade with the EU, whilst ridding ourselves of the political aspect of the EU.

      A counter to this made by the Europhiles, is that we would not be in charge of how rules governing the EEA are made. But that is not entirely true.

      And remember. This is part of a journey. We will, once we have sorted ourselves out, be able to make our own trade deals, either as part of EFTA or, on our own. Further, we will also, through the UN, WTO, G8, UNESCO, BIS and other international bodies, be able to set international rules which, in turn, the EU is obliged to adopt. ie We would be making via the above, the rules for the EU.

      Sorry for the long post, and I hope it helps.

    • Tony_E

      Phil, let me also endorse Dr North’s Flexit document. I’m not sure that it will play out the way he suggests (for a lot of narrow political reasons), but his plan is certainly the most detailed one in the public domain, and it is being constantly updated.

      Why are we in the situation we are in? If it didn’t sound so conspiratorial and ridiculous I would suggest that there is an ‘unsaid truth’ at the centre of everything. What has always amazed me is how Eurosceptic some politicians are before they get into office, and then suddenly they aren’t. Not every politician in Europe can be using Euroscepticism as a political crutch, surely. So what do they find out once they are office that changes their minds so collectively?

      Maybe it’s just institutional inertia, maybe its the respective civil services being so enmeshed in the EU. But politicians all lose their spine over it and the project creeps on.

  • HookesLaw

    If you look at the report of Anthony of YouGov on UKPR he does not see anything particularly different about the poll.

    ”The average swing across these seats was 6 points from Con to Lab, the
    equivalent of a 5 point Labour lead in the national polls. A little
    larger than in national polls at the moment but, as with Lord Ashcroft’s
    previous waves of polling in Conservative -v- Labour seats, not that different.”

    • Smithersjones2013

      So what? Do you think that provides any comfort for the Tories? A five point lead for Labour gives them the same sort of majority that they had in 2005.

      The Tories have got to do far far better than that and the clocks ticking. Tick, Tick, Tick………..

      • HookesLaw

        And is Wells right or wrong?

        • Jacques Strap

          ‘EU, multiculturalism and immigration’

          Well that is the sort of thing YOU want.

        • Mynydd

          We have always had multiculturalism, its down to us being English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish. There was immigration into GB well before the Labour party came to power. By the way, it was a Conservative Prime Minister that took us into Europe, and so loved immigration he signed up to the free movement of labour.

    • southerner

      Have you made room on that bedside cabinet for another frame to put next to the Cameron and Heath pictures when Call Me is booted out in 8 months?

      • HookesLaw

        So is Wells right or wrong?

        • Jacques Strap


        • southerner

          Oh dear.

        • Stereotomy

          The only slight disagreement I’d have is with taking an average as a headline figure. The point is that the Tories need to win some number X of these key seats, so the actual headline figure should be the minimum number of percentage points they’d need to make up to win back the easiest X of these seats. So I’d say that, for these seats at least, the 6.5% swing is probably the important figure, not the 6% average, because that’s the swing they have to overcome to win back a decent number of these seats.

          But the wider, and less finnicky point, is that Wells being right isn’t good news for Conservative electoral hopes. Labour aren’t overperforming their national polls in these marginals… so what? Why would we expect them to? The point is they don’t need to!

  • goatmince

    This is real news to me as I decided not to live in the real world for a couple of years now. Thanks for bursting my bubble dream world I lived in until today, Isabel.

  • Jupiter

    The next election will be a great test of the intelligence of the British public. If they really make the Milipede prime minister, they will have failed in spectacular style.

    • Barakzai

      ” . . . the intelligence of the British public.”

      Sadly, one third of the electorate is all it will take. And the third which votes Labour automatically is all the socialists are interested in; the Benefit Streeters, the postal voters, the vested interest trades unionists and the numerous Tower Hamlet-like community partisans who so enrich British society.

      • George Smiley

        If you think that your purple prose description covers 35% of the UK electorate you may need to get out a bit more chum.

        • Barakzai

          I get out plenty – chum – and I look, listen and read, too. There are plenty of other categories of lefty voters, I agree. Perhaps you belong in one of them?

      • Smithersjones2013

        Don’t forget the rest of the public sector vote who owe their jobs to Labour

    • JimmyLinton

      And, if the electorate return Cameron, what does that say about it’s collective intelligence?

      • Chris Morriss

        About as much as your misplaced apostrophe does.

        • JimmyLinton

          wot u on about? :)

          • Chris Morriss

            I was of course referring to your original posting which used the word “it’s” instead of “its”. You have surreptitiously changed this now I see, without accepting your original ignorant use.
            I was not referring to the perfectly normal Oxford comma.

            • Aberrant_Apostrophe

              It isn’t an Oxford comma. The qualifying phrase ‘if the electorate return Cameron’ is a sub-clause and therefore should be isolated by commas. Remove the sub-clause and associated commas and the sentence is still grammatically correct, albeit starting with a conjunction, which some would find objectionable. However, as the comment is in response to someone else’s comment, it is perfectly acceptable.

            • JimmyLinton

              Yes, of course. Keep taking the tablets and stop up voting yourself. Its naughty.

        • Kenneth O’Keeffe

          While somewhat otiose, an apostrophe after an ‘And’ is, in circumstances where a pause is indicated, still acceptable.

          • Alexsandr

            its a comma…

            • the viceroy’s gin

              Eats shoots and leaves.

              Eats, shoots and leaves.

        • Conway

          This (‘) is an apostrophe. This (,), however, is a comma.

          • lakelander

            I love pedant-on-pedant attacks.

          • Kenneth O’Keeffe

            Jesus! How EMBARRASSING. Of course it’s a comma. Never drink and type!

    • Richard

      The story here will be about the rise in the voting power of the vibrantly diverse that Labour imported. They are doing exactly as planned, voting Labour, and so the outcome is guaranteed. Labour may be idiotic, but they aren’t fools.

      • Slicer

        The majority of Labour’s imported voter base brought little to no money or wealth with them. They are more or less exclusively subsidised to live here by the taxpayers. This should be a source of national outrage but it isn’t. There was a recent article in the New Scientist that said IQ rates are failing in the UK (and Australia) –

        • Richard

          Of course, that is why they brought them in. They are client voters. This charade can only continue as long as they remain a (relatively) small minority. As people who receive more tax than they pay in, they can only be sustained by the welfarism that Labour introduced. That is one of the problems in Britain today: there are so many people who came here in order to be supported by the state, that any attempt to remove such subsidy will lead to Labour intensifying the “equality of outcome” motif in their politicking (anything that affects one group more than another is discriminatory, they will say) and rioting. People here don’t have either the intelligence or stomach to do anything about this, and so we will end up with a country something like Egypt, between the First and Third World, with Islam our driving force. And the funny thing is that the average IQ of indigenous Brits is 100, and the vibrantly diverse immigrants in general anything between 70 and 90-ish. We are supposed to be the more intelligent, but look at the decisions taken by those “more intelligent” people!

      • Mark B

        I think the Socialist are neither idiotic or fools; well mostly. But I do think they are very ruthless, and will anything to get into, and stay, in power.

        • Jacques Strap

          Their voters are.

          • Mark B

            Whilst I do not disagree, I think that is a far too sweeping a statement to make.

            Many of their voters are on the Government payroll. Either as employees, or as recipients of welfare.

            Hard to vote away your only means of providing food and shelter, do not agree ?

    • West Point

      The British public have already failed the test multiple times already

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