Good news for Mr Cameron?

Taken from the Daily Telegraph’s: “Tory surge in the north will panic Labour,” 27th November 2009:

The first detailed survey of 32 northern Labour constituencies showed that Tory support in these seats was greater than the party has recorded nationally.

This is the principle of the Tory strategy: to focus efforts on the 150 or so target seats that would decide an election in which the Conservatives had to beat all records just to secure a majority of one.

If these results were spread evenly across the country, David Cameron would fall two seats short of an overall majority. But election results are not even: winning these marginals with 42 or 43 per cent would put Mr Cameron on course for power.

The survey of seats across Lancashire, Yorkshire and Humberside showed that while the party scored 39 per cent nationally, it achieved an average of 42 per cent to Labour’s 36 per cent across those 32 marginals.

When respondents were told they lived in a battleground constituency, support for the Conservatives climbed another point to 43 per cent, with Labour down one to 35.

It is tempting to conclude that in the seats that matter, voters are even more determined to give Labour a kicking. Mr Brown might look for comfort in the fact that, in the marginals, Labour scores well above 30 per cent, whereas nationally, it has been stalled in the death-zone of the mid-twenties for months.

He will doubtless focus on evidence elsewhere in the poll that Tory policies showed little sign of winning over the electorate. However, YouGov’s evidence of a Tory surge in battleground seats will sow panic in Labour ranks. Part of the fightback pursued by Downing Street in recent days was the claim that the Conservatives were getting nowhere outside their southern heartlands.

But there are awkward questions for Mr Cameron in the detail. The poll found that voters believed Mr Brown did not understand their everyday problems, by a margin of two to one. Unfortunately for Mr Cameron, they thought broadly the same of him.

The challenge facing the Conservatives becomes apparent on questions of policy. The poll in the marginal seats found that on major issues such as crime, health, and education, barely a quarter of voters thought the Tories would improve things.

Overall, voters were hardly thrilled by the idea of a Conservative government. Asked what would be the best result for Britain at the next general election, 31 per cent of those in the marginals said a Conservative government, while others were evenly divided between a Labour government or a coalition of some sort.

The good news for Mr Cameron is that he is doing better in the North and in marginals than we gave him credit for, but he has not yet escaped from the threat of a hung parliament.

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