Did Michael Ashcroft bring good news for the Lib Dems?

Did Michael Ashcroft bring good news for the Lib Dems?

Will LAB supporters still vote tactically for the yellows?

Ever since the coalition was formed in May there’s been a widespread assumption that the many Labour supporters who voted tactically to support the Lib Dems in battles with the Tories will not do the same next time.

This specific point has never been tested until now. But the data from the Michael Ashcroft-funded Populus poll of voters in the Sheffield Hallam and Eastleigh does provide some pointers.

For as well as the standard “which party would you support” question the pollster asked how people would have voted in their constituency where Chris Huhne/Nick Clegg is MP if they had they known the Lib Dems would form a coalition with the Conservatives.

The different results were striking. For the Hallam polling had LD 33%: LAB 31%: CON 28% on the first question and LD 43%: LAB 27%: CON 20% on the second. In Eastleigh it went from CON 42%: LD 31%: LAB 21% to CON 35%: LD 42%: LAB 18%.

A look at the detail shows that nearly a quarter of the Tory Hallam voters and one in five Labour ones shifted to Clegg on the second question. And this is in the city where’s there’s been the massive row over the Sheffield Forgemasters funding.

In Chris Huhne’s Eastleigh there was a similar picture with one in six Labour voters and one in seven Tory ones moving to Huhne.

The second question was complex and not totally satisfactory. Also Huhne and Clegg are not typical MPs. But at the very minimum you can conclude that they have very large personal votes.

Whether this would apply to other Lib Dem MPs on the same scale we don’t know but at the last election the difference between how incumbents performed and those new to defending seat was far bigger than for the other two parties.

Mike Smithson

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