Gaffe-prone Gav, the Tory MP for Croydon Central, has closed the gap since his former employer last polled his battleground seat. But not by enough for the career politician to save his skin, as WALTER CRONXITE reports
A new poll of 1,000 Croydon Central electors conducted for Gavin Barwell’s former boss, Lord Cashcroft, shows that the sitting Tory MP has narrowed the gap on his Labour challenger Sarah Jones to 4 per cent in the borough’s marginal seat. But the gap has not closed enough for gaffe-prone Gav to cling on to his parliamentary seat, come General Election day on May 7.
The latest poll, six months on from a previous Ashcroft survey, shows those intending to vote UKIP to be on the slide, and so Barwell closer to holding on to the seat. But while the number of people saying that they intend to vote Barwell has increased, so has the number of people intending to vote for Jones.
Compared to Ashcroft’s October poll, the Tory share is up 4 per cent to 37 per cent, while the Labour share of the Croydon Central vote is up 2 per cent to 41 per cent. That gives Jones the equivalent of a 2,000 vote majority in a constituency where typically 50,000 residents cast a ballot. The October 2014 poll put Barwell 3,000 votes behind Labour.
The Ashcroft poll confirms the Inside Croydon analysis last week – put together with a considerably smaller budget than that available to the tax-avoiding Conservative peer – that judged that Barwell was beginning to chase down Jones’ lead by squeezing the UKIP vote and exploiting his incumbency.
In the latest Ashcroft poll, the UKIP vote share in Croydon Central is down from a 19 per cent share to a 13 per cent share, the equivalent of 3,000 votes, from October’s high-water mark. UKIP’s high-profile local problems with Winston McKenzie and a modestly resourced campaign is seeing their share of the vote suffer a sharp reverse. Only 11 per cent of voters have had any direct local contact from UKIP in recent weeks, the poll finds.
Among the Con-Lab marginal seats polled by Ashcroft and published today, Barwell has shown the strongest incumbency impact. When local voters are asked specifically about how they intend to vote locally, as compared as to their general preference in the General Election, the Conservative vote share jumps up from 33 per cent to 37 per cent.
That may cheer up Barwell and his six-strong team of state-funded parliamentary and constituency assistants following yesterday’s almighty clusterfuck over bogus support letters, which made the front page of the Tory-leaning Evening Standard and even got a mention on BBC London News.
Or it will cheer them up until they realise that their previous hard work, as demonstrated by the Ashcroft poll result, may have all been undone – and more – by the widespread news coverage they received yesterday and today.
Based on his poll, which was conducted between March 3 and 12, Ashcroft says that Croydon Central is, “a seat that shows the biggest shift between the standard voting intention question and the result when people are asked to think about their own constituency and the candidates likely to stand there.” Without Barwell’s incumbency, the Conservatives would be trailing a hopeless 4,000 votes in Croydon Central, according to Ashcroft’s polling.
Ashcroft’s latest poll has no good news for the ConDem Government’s junior partners in Croydon, as the already weak LibDem vote has been squeezed down even further since October, down to just 3 per cent, or 1,500 votes and an embarrassing lost deposit. This compares to the 13 per cent secured by the LibDems in Croydon Central in 2010 and reflects poorly on the candidate, James Fearnley. As a party official in Bermondsey, Fearnley is undoubtedly pre-occupied with defending the seat held by his party’s deputy leader, Simon Hughes, rather than a futile attempt to “win” in Croydon.
According to Ashcroft, Esther Sutton, the popular local figure standing for the Greens, is on 5 per cent and now fourth ahead of the LibDems.
The LibDem collapse will be helping Labour in Croydon Central, and could prove costly to Barwell.
Labour will be pleased that the poll shows them making as much contact with voters as the Conservatives in recent weeks through their canvassing and campaigning. Both parties score a 45 per cent recollection of a recent contact from the red and blue camps. Such a matching contact rate performance by Labour has not been evident in previous elections in Croydon.
Barwell ‘s last hope, with 50 days until polling day, must be that he can squeeze out another 4 per cent out of the UKIP share of the vote, that he can get non-Conservatives to back him as an incumbent, and that on May 7, he can secure a higher turnout to the polling stations of Tory voters compared to Labour.
A key challenge for Labour is to get their voters to the polls: the Croydon Central Ashcroft poll puts 67 per cent of Tory sympathisers certain to vote, but only 57 per cent certain to vote among Labour supporters.
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