THE latest polling ahead of next year’s General Election sees Labour hold a one point lead over the Conservatives.
The poll, commissioned by Tory peer Lord Ashcroft in a number of marginal seats across the country, sees Labour gaining two points and the Conservatives dropping five to leave Labour on 35 and the Tories on 34.
The polling also shows a 14-point swing to UKIP and a collapse of the Liberal Democrat vote, down by 14 points, with others – including the Greens and BNP – picking up three points.
Chris Matheson, Labour’s Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Chester, said: “It’s very good news that Labour is leading in the polls in Chester. We talk to hundreds of residents every week about the issues that matter to them.
“There’s a clear feeling the city has really declined since 2010. People feel that Chester’s been left behind. There is still no sign that the cost of living crisis in Chester is improving.
“There is clearly a strong desire for a fairer, more prosperous Britain, and we will keep on working hard to win the confidence of all Chester residents up to and beyond next May’s General Election.”
Lord Ashcroft, a former Tory party donor, suggests that the Conservatives and Labour are losing votes to UKIP but Labour’s and the Green’s vote is being bolstered by disgruntled Liberal Democrats.
The city’s Conservative MP Stephen Mosley said: “Lord Ashcroft’s poll is clear: if you vote UKIP here in Chester, you get Labour and Ed Miliband.
“In Chester, we have a record to be proud of. Youth unemployment has fallen by 80 per cent from 610 in 2009 to just 120 last month.
“More than 36,500 households in Chester have had their income tax cut. Britain has the fastest growing economy in the G7 with Chester leading the way.
“Only last month, Bristol Myers-Squibb announced 200 new high spec jobs as they base their European and North African Capability Centre at the Business Park on Wrexham Road. Our long-term economic plan is delivering for Chester.”
But Stephen Ingram, UKIP’s Parliamentary Candidate, questioned the poll results. He said UKIP’s support on the doorstep was stronger than the poll suggested.
He said: “I’ve had a look at this poll and whilst it is interesting that it reflects our support is going up, I don`t think it’s fully correlating to support on the doorstep.
“The result in Cheshire West and Chester in the European elections saw UKIP coming first, Conservatives second and Labour third – a significant difference to this snapshot poll.
“The European result was not merely a protest vote as some would like to think. I’ve been on the doorstep in ‘traditional’ Labour areas long enough to know the level of votes they are losing – equally in perceived Conservative areas.
“Chester residents, like the rest of the country, are now demanding more from the British political system, because they are clearly not being heard regarding numerous fundamental issues facing Britain. It is clear where more and more
are looking to transfer their vote.”
The Liberal Democrats candidate, Cllr Bob Thompson, said the polls were concerning but he was taking them “with a pinch of salt”.
He said: “Lord Ashcroft was one of the significant donors to the Conservative party so I would not regard this as a entirely reliable. I suspect he wanted to give the supporters of the Tories a kick to get them out campaigning.
“Personally I’ve been getting a warm reception on the doorsteps, although there are a few people who bring up the bedroom tax which irritates me a little as it was a Tory policy.
“I’m a local politician and clearly when there is any polling going on, though I take this with a pinch of salt, naturally one is still concerned.
“But there’s still time before the election and I’ve got to get out there and get the message across about what the Lib Dems have achieved in Government.”