By Lord Ashcroft KCMG PC. Follow Lord Ashcroft on Twitter.
For most of the summer Labour’s poll lead has been in single digits. Though enough for victory at a general election, this is hardly a comfortable margin for Ed Miliband at this stage of the parliament – particularly since, as I have found in my previous research, Labour’s support is far from firm.
But as we know, the picture is seldom uniform across the country; the national headline figures can sometimes mask what is happening in marginal seats where elections are won and lost. In the last few weeks I have polled nearly 13,000 voters in the 40 Conservative seats with the smallest majorities: 32 of which the party is defending against Labour, and eight where the Liberal Democrats came second in 2010.
The encouraging news for the Tories, such as it is, is that Labour have made no further progress in their top targets seats than they had when I conducted a similar exercise in 2011. Voters here are slightly more likely than not to think Britain is heading in the right direction, and the opposition has not fully won their confidence: the Conservatives are more likely to be seen as willing to take tough decisions, and being clear about what they stand for. They still see David Cameron as better leadership material than Ed Miliband: 38 per cent say Cameron would make the best Prime Minister, compared to 28 per cent for the Labour leader.