The Tories have a plan to win the next election and the team to deliver it

By Lord Ashcroft

Things may be looking up at last. This year has brought a long string of bad news for the Conservatives, much of it self-inflicted. Yet over the last few weeks I have become  a little more confident about Tory prospects than I have been for some time. There are two main reasons for this surprising burst of optimism.

First, last week’s growth figures. I am aware of the caveats, of course. The figures are notoriously unreliable, and one set of numbers does not change the experience of any actual voters; we are some way from any kind of feelgood factor. And as we can never forget after 1997, economic recovery does not necessarily lead to political recovery. This time, however, I think the chances are that it possibly could.

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Review of George Osborne: The Austerity Chancellor

By Lord Ashcroft

 

Text of my review of George Osborne: The Austerity Chancellor by Janan Ganesh, which appeared in the Guardian on Saturday.

 

What sort of politician is George Osborne? The fact that you can read Janan Ganesh’s detailed and illuminating book about the chancellor and still be left wondering shows how difficult the question is to answer. Conflicting views are offered as to where Osborne lies on the spectrum between pragmatist and ideologue. Nevertheless, Ganesh skilfully presents the rise of a politician “fixated on the centre ground”, whether that fixation results from principle or electoral calculation.

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Labour take 22-point lead in Corby

By Lord Ashcroft

The week after Louise Mensch announced her departure from parliament, my first poll in Corby found a 15-point lead for Labour. My second poll, conducted last week, brings rather worse news for the Conservatives. Labour have consolidated their position and Andy Sawford is now 22 points ahead. All parties’ supporters are now surer of how they will vote than they were at the beginning of the campaign, suggesting Labour’s lead is now entrenched.

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“Suspicious Strivers” hold the key to Tory election prospects

By Lord Ashcroft

Most analysis of the electoral battleground is based on people’s voting behaviour. In my latest research I have taken a different approach to building the Conservative voting coalition – breaking down the electorate by their attitudes to opportunity, personal responsibility, and the role of government in their lives. Is there a definable group of people whose outlook on life ought to make them Tories, but who vote for another party?

My research identifies five distinct segments within the voting public.

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The Tories’ juvenile poster of Miliband and Balls is a waste of money

By Lord Ashcroft

It is not clear how much the Conservative Party has paid M&C Saatchi to come up with the daft poster, unveiled over the weekend, depicting Ed Miliband and Ed Balls as gormless schoolboys under the slogan ‘Labour Isn’t Learning’. Nor do I know how much it cost to hire the ad van to drive the thing pointlessly around Manchester. What I do know is that if I had recently donated funds to the Tories I would be asking what on earth CCHQ thought it was doing with my money.

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To govern alone, Tories must reach out to all voters, not pander to their own

By Lord Ashcroft

The Liberal Democrats used much of their week in Brighton to discuss, as one Twitter wag put it, all the policies they would pursue if only they didn’t have power. For some, notably Vince Cable, differentiation from the Tories was the name of the game. Nick Clegg was steadfast in his commitment to the coalition, with a firm message on the deficit. But he too was keen to draw dividing lines with the Conservatives where he could: “Do you really think the Tories will make Britain fairer?” he encouraged his campaigners to ask on the doorstep.

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After the reshuffle soap opera it’s time to focus on the voters again

By Lord Ashcroft

Are MPs conspiring to smuggle an alternative leader into parliament? Who are the shadowy figures who tried to inveigle a respectable Colonel into their treacherous plot? Did the Prime Minister drink wine while sacking his Ministers? Did he offer them a glass? Did he make them cry?

Westminster politics is becoming more and more like a soap opera. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately – whatever would people think of it if they were paying attention?) it is a soap opera that nobody wants to watch. For voters, the reshuffle – which has dominated political coverage since before it was announced – is part of soap opera politics.

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What I did and did not say about gay marriage

By Lord Ashcroft

I saw in Thursday’s Telegraph that somebody had told David Cameron he “must force through gay marriage despite opposition”. I read on with interest, only to learn that the somebody in question was me. This was curious: I am sure I would remember having said a thing like that.

What I did remember saying was that in electoral terms, the question of gay marriage was more finely balanced than some had suggested.

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The politics of same-sex marriage

By Lord Ashcroft

David Cameron has recently confirmed his intention to legislate for gay marriage before the next election. The debate has continued over the summer break: last weekend the Coalition for Marriage published a poll showing that the plans could cost the Conservatives support among churchgoers; earlier this week Boris Johnson released a video restating his support for the idea. The intervention of the Mayor shows that the debate is not just one of left versus right within the Conservative Party, if indeed that delineation still applies. More importantly, it is a reminder that dropping the proposals in order to mollify one group of voters – as opponents of gay marriage advise – would have repercussions of its own. In my recent polling I have tried to look objectively at voters’ reaction to the idea.

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Labour set for comfortable win in Corby

By Lord Ashcroft

Labour are set for comfortable win in the Corby & East Northamptonshire by-election, according to a poll I conducted in the days following Louise Mensch’s resignation announcement. They begin the campaign with a 15-point lead: 52% to the Conservatives’ 37%.

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