Tories ahead in Ipswich in 2019 General Election campaign
PUBLISHED: 05:30 09 December 2019 | UPDATED: 12:17 09 December 2019
Conservative Tom Hunt may have his nose ahead in the contest for Ipswich in Thursday's general election, according to voters on the streets but it is still all to play for.
We have conducted an opinion survey - using a sample of around 200 voters in the town - which shows Mr Hunt leads Labour rival Sandy Martin by 11%, and it would seem that Mr Martin's biggest challenge could be with his own party leader.
The results are an almost exact mirror image of a similar poll we did two and a half years ago which was the first indication that Mr Martin could be about to beat Ben Gummer in that election.
When we asked who people would be voting for in the forthcoming election, most gave the name of their chosen party. A few said "Sandy Martin," or just "Sandy." One said "Mr Hunt," and a few said "Boris."
No one said Jeremy Corbyn.
We did not ask anyone why they were voting in a particular way, but information volunteered by those surveyed was very interesting.
It seems the Labour campaign is struggling locally because of their chosen leader - many voters told us they could not vote for the party, or were having second thoughts, because they did not like Mr Corbyn.
One said: "I like Sandy Martin and I think he's a good MP. I'd like him to carry on - but I just can't take the risk of Corbyn winning!"
I'd heard claims from Conservative campaigners that Mr Corbyn was prompting voters to change their votes - but this poll result seems to give credence to that.
One voter who said he would be voting Labour said: "I've met Sandy a few times and he's doing a really good job." But as he walked away, he turned around to say: "But if there's any risk of Corbyn becoming Prime Minister, I'll have to vote Tory on the day!"
Interestingly, no one volunteered that they were voting against the Conservatives because they did not like Boris Johnson.
Labour campaigners have privately confirmed that the party leader is a problem for them in Ipswich. One said: "We have to tell residents that Sandy Martin is on the ballot paper, not Jeremy Corbyn. Sandy is going down very well but we don't know what they'll do on the day."
And another campaigner admitted that the party leader is a real negative for many potential voters on the doorstep. Mr Corbyn has not been to this area - and one Labour member admitted many of those campaigning were quite happy to leave it as a local effort, although they did appreciate help from neighbouring Labour Parties.
We spoke to 200 voters from the Ipswich constituency at a number of locations across the town.
While our methodology does not meet pollsters' scientific standards, it is a method we have used each election since 1992 and we have not yet been proved wrong on election day itself.
Candidates carry on campaigning after poll shows tight finish ahead
Ipswich Labour candidate Sandy Martin was not hugely surprised to hear that people were expressing concerns about Jeremy Corbyn - but felt that was par for the course for a party leader.
He said: "We have heard people say that. But when you have large sections of the national newspapers attacking him every day that has an effect.
"Even for those who don't read the papers, they hear what is being said. But the same thing happened with Gordon Brown and especially with Ed Miliband."
Mr Martin said he was confident that people he was able to meet during the campaign were coming around to seeing why they should vote for him.
He said: "I cannot meet everyone in the town and not everyone wants to speak to me, but those who do seem to welcome the fact that we are working for Ipswich.
"This poll shows that there is everything still to play for and I am the only candidate who can defeat the Conservative who has been brought in from outside.
"I will continue to fight for my home town and I believe that the people of Ipswich will be best serve by a dedicated local MP."
His team would continue to campaign strongly in a bid to ensure the best possible vote on Thursday.
Conservative candidate Tom Hunt said the views expressed by voters in our survey did chime with what people had told his team on the doorsteps of the town.
He said: "We are picking up the votes of a lot of people who say they have always been Labour voters but they just cannot stomach the thought of Jeremy Corbyn going into Number 10.
"We are also getting people telling us they just want to get Brexit sorted out - and finding Labour voters who want to leave the EU and want us get on with it. They are all turning out to vote Conservative this time."
He was pleased to hear that he was ahead in the survey - but said he and his team would not be complacent and would continue to work hard in the last few days of the campaign.
Although the result of the survey looks clear, the fact that more than 35% of people we asked could not tell us how they would vote means things could still change.
In 2017 we predicted the overall result accurately - but the margin of Mr Martin's victory was tighter than our poll had suggested which means there could be a very tight result when the votes are counted in the early hours of Friday morning.