THE Conservatives look set to lose many of the key battle ground seats William Hague was brought in to defend, latest polling has shown.
Vital marginal seats such as Tory-held Pudsey are now neck and neck or worse with Labour, polling by Lord Ashcroft has revealed.
Bookies shortened the odds of Labour taking the Pudsey seat from 2/1 to 6/4 as the Tory peer’s research showed Labour is on track to seize enough seats from the Conservatives to become the largest party in Westminster.
Leader of the House Mr Hague has been tasked by the prime minister with leading the Tory fight in many of the most important seats, including several across the north, and has previously told The Yorkshire Post he believes the party can win in a repeat of the 1992 election shock.
The full scale of the task before him continues to emerge in regular marginals polling by Lord Ashcroft.
In Pudsey, where Stuart Andrew is defending a 1,659 majority, Labour are tied neck and neck on 36% when pollsters relocate some undecided votes, a standard practise regarded as more accurate by the industry.
But on the basic question of who they would prefer, Labour at 30% had an 8% lead over the Conservatives.
The adjusted poll gave Ukip just 1% in the polls.
More reassuring for Mr Andrew, some 29% said that even though they were dissatisfied with David Cameron, they still preferred him to Ed Miliband.
Mr Andrew said that it was increasingly clear that seats such as his “hold the key to Downing Street.”
He added: “This poll should serve a vital reminder that we have to do more to make sure our message is heard, that what we have done on the economy cannot be put at risk.
“I know from the doorsteps that immigration is a big concern, we have reduced it by more than third from outside Europe but clearly people still want to see more done.”
The survey carried out for Lord Ashcroft suggested that the number of voters switching directly from Tories to Labour is smaller in seats where Ukip is performing strongly.
The findings will fuel concern in Mr Miliband’s party that any complacency about the impact on Labour of the rise of Ukip could rob them of victory in May 2015.
In his latest poll of marginal seats, Lord Ashcroft questioned more than 1,000 voters in 11 Conservative-held constituencies which are not among the Tories’ most vulnerable seats but where Labour took second place in 2010 and will be hopeful of winning next year.
The survey found an overall 5% swing from Tories to Labour in these seats - enough to snatch nine of them.
Coupled with previous surveys in more marginal Tory-held constituencies, Lord Ashcroft said the results suggested at least 29 seats would fall to Labour if the findings were repeated at the general election.
He said the swing varied “significantly” depending on the Ukip presence, with a strong showing from Nigel Farage’s party enough to deny Labour a lead in Pudsey. “Though nine of these seats would change hands on the basis of these snapshots, Labour will not feel comfortable in many of them,” said Lord Ashcroft.
The Tory peer said the figures supported the theory that Ukip could hamper Labour in Tory-held target seats by diverting voters who might otherwise switch straight from blue to red.