Economy

If things are so bad, why aren’t more people saying it’s time for change?

By Lord Ashcroft

As campaigning for the local elections reaches its climax, one particular poll finding has caught my eye. A ComRes poll for the Independent conducted last weekend found 58 per cent of voters saying the government’s economic plan has failed, and so it will be time for a change of government in 2015. The Independent described this as a boost for Labour, but my reaction was different. “58 per cent”, I thought. “Is that all?”

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A memo to Ed Miliband

By Lord Ashcroft

Dear Ed

It is evidently the season for offering you well-intentioned advice. Since I spend rather a lot of time finding out how the voters see things, I thought you might appreciate a view from the other side of the fence. (more…)

Voters must believe we have more to offer than austerity

By Lord Ashcroft

Imagine becoming Chancellor at a time of record public borrowing. The country’s banking industry is engulfed by gargantuan losses, and our European trading partners are flat on their backs because of their failed single currency. The energy infrastructure needs the biggest ever investment in new power plants. The population is ageing rapidly, and the nation’s already overtaxed workers and businesses face growing burdens. Meanwhile, a group of new economies is emerging, each educating more engineers, mathematicians and scientists than Britain and able to produce more at a lower price.

George Osborne doesn’t have to imagine.

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A simple proposal to help the Treasury

By Lord Ashcroft

Over the last few weeks we have heard a good deal about the tiny amounts of corporation tax being paid in the UK by companies like Starbucks, Amazon and Google. Executives from all three were grilled by the Public Accounts Committee last month; others are sure to follow.

The problem, in a nutshell, is this. Overseas subsidiaries of global companies, incorporated in countries with lower tax rates, can charge royalties to fellow subsidiaries in the UK, or supply goods with a mark up, in order to channel profits between the two subsidiaries and therefore between countries. The effect is to reduce the profits of the part of the business based in Britain, and therefore the tax payable here.

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Project Red Alert

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By Lord Ashcroft

Like David Cameron, Ed Miliband has an election-winning coalition to build. And like the Prime Minister, he has a dilemma to go with it. Labour’s lead in the polls looks consistent, but is it firm? My latest research report, Project Red Alert, seeks to answer this question.

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Much aid spending is counter-productive and only serves to fuel corruption

By Lord Ashcroft

To many people, the House of Lords is an anachronism; few of our proceedings capture public attention. Yet one of the reasons I am so proud of the House is the quality of debate. Discussions in the upper chamber can cast fresh light on a subject, free of the partisan ding-dong that so often characterises the Commons.

Last Monday’s discussion on the effectiveness of development aid was a prime example. Wise and experienced speakers on all sides of the House weighed in on a debate which served to underscore the flaws in the government’s international development policy.

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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

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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Project Blueprint Phase 3: The quest for a Conservative majority

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By Lord Ashcroft

When I published the first phase of Project Blueprint in May 2011, David Cameron’s first anniversary as Prime Minister, political comment was dominated by the relationship between Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs following the Alternative Vote referendum. At the end of this government’s second full year, the same is happening again in the aftermath of another of the Lib Dems’ doomed attempts to change the constitution, to the yawning indifference of the country at large. What was true a year ago is even truer now: what should matter most to Tories is not the coalition between the parties, but the coalition of voters who will decide whether to elect a Conservative government with an overall majority.

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What does and doesn’t matter most to voters about the Libor scandal

By Lord Ashcroft

The following genuine conversation was overheard yesterday on the tube. A man in his twenties was flicking through the Metro. His friend, also in his twenties, glanced over at the front page and said,

“That’s Bob Diamond!”

“Who?” asked Man A.

“The Barclays chief executive. You know.”

Man A frowned at the paper.

“I don’t know the origin of this scandal”.

“He says the Bank of England told them to fix the Libor.”

“What’s the Libor?”

“It’s, like, the interest rate that  banks use to lend to each other. They made it artificially low”.

“So that must have been great for the borrowers, right?”

“No, it was just to make their profits look bigger.”

Man A considered this.

“Apparently it’s going to be sunny at the weekend”.

That may not be everything you need to know about the political implications of the Libor scandal, but it is a good place to start. (more…)