UKIP is set to take the seat of Thurrock from the Conservatives at next month’s general election as a new poll puts the party four points ahead of Labour, with the Tories in third place.
The latest Lord Ashcroft polling of marginal constituencies also puts the Greens in a strong second place in Bristol West, but suggests UKIP will lose Rochester & Strood to the Conservatives.
The figures will be bittersweet for UKIP, with Tim Aker likely to be elected MP for Thurrock but Mark Reckless losing the seat he kept after defecting from the Conservatives last year. Ashcroft writes that the campaign in Reckless’s Rochester seat is very closely fought, with more than three quarters of respondents in the constituency saying they had heard from both UKIP and the Conservative activists.
The Tories are desperate to retake the seat after Reckless joined UKIP before defeating his old party in the ensuing by-election.
In Thurrock, however, UKIP is polling 35 per cent, giving it a four-point lead and representing a massive increasing of 28 points since the 2010 election. Incumbent MP Jackie Doyle-Price could even finish an embarrassing third behind Labour.
Meanwhile, the situation is even more convoluted in Liberal Democrat-held Bristol West, where a surge in Green support could help Labour take the seat. Despite the Lib Dems winning nearly 50 per cent of the vote there in 2010, they are now languishing in a poor third with just 20 per cent. The Greens have stormed into second place with 25 per cent (up from four per cent at the last election), while Labour has a 13 point lead.
Yesterday, another poll gave UKIP leader Nigel Farage a nine-point advantage in South Thanet, putting him on 39 per cent, ahead of the Conservatives’ Craig Mackinlay on 30.
The polling comes as the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), which regulates MPs’ salaries and expenses, estimated that up to 145 incumbent MPs could lose their seats at the forthcoming election, representing the biggest bloodbath since Tony Blair’s landslide victory in 1997.
The Telegraph reports that IPSA estimates the costs of winding up the offices of deposed and retiring MPs could run to £18.4 million.
Unlike 1997, in which almost all the losses went the same way – Conservative to Labour – this time no party has a clear advantage. The Conservatives are set to lose a number of English seats to Labour, but make substantial gains from the Liberal Democrats. Meanwhile, Labour’s gains from the Conservatives could be offset by their predicted collapse in Scotland, where they may lose as many as 40 seats to the Scottish National party.