“If Britain leaves, we’ll be left behind with all these losers”: Amsterdam

Clogs

By Lord Ashcroft

My latest focus groups looking at how other Europeans see Britain and its place in the EU took place in the capital of one of our closest neighbours. It is sometimes said that the Dutch are more similar to the British than any of the other inhabitants of Europe. How much did our Amsterdam participants think the two countries had in common?

“Well, they drive on the wrong side of the road.” (more…)

“The Brits would be happier outside. But we don’t want them to leave”: Berlin and Paris

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By Lord Ashcroft

Last week the focus group trail led the Lord Ashcroft Polls team to the cities British sceptics regard as the heart of the Euro-conspiracy: Berlin and Paris. Again, we assembled groups of men and women with a range of social backgrounds and political leanings, and enlisted the services of a simultaneous translator. How would views in the core of Old Europe compare to what we heard last week in Poland and Bulgaria, particularly when it comes to Britain’s part in things?
(more…)

Brexit? A view from “New Europe”

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By Lord Ashcroft

Earlier this month I published my latest research on how British voters are coming to terms with the issues in the EU referendum. There will be plenty more of that to follow. But to add an extra dimension, we decided to peer through the other end of the telescope and find out how our debate looks from elsewhere in Europe – how people in other member states see Britain’s attitude to the EU, what they think about some of the questions British voters are grappling with, what they make of David Cameron’s negotiating demands and, frankly, whether they care if we stay or go. (more…)

How the polls went wrong – and why they are still worth listening to

By Lord Ashcroft

The preliminary results of the British Polling Council inquiry into the general election polls have been published. The findings give the industry plenty to think about.

According to the inquiry team, led by Professor Patrick Sturgis of Southampton University, the main reason the final polls did not reveal a decisive Tory lead was that polling samples – the people who took part in the surveys – were not sufficiently representative of the voting population. For example, the team highlighted evidence from the polls they examined that in the oldest age group, those aged 65 and over, too many participants were at the younger end of the scale, and not enough were aged over 75. (more…)

Leave to Remain: Public opinion and the EU referendum

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By Lord Ashcroft

Within two years, the UK will have decided whether or not it wishes to remain a member of the European Union. Indeed, two years is the outer limit: the issue could be settled within a matter of months. Yet it is only in the chronological sense that the nation is any closer to making up its mind.

Recent polls suggest the country is closely divided on the referendum question. In this research we have tried to understand the spread of opinion – from Leave to Remain, and the many shades of indecision in between. We have explored what people think is at stake in the referendum, whether and why those things matter, and what could end up shifting opinion in one direction or another. (more…)

The Unexpected Mandate: my review of the 2015 election and the unusual parliament that preceded it

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By Lord Ashcroft

After the 2005 general election I published Smell The Coffee: A Wake-Up Call For The Conservative Party. Based on extensive research, this was an attempt to understand why the Tories kept losing elections and what they needed to do about it. In 2010 I followed up with Minority Verdict, which drew on published polling and my perspective from having been involved in the Conservative campaign, to help explain why the party had once again fallen short.

My analysis of the 2015 election, and the unusual parliament that preceded it, appears as the appendix to Call Me Dave, my biography of David Cameron written with Isabel Oakeshott. I am now releasing this as a separate edition – The Unexpected Mandate – to follow my two earlier election commentaries. (more…)

The sun is shining on the Tories: will they make hay, or mend the roof?

By Lord Ashcroft

For Conservatives of my generation, Jeremy Corbyn’s speech to the Labour conference on Tuesday had a reassuringly familiar flavour. We know where we are with old lefties who declare “we’re a rich country” – as though that is just a given, and all politicians need to do is decide how to spend it – and who spit out the word “profit” as if it were a profanity (and as if any of the things they say they want could be paid for without it).

But there were some odd parts too (more…)

Corbyn is doing the job as he understands it – and as his supporters intended

By Lord Ashcroft

It has been said that a novel depicting the past week in the history of the Labour Party would have been rejected as too implausible. But the idea has crossed creative minds before: in Chris Mullin’s engrossing 1982 story A Very British Coup, an ultra-left unilateralist Labour leader, Harry Perkins MP, is elected Prime Minister. If political life has not in this case imitated art to the fullest extent, it at least feels as though we are living through the prequel (more…)

Project Red Dawn

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By Lord Ashcroft

Five years ago I conducted some research to find out why people in the Labour movement thought they had lost the 2010 election and what they thought they should do about it. They believed people had failed to appreciate what Labour had achieved, that credulous swing voters had been influenced by the right-wing media, and that although Labour’s policies had been right, they had not been communicated well. Accordingly, they expected the coalition government to prove so dreadful that people would soon see the error of their ways: Labour would not need to make any big changes in order to win the following election.

Well, we know how that story ends. Labour is reduced to 232 seats in the House of Commons, a net loss of 24 since its 2010 defeat, and won only 30 per cent of the national vote. The question for the new leader, whose identity we will know on Saturday, is not just how the party can start winning again, but whether Labour as we know it will survive.

My latest research has looked into this question by examining the views of two sorts of people: how do the views of Labour Loyalists, who voted for the party in 2010 and again last May, compare with the Defectors who have moved away from the party since it was an election-winning force? What caused the switchers to switch, and do they see themselves returning? (more…)

‘Pay Me Forty Quid And I’ll Tell You: The 2015 Election Campaign Through The Eyes Of The Voters’

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By Lord Ashcroft

From January until the election, Lord Ashcroft Polls conducted weekly focus groups from Cornwall to Scotland to find out whether the parties’ campaigns were having any effect on the people they were supposed to impress: undecided voters in marginal seats. We asked what people had noticed and what had passed them by, what they thought the parties were trying to tell them and how believable (or otherwise) they found it, what mattered to them and what didn’t, what they made of the leaders vying for their attention, which way they were leaning and what doubts stopped them making their minds up. (more…)