The UK Independence party is within striking distance of winning three of its target seats from the Conservatives at the general election, according to polling in those constituencies.
Data released on Thursday by Tory donor Lord Ashcroft showed that in Castle Point, Essex, where Ukip leader Nigel Farage launched his party’s election campaign last week, Ukip is just one point behind the Tories. This represents a 21.5 per cent swing away from the Tories.
Two other seats showing positive polling for Ukip were Boston & Skegness, where the party is three points behind the Tories with an 18.5 per cent swing, and South Basildon & East Thurrock, where it is six points behind the Conservatives with a 16 per cent swing.
Of the four seats scrutinised by Lord Ashcroft, only one showed a more positive message for the Conservatives. In North East Cambridgeshire, David Cameron’s party has maintained a 21-point lead despite a swing to Ukip.
Chris Bruni-Lowe, Ukip’s head of campaigns, described the polling as “very encouraging” and showed that local candidates were making “great progress” against incumbent MPs.
“All over the country our candidates are taking the fight to the Westminster establishment,” Mr Bruni-Lowe said. “And looking at these polls, [Ukip candidates] look set to create a number of upsets.”
Analysis of voters in all four constituencies showed that 61 per cent of Conservative-Ukip switchers stated that an overall Tory majority was their preferred election outcome. Nearly a third of all those planning to vote Ukip wanted to see a Tory majority and 13 per cent wanted to see the Tories leading a coalition. By comparison, nearly a quarter of Ukip voters said they would prefer Labour to have an overall majority.
Mr Farage formally kicked off his party’s election campaign last week on Canvey Island, which is within the Castle Point constituency. He announced that Ukip would not enter a coalition with any party after the election, and that he would not consider a deal with Labour in which he propped up the party by backing its budget and supporting it in a confidence vote — in the event of a minority government — unless its leader Ed Miliband dropped his opposition to a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU.
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