Salmond versus Jardine: battle for Gordon is a “two horse race”

Alex Salmond at SNP campaign

Lord Ashcroft’s constituency polling suggests that Alex Salmond is on course to become the MP for Gordon. Could there be another outcome?

Gordon has long been a Liberal Democrat seat, currently held by Sir Malcolm Bruce, however, the long-time MP is stepping down, with Christine Jardine becoming main candidate against Alex Salmond.

In 2010, Malcolm Bruce won with 36% of the vote, with the SNP coming in second on 22% of the vote and Labour in third with 20%. The Conservatives came fourth with just under 19%.

Ashcroft’s polling puts the SNP in first place with 41% of the vote in standard voting intentions. The Liberal Democrats are in third place on 21% of the vote, ahead of Labour on 17% and the Conservatives on 15%.

However, when respondents were asked specifically about their constituency, the shares of the answers for the respondents rose for the Lib Dems and the SNP. A total of 43% of respondents said they would vote SNP, whilst 26% said they planned to vote for the Liberal Democrats, putting the SNP 17% ahead.

Writing on her Facebook like page, the Lib Dems’ Jardine said:

"Today's Ashcroft poll shows Gordon is a clear two horse race between the Lib Dems, who will stand up for the local community on the issues hat matter to them, and the SNP, who have taken their eye off the ball and have short-changed the North-East."

Salmond’s Facebook page, shared a video from Channel Four of him canvassing, and said:

“The residents of Dyce we spoke to realise that the more seats the SNP wins in May, the more powers we will gain for Scotland.”

The battle for Gordon is shaping up to be a two horse race. There are a few reasons why the Liberal Democrats have a chance, and that Alex Salmond’s bid to become an MP once more could be stopped.

The SNP clearly have the upper hand, but Jardine is Salmond’s main opponent. Just compare Ashcroft’s poll of Gordon, with the poll of Danny Alexander’s seat, in which the SNP are on 50% well ahead of the Lib Dems on 21%. It looks as if Alexander has little chance in returning to Westminster, whereas Salmond could face strong opposition.

Additionally, the Liberal Democrats are clearly putting in a lot of effort to defend the seat. According to Ashcoft’s poll, 16% of respondent said they had heard from the party, behind the 23% who said they had heard from the SNP. The poll was conducted in January so it is likely that these number will have grown.

Furthermore, there is a decent chance that voters intending to vote for other parties could vote Lib Dem to keep Alex Salmond out.

Of Conservative voters in Gordon, 82% said they would rule out switching to the SNP, suggesting strong anti-SNP sentiment among such voters. 80% said they would rule out voting for Labour. But, in good news for Salmond’s main opposition, Jardine, just 43% of Tory voters said they would rule out voting Lib Dem.

What this shows is strong anti-SNP feeling among Conservatives, and that many would be willing to switch. Combining this with the fact that the Liberal Democrats are second in the seat, it suggests that some Tory voters could switch to Lib Dem in an attempt to keep out the former first minister. It is clear that the Lib Dems will need to convince Conservatives to vote Lib Dem in order to keep the seat.

The challenge for Jardine however, comes with persuading Labour voters in the area to switch. 61% have ruled out switching to the Lib Dems, the same percentage who have ruled out switching to the SNP. Nonetheless, that means that perhaps 39% of Labour voters could be persuaded.

For the Liberal Democrats to win, they will need to convince Tories to jump ship, as well as Labour voters. The latter will be a much harder task, if Ashcroft's numbers are correct.

For Alex Salmond to take the seat, the SNP will need to hold onto those intending to vote for them, which should not be too challenging since around 76% to 84% of SNP voters have ruled out switching to the other three main parties. Additionally, they have a chance of pulling more Labour voters towards them.

Overall, Ashcroft’s polls indicate that SNP are surging and will likely take a large chunk of Labour held seats. Alexander’s seat looks likely go to the SNP, but it seems possible that in the Aberdeenshire Council area, which rejected independence over six to four, Jardine in Gordon has a chance in preventing Salmond from returning to Westminster.

The full results of Ashcroft’s polls can be found here.

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