Apology over Miliband support claim
A Conservative pollster has apologised to Ed Miliband after it emerged research that suggested support for the Labour leader had significantly dropped off in his own constituency was incorrect.
Lord Ashcroft published findings last week that showed Mr Miliband's 26-point general election lead in Doncaster North had been squeezed to 12 points, with Ukip in second place.
It also suggested he could be vulnerable to tactical voting in the South Yorkshire seat, as the combined total of Ukip supporters (28%) and Tories (23%) outnumbered the 40% who said they would vote Labour.
Ahead of the release of the study, Lord Ashcroft tweeted: "Released tomorrow polling in Doncaster North showing Ukip 2nd so if Tories tactically vote for Ukip Miliband loses #votetorygetlabour!".
But the Tory peer today admitted there had been an error in the way the research had been weighted that meant the poll looked "considerably less favourable towards Ed Miliband than it actually is".
It found Labour leads Ukip by 29 points in the constituency and voters back Mr Miliband as the leader who would be the best prime minister by 14 points.
In a statement on his website, Lord Ashcroft said one of the most important principles behind his polling is transparency and, though "uncomfortable", it was crucial to admit to errors.
He wrote: "A mistake at the data processing stage meant that the poll included too many Conservative voters and not enough Labour voters. This made opinion in Doncaster North look considerably less favourable towards Ed Miliband than it actually is."
"In a nutshell, Labour lead Ukip by 29 points in Doncaster North, not 12; Miliband leads (David) Cameron as best PM by 14 points, not one point; Miliband's constituents would rather see him as PM than Cameron; they give him the highest ratings of the four main party leaders, not the third highest; and they trust Miliband and (Ed) Balls more on the economy than Cameron and (George) Osborne, not the reverse," he added.
"I hope readers will appreciate that I always aim to conduct my research to the highest standards, that data is always checked, and that instances like this are very rare. As ever, I welcome questions and observations on my research, and will always seek to correct errors that inevitably crop up from time to time.
"Meanwhile, my apologies to all readers and especially to Ed Miliband."