Survey has Campbell 49%: Oaten 14%: Hughes 21%
Any resididual hope that Lib Dem members might save the day for Charles Kennedy are dashed this morning in a YouGov poll in the Daily Telegraph. In a survey restricted to just members of the party the provisional results show that 65% want a new leader for the General Election with just 27% saying he should stay.
The poll is also a severe blow to leadership hopefuls Simon Hughes and Mark Oaten. To the question of who they would vote for the members divided: Sir Menzies Campbell 49%: Simon Hughes 21%: Mark Oaten 14%.
These findings have to be taken seriously. Similar surveys of Tory members during their leadership election proved to be extraordinarily accurate with YouGov’s final figures for David Cameron being within just one per cent of the actual result.
The poll was carried out yesterday both before and after the announcement that 25 MPs have signed a statement saying they will resign if he does not quit as Lib Dem leader by Monday. If anything, because of the timing factor, the YouGov poll probably overstates the leader’s position.
These numbers are a devastating blow for Charles Kennedy who had been pinning hopes on the party’s membership. His whole strategy had been based on by-passing his parliamentary colleagues in the belief that he was overwhelmingly popular amongst the party members – the body which ultimately decides who is leader.
The poll results on the preferred leader could act as a springboard for those who have been pressing for just one alternative to Kennedy to go forward. With Campbell enjoying such a lead amongst the members it is hard to see any other outcome and he has indicated that he will only put himself forward if he is unopposed.
Given YouGov’s record with the Tory members leadership ballot the message for punters is clear – get on Campbell while the prices are good. The latest prices are 13/8 with a conventional bookmaker and 1.04/1 on the Betfair betting exchange.
After making several thousand pounds on the Tory race I’m trying to put as much money as possible on Campbell. The prices will tighten this morning. The only concern is whether Campbell will stand.
BETTING UPDATE: IG BinaryBet has 30-36 on Campbell – to be leader on May 4th. Kennedy is at 4-8. I’ve put a spread bet on both because my view of the poll is that Hughes and Oaten are now out of it. With a 49% YouGov share it looks like Campbell but the main obstacle is Kennedy sticking there or perhaps saying he’ll hang on till after the local elections.