The biggest event of the election is about to happen — are you paying attention to Lord Ashcroft?

Released tomorrow, the latest round of Ashcroft's polls could significantly change the course of the election

Harry Lambert
Tuesday 03 February 2015 18:13
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So far this election campaign has been uninspiring at best, and remarkably dull at worst.

Monotonous and isolated campaigns are being run by each party on the economy, NHS and immigration are strangling new ideas and real debate. Broadcasters and publications are trying to inject life into the campaign, but our political leaders won’t talk to or tackle each other in any depth (or even at all).

Which has left us poll-watching. The process is fraught. Unlike state polls in the US, there are very few constituency polls in the UK. The only significant seat polling we do have are Lord Aschoft's constituency polls. Ashcroft is the only philanthropist inclined to spend millions polling individual seats, which gives him an immense amount of power.

He has polled over 100 seats so far, but his latest batch – to be released tomorrow at 11am – are the most anticipated yet.

It's unclear how many Scottish seats he's polled, but the polls have been in the field since before Christmas, which would suggest we will get nearly 20 polls. There are 59 seats in Scotland. Labour currently hold 40, the Lib Dems 11 and the SNP 6 (the Tories hold one and one is an independent).

All current election forecasts – from the academic forecasts Election Forecast and Elections Etc, to May2015's and the one implied by the bookies – predict the SNP will win more than 31 seats in May. In other words, they’re predicted to win at least 25 new seats. That is the benchmark for tomorrow’s polls.

In a rare interview with Sky News, Ashcroft suggested his numbers show the SNP surge “is real”, which may suggest our forecasts are broadly accurate. The upper end of the four predictions we track is 40 SNP seats. If Ashcroft shows the SNP winning more than 40 seats Westminster will be in open meltdown.

On the other hand, if Ashcroft shows the SNP winning fewer than 30 seats, Labour will probably (and rightly) spin this as good news. That would be enough to move them slightly ahead and suggest the party has a bedrock of support which the referendum hasn’t ultimately crushed.

Unless something completely leftfield takes place, we are less than a day away from the biggest event of the election so far. If you haven't tried poll watching before, but want to keep on top of this year's election, then keep your eyes peeled.

Harry Lambert is staff writer at New Statesman and editor of May2015

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