Lack of Tory direction is the real ‘UKIP threat’

By Lord Ashcroft

The government is having its most difficult month so far, and the voters have noticed. After troubles over party funding, conflicting advice to the public on a potential fuel strike, and a series of controversies arising from last month’s Budget, recent polls show the Labour lead solidifying as confidence in the coalition declines. One notable feature of the shifting polls is that, according to the most recent YouGov/Sun surveys, the UK Independence Party is edging ahead of the Liberal Democrats.

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Tories should not equate philanthropy with tax avoidance

By Lord Ashcroft

At the last general election David Cameron declared that the Big Society was the Conservatives’ big idea. Whatever one thinks about the potency of the Big Society as a political message – and I have my doubts, as I have said before – it is based on a good Conservative principle: that the state’s role is limited, and voluntary groups have an important part to play in helping society flourish. So it would be a pity if, rather than encouraging such groups, the government’s policies actually damaged them.

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How damaging has the latest party funding story really been?

By Lord Ashcroft

After a week like last week, it is all too easy to panic. This rarely helps. I decided to conduct a poll over the weekend to put things into perspective, and in particular to shed light on one of the issues – party funding – that has added to the Tories’ woes. We asked voters how much they had heard about three stories: “people who have donated large sums of money to the Conservative Party having dinner with the Prime Minister at Number 10”, “changes in the Budget that will mean some pensioners paying more in income tax – which some have called the ‘granny tax’”, and “putting new taxes on hot food bought in shops, including pies and pasties”. Three quarters said they had heard a great deal or quite a lot about the “granny tax”, two thirds said the same about the pasty tax, and just over half said the same about “cash for Cameron”.

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Anti-NHS Bill candidates could boost the Conservative Party

By Lord Ashcroft

A group of doctors is threatening to stand candidates at the next general election in revenge for the Health & Social Care Bill. The anti-reform medics plan to target at least fifty senior Liberal Democrats and Conservatives with small majorities, running on what Dr Clive Peedell, co-chair of the NHS Consultants’ Association, describes as “the non-party, independent ticket of defending the NHS”. It would be mere quibbling to point out that 50 candidates standing on a common platform would be a party, not a non-party, nor independent. More salient is that the history of similar movements and independent candidates in general elections offers little encouragement for Dr Peedell and his colleagues.

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Is Alex Salmond’s referendum question biased?

By Lord Ashcroft

“Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?” No self-respecting pollster would ask the question that Alex Salmond proposes to put on the ballot paper in his referendum. As Professor Robert Cialdini, the author of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion told the Today programme last week, the question Mr Salmond wants to use is “loaded and biased”, because it “sends people down a particular cognitive chute designed to locate agreements rather than disagreements”. My latest poll suggests Cialdini is right.

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