Poll of the marginals
Today's must-read for political anoraks (even if its publisher is now owned by Lord Ashcroft) is the PoliticsHome detailed poll of over 200 marginal constituencies.
Last year's report made boring reading as Labour was doing so badly that almost every seat read "Con gain".
This year the poll was taken before 21 September, i.e. before our conference, but Labour had already recovered to just an "awful" position from a "cataclysmic" one so you begin to see some differentiation around the regions, and work out where we might need to refocus our political messages and policies and organisational efforts in the few months left before the General Election in order to hold the maximum number of seats:
- The overall projected Tory majority is down from 146 to 70.
- Labour is staging something of a fightback in terms of below average swing in London, Scotland, the North West, the North East, West Yorkshire and in seaside towns, which were an important set of 1997 gains.
- The regions where the Tories look set to make most gains are the south outside London, the East Midlands, the West Midlands and Wales.
- The Tories are not making much headway in Lib Dem held seats.
- Nor are the Lib Dems projected to make many further gains off Labour.
- Our incumbent MPs continue to have a personal vote bonus, making it more difficult for the Tories to take seats where the Labour MP is re-standing.
- Although anti-Tory tactical voting has broken down (Labour supporters will vote tactically for LDs but not vice versa), there is no evidence yet of anti-Labour tactical voting.
- The factors determining voting behaviour in marginals are primarily the values and priorities of the parties (cited by 45%) not policies (cited by 21%) or the party leaders (cited by only 12%).
- Key issues this year for marginal seat voters are the economy (49%), health (35%), law and order (28%), unemployment (26%), education (24%) and immigration (23%). Unfortunately hardly anyone in the kind of seats that will determine the election considers priorities to be some of the issues close to Labour activists' hearts such as housing, poverty, civil liberties, transport and the environment. That's not to say we don't need good policies in these areas - we just shouldn't assume they will have a big electoral impact.
- The electoral impact of the expenses scandal seems to have been minimal.
- Despite the Ashcroft funding of marginal campaigns, the public in marginal seats report almost as much Labour campaigning contact as Tory (my hunch is we actually still have a better grassroots organisation - supported by anecdotal reporting of a shortage of Tory volunteers on polling day in council by-elections).
- The credit crunch has increased fear that the Tories are a risk, are only for the rich, and will slash public services.
- Particularly good individual seat poll results for Labour are: hold Hammersmith, gain Bethnal Green & Bow from Respect, hold Dagenham & Rainham, hold Ealing N, hold Feltham & Heston, hold Harrow W, hold Blackpool S, hold Great Yarmouth, hold Southampton Itchen, hold Blackburn, hold Stretford & Urmston, hold Sunderland C (believe it or not this new seat is a marginal!), hold all 4 marginals in Cumbria (I assume this is if we don't scrap the Trident submarine replacement, which is built there), hold Birmingham Hall Green, hold City of Durham, hold Leicester S, hold Liverpool Wavertree, hold Oldham E & S, hold Cardiff W, hold Clwyd S, hold Delyn, hold Llanelli (I am surprised Blaenau Gwent was not polled - YouGov's Peter Kellner is predicting that Labour's Nick Smith will gain it from the current independent MP), hold Aberdeen N, hold Aberdeen S, hold Dunfermline & W Fife, hold Edinburgh N & L, hold Kilmarnock & L, hold Renfrewshire E, hold Stirling.
- Particularly worrying "deep attack" Tory projected gains are Tooting (Labour since 1945), Poplar & Limehouse (a 3-way marginal with Respect), Thurrock (only previously lost once since 1945), the two Walsall seats, Stoke South (Labour since I think 1935), Wolves NE, Coventry NW, Bridgend (only previously lost once), Gower (Labour since I think 1935), Wakefield (ditto), Ashfield (Geoff Hoon's seat, only ever lost in a byelection before), Nottingham E, Leicester W, Derbyshire NE, Bassetlaw, Great Grimsby and Scunthorpe (affected by the Elliot Morley expenses scandal?).
- The poll has the Greens gaining Brighton Pavilion. I am sure this will delight their "pluralist Labour" friends in Compass, who have twice had the Green candidate speak at their events.
You can read the full report here: http://page.politicshome.com/documents/2009ElectoralIndex.pdf