Lord Ashcroft grabbed the headlines once again today when he unveiled his seat-by-seat polls in Scotland and added fuel to the speculation that the SNP will deliver a Labour rout in May. His polls are different because he looks at individual constituencies not the national picture.
The headlines today paint a joyous picture for the SNP and there is no doubt that they will do well. The Ashcroft poll suggests that they will win 50 of the
56 59 Scottish seats. Aggregate polls suggest that the number will be nearer forty. So are there reasons to doubt Ashcroft?
- He is a Tory peer and a lifelong supporter of the Conservatives who is estimated to have donated as much as £10m to the party. We might be forgiven thinking that he’s tempted to spin for them.
- In his three national polls this year the Conservatives are ahead in two (by 6 points in one) and level in the other. If you look at all the other polls over the same period it’s nine-four in Labour’s favour.
- His polls are snap shots at a specific point in time so can’t really be relied upon other than at the time they are published.
- He calls into question his own methodology. “Most of my constituency research is focused on marginal seats. But in post-referendum Scotland, the concept of a marginal seat is rather obsolete”.
- The UK General Election 2015 Blog thinks that there is a problem in the weighting of today’s results. Labour is ahead amongst over 65s in Scotland “The over 65s are going to be the most likely to vote it is accepted by everyone. Yet in Lord Ashcroft’s poll he weights the respondents down in his survey for the over 65s from 28% of his actual respondents to 18% of the actual figures used”.
One prediction on which it is difficult to cast doubt is that LibDem Danny Alexander, number two in the Treasury and member of the coalition’s gang of four ‘The Quad’, will lose his seat. According to Ashcroft he is behind in the Inverness seat he has held for a decade by 29 points. If even half-true, it’s an impossible hill to climb.