Tories catching up - but it's not enough

THE Conservatives are at long last within striking distance of Labour in opinion polls, their best ratings since John Major's surprise victory in the 1992 General Election.

By Graham Dines

THE Conservatives are at long last within striking distance of Labour in opinion polls, their best ratings since John Major's surprise victory in the 1992 General Election.

That's the good news for Tory leader David Cameron - the bad is that they are still some way of getting near an overall majority and predictions suggest they are some way behind in three seats in our part of the world which they will have to take if they are to form a government.

Extrapolating the current standings in the opinion polls, the Conservatives will not win Ipswich or Waveney from Labour if a General Election was to be held now. Nor would they unseat Colchester's Liberal Democrat MP, thanks to the continuing decline in the Labour vote in the town which seems inclined to lend the Lib Dems its support rather than switching directly to the Conservatives.

In the East of England, predictions from the latest batch of opinion polls show the Conservatives winning Basildon, Bedford, Great Yarmouth, Harlow, and Watford from Labour.

Elsewhere, the party would also reclaim their former safe seat of Birmingham Edgbaston, which is one those iconic divisions - the party which wins here in Britain's second city forms a Government. Labour would lose four seats in Wales - three to the Tories, one to the Nationalists - but the Tories would still only have one constituency in Scotland.

Most Read

Mr Cameron's attempts to re-engage the electorate in northern England would see them winning 14 seats, including that of Communities and Local Government Secretary Ruth Kelly - the most high profile Cabinet minister at risk of being defeated next time - in Bolton West.

An election today on current parliamentary boundaries would give Labour 286 seats, the Tories 280, the Lib Dems 48, and other parties 11. On new boundaries due to come into force on June 30, it's neck and neck.

Some time soon, there will be a big test for Mr Cameron. Unlike his two predecessors Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Howard, he is faced with a by-election in a Tory held seat.

The death of Eric Forth means a contest in rock solid Bromley and Chislehurst where the Conservatives had a majority of 13,342 at the last election, with Mr Forth polling more than 50% of the vote.

These predictions, from the web site Electoral Calculus, are based on opinion polls from April 21 to May 9, sampling 6,532 people.

I ATTENDED new Home Secretary John Reid's media reception in London, which reinforced my long held belief that this witty, charismatic Scotsman who is also a hard headed Blairite loyalist bruiser has all the hallmarks needed to become a future Prime Minister.

IPSWICH DOCKS GOES GREEN: After a lapse of almost five years, freight traffic has resumed from Ipswich's Griffin Wharf. A train of 20 wagons carrying sea dredged aggregate, operated by English Welsh Scottish Railways on behalf of Brett Industries, left Ipswich docks and joined the main line via the steep incline at Halifax Junction and headed for Bury St Edmunds via Harwich. Although initially a fortnightly service, Ipswich Transport Society's Graham Hardinge says it is hoped to increase trains to two per week - good news for residents who want to see heavy trucks off the overcrowded roads of Ipswich and Suffolk.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter