Poll predicts Labour meltdown in East

EVERY Labour MP in the East of England would lose their seats if there was a General Election before Christmas, an authoritative survey suggested today

Graham Dines

EVERY Labour MP in the East of England would lose their seats if there was a General Election before Christmas, an authoritative survey has suggested.

The opinion poll, published two days before the Prime Minister's crucial speech in Manchester to Labour's annual conference, piles more pressure on Gordon Brown as he strives to stave off growing calls for him to stand down.

Chris Mole in Ipswich, Bob Blizzard in Waveney, former Home Secretary Charles Clarke in Norwich South, Tony Wright in Great Yarmouth, the Prime Minister's parliamentary secretary Angela Smith in Basildon and regional minister Barbara Follett in Stevenage would be swept away in a Conservative landslide which would see David Cameron installed as Prime Minister with a House of Commons majority of 146.

The only regional MPs to hold their seats would be three Liberal Democrats - Colchester's Bob Russell, Norman Lamb (Norfolk North) and David Howarth in Cambridge.

The forecast comes from PoliticsHome.com, a polling organisation founded by Stephan Shakespeare - who contested Colchester for the Tories in 1997 - and whose editor-in-chief is distinguished left of centre political commentator Andrew Rawnsley.

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PoliticsHome.com conducted more than 34,000 interviews in 238 marginal constituencies over three months, which it claims is the “largest opinion poll of its type ever conducted and gives the best ever picture of what would actually happen were there to be a General Election now.”

The Lib Dems would hold their three seats in the East of England and 44 of their existing 63 constituencies nationwide because, says Anthony Wells, head of research for the polling organisation: “There was not evidence of Liberal Democrat voters willing to tactically vote Tory in Conservative-v-Labour marginal seats.”

The Tories will take comfort from the finding that “equally, neither was there any evidence of a continuing tactical vote to keep the Tories out of these seats.”

In the east, the seats which would fall to the Tories are: Ipswich, Waveney, Basildon South & Thurrock East, Thurrock, Harlow, Bedford, Luton North, Luton South, Watford, Stevenage, Great Yarmouth, Norwich South and Norwich South.

Mr Mole, who will be defending a majority of 5,332 at the next election, said the opinion poll was “over generalised”.

“Nevertheless, I recognise that if an election was held soon, there might be little I or anyone else could do to win,” he said. “But we have a fully geared up campaign team and if the poll is narrow, I am confident we would come out on top.

“I don't recognise the hostility on the doorsteps to Labour which the pollsters have found. I don't detect any sense that people are choosing to vote positively for the Conservatives.

“The political landscape has changed dramatically in the past 12 months - and it could swing back during the next year.”