Post-Brexit Britain and the new regime: the voters react

By Lord Ashcroft


In the space of a month, Britain has voted to leave the EU, the Prime Minister has resigned and been replaced by a new one, Cabinet ministers have been unexpectedly sacked or promoted, the Leader of the Opposition has lost a vote of no confidence and is being challenged for his position. I decided to ask the voters what they thought of it all.

In the last couple of weeks (allowing for a break to watch the rival drama on the other side of the Atlantic), we have conducted focus groups with different kinds of voters – remain and leave, and from various parties – in Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle and Glasgow. These were part of a continuing project on the new political landscape that I will launch in September, but here is a snapshot.

First impressions of Theresa May as Prime Minister were very positive (more…)

My Republican Convention Diary – Day 4

By Lord Ashcroft


One feature of the campaign that everyone seems to agree on is that the battle is between the two most unpopular candidates of modern times. Among Trump supporters, the proportion saying they have an unfavourable view of Hillary Clinton is in the high nineties; the same is true of Trump’s unfavourable among Clinton voters. Meanwhile, “undecideds hate them both”, according to the experienced campaign pollster Greg Strimple, who came to speak to our group of international visitors.

This goes well beyond the usual disdain for politicians and the pervasive view that “they’re all the same.” The big question is how this will affect turnout. Will turnout match the level of anger, as our Trump insider suggested yesterday, or will non-partisan voters “be so disgusted that they sit on their hands?” (more…)

My Republican Convention Diary – Day 3

By Lord Ashcroft

The reporters, commentators and political professionals we have spoken to in Cleveland have been remarkably open in admitting they were wrong about Donald Trump’s chances. “I was speaking at a meeting last August, and I told them there was absolutely no way Trump would be the nominee,” one experienced campaign consultant confessed.

For once, no-one has blamed misleading polls. Instead, between them, they cite four main reasons. One is that they simply did not believe the polling numbers they were seeing, or decided there was a ceiling to his support, which he had repeatedly broken through. Secondly, they felt his lack of a traditional campaign infrastructure would restrict him against the experienced election winners he was up against. Thirdly, they assumed that given the calibre and record of the other candidates, Republicans would surely choose one of them over the wildcard Trump, if only to give them more chance of winning in November.

And finally, they assumed that Trump would simply implode after one gaffe too many (more…)

My Republican Convention Diary – Day 2

By Lord Ashcroft


One of the things about Donald Trump that bemuses commentators and exasperates Republican campaign professionals is that, as one analyst put it to us, “he is running something that looks nothing like a campaign.” For one thing, he has raised nowhere near as much money as Hillary Clinton, and will probably be outspent by hundreds of millions of dollars by November. “If he’s worth as many billions as he says he is, he should spend some of it,” one frustrated operative grumbled.

For another thing, he has no ground operation to speak of – no troops on the ground knocking on doors in the states he needs to win: “Ground organisation matters. It can’t buy you ten points but it can get you two or three. It only matters if it’s close, but the Democrats have invested in it and Trump hasn’t.”

For a third thing, Trump is running no TV ads (more…)

My Republican Convention Diary – Day 1

By Lord Ashcroft


An American political convention makes a British party conference look rather like a village fete. This year’s Republican National Convention is taking place in Cleveland, Ohio, in the twenty-thousand seat arena that is home to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the city’s world championship-winning basketball team. I am among the fifty thousand people visiting for the event, along with 2,472 delegates and the fifteen thousand members of the media, who comprise the biggest international press corps outside that of the Rio Olympics.

Cleveland itself inspires mixed views. Some like to refer to it as “The Mistake On The Lake”, or to remind you that the Cuyahoga River which runs through it was once so polluted that it caught fire (more…)