Elections

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…)

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…)

How did this result happen? My post-vote survey

By Lord Ashcroft

I surveyed over 14,000 people on election day who had already cast their vote to help understand how this unexpected result came about. My poll came very close to reflecting the outcome of the election, with 41% saying they had voted Conservative, 39% Labour, and 9% voted Liberal Democrat (the result in Great Britain has been 43% Conservative, 41% Labour, 7% Lib Dems). The survey found two thirds of those aged 18 to 24 saying they voted Labour, as did more than half of those aged 25 to 34. Voters aged over 55 broke for the Tories (more…)

“She still keeps banging on about independence”: my election focus groups in Scotland, with two weeks to go

By Lord Ashcroft

This week’s general election focus group report comes from two Scottish seats which fell to the SNP in 2015 but could be competitive on 8 June: Edinburgh South West, and Aberdeen South. In each seat we spoke to two types of people: those who voted no to Scottish independence in 2014, Labour or Liberal Democrat in 2015, and who were undecided what to do this time round; and those who voted SNP at the last general election and to leave the EU in last year’s referendum.

With this latter group, we began by asking how they arrived at what some might see as a contradictory set of opinions. For a few, it had been a cunning ruse that seemed to have backfired: “I mistakenly thought it was a tactical vote that if we vote to leave it would end up triggering Scottish independence (more…)

“Values don’t mean piddly-doop – you need a leader”: my election focus groups, with four weeks to go

By Lord Ashcroft

This week my general election focus groups took place in three seats Labour are defending from the Conservatives in the West Midlands: Wolverhampton South West, Birmingham Northfields and Dudley North. We spoke to people who had voted Labour in 2015 – most of whom had never voted anything but Labour in a national election – but who now said they were undecided what to do on 8 June.

The Tories enjoyed a boost in the region last week when Andy Street was elected the first West Midlands Mayor. The majority in our groups had not voted (turnout was a mere 27 per cent) but most of those who did backed the winner. They said the candidates’ qualities had mattered more in the decision than party labels: “I voted for the John Lewis guy (more…)

The general election isn’t just about Brexit

By Lord Ashcroft

This article was published before the local elections at TIME.com.

 

“You’re joking?! Not another one? Oh for God’s sake I can’t, honestly, I can’t stand this.” So said a lady called Brenda, from the British city of Bristol, when told by a local journalist of Prime Minister Theresa May’s decision to call an unexpected general election for 8 June. “There’s too much politics going on at the moment,” she added.

Brenda is not alone in that assessment. After a referendum on Scottish independence in 2014, a general election in 2015, and another referendum on EU membership in 2016 — followed closely by the vicarious excitement of the Trump-Clinton showdown in the U.S. — many in Britain feel they have endured quite enough campaigning for the time being (more…)

The Unexpected Mandate: my review of the 2015 election and the unusual parliament that preceded it

By Lord Ashcroft

After the 2005 general election I published Smell The Coffee: A Wake-Up Call For The Conservative Party. Based on extensive research, this was an attempt to understand why the Tories kept losing elections and what they needed to do about it. In 2010 I followed up with Minority Verdict, which drew on published polling and my perspective from having been involved in the Conservative campaign, to help explain why the party had once again fallen short.

My analysis of the 2015 election, and the unusual parliament that preceded it, appears as the appendix to Call Me Dave, my biography of David Cameron written with Isabel Oakeshott. I am now releasing this as a separate edition – The Unexpected Mandate – to follow my two earlier election commentaries. (more…)

‘Pay Me Forty Quid And I’ll Tell You: The 2015 Election Campaign Through The Eyes Of The Voters’

By Lord Ashcroft

From January until the election, Lord Ashcroft Polls conducted weekly focus groups from Cornwall to Scotland to find out whether the parties’ campaigns were having any effect on the people they were supposed to impress: undecided voters in marginal seats. We asked what people had noticed and what had passed them by, what they thought the parties were trying to tell them and how believable (or otherwise) they found it, what mattered to them and what didn’t, what they made of the leaders vying for their attention, which way they were leaning and what doubts stopped them making their minds up. (more…)