In my last round of polling in Conservative-Labour marginals I found the Tories consolidating in most seats where they had been ahead in previous rounds, while Labour had extended their leads where they had been doing well last year. Some races were very close and Labour had taken the lead in one constituency where the Tories had been ahead in December.
The lack of a consistent pattern in the battleground has led me to look further down the Conservative defence list to see whether there could be some surprises in seats which ought, on paper, to be safer for the Tories. I have therefore looked at the “next” seven seats by marginality: Milton Keynes South, Rossendale & Darwen, Cleethorpes, North East Somerset, Dudley South, Dover, and South Ribble. I have also polled three seats that are further down the list but are interesting for different reasons: Crewe & Nantwich, the scene of the Tories’ biggest by-election triumph in opposition, in 2008; Harlow, a classic swing seat and home to Robert Halfon, who is credited with persuading the chancellor to cancel rises in fuel duty; and Finchley & Golders Green, the part of north London once represented by Margaret Thatcher.
I found the Conservatives ahead in five of the ten seats: Cleethorpes (though by only by two points), Dover, Dudley South, Harlow and North East Somerset, where Jacob Rees-Mogg is sixteen points clear of Labour despite the Liberal Democrat vote falling by more than half.
However, I found ties in Rossendale & Darwen (where the Tory vote was unchanged since 2010 at 42%, but Labour were up ten points) and South Ribble.
I found Labour leads in three seats, albeit well within the margin of error: Crewe & Nantwich (by three points), Finchley & Golders Green (by two points) and Milton Keynes South (by two points).
As ever, it is important to remember that these are snapshots, not predictions.
In all ten seats, majorities were optimistic about the economy, both for the country as a whole and for themselves and their families. This was not related to Conservative fortunes: the most optimistic voters were in Finchley & Golders Green, which also had the biggest swing to Labour (as well as the lowest share for UKIP, meaning more direct switching to the main opposition party).
As in the previous round, Labour seem to be having the better of the ground war in all ten of these seats. Between 55% and 78% had had literature, letters, visits, phone calls or emails from Labour; between 34% and 62% said they heard from the Tories.