Nick Clegg looks set to be saved from losing his seat in the General Election - thanks to Tory voters backing the Liberal Democrats on a "breathtaking" scale to keep Labour out of government, according to a new poll.
The Guardian/ICM poll suggests widespread tactical voting from Tories in the South Yorkshire constituency of Sheffiled Hallam, where Clegg is at risk of losing his seat - and ultimately his leadership of the Liberal Democrats.
It found that nearly half (48%) of the people who said they backed the Tory party on a national level are planning to vote for the Lib Dem leader.
The poll gave the 48-year-old a comfortable seven-point lead over Labour rival Oliver Coppard, who is on 35%. Ian Walker, the candidate for the Conservatives, is on 12%.
Martin Boon from ICM Unlimited told The Guardian: “Some caution is needed because some of the sub-samples involved here are small, but this looks like evidence of Tory tactical voting to save Nick Clegg – and on a breathtaking scale.”
A series of surveys had previously shown the Liberal Democrat leader trailing in Sheffield Hallam and in danger of being kicked out by voters in the South Yorkshire seat he has held since 2005.
It also appears that Nick Clegg's name is key to his fate in the polls - the Lib Dems said the research confirmed their belief that that the Deputy Prime Minister performed more strongly where voters were given the names of the candidates.
Without the names being given, Labour was ahead in the seat, by 34% to 32%.
Polling by Lord Ashcroft has previously shown little evidence of active campaigning by the Tories in the seat, which Clegg held with a majority of 15,284 in 2010.
A Lib Dem spokesman said: "The only poll that matters is on Thursday. Nick has always maintained that he was confident but not complacent about the contest.
"But this poll underlines what we have long said: that when faced with the actual choice on the ballot paper, between Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband's Labour candidate, the people of Sheffield Hallam back Nick Clegg's record of delivering for south-west Sheffield, an area neglected for decades by Labour.
"But that doesn't mean we will slacken off on the doorstep over the next 72 hours.
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"Elections should be contests, not coronations, and Nick Clegg and the Sheffield Hallam Lib Dems will be out come rain or shine fighting for every vote."
Martin Boon, of ICM, said: "Some caution is needed because some of the sub-samples involved here are small but this looks like evidence of Tory tactical voting to save Nick Clegg - and on a breathtaking scale."
ICM Unlimited interviewed a random sample of 501 adults by telephone from May 1 to 3 and the results were weighted.
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