A MAJOR poll by a rich Tory peer suggests Labour will WIN the Worcester seat at next year’s general election – despite the party suffering at the polls last week.

Lord Ashcroft has released details of a shock poll of 26,000 voters across the country which names Worcester as one of 83 target seats which will switch hands next year.

The survey, the largest of its kind in the country, will come as a surprise as on Sunday it emerged that the Conservatives finished second in the ‘popular vote’ in Worcester’s European elections, getting 7,185 ahead of to Labour’s 6,651.

And on top of that, in last Thursday’s city council elections the Tories finished top, getting 7,547 compared to Labour’s 6,654, a result which many Conservatives were privately rejoicing at.

Labour were also given a torrid time by UKIP, which pushed them hard in many city areas considered ‘safe’ like Warndon, Gorse Hill and Rainbow Hill.

But general election turnouts are always significantly higher than local ones, and Lord Ashcroft’s poll suggests next year it will switch hands five years after former Labour MP Mike Foster lost to Robin Walker.

The Worcester seat is a key one nationally, given how close it is, with the winning party traditionally going on to form the next Government.

If the poll proves accurate, a 6.5 per cent swing in 26 key constituencies including Worcester would see Labour end up with a healthy parliamentary majority, possibly by as many as 70 to 80 seats.

Mr Walker has a majority of 2,982 and a swing of around three per cent in Labour’s direction will see the seat switch.

He said: “I take the Lord Ashcroft poll very seriously indeed and it’s a very timely reminder that we just can’t sit on our laurels.

“I was delighted we beat Labour in the European poll and to be honest, I didn’t expect that.

“But this shows we cannot take anything for granted, it's a real battle."

Councillor Joy Squires, Labour's Worcester parliamentary candidate, said she was pleased by the poll and insisted despite finishing third in the city for the Euro elections, also behind UKIP, the party was progressing.

"I am confident Labour is moving in the right direction locally, as recent polls have suggested," she said.