- An ICM survey of 504 voters in Oldham East and Saddleworth finds the Labour candidate is on 44% (up 12%) since the election and the Lib Dem candidate is on 27% (down 5%). The Tory vote has been squeezed - falling from 26% last May to 18% now.
- A poll of 1,503 voters in the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election, undertaken by Lord Ashcroft - and published in tomorrow's Sunday Telegraph - suggests that Labour has the support of 46% of voters (up 14% since the General Election) and only 29% will vote Liberal Democrat (-3%). The Conservatives are in third place on 15% (down 11% on last May's result). Only 11% of those surveyed said that they would change their mind.
On the back of these two polls the Lib Dems will undoubtedly be distributing leaflets this week attempting to squeeze the Tory vote further but 17% looks too big a gap to close.
DETAIL FROM THE LORD ASHCROFT/ SUNDAY TELEGRAPH POLL
The biggest factor changing people's votes appears to be the tuition fees vote. 28% said the Lib Dem/ Coalition u-turn was the biggest single factor influencing their vote. The next biggest factor at 10% was "voting tactically/ a Conservative vote is a wasted vote". 5% said "didn't like Phil Woolas" was their primary reason.
The Lib Dems would appear to have fought the highest visibility campaign but not enough to overwhelm the pro-Labour bandwagon. Although the Tory campaign has been more impressive in recent days a by-election is won in the first two or three weeks when early literature establishes which parties are likeliest to win and which issues will dominate. The Tory campaign has been subject to a classic third runner squeeze.
Labour would probably have still won the seat - by 28% to 23% - if either the Lib Dem or Tory had stood aside and a joint coalition candidate had attempted to win the seat although the table below suggests many voters would have also been confused by such a move:
It's not all bad for the Tories or David Cameron though. Far from it. Even in this hostile environment with the Conservatives on 15% David Cameron is seen as the best of the three party leaders and the Coalition is preferred to the disunited Ed Miliband and Alan Johnson when it comes to the economy:
This should be a warning to Labour. They might win on Thursday but probably as a protest vote. In two key determinants of long-term voting behaviour - party leader standing and economic trustworthiness - they are losing to David Cameron, George Osborne and to some extent Nick Clegg. The Coalition has a massive 37% to 22% advantage on the economy.