Brexit and the border: the view from Northern Ireland

By Lord Ashcroft

The UK’s future relationship with the European Union increasingly hinges on a question that for many years seemed settled: the Irish border. I wanted to hear from the people on either side of it: what they hope for and fear from the Brexit settlement, and the consequences they see for relations between North and South and the future of the Union. Tomorrow I will report from the Republic, and I’ll publish further research on the issue in the run up to the European Council summit next month at which the question will supposedly be resolved. Today, though, we’ll start with my focus groups in Northern Ireland.

In Ballymena, in the Democratic Unionist Party stronghold of North Antrim represented in parliament by Ian Paisley Jr, as it was by his father before him, many of our participants were pleased that their party held the balance of power at Westminster (more…)

You can guess what people think, or you can find out – why polling is a force for good

By Lord Ashcroft

This article was first published in India’s Sunday Guardian

It’s been a bumpy few years for the pollsters. Surveys overestimated support for Angela Merkel’s party in last September’s German elections, having correctly identified Emmanuel Macron as the front runner in a competitive field in France earlier in the year. In the last two national contests in the UK, most pollsters expected a knife-edge result in 2015 and a comfortable Conservative victory in 2017, but got precisely the reverse. Before our 2016 referendum most surveys suggested the country would vote to remain in the European Union, and a few months later many received a second shock with the election of President Donald Trump.

Forecasting election results has become trickier. Electorates have become more unpredictable, strength of support and people’s likelihood actually to turn out and vote is harder to account for, and busy people are more reluctant to take part in polls. But polling is more than a slightly wonky crystal ball for predicting what people will do at the ballot box (more…)

Brexit Britain won’t forget its old friends

By Lord Ashcroft

This article was first published in The Times Of Malta

Britain’s friendship with Malta is so long and so rich that it would be easy to take for granted. The award of the George Cross in 1942 by King George VI to bear witness to the nation’s “heroism and devotion” following the second siege of Malta is only the best-known episode in a story that spans the centuries: the joint enterprise of ridding Malta of the French garrison in 1800, the islands’ part in the British Empire, their crucial role as a supply station in the First World War, their valiant endurance against the Axis powers in the Second, their long service as the home of the British Mediterranean Fleet, and accession to the Commonwealth on gaining independence in 1964 are testament to a true partnership.

These bonds of history and affection are not confined to the past. In a survey I conducted before the EU referendum I was pleased to see that fondness for Britain among Maltese people lives on (more…)

Do not doubt Donald Trump – he could easily be re-elected

By Lord Ashcroft

This piece was initially published at TIME.com

If in November 2020 we are looking back on how Donald J. Trump came to be re-elected as President of the United States, those undergoing a second round of horror and dismay will find themselves reflecting on how seriously, and how often, they underestimated their foe.

The left has history when it comes to looking down on, and therefore underrating, its opponents. Ronald Reagan was derided as a genial but bumbling movie actor but was elected twice to govern both his state and his country. As was George W. Bush, who seemed to inspire a kind of hysterical contempt in his adversaries: Haha, he’s so stupid. He says words like “misunderestimate.” Oh, he’s beaten us. Again.

Donald Trump, by the same token, was surely too erratic and offensive and vulgar and narcissistic and unqualified to get his party’s nomination, let alone run an effective campaign. Let alone win.

You might think that the anti-Trumpists would have begun to learn from this long series of events, but apparently not (more…)

‘We didn’t elect him to be a saint, we elected him to be a leader’: my latest American focus groups

By Lord Ashcroft

Last December the voters of Alabama did something they had not done for twenty-seven years – they elected a Democrat to the U.S. Senate. The extraordinary result prompted some to wonder whether the political tide could be turning, even in the Republican strongholds of the South. Last week I held focus groups in two neighbouring states, Tennessee and Mississippi, to take the temperature in the region, and to assess the current mood of American voters, especially those who had put Donald Trump in the White House.

 

Blue tsunami?

Phil Bryant, the Governor of Mississippi, was sanguine about the Alabama upset when I interviewed him in Jackson, the state capital. “I think it was an anomaly (more…)

Ashcroft In America podcast: Tennessee & Mississippi

By Lord Ashcroft

Voters in Tennessee and Mississippi discuss Trump, Russia, North Korea, tariffs, flags, guns and Stormy Daniels, Memphis Congressman Steve Cohen predicts a ‘blue tsunami’ in November, and I interview Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant.

Capital Punishment? The Conservatives and the 2018 London elections

By Lord Ashcroft

The local government elections on 3 May 2018 will be the first big test of voters’ opinion since they deprived the Conservatives of their majority in parliament last June. Among the most closely watched results from the authorities across Britain will be those from the 32 London boroughs.

Ten of these are currently under Conservative control, including the party’s two local government flagships: Westminster, run by the Tories since its creation in 1965, and Wandsworth, in Tory hands since 1978, even though, during the Blair years, all three of the borough’s MPs were Labour.

My latest research – including a 3,000-sample poll and focus groups in eight boroughs over the last month – has explored in detail how London voters see things, both locally and nationally, as the May elections approach.

The backdrop to the London elections is not propitious for the Conservatives (more…)

The Conservatives can’t rely on Brexit to win them the next election

By Lord Ashcroft

When the Conservatives won their unexpected majority at the 2015 general election many Tories felt it was a return to the natural order of things. Naturally, people had preferred sensible economic management to unaffordable spending plans. Of course they had chosen a Prime Ministerial Prime Minister over one whom they could barely imagine standing outside Number Ten. And if this was the world as it should be, 2017 must have been an aberration: a freak result that could be put down to the election’s unusual circumstances, a terrible Tory campaign, and Jeremy Corbyn’s sudden, bizarre and surely unsustainable status as a cult figure.

Like the mindset that said people would never really vote for that fashionable Mr. Blair – or, once they had, that they would soon repent of their silliness and restore the Conservatives to their rightful place in office – this would be a very dangerous assumption indeed for Tories to make (more…)

Where the parties stand – and more on that second EU referendum…

By Lord Ashcroft

Earlier this week I published the findings of my latest focus groups to explore how voters around the country saw things seven eventful months on from the general election. My new poll underlines that despite what has felt like the frenetic pace of politics for those who follow its twists and turns, surprisingly little has changed. There is little in the numbers to comfort either party.

In my post-election research for The Lost Majority I found only 28 per cent saying they thought the country was on the right track. This week that number is unchanged, with nearly half – including seven in ten of those who voted to remain in the EU – saying things are heading in the wrong direction (more…)

“Our cup has overflowed with political stuff. There’s only so much we want to take in”: my latest focus groups

By Lord Ashcroft

Of the 31 weeks since the general election – an experience most Conservatives would rather forget – how many have been good ones for the government? Much has happened in politics since June, and little of it could be said to have lifted the spirits. Yet the opposition has failed to open up the clear lead they might have expected over what has often seemed a hapless governing party, and surveys show the Tory rating to be all but unchanged since polling day. To help shed light on this curious state of affairs I held focus groups last week in three constituencies as politics once again got underway: Battersea, which the Conservatives lost last year to Labour; Walsall North, which they gained; and Wakefield, which they hoped they would gain but didn’t, despite seeing their vote share in the seat rise by eleven points (more…)