26/02/2013 10:59 GMT | Updated 28/04/2013 10:12 BST

Lib Dems Cling To Eastleigh Lead Despite Rennard Allegations, But Tank Nationally

If any more evidence was needed that the Lib Dem by-election machine is bomb-proof, a poll out today conducted in the wake of the Lord Rennard sex-scandal shows Nick Clegg's candidate is still on course for victory.

A survey conducted by Tory peer Lord Ashcroft puts the Lib Dem's Mike Thornton on 33% and the Conservative candidate Maria Hutchings on 28%.

The survey appears to show that Tory hopes that the accusations levelled against the Lib Dem by-election guru would help them grab the lead have been dashed.

The survey results must be even more galling for David Cameron and CCHQ given the by-election was called in the first place after the incumbent Lib Dem, Chris Huhne, had to quit as an MP after admitting perverting the course of justice.

By contrast a national poll conducted by ComRes for The Independent shows support for the Lib Dems tanking, with the deputy prime minister's party dropping to fourth place behind Ukip with just 8%.

If repeated at a general election the Lib Dems would lose 39 seats and leave them with just 18 MPs.

Aside from the two-horse-race at the top in Eastleigh, the story of Thursday night will also be how well Nigel Farage's Ukip perform.

It's candidate Diane James is in a strong third with 21%, ahead of Labour's John O'Farell who languishes in fourth place on 12%.

Writing on The HuffingtonPost UK on Tuesday, Farage said his party was gaining votes from people who had not voted for years.

"Ukip are picking up support across the spectrum. Only a third comes from former Tory voters, the rest we are harvesting from Labour, Lib Dems and most promisingly, from people who haven't voted in years," he said.

"I put £100 on Ukip last Friday, at odds of 25-1, and I am pleased to say we are running well. Maybe Eastleigh will be the by election where Ukip makes history. I really hope so."