Conservative Party

Theresa May’s speech: no “retreat in the face of difficulty”

By Lord Ashcroft

At the beginning of the week I wrote that most people would be paying even less attention to the party conferences this year than they usually do: with very few exceptions, memorable conference moments are the ones leaders wish had never happened.

Unfortunately for the Prime Minister, we have just witnessed one of those moments. The security implications aside, the so-called comedian interrupting Theresa May with a P45 at the supposed behest of Boris Johnson was a sideshow. But it was agonising to watch as she struggled to regain her voice; the Tory faithful in the hall and the most cynical reporters were at one in willing her to recover (more…)

My Conservative Conference Diary – Wednesday

By Lord Ashcroft

As if the conference were not already beset with rivalry and intrigue, we now have the Battle of the Lanyards. Most attendees wear their passes on bright blue cords sponsored by Tate & Lyle, but a rearguard action has been launched by British Sugar, keen to promote their home-grown product with a lanyard of their own, featuring the Union flag. Tate & Lyle are no strangers to the hazards of politics. Gerald Mason, the company’s senior vice president, once promised Liam Fox a lifetime supply of sugar if he could successfully conclude a free trade deal with Cuba, and on returning to the company’s HQ received a stern lecture about the Bribery Act. “I got a bit overexcited,” he explains (more…)

My Conservative Conference Diary – Tuesday

By Lord Ashcroft

An honour to welcome the Prime Minister to the annual ConHome party with the 1922 Committee, which has become a regular feature on the conference agenda. It was especially good of her to turn up on her birthday (what better way to celebrate the occasion?) She was on tub-thumping form, and took the opportunity of reminding the audience that the implementation phase of Brexit (not a “transition period”) would last no more than two years. As well as a rousing cheer she was met with an uplifting chorus of ‘Happy Birthday To You’, boldly led (I can exclusively reveal) by Nigel Evans. The event was generously sponsored by The City UK and Heathrow Airport, whose boss, John Holland-Kaye, she had met only recently: “When Philip and I were flying off on our summer holidays, the chief executive of Heathrow came and told us all about their future expansion. I suppose that’s what being Prime Minister is all about,” she said ruefully (more…)

My Conservative Conference Diary – Monday

By Lord Ashcroft

For a party organisation, a snap general election is a bit like an unannounced Ofsted inspection, as Paul Goodman sagely observed at yesterday’s ConHome fringe meeting on party reform. Quite a revealing one, in the most recent case. Many of the conclusions of the party’s election review focus on narrowing the gap between day-to-day operations and a war footing, and this makes sense – “a snap election should be snap for them and not for us,” as someone close to the process likes to put it. The plans for long-term engagement with younger and ethnic minority voters are also welcome, and yet… familiar. The sense of déjà vu comes from 2005, when I distinctly remember arguing that rather than burn through money on expensive and certainly pointless poster campaigns, proper investment should be made in enduring projects like this that would bear real fruit. In politics as in so many things, the seemingly urgent has a way of crowding out the important. Maybe this time it will be different (more…)

My Conservative Conference Diary – Sunday

By Lord Ashcroft

In many years of listening to voters in my political research, the same complaints come up again and again: politicians don’t listen, they always break their promises, that sort of thing. One such theme that used to be a regular but which we have not heard for a while, strangely enough, is “the parties are all the same”. You can certainly argue this is a good thing, in the sense that democracy ought to be about a real choice. On the other hand, it also means we have a principal Opposition party that seems intent on turning London into Caracas. It was heartening to hear Theresa May’s staunch defence of free market capitalism which, for all its imperfections, remains the most effective – indeed, the only – system for raising living standards and bringing a measure of prosperity to billions of people around the world. The surprising thing, considering where British politics was only a few years ago, was that it has to be done at all. As Mrs. Thatcher reflected in her memoirs, “in politics there are no final victories… arguments are never finally won (more…)

The Conservative brand – and how voters compare the Labour and Tory agendas with their own

By Lord Ashcroft

Yesterday I set out my two main observations from the research that went into The Lost Majority, my book on the 2017 election that is published this week. One was that while the Conservative voting coalition in June was bigger than the one that elected David Cameron two years ago, it was also different: older, more working class, more modestly educated, more socially and culturally conservative, and more pro-Brexit. Those who switched away from the party were disproportionately likely to be younger, graduates, professionals, and to be more socially liberal, and to have voted to remain in the EU. While drawing more working class voters to the Tories is a significant achievement, the party will need to be able to reach further beyond these dividing lines to win in the future, especially if 42 per cent of the vote is not enough for an overall majority.

The other was that in the election campaign and its outcome, the Conservative brand has taken a proper battering (more…)

The election cost the Tories their crucial competitive advantage: a reputation for competence

By Lord Ashcroft

This article first appeared in the Telegraph.

 

In January 1993, the Conservative Party’s average poll rating was 
39 per cent. Twelve months later it had fallen to 31 per cent, and there it stayed, or thereabouts, for more than a decade. Throughout that time, and until after their third consecutive general election defeat, the Tories suffered from a fatal combination of flaws. People did not think the party was on their side or in touch with life as they lived it, and neither did they think it was up to the job of running the country.

It would be a bit much to say the Tories are in the same predicament today. When, in 2005, I published Smell The Coffee – an analysis of public opinion in which I set out the scale of the challenge they faced – the party had won less than a third of the vote, and just 198 seats. But after the disappointment of the 2017 election, the Tories need to take stock of their relationship with the voters – it’s time to smell the coffee all over again (more…)

The Lost Majority: The 2017 election, the Conservative Party, the voters and the future

By Lord Ashcroft

The 2017 election was supposed to be a walkover for the Conservative Party – but the voters had other ideas. My new book, The Lost Majority, aims to help explain how the unexpected result came about and why the thumping victory the Tories expected never happened. More importantly, it looks at the state of the party’s relationship with the voters in the wake of the campaign, and the challenge of winning a majority in parliament when even 42 per cent of the vote was not enough for outright victory. I have written about my main conclusions in today’s Telegraph.

The book draws on my research before June 8th and on election day itself, as well as comprehensive new polling conducted since the electorate delivered its verdict (more…)

My latest research on the state of the parties and what people want from the Brexit deal

By Lord Ashcroft

As the government embarks on two years of grueling EU negotiations following the triggering of Article 50, I decided now was a good time for a detailed look at the political landscape – and what voters expect from the Brexit deal. Here’s what I found from my 10,000-sample poll and focus groups around the country.

With three years to go until a general election, rather than asking people how they would vote tomorrow we gave them a little more leeway, and invited them to give their likelihood of voting for each party on a 100-point scale. The answers look like this (more…)

The new political landscape – and what Britain expects from Brexit

By Lord Ashcroft

My latest research is a comprehensive survey of the political landscape as Britain embarks on two years of negotiations over the terms on which it will leave the European Union. Based on a 10,000-sample poll and focus groups around the country, the project asks what voters hope and expect to get from the Brexit deal, how they balance immigration control and access to the single market, the status of EU nationals already in Britain, people’s confidence that the Prime Minister will secure a good deal, and how the Brexit negotiations compare in importance to other priorities.

The research also looks in detail at attitudes to the political parties and leaders, who is switching, and why.

I have written about the main findings and their implications in today’s Sunday Telegraph. (more…)