Tories face thumping defeat by Labour in Mensch by-election
Voters may not be crazy about Ed, but swing would give Labour an outright majority in a general election
GROWING unrest on the Tory backbenches over David Cameron's faltering leadership has not been helped by a poll for Lord Ashcroft, a major Tory donor, showing the Conservatives are heading for a thumping defeat in next month's Corby and East Northamptonshire by-election.
Ashcroft's poll puts Labour 22 points ahead in the contest - up 15 per cent since the general election when Tory chick lit author Louise Mensch won the seat with a wafer-thin majority.
The poll puts Labour's Andy Sawford in a seemingly unassailable lead with 54 per cent over the Tory candidate Christine Emmett on 32 per cent. UKIP are in third place on six per cent, ahead of the Lib Dems on five per cent.
Ashcroft, a former vice-chairman of the party, says this represents a swing from Tory to Labour of 13 per cent, which if repeated at a general election would see Ed Miliband form a government with an outright Labour majority.
"Labour's lead is now entrenched," says Ashcroft on the ConservativeHome website he bankrolls. "It means a comfortable victory for the Opposition and would mean a significant overall majority if repeated at a general election."
Ashcroft added a rider, however. "It will be troubling for Labour that even though more than half of Corby voters plan to vote for [Labour] only a third would rather see Ed Miliband in No 10."
That won't trouble Miliband's team too much: 'Red Ed' is beginning to grow into the job, and has two years to convince the electorate he has what it takes to run the country.
The feeding frenzy over the BBC and the Jimmy Savile sex scandal has taken the heat off Cameron and the Tories' record of incompetence, but that won't last for long.
Today Cameron has to face off again against Miliband at Prime Minister's Questions, having cocked up his announcement last week of support for consumers on their energy bills, and issued a confusing message on the Tories' 'tough but intelligent' approach to crime and punishment.
The Mole has spoken to one former Tory minister noted for his 'soundness' on the economy who said: "Cameron has got to go. The real trouble is that he doesn't seem to care about the party. Margaret Thatcher made sure she was close to her party, until the very end. Cameron has lost it."
Thursday is likely to bring some good economic news for the embattled Chancellor, George Osborne. Official figures are likely to show that Britain has moved out of its double dip recession. But it will take more than one set of mildly hopeful figures to convince the voters in Corby before they go to the polls on 15 November.
The killer finding in Ashcroft's poll is that a majority of the voters there - 56 per cent - think that, on the economy, things can only get worse in the next four years, and Labour would do better than the Tories in creating growth and jobs.