The Conservatives appear to be on course for a resounding victory in the Newark by-election on Thursday. The Tories have certainly thrown the kitchen sink at this election (there are rumours of a three line whip on all aspiring parliamentary candidates to campaign in Newark or risk ex-communication). So, it’s clear they’re taking no chances.
The recent poll by Survation, which put them in the lead by 8% and the Ashcroft poll yesterday, showing a staggering 15% lead seem to indicate that the election is in the bag – but is it?
It is evident from being on the ground in Newark that the Blue machine is certainly in full swing and dominating the landscape, but the purple machine are making a fight of it.
Actual reports on canvass returns seem to conflict with the 15% lead predicted by the Ashcroft poll and lean closer to the Survation prediction. But for many the Tory lead is narrowing and they can foresee their 2010 election result significantly reduced come the early hours of Friday morning.
But there are some unknown’s in this election that could just bring about another quake. The by- election itself is being held because of Patrick Mercer’s political sleaze scandal (not great for the Tory brand) and Ken Clarke added a bit of spice to the simmering pot by suggesting that we are yet to feel the effects of economic recovery.
Both these issues may play a part in the mind of the voters, as will the message they want to send on Thursday.
A comfortable Conservative win could result in the UKIP bandwagon being stopped in its tracks and the “we’re listening” message being replaced by business as usual as they celebrate the fading of the protest vote. Are voters ready to risk this so soon after the hammering they gave at the local and European elections?
What about Labour and Liberal Democrat voters? Their vote will come out, although by-election turnouts are usually embarrassingly low. But there has been talk in Newark of some tactical voting going on in order to give David Cameron a bloody nose and maintain the UKIP momentum.
We will know soon enough, but anything other than a resounding Conservative win in Newark will be bad for David Cameron (and perhaps Lord Ashcroft’s credibility as a pollster), and give all party leaders food for thought as they embark on their summer break.