It seems that GB-wide polls showing the Tories in the lead are like First Buses - you hope against hope that none will ever turn up, and then after a couple of years two of them arrive at the same time and make you feel very depressed. Just hours after the appearance of the landmark Ashcroft poll showing a 2-point Conservative lead, the Guardian published this poll from their regular ICM series -
Conservatives 33% (+1)
Labour 31% (-6)
UKIP 15% (+4)
Liberal Democrats 13% (+1)
Others 9% (+1)
This is much more significant than numbers based on the entirely untested Ashcroft methodology. The ICM/Guardian series is the longest-running and most trusted set of regular polls in the UK, meaning that this 'crossover' moment must be taken extremely seriously. It's particularly striking that the collapse in the Labour vote has coincided with a 4% increase in UKIP's support. That's unlikely to mean that ex-Labour voters are switching to UKIP in droves, though - probably something odd is going on beneath the surface, such as Tory voters switching to UKIP at roughly the same rate as Labour voters are switching to the Tories.
But the real sting in this poll's tail is provided by the European election voting intention figures -
Conservatives 27% (+2)
UKIP 26% (+4)
Labour 24% (-12)
Greens 10% (+4)
Liberal Democrats 7% (+1)
If that was the result on May 22nd it would be a potentially fatal blow for the anti-independence campaign in Scotland, because it would send the most powerful possible signal to the Scottish electorate that the Tories are going to win the UK general election, and that there's no escape from the nightmare for us other than to choose our own governments in future. In reality ICM are probably underestimating UKIP a touch, because most telephone polls do. But in a sense that doesn't matter - if the Labour opposition can't even outpoll the Tories (or finish higher than third) in a relatively meaningless mid-term contest, then they might as well not bother getting out of bed for the real thing next year. And if by any chance this poll is exactly right and the Tories do win the Euro popular vote, then the anti-independence campaign won't even enjoy the temporary benefit I've long anticipated of Labour's (now non-existent) poll lead increasing by default as a result of a UKIP honeymoon that draws off Tory voters.
For "Better Together", this poll is about as bad as it gets.