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Ian Austin faces tough election fight in Dudley as Ukip eye key marginal

Ian Austin faces tough election fight in Dudley as Ukip eye key marginal

🕔19.Dec 2014

Labour MP and former West Midlands Minister Ian Austin is facing a tough battle against Ukip to retain his Dudley North seat at the General Election, according to new research.

The latest Lord Ashcroft opinion poll looking at key marginal seats suggests that with polling day just five months away support for Austin is running neck and neck with Ukip candidate Bill Etheridge.

When asked which political party they would vote for, 34 per cent said Labour and 34 per cent chose Ukip. The Conservatives were on 27 per cent.

Only when respondents were asked how they would vote in their own constituency did support for Mr Austin creep up, putting him on 37 per cent and Mr Etheridge on 34 per cent. Conservative candidate Afzal Amin was on 24 per cent.

Mr Austin, formerly a key adviser to Gordon Brown, scraped home in Dudley North at the 2010 General Election with a majority of 649 votes over the Conservative candidate.

However, 14 per cent of the vote in the Black Country constituency in 2010 was shared by right wing parties – Ukip, the BNP and National Front.

Last month Mr Austin hit the headlines by urging Ed Miliband and Labour to get tough on immigration.

He said Labour should embrace tough policies including a ban on benefit payments to new migrants who have paid nothing into the system. His intervention was regarded by many as an attempt to see off the Ukip threat in his constituenctaking a tough stance on immigration.

The Ashcroft poll looked at four constituencies thought to be at critical or high risk of a challenge from Ukip – Great Grimsby, Dudley North, Plymouth Moor View and Rother Valley.

Lord Ashcroft said: “I found Labour ahead – just – in all four of these seats. But if the Labour Party is worried about them, it has good reason to be.

“In three of the seats I found Ukip ahead by up to six points on the standard voting intention question, and they were tied with Labour in Dudley. It was only when people were asked how they would vote in their own constituency that Labour’s lead reasserted itself: six points in Rother Valley, five points in Plymouth Moor View, three points in Dudley North and one point in Great Grimsby.

“In the seats as a whole the swing to UKIP was 13.5 per cent.”

Looking at other marginal seats across England, the poll found that more than one fifth (22%) of 2010 Labour voters said they would support Ukip when asked who they would vote for in an election tomorrow, as did 31 per of 2010 Tories and 30 per cent of 2010 Lib Dems.

When asked how they would vote in their own constituency, fractionally more Tories said they would switch (32%) with the proportions defecting from Labour and the Lib Dems declined to 19% and 25% respectively. Of those naming Ukip in the first question, two per cent named the Conservatives in the “own constituency” question, six per cent named Labour and four per cent said they didn’t know what they would do.

Ashcroft also polled 1,000 voters in each of eight seats with Tory majorities over Labour of between 7.1 per cent and 8.1 per cent. Four of the eight would stay in Conservative hands – Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire, Elmet & Rothwell, Harrow East, Pendle, and Warwick & Leamington (each with swings to Labour of 2.5 per cent or below) – and a fifth, South Swindon, would be a tie.

Labour would gain Stevenage with a five per cent swing and Ealing Central & Acton with a seven per cent swing.

The findings suggest some room for movement as the campaign develops. Only just over half (52%) of Conservative defectors to UKIP, and only 60 per cent of Lib Dem defectors to Labour, ruled out returning to their 2010 parties at the next election.

Labour is ahead in 39 of the net 46 marginal gains required to extinguish the Tory majority in the House of Commons. But Ashcroft points out that “some of the margins look very slim, not just over the Tories but over UKIP”.

His polling team will look in detail at Scottish constituencies in the New Year, where Labour faces a tough fight against a resurgent Scottish Nationalist Party.

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