Two new polls out today have the Tories ahead. Lord Ashcroft's latest national poll says the Conservatives currently have a six point lead at per cent — up two points from last week — while Labour remains on 30 per cent. Ashcroft has Ukip down slightly to 11 per cent and the Liberal Democrats are on nine per cent. The Guardian/ICM also put the Tories ahead in their new poll today, putting the Conservatives on 35 per cent and Labour on 32 per cent.
It's worth noting that both the Ashcroft and ICM polls were conducted by telephone. There are two other polls out today, conducted online, which show the opposite result. The latest survey from YouGov has Labour two points ahead on 34 per cent, while a new Populus/FT poll has Labour three points ahead on 36 per cent. Apart from Ashcroft, the leads for each party are still within the margin of error. But the it's clear the Tories are doing better in telephone polls, so next Thursday's result will settle which method is the most accurate.
ICM has also asked which was the single issue most concerning voters. In one slight piece of good news for Labour, the NHS ranked as the top issue first at 30 per cent. Jobs, prices, wages followed at 16 per cent and 14 per cent said immigration. The 'fears of smaller parties holding government to ransom' was expressed as the most concerning issue by just five per cent. The telephone poll was conducted over the weekend, as the Tories' attacks on the SNP continued. Possibly in relation to this, voters just about see the Tory campaign as more negative than positive: 45 per cent said the party is a running a negative campaign, compared to 44 per cent who said it was positive. Alternatively, 48 per cent think Labour is running a positive campaign.
There’s more bad news for Labour in the north with another new Scotland poll from TNS. Unsurprisingly, the SNP march continues and there is more evidence that Scotland is turning into a one party nation. The SNP are now on 54 per cent, while Labour is on 22 per cent, the Conservatives on 13 and the Liberal Democrats on six per cent. According to a prediction from ScotlandVotes, this result would result in the SNP taking 57 seats and Labour and the Liberal Democrats would be left with one apiece.
Although an almost total takeover might be a little over optimistic for the SNP, it's clear that opinions remain strong north of the border. Of the Scottish voters polled, 67 per cent said they are certain to vote, compared to 62 per cent for the rest of the UK. It’s even higher for SNP supporters: 82 per cent said they are certain to vote.
Lord Ashcroft has conducted his focus groups in Scotland this week, offering some hints as to how each of the Scottish party leaders are seen. The SNP's Nicola Sturgeon was described as 'fantastic', someone who is 'direct' and 'speaks from the heart'. Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy was accused of being an 'angry' Blairite' and a 'shouter'. Those in the focus groups had a good opinion of Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson but said they thought she was 'flogging a dead horse.' But if you are wondering why the SNP are doing so well, the Scots described the Scottish Tories and Scottish Labour parties as 'just a different shade of shite'.
And if each of the Scottish leaders were being played in a movie, Nicola Sturgeon would be played by Helen Mirren. Jim Murphy would be represented by Peter Capaldi. Sue Perkins would play Ruth Davidson and the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie would be portrayed by 'a gentlemanly quiet person'. The Scots reckon David Cameron would be played by Hugh Grant or Colin Firth but Ed Miliband would be lumped with Woody Allen.