Ukip are within “striking distance” of taking three Tory-held target seats in May, polling by the Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft has found.
The polling in four seats judged to be Ukip targets suggested that the Tories would hold them all, but huge swings to Ukip in three of the constituencies meant they could be vulnerable.
The Tory poll lead was just one point in Castle Point, three points in Boston and Skegness and six points in South Basildon and East Thurrock. The situation in North East Cambridgeshire was more comfortable for the Conservatives, with a 21-point gap separating them from Nigel Farage’s party.
The Ashcroft poll put the Tories on 37 per cent in the constituency, with Ukip on 36 per cent and Labour on 16 per cent. That represents a 21.5 per cent swing from the Conservatives to Ukip since 2010, when Rebecca Harris won the seat with a majority of 7,632. In Boston and Skegness the Tories were on 38 per cent, Ukip on 35 per cent and Labour on 17 per cent, an 18.5 per cent swing from the Conservatives to Ukip.
The figures for South Basildon and East Thurrock showed a three-way battle developing between the Tories on 35 per cent, Ukip on 29 per cent and Labour on 28 per cent, a Conservative to Ukip swing of 16 per cent.
In North East Cambridgeshire the Tories were on 46 per cent with Ukip trailing in second on 25 per cent and Labour on 17 per cent.
Lord Ashcroft said: “It seems the Conservatives need not worry too much about the last of these, where I found them 21 points ahead, despite a 13 per cent swing to Ukip.
“But in the other three Ukip are within striking distance.”
Ukip have intimated strongly that they are targeting Labour strongholds in Yorkshire this May.