Ukip could be on course to snatch two parliamentary seats from the Conservatives at the next election and be close to grabbing a third, according to a new poll of marginal constituencies published today.
Lord Ashcroft, the Tory peer and pollster, has been examining voting intentions in 14 key battleground seats held by the Conservative that, in the Spring, had Labour in second place.
According to the survey, Nigel Farage's party is leading the polls in Thurrock and Thanet South and has jumped ahead of Labour into second place in Great Yarmouth.
Ashcroft's latest poll of marginal seats that are Labour targets (click to enlarge)
Farage has said he will soon announce which seat he intends to fight at the general election. He has previously indicated that he would seek a constituency in Kent - suggesting Thanet South could be in his sights. Ukip has already selected MEP Tim Aker as its candidate for the Essex seat of Thurrock. And the party has chosen local councillor in Matthew Smith Great Yarmouth.
Thanet South could be the ideal seat for Farage, as its sitting Tory MP, Laura Sandys, is pro-European Union but has also decided to step down in 2015.
In anticipation that Farage will pick a fight in the Kent seat, the Conservatives have selected a former Ukip leader, Craig Mackinlay, as their parliamentary candidate.
Lord Ashcroft said: "Ukip’s national vote share is not the most useful guide to their prospects at the election. Though they score 21% across this battleground, their vote in these seats ranges from 9% in Hendon to 31% in Great Yarmouth, 33% in Thanet South and 36% in Thurrock.
"We will see whether the party can sustain this level of support in these constituencies for another ten months. But with Nigel Farage planning to concentrate his party’s resources in just 25 targets, UKIP’s impact is likely to be felt in a series of local contests to which their headline vote share may bear little relation."