Elections

Not being a party of government helped UKIP yesterday. Will it in 2015?

By Lord Ashcroft

Well that could have been worse. A lot better too, certainly, but let’s keep things in perspective. The UKIP performance is by far the most striking feature of the local election results, and I will come to that, but there are other things to observe.

First, there is nothing remarkable about a governing party losing ground (though there is also no guarantee that it will be regained in time). The overall result, if not the precise losses, could have been predicted the day after the 2010 election. (more…)

Britons still don’t believe that the Tories are on their side

By Lord Ashcroft

This article was first published in the Financial Times

There is a ritual, and even a specialised vocabulary, for midterm local elections in the UK. In advance, they are always a “crucial test” of the government’s popularity, and the opposition’s ability to turn poll ratings into votes. Next comes expectation management, when incumbent parties brief that they will lose practically all their councillors, and the challengers claim they expect to gain hardly any, in the forlorn hope of bamboozling political reporters.

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1992. The last elected Conservative government

By Lord Ashcroft

The past week has been one of great loss for Britain. It has also contained an anniversary which has, not surprisingly, gone unremarked: it is now 21 years since the Conservative Party last won a general election with an overall majority.

Some will recall 9 April 1992 more clearly than most – not least the man who then headed the Conservative Research Department’s Political Section. Can that 25 year-old aide to John Major have imagined that despite its fourth consecutive victory and 14 million votes (a total which remains a record), his party’s standing with the public would be reversed within a year – and that the next Conservative Prime Minister to enter Number 10 would be him?

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Words matter. Don’t choose them too carefully

By Lord Ashcroft

Nobody who listened to George Osborne’s Budget speech could have been in any doubt about what he was trying to say. If anyone missed the message about “aspiration” at the first mention, or the second, they would surely have picked it up by the sixteenth.  Yawn! The aim of building an “aspiration nation” and helping “hard working people who want to get on in life” was reinforced days later by David Cameron in his immigration speech, in which he also found three opportunities to remind us that Britain was in a “global race”, a theme he first introduced at last year’s Conservative conference.

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The odds are (literally) against us – but is it over yet?

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By Lord Ashcroft

Every pundit has a theory about the next election, and the New Year has brought a flurry of them. Some believe a Conservative victory is impossible; others think it is the most likely outcome. Unlike the commentators, the bookies have to back their theories with cash. Their expectations are clear. For them, an overall majority for Labour is the most likely result in May 2015 – Ladbrokes will give you only 11/8, and Paddy Power 5/4 on this outcome. A hung parliament looks to them less probable than a Labour victory, with the two firms offering 13/8 and 7/4 respectively on no party winning outright.

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I would be pleased to see Romney defy the odds on Tuesday but I’m not betting on it

By Lord Ashcroft

Towards the end of the Republican Convention this summer the experienced campaign consultant Trygve Olsen advised us how to read the presidential race in the closing weeks. You could tell a lot from where the candidates spent their time, but also what they said: if either side says it is confident, it is too close to call; if one side claims to be enjoying a surge, it means they are going to lose.

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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 did the local elections mean?

By Lord Ashcroft

David Cameron has said the midterm blues and tough economic conditions are not enough to explain last week’s results, and that he will not take refuge in the familiar excuses. This is good to hear, though he probably does take some comfort in the fact that bad local elections are hardly a shock for a mid-term government. Nevertheless, it is worth making some observations about what happened.

Some claim core Conservatives stayed at home or voted for someone else. Yet the figure of 31%, the party’s vote share last Thursday, has a familiar ring to it. This may be because 31% was the party’s average score in published polls between 1997 and 2005. That suggests to me not that core Tories did not vote Conservative last Thursday, but that they were the only ones who did.

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Lack of Tory direction is the real ‘UKIP threat’

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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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Anti-NHS Bill candidates could boost the Conservative Party

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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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