In Depth

Tories could lose Thatcher’s seat according to new poll

New polling from marginals boosts Labour after Monday’s surprise poll giving Tories six-point lead

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The Tories are at risk of losing Margaret Thatcher’s old seat in north London according to a new round of marginal polling from Lord Ashcroft.

Ironically, the news comes on the day David Cameron evokes the memory of Thatcher in her prime with his Right to Buy relaunch.

For his latest batch of constituency polls, Ashcroft surveyed ten Tory seats which would fall to Labour on a swing of around five per cent. 

He found the Conservatives ahead in five seats: Cleethorpes, Dover, Dudley South, Harlow and North East Somerset. There were ties – in other words, they’re currently too close to call - in Rossendale and Darwin and in South Ribble.

But Labour have narrow leads in three of them - Finchley and Golders Green, Crewe and Nantwich and Milton Keynes South.

The news will put a dampener on any Tory optimism caused by yesterday afternoon’s “surprise” ICM poll for The Guardian which – quite against the run of most recent surveys polls – put the the Conservatives on an impressive 39 per cent, six points ahead of Labour.

Conversely, the Ashcroft results will be encouraging to Labour. The three seats where they are ahead are respectively 78th, 87th and 90th on the party's target list. 

Another useful perspective is provided by Electoral Calculus who provide seat-by-seat projections based on the current polling average which gives the Tories a 1.5-point lead over Labour. On that basis, the Tories should be holding all these seats.

Team Miliband will also be buoyed by the Ashcroft view that Labour are “winning the ground war” in all ten of these seats. Between 55 per cent and 78 per cent of voters had received literature, visits, phone calls or emails from Labour; only 34 to 62 per cent said they had heard from the Tories.

Back to that “surprise” Guardian/ICM poll, which showed: Con 39 (up 3), Lab 33 (down 2), Lib Dems 8 (u/c), Ukip 7 (down 2), Greens 7 (up 3).

Thirty-nine per cent is the best score the Tories have enjoyed in any poll published since 2012 and would be easily enough to make Cameron the leader of the largest party at Westminster.

It was the Guardian itself that described the result as a “surprise” – though “a bit of an embarrassment” might have been more suitable given that only last week the same paper was reporting a slew of Labour leads over the Tories – one of them as high as six points – under the headline ‘The day the polls turned’.

The big question is whether the monthly ICM survey was a rogue poll or not. 

The company has a fine track record. Its last poll before the 2010 general election came very close to forecasting the end result accurately, though it overestimated the Lib Dems’ chances. 

However, the Guardian was careful to register several caveats while ICM boss Martin Boon noted that the sample looked “demographically sound” but admitted that the raw data “could be a just touch too Tory”. In particular, he said, there were more 2010 Conservative voters in the sample than ICM would ordinarily expect, and also more voters from the professional occupational grade.

But Anthony Wells of UK Polling Report makes the point that, whenever public sentiment changes, “one poll has to pick it up first. The surprise poll will usually turn out to be a freak result, the product of unusual sampling or methods.

"If there is genuinely a change in public opinion, other polls will pick it up sooner or later, so it’s always wise to withhold your judgment.” 

For the moment, three other polls released in the past 24 hours show no signs of a Tory surge.

Populus has the two main parties on level-pegging: Con 33 (up 2), Lab 33 (u/c), Lib Dems 8 (down 1), Ukip 15 (down 2), Greens 5 (down 2).

The weekly Ashcroft national poll also has them level: Con 33 (down 3), Lab 33 (up 1), Lib Dems 9 (up 3), Ukip 13 (up 3), Greens 6 (down 2).

Finally, the latest YouGov daily poll for The Sun has Labour ahead by a point: Con 33 (u/c), Lab 34 (down 2), Lib Dems 8 (up 1), Ukip 13 (u/c), Greens 6 (up 1).

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