In Depth

Final nail in the coffin of Tory-Lib Dem coalition?

New polling shows Clegg could lose Sheffield seat - with a little help from Ronnie O’Sullivan

Columnist Don Brind

Was this the day the death knell was finally sounded for the Cameron-Clegg coalition?

Not only has Danny Alexander made relations at the top of the coalition virtually impossible with his leak of old Tory plans to cut child benefits.

Not only is The Times reporting that Lid Dems at all of levels of the poarty would resist a new pact.

We also have constituency polling from Lord Ashcroft showing that Clegg, the last remaining cheerleader for the coalition, faces the real possibility of losing his own seat next Thursday.  

Labour candidate Oliver Coppard is ahead of Clegg by one per cent in Sheffield Hallam – despite the fact that a large wedge of Tories are saying they’ll vote Lib Dem. 

Coppard, incidentally, has been endorsed by snooker champion (and hero of Ed Miliband) Ronnie O’Sullivan, currently in town for the World Snooker Championship at the Crucible. “He’s a down-to-earth guy,” says O’Sullivan; it’s nice to be backed by “someone who knows about winning in Sheffield”, says Coppard.

Ashcroft has also revisted South Thanet, where the Tories are threatening to deny Ukip leader Nigel Farage a seat at Westminster. The Conservatives are on 34 per cent to Ukip’s 32 per cent. Labour are on 25 per cent and Ashcroft suggests “Labour supporters may be lending their vote to the Conservatives to stop Nigel Farage”.

Ashcroft has polled both seats several times before and neither Clegg nor Farage have been able to break away from their pursuers. Farage has said he will resign as Ukip leader if he fails to get elected. 

The third seat in the current batch of Ashcroft polls is another tight race that he’s surveyed before. He found the Tories clinging on in South Swindon by a single point - 37 to 36 - which he says “leaves the seat too close to call”.

The seat ranks 64th on the list of marginal seats the Tories are defending, with Labour needing a swing of 3.75 per cent to take it. Local Conservatives will be anxious because polling in other Tory-held marginal constituency polls have found Labour achieving bigger swings. 

These include Cannock Chase, where Ashcroft found a six-per cent swing to Labour and City of Chester where he discovered an 8.5 per cent swing.

The picture emerging is that Labour have a decent chance of taking 40 or more Tory seats in England. If it wasn’t for the SNP surge in Scotland – where the latest Ipsos-MORI poll has the Nationalists soaring even higher, up two points on 54 per cent while Labour have fallen back five to 20 per cent  - Ed Miliband would be on course for a majority victory.

The news from Scotland is truly awful for Labour: they are only three points ahead of the Tories north of the border, unthinkable a few months back. But what is often overlooked is that the Lib Dems are also set to be wiped out in Scotland.

Never mind how many seats he could lose in England - inlcuding his own - Clegg faces losing 11 MPs (including Danny Alexander) north of the border. Even if the Tories wanted the Lib Dems to join a second coalition - debatable after Alexander's intervention - the numbers are surely never going to add up.

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