Conservative Party

What I told the Tories in Birmingham

By Lord Ashcroft

Below is the text of my presentation at the Conservative Party Conference this afternoon setting out my latest research in marginal seats and the Tories’ challenge in building an election-winning coalition of voters. The slides from my presentation are here.

Good afternoon and as the proud proprietor of Conservative Home let me add my welcome to this event which is intended to set the scene and explain the public opinion backdrop to our last party conference before the general election. (more…)

Project Blueprint Phase 5: The coalition of the willing

By Lord Ashcroft

In the eight months remaining before the general election many voters face a dilemma. They prefer Labour to the Conservatives, but would rather have David Cameron in Downing Street than Ed Miliband. They wonder whose side the Tories are on, but doubt that Labour can be trusted with the economy or have learned the right lessons from their last spell in office.

Starting today in Birmingham David Cameron must help them resolve their quandary in his party’s favour. My latest research, involving a poll of over 8,000 people and discussions with undecided voters around the country, helps to show how he can do it. (more…)

Victory for Project Reasonable Caution – but let’s not learn the wrong lessons

By Lord Ashcroft

In my post-referendum poll in Scotland last Thursday I asked those who had voted No to independence which of three overarching reasons was the most important to their decision. Only just over a quarter named “a strong attachment to the UK and its shared history, culture and traditions”. Even fewer (25%) said it was that a No vote “would still mean extra powers for the Scottish Parliament together with the security of remaining part of the UK, giving the best of both worlds”.

By far the most important reason was that “the risks of becoming independent looked too great when it came to things like the currency, EU membership, the economy, jobs and prices”. (more…)

The Conservatives don’t attract too few women. They attract too few of everyone.

By Lord Ashcroft

David Cameron tells Angela Eagle to “calm down, dear”. A number of female Conservative MPs decide they will not stand at the next election. Another is deselected. Ed Miliband derides the dearth of women on the government front bench. Several women are replaced in their jobs heading public bodies, prompting Harriet Harman to observe that it is “raining men in the Tory Party”.

To some, these stories and others like them constitute evidence that the Conservatives have a problem with women. (more…)

Project Blueprint: The proceeds of growth?

By Lord Ashcroft

This year, party politics will be dominated by the European elections. Though for most normal people the event will go all but unnoticed, one question will preoccupy the political class: how well will UKIP do, and at what cost to the Conservatives? But whatever tactical moves the Tories are tempted to make to minimise losses, they must keep their eyes on the real prize: the 2015 general election, now just 16 months away.

If the Conservatives want to govern without needing a coalition of parties, they are going to need a bigger coalition of voters. (more…)

If the Tories are returning to comfort polling, that’s a bad sign

By Lord Ashcroft

Conservative Campaign HQ is in optimistic mood, according to Dan Hodges in the Daily Telegraph. Despite Labour’s stubborn lead, he reports, Tory strategists believe voters find Ed Miliband unconvincing and that an improving economy will eventually translate into higher living standards. They are also confident in their campaign team, both at the centre and in target seats, and in their use of data to reach key voters.

All this was very cheering until I got to the part about the Tories’ private polling. (more…)

Cameron’s Caledonian Conundrum

By Lord Ashcroft

When the Conservatives were booted out of office in 1997 the party was left with no MPs in Scotland. Today they have one – a total which few expect to rise in 2015.

Explanations abound for the Tories’ Scottish decline, economic and cultural as well as political. One of the most common is that the Tories are still being punished for the legacy of Mrs Thatcher and what she “did to” Scotland. But this theory does not ring true. For one thing, the Conservatives’ popularity in Scotland has been waning since 1955, when they were the largest party. For another thing, when the supposedly wickedly anti-Scottish Thatcher was in Number 10, the Tories won more seats and more votes in Scotland than they have ever done since. And for a third thing, even if Mrs Thatcher were universally reviled in Scotland – which she is not – I do not believe that most Scots are so unimaginative as to vote according to what they thought of the PM before the PM before the PM before last.

Whatever the history, the task for the Tories is to work out where they are now and what they can do about it. (more…)

Labour are in poll position but here’s why the Tories could still win the next election

By Lord Ashcroft

This article first appeared in the Mirror.

From the moment the Lib Dems joined the Conservatives in coalition, the next election was Labour’s to lose. Half the people who had voted for Nick Clegg’s party – many of them wanting to keep the Tories out – went straight to Labour, giving their new leader Ed Miliband a big head start. Worse, from the David Cameron’s point of view, Labour could still win outright with a lower share of the vote than the Tories could – and the Lib Dems locked in Labour’s advantage by blocking a plan to make constituency boundaries fairer.

The trickle of Tory voters towards UKIP has made life even more difficult for Cameron. And as I found in my recent poll of marginal seats, things look even tougher for the Conservatives on the key battlegrounds than they do nationally. Not surprisingly, the bookies have Labour as firm favourites to return to government.

So why, as a Tory, do I think we are in for the closest election for forty years – and that we could see another term of Prime Minister Cameron? (more…)

What I told the Tories in Manchester

By Lord Ashcroft

Here is the text of the presentation I gave at the ConHome fringe meeting at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester this week. (more…)

That’s enough fantasy politics. ‘Margaret Thatcher Day’ is not a vote-winner

By Lord Ashcroft

It is sometimes remarked that the centre ground of politics is not the same thing as the common ground. There is some truth in this. Overall, most people want to vote for parties that seem sensibly moderate rather than those that have veered too far one way or the other, but this does not mean that on any given issue – crime, immigration, the NHS – the centre of gravity of public opinion is always in the middle of the spectrum.

Yet politicians should beware of using this argument as an excuse to pursue preoccupations of their own which few voters share. A good example of this occurred at the end of June in the form of the so-called Alternative Queen’s Speech, a raft of measures (why do measures always arrive on rafts?) put forward by a number of Tory backbenchers which are, according to Peter Bone MP, designed to “recapture the common ground, where most views are”.

I decided to put this contention to the test in a poll. (more…)