Are the Conservatives beginning to pull ahead of Labour? Two polls out this week suggest this might be the case. Today's YouGov/The Sun poll puts the Tories on 36 per cent and Labour on 34 per cent — a two point lead for David Cameron's party and its highest poll rating since March 2012. Monday's Ashcroft poll had a similar result, putting the Conservatives on a three point lead ahead of Labour on 34 per cent. Both of these are within the margin of error.
While Ukip remain steady on 14 per cent in both polls and the Greens are hovering on high single digits, the most shocking thing to report from the YouGov poll is that the Liberal Democrats are down to just five per cent -- their lowest poll rating in 25 years. Considering the party polled 22 per cent at the last election, this represents an almighty fall for Nick Clegg's party. If this was repeated across the country on May 7, the number of yellow seats would be very few indeed.
So, are these polls outliers or the beginning of something? Sunday's YouGov poll had the Tories tied with Labour while Monday's has them with a small lead. The only poll this week to go against this trend is an online poll from Populus, which put Labour two points ahead of the Tories on 34 per cent. The Lib Dems are doing slightly better according to Lord Ashcroft’s polling, who puts them on seven per cent. The Lib Dems will be hoping the YouGov poll was a one off and they can build up their vote to double digits when the short campaign begins. But as James wrote in his column recently, the party is remaining out of sight and out of mind.
Both parties would argue these national poll ratings don't accurately portray how the campaign is really going on the ground. The Lib Dems in particular tend not to read national polls and only focus on seat level polling. This evening, Lord Ashcroft is releasing his latest round of constituency polling, with an event in Westminster to explain his findings. This should at least give an indication of whether the election is better or worse for the coalition partners on a local level. We’ll be reporting later on how the election is looking from this point of view.