Ashcroft poll in Hallam: Clegg within a whisker of Labour with a lot of Tory vote to squeeze

Lord Ashcroft has released a last minute poll on Nick Clegg’s seat of Sheffield Hallam. It’s the third he has conducted in the last 5 months. It comes with all the usual caveats on Ashcroft polls – he doesn’t mention the candidates’ names, and he has some weird methodology that he doesn’t explain to us about how he gets his final figures.

The results last month showed Labour two points ahead on 36% with Nick on 34%. The new poll shows Labour just one point ahead on 37% and Nick on 36%. The Tories are on 15%, UKIP on 7% and the Greens on 4%.

This is obviously all well within the margin of error. However, it seems to me that the odds are in Nick’s favour. First of all, there is a LOT of Tory vote to squeeze. It is very possible that Tory voters will switch to Clegg to keep Labour out.

Ashcroft himself says on the poll:

Labour’s lead in Sheffield Hallam is down to a single point, compared to two in March and three in November. While 30% of 2010 Liberal Democrats in the seat say they intend to vote Labour next week, 31% of 2010 Conservatives say they will now vote Lib Dem. Tory voters in the seat were also notably less likely than they are elsewhere to say that they rule out voting for Nick Clegg’s party. Their decisions could have more impact than most in determining the shape of the next government.

It’s a darned sight closer than you would want your leader’s seat to be a week out from polling day, but it’s doable, especially as Labour have some other pretty tight fights across Yorkshire that they should be concentrating on.

In other news, Nigel Farage seems to be back in the game in Thanet South, just two points behind the Conservative. Ashcroft reckons Labour tactical voting will save the seat for the Conservatives, though.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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67 Comments

  • What do you think the impact of relying on Tory votes to save Clegg will have on public perceptions of the political position of your party? And do you think this will benefit you in the long term, or harm you?

  • Eddie Sammon 29th Apr '15 - 5:19pm

    What are the Conservatives doing even standing in that seat?

    Blukip works like magic on younger soft Tories. Labour’s budget responsibility lock is a sham without a date on deficit reduction. Tory unfunded spending versus Labour’s unfunded deficit. Clegg is the man for fiscal responsibility.

  • Stephen Campbell 29th Apr '15 - 5:19pm

    I have a friend who works at the University of Sheffield. Apparently there’s a huge push by students in the constituency to unseat Clegg, which is unsurprising to say the least. Said friend is convinced Clegg is going to go on May 7th, based on the mood in the area.

    Am I right in thinking that if Mr. Clegg lost his seat, he would automatically have to resign as leader of the Lib Dems? Has there ever been a case where a sitting leader of a party has lost their seat in a GE?

  • Clegg is not the only leader who is struggling to survive.
    Scotland’s Labour Leader Jim Murphy could also fail to get elected.

    I hope that the TV cameras will be ready for the announcement of the result for Refrewshire East.

  • @Stephen Campbell

    Yes – three from the Liberals last century. Asquith (1918), Samuel (1935) & Sinclair (1945).

    There may be other examples – Northern Ireland?

  • @Stephen Campbell “Apparently there’s a huge push by students in the constituency to unseat Clegg, which is unsurprising to say the least.”

    Why is it unsurprising?

  • Stephen Campbell – the last was Liberal leader, Archibald Sinclair, who lost his Caithness & Sutherland seat to the Tories in 1945. He fell to third in what remains the tightest ever three-way marginal.

    In this seat Labour have done well squeezing the Greens, but, as pointed out above, over 50% of Tories would still consider voting for us here. Nick should hold.

  • Stephen Campbell 29th Apr '15 - 5:37pm

    @TCO: “Why is it unsurprising?”

    Erm, because without debating the rights and wrongs of tuition fees (which I’m ambivalent about anyway and wasn’t a deal breaker for me when I stopped supporting the Lib Dems), there are still many, many people who remain angry and haven’t forgiven Mr. Clegg.

  • Because students have been convinced that the man who brought in a fairer payment system for them is the devil.

  • Eddie Sammon 29th Apr '15 - 5:41pm

    A lot of the Labour vote can be won too. Do you think Labour’s radical wing will vote sensibly? Miliband will either have to come crawling to the Lib Dems and Tories for support or find an excuse to give more freebies to Scotland.

  • This is one seat where mentioning the candidate would not make a blind bit of difference and if anything could harm the Lib Dems. I think Clegg will hold in the end though, albeit narrowly. However he and the Lib Dem party elite may have to be careful not to do too much Tory bashing over the next few weeks as it may create a backlash with Tory inclined voters in Hallam, potentially enough to cost him the seat.

  • @Stephen Campbell “there are still many, many people who remain angry and haven’t forgiven Mr. Clegg.”

    Carrying around anger and resentment for 5 years is not a healthy state of mind.

    @MBoy “Because students have been convinced that the man who brought in a fairer payment system for them is the devil.”

    Hopefully they also listen to Russell Brand on whether or not to vote.

  • Stephen Campbell 29th Apr '15 - 5:48pm

    Thanks, @Iain, didn’t know that. 🙂

  • @Iain this seat now held by his grandson Viscount Thurso and one I sincerely hope we hold.

  • To be honest now. Come on Liberal Democrats.
    What does it say about Nick Clegg if he ends up retaining his seat ONLY because Tory Voters Saved him?

    Strip out Tories who have already said they are voting tactically and Nick Clegg’s vote share has and will collapse catastrophically.
    That does not look good for a party leader and indeed a Deputy Prime Minister

  • Can’t help but think Ashcroft being mischievous to keep polling Hallam, he knows from Bath and Enfield Southgate what happens when electorates get the whiff of a close race and a high profile Minister.

  • Theakes: forgot to add, there is the 3 way debate tomorrow evening, this is a real chance for Clegg if he has rehearsed properly, been well briefed. But please have something imaginative, decisive and inspiring to say, not just the dull Left Right business. He has to seize the initiative.

  • @Matt many Labour MPs have been elected over the years by voters who would have prefered to support other parties but chose the least worst option for them in that election. I know because I was once one of them. What does that say about those MPs? Your point is irrelevant. Vote are votes and the ballot is secret. If Nick Clegg is elected its because he got more votes than anyone else. Are you to say that Any MP who takes a seat from a Conservative is really a Conservative because they got Conservative switches? In which case Ed Miliband will have an illegitimate government by your reckoning.

  • @Andrew S “Can’t help but think Ashcroft being mischievous to keep polling Hallam, he knows from Bath and Enfield Southgate what happens when electorates get the whiff of a close race and a high profile Minister.”

    Very possibly but he should be careful what he wishes for.

  • Alex Sabine 29th Apr '15 - 6:10pm

    @ Eddie
    “… unfunded spending versus Labour’s unfunded deficit. Clegg is the man for fiscal responsibility.”

    I’d like to think you were right, Eddie, but the evidence for that is weak. No party is standing for fiscal responsibility in this election. The IFS reprimanded them all yesterday, pointing out: “All these parties seem to have a desire to raise tax revenue in vaguely defined, opaque and apparently painless ways. In many cases, the proposals would lead to unncessary increases in complexity and inefficiency in the tax system. Where benefit cuts are proposed, they are largely unspecified (Conservative), vague (Liberal Democrat) or trivially small relative to the rhetoric being used (Labour).”

    My guess is that Clegg will just cling on to Sheffield Hallam and Farage will pull it off in Thanet South. But one way or another, I suppose we could end up with three of the four main party leaders gone within a few months, whether at the hands of the electorate or their own parties…

  • @TCO

    “@Matt many Labour MPs have been elected over the years by voters who would have prefered to support other parties but chose the least worst option for them in that election”

    Yes people vote tactically in MARGINAL constituencies, when they do not really have a choice, so they vote for the least worse candidate in their view .

    But we are not talking about a marginal seat are we

    Nick Clegg won this seat with 53.4% of the vote last time and a majority of 29.9%

    You can hardly compare the 2

  • Eddie Sammon 29th Apr '15 - 6:31pm

    Hi Alex, I said man, rather than party, but if Lib Dems collapse I fear worse, which is why I’ve come back into the fold at the last minute, Gordon Brown style.

  • George Flaxman 29th Apr '15 - 6:45pm

    @TCO “Carrying around anger and resentment for 5 years is not a healthy state of mind.”

    I couldn’t agree more, but seeing how many of them are on Twitter I suspect that most of them were never LibDem voters in the first place. Synthetic rage from Labour trolls.

  • @Matt ”
    Yes people vote tactically in MARGINAL constituencies, when they do not really have a choice, so they vote for the least worse candidate in their view .”

    Not necessarily. The only time I voted labour was in 1997 in Salford, hardly a marginal seat. But i wanted to use my vote to send a message. my vote, my right.

  • George Flaxman 29th Apr '15 - 7:02pm

    I’m not sure how things work in these kind of contests. Presumably voters are not just bombarded with leaflets, which can be ignored, but are incessantly telephoned by activists until they give the answer desired by the activist. (rather like an insurance salesman who won’t take no for an answer). I must admit that if faced with this kind of assault I’d be likely to say “Yes” to everyone if the initial “No” was considered not good enough for them.

  • Nick Collins 29th Apr '15 - 7:06pm

    @ Eddie Sammon:”What are the Conservatives doing even standing in that seat?”

    That comment tells us all we need to know about the depths to which the Liberal Democrats have sunk under Clegg’s “leadership”.

  • It should be pointed out that Tory voters don’t like Clegg either; he’s been painted for them as the obstacle who has prevented a thorough root-and-branch conservative programme from being enacted in the last parliamentary term. Those who were prepared to vote for him tactically have already made up their minds to do so; for the others, getting a ConDem 2.0 coalition may seem less appetising than an opportunity to kick the devil in the ——-s.

  • Clegg is a goner… With Clegg’s name recognition, that vote should have been squeezed by now. Well, it’s his own fault after the last few years.

  • paul barker 29th Apr '15 - 7:53pm

    Presuming this poll is as accurate as it can be it can only represent the situation yesterday. That leaves 10 days for Labour to fall further. I am expecting the Non-Debate to give us a boost, nothing to do with who “wins” but simply because it will remind voters that in most of England & Wales there are only 3 Parties that matter.

  • @David-1 ” Tory voters don’t like Clegg either; he’s been painted for them as the obstacle who has prevented a thorough root-and-branch conservative programme from being enacted in the last parliamentary term. ”

    Get with the programme, David!

    Repeat after me “Clegg is a public school / Oxbridge entryist who is a Tory.”

  • Jane Ann Liston 29th Apr '15 - 8:03pm

    Isn’t it a bit unfair to castigate someone for the school their parents chose for them?

  • Eddie Sammon 29th Apr '15 - 8:08pm

    Well said Jane.

  • yes, yes it is ^^

  • @Jane Ann Liston no of course not. Perfectly fair. And its even worse when they choose to go to either Oxford or Cambridge – they haven’t got the excuse of parental involvement in that choice.

  • Stephen Hesketh 29th Apr '15 - 8:37pm

    TCO 29th Apr ’15 – 7:54pm
    [[@David-1 ” Tory voters don’t like Clegg either; he’s been painted for them as the obstacle who has prevented a thorough root-and-branch conservative programme from being enacted in the last parliamentary term. ”]]

    “Get with the programme, David! Repeat after me ‘Clegg is a public school / Oxbridge entryist who is a Tory’ .”

    http://conservativehome.blogs.com/centreright/2008/04/nick-cleggs-tor.html

    Hmmm.

  • @TCO

    So people should be judged as a person because of a decision that was made on their behalf when they were about 8?

  • @Stephen Hesketh we learned well here at CCO from the Cambridge 5. You need to select your sleepers early in order to get them well embedded. Our one slip was a failure to expunge the records.

  • @ATF absolutely as I’m sure many others here would agree!

  • Steven Jones 29th Apr '15 - 8:52pm

    Im pretty sure @TCO is being ironic. This is a very serious forum, I read the thread and got that straight away. TCO is winding you up and doing it well by the looks.

  • TCO

    I now know never to bother reading your comments again, thanks!

  • @ATF if you read my other posts you’ll ascertain whether those remarks were out of character

  • @Steven Jones much like our American cousins I’ve always thought irony was another word for ferous.

  • @Caractacus who is the Lib Dem candidate in hallam?

  • If Clegg loses he will without any irony go straight to the Lords.

  • I fear, this poll and others, will mean the Party will throw money and resources at saving Clegg. This will be to the detriment of saving perhaps two or three (or maybe more) other MPs.

    Whilst it would be embarrassing for Clegg to lose, he really would have no one to blame but himself.

  • Come on Colin, no party leader has ever allowed Head Office staff to be volunteered to help in his/her constituency in an election campaign. Any rumours that you can’t get into Nethergreen Rd without tripping up over SpAds throwing themselves prostrate in Nick’s presence and chanting “I have got as job after May 7th, haven’t I, Oh munificent one?” are the sort of scurrilous and unfounded suggestion that even TCO would be ashamed to promulgate.

  • So, all Clegg needs to do to save his seat is to squeeze the Tory vote in Hallam just a little bit more. Yes, I think we got that from a national election campaign clearly designed to help him do precisely this.

    It’s about time our party woke up and realised that this election isn’t just about the, now badly damaged, Brand Clegg and his desire to turn us unto a UK version of the German FDP – right-wing, tiny, a declining vote but able to coat tail into government. It works just fine until the party gets wiped out as the FDP was at the last German election.

    Frankly, we would be better off if Clegg lost. I think most of us could survive the embarrassment Colin Ross refers to.

  • @David Evans as a loyal party member I’m sure you’ve done your bit on the ground to help the elected party leader keep his seat, haven’t you?

  • @TCO – Think Global. Act Local.

  • @David Evans so you’re a Hallamite then?

  • I really do hope Nick Clegg wins, because those who wish him ill are also wishing our party ill.

    This is one electoral battle that deserves to be won by the Lib Dems. Labour’s campaign here is based on nothing other than cynical, hypocritical posturing and frankly those who support it are part of the vicious campaign of political bullying directed at Clegg in particular and our party in general that we have suffered for the past five years.

  • @RC well said comrade.

  • RC: there are plenty of sitting Lib Dem MPs and candidates more deserving of winning their electoral battle than Clegg but they don’t have the benefit of a national campaign designed to help them.

  • @Phil Rimmer I’ve just sent a donation to Clegg’s constituency party.

  • RC 30th Apr ’15 – 12:08pm…I really do hope Nick Clegg wins, because those who wish him ill are also wishing our party ill….

    No; quite the opposite!

  • Nick Collins 30th Apr '15 - 12:53pm

    @ TCO I’m sure the good people of Hallam will be truly grateful. They’re in desperate need of more ballast for their paper recycling bins.

  • Denis Loretto 30th Apr '15 - 5:49pm

    Surely at a time when there are monumental challenges to any government both nationally and internationally it is a wicked underestimation of students to allege that their voting choice will be totally motivated by what they see as the effects of university fees policy upon their own pockets?

  • g – most of us know very well that we’ve won many contests against the Tories with the help of tactical votes by Labour supporters and there will be quite a few on May 7th. Sheffield Hallam used to be a “Tory-facing” seat – that is, the Tories were the main opponents and they held the seat before us. I imagine when we won it we had some basically Labour votes. We try not to forget people who vote tactically for us, whatever their first choice will be.

    Nick Clegg’s situation might be more significant because he’s leader, but he may not be much longer and were his replacement to be Tim Farron or Norman Lamb, two who have been mentioned, they both benefited from Labour tactical votes when they first won their seats.

  • The problem with this is that it assumes the Conservative vote will want to keep Clegg. He’s a big scalp to Euro sceptics and blukippers.
    My gut instinct is that he will just about hold on his own merits,

  • Paul in Wokingham 30th Apr '15 - 10:59pm

    I thought Clegg did really very well in tonight’s debate: certainly he was considerably better than Miliband and confounded expectations – including, frankly, my own. I don’t think it will make any difference to the national result, but I think his (comparatively) open and honest performance was enough to ensure his survival as MP for Sheffield Hallam.

  • I agree, Clegg was on top form tonight. However, he was far from totally honest in some of his answers – especially the first one. Had I not had the sort of insight which comes from hanging around in LDV for the last five years, I would have been totally taken in (again). But yes a bravura performance and much better than Cameron or Miliband. Good night for Clegg.

  • Peter Chegwyn 1st May '15 - 12:31am

    I missed the TV debate as I was watching Charles Kennedy at a well-attended public hustings meeting in Fort William.

    Charles was on superb form, truly at his persuasive best. Any Lib. Dem. would have been proud of him tonight.

  • Peter Chegwyn

    I’m not voting LibDem this time around, but I do hope Charles Kennedy holds his seat, he will be badly needed after the GE – it’s good to know he’s in good health and on form. You didn’t really miss much with the 3 leaders – pretty much as expected. Cameron wouldn’t answer the questions, Milliband tripped up when leaving the stage and Clegg is still not trusted because of tuition fees. Overall Clegg did OK but I don’t think the audience were that interested in him – they weren’t as aggressive as they were with the other two.

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