By Tim Montgomerie
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The Times (£) has published the third opinion poll of the Eastleigh by-election campaign and it will do nothing to correct the overwhelming media narrative that the Liberal Democrats are on course to keep the seat vacated by Chris Huhne. AIt puts the Lib Dems ahead by 5%. As with the other two polls (from Lord Ashcroft and then Survation) the Lib Dem share of the vote is down sharply but so, too, is the Tory vote. The party that is growing is UKIP;
Graphic from The Times
I haven't seen the data but I imagine the UKIP candidate is taking votes from across the political spectrum but I also imagine UKIP is hurting the Tories most - and in two ways. One by winning over otherwise Tory voters and two, by pulling the party away from reaching beyond its core vote. As I noted on Thursday morning it is obvious that the Tory campaign has been looking over its shoulder at UKIP, more than worrying about other kinds of voters. Tory leaflets are heavily emphasising harder-line Tory policies on immigration, welfare and Europe rather than, say, pensions, the NHS and childcare. Maria Hutchings is, herself, an almost ideal anti-UKIP candidate. Her views on gay marriage and leaving the EU mean that she's hardly a Cameroon. Matthew Parris has described her as a "the candidate of many ConservativeHome enthusiasts’ dreams"!
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