I’m ahead in Sheffield, Clegg insists

NICK CLEGG has insisted Liberal Democrat polling shows him “firmly ahead” in Sheffield Hallam despite a fresh survey from Lord Ashcroft indicating he is losing the race with Labour by one point.

Miriam Gonzalez Durantez and husband Nick Clegg make apple and blackberry crumble during a visit to a school

The former Tory peer found a slight narrowing of the gap from his last poll in the constituency in March, finding Labour candidate Oliver Coppard on 37%, up one point, and Mr Clegg on 36%, up two.

The Conservatives trailed on 15%, down one, while Ukip held steady on 7%.

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Liberal Democrat leader Mr Clegg is defending a huge majority of more than 15,000 votes and would normally be considered to hold one of the safest seats in the country.

And speaking to reporters on his campaign battle bus Mr Clegg insisted internal polling carried out by the Lib Dems showed him “firmly ahead”.

Mr Clegg, who has not seen the details of the poll, said: “Our own polling shows that we are firmly ahead.”

He added that Lord Ashcroft’s polls did not identify the candidates by name.

“Just call me old-fashioned, but if you are going to try to work out how people are going to vote, ask them the question they are actually going to be asked on polling day,” he said.

Lord Ashcroft, who insists his polls are a “snapshot” and not a prediction, also found Ukip leader Nigel Farage is still in second place in the contest for South Thanet, with the gap to Tory candidate Craig Mackinlay now standing at two points.

It found Mr Mackinlay polling at 34%, up one point on November, with Mr Farage on 32%, unchanged. Labour candidate Will Scobie was in a close third on 26%, also unchanged.

Solicitor General Robert Buckland faces a tight race to hold Swindon South, according to the third Lord Ashcroft poll out today.

The Tories are unchanged on 37% in the constituency, while Labour, with Anne Snelgrove, have dropped back one point to 36%, since the previous survey in March.

Of the latest polls, Lord Ashcroft said: “South Swindon is a very tight Conservative-Labour marginal which I have polled twice before, finding a tie both times. My latest survey, completed yesterday, found the Tories with a one-point lead - a statistically insignificant movement that leaves the seat too close to call.

“In Thanet South, I found the Conservatives two points ahead of Ukip, 34% to 32%, despite nearly nine out of 10 voters there saying they have had campaign contact from the challengers.

“In my recent polls in the constituency I have found the Labour share drifting down as the Tory share edges up, suggesting that Labour supporters may be lending their vote to the Conservatives to stop Nigel Farage. However, the lead remains well within the margin of error and the seat could still go either way.

“Labour’s lead in Sheffield Hallam is down to a single point, compared to two in March and three in November. While 30% of 2010 Liberal Democrats in the seat say they intend to vote Labour next week, 31% of 2010 Conservatives say they will now vote Lib Dem.

“Tory voters in the seat were also notably less likely than they are elsewhere to say that they rule out voting for Nick Clegg’s party. Their decisions could have more impact than most in determining the shape of the next government.”

The polls involved 1,000 voters interviewed by telephone in each constituency between April 22 and April 28.