‘Well, You Did Ask… Why The UK Voted To Leave The EU’


By Lord Ashcroft

My book on the EU referendum, ‘Well, You Did Ask… Why The UK Voted To Leave The EU’, is available now from Biteback Publishing.

‘Well, You Did Ask…’ draws on two years of research by Lord Ashcroft Polls. It explores what voters made of the issues, the campaigns, the personalities, the claims and counterclaims, and how they came to make the most momentous political decision of our time.

We look in detail at the differences in outlook between those who voted to leave and those who voted to remain – differences which will have a real bearing on the future of our politics. And as the country sets about negotiating a new relationship with Europe, it offers what I hope is a colourful and revealing look at what our continental neighbours think about Britain and the British.

To think clearly about what the referendum result means, we first need to understand how it came about. (more…)

The New Blueprint: The Conservative Agenda In Post-Brexit Britain

Q16. Brexit means Brexit (logo)

By Lord Ashcroft

A year after the coalition government was formed I embarked upon a research exercise which I called Project Blueprint. It looked at how the Conservatives could win an overall majority, and rested on the premise that if the party did not want to govern in coalition, it would need to build a coalition of voters big enough to allow it to rule on its own.

Just over a year since the 2015 election – and five years since the first instalment of Project Blueprint – the political landscape seems at first glance to be almost unrecognisably different. We have a new government led by a new Prime Minister, with no opposition in sight – whether from Labour, who are engaged in a bizarre drama of their own, from the Liberal Democrats, who have all but vanished, or from UKIP which, having accomplished its founding mission, will need to articulate a new purpose for itself. Oh yes, and the UK has voted to leave the EU.

But if the context is different, the Tories’ political mission is the same (more…)

Post-Brexit Britain and the new regime: the voters react

By Lord Ashcroft


In the space of a month, Britain has voted to leave the EU, the Prime Minister has resigned and been replaced by a new one, Cabinet ministers have been unexpectedly sacked or promoted, the Leader of the Opposition has lost a vote of no confidence and is being challenged for his position. I decided to ask the voters what they thought of it all.

In the last couple of weeks (allowing for a break to watch the rival drama on the other side of the Atlantic), we have conducted focus groups with different kinds of voters – remain and leave, and from various parties – in Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle and Glasgow. These were part of a continuing project on the new political landscape that I will launch in September, but here is a snapshot.

First impressions of Theresa May as Prime Minister were very positive (more…)

How the United Kingdom voted on Thursday… and why

LR by demographics

By Lord Ashcroft


The UK has voted to leave the European Union. On referendum day I surveyed 12,369 people after they had voted to help explain the result – who voted for which outcome, and what lay behind their decision.


The demographics

  • The older the voters, the more likely they were to have voted to leave the EU. Nearly three quarters (73%) of 18 to 24 year-olds voted to remain, falling to under two thirds (62%) among 25-34s. A majority of those aged over 45 voted to leave, rising to 60% of those aged 65 or over. Most people with children aged ten or under voted to remain; most of those with children aged 11 or older voted to leave.


Why I’m for Brexit

By Lord Ashcroft

Forget the hysteria. Leaving the European Union would not put a bomb under the British economy or end Western political civilization as we know it. But nor would it mean another £350 million a week being spent on the NHS, and staying does not mean eighty million Turks will be arriving at Dover. For voters struggling to make sense of the referendum campaign, this sort of thing has hardly helped (more…)

Voters’ butterflies, the post-Brexit budget, and the Totnes Question: my final referendum focus groups


By Lord Ashcroft


My final round of referendum focus groups, in St Austell and Bromley, found that if the two sides of the campaign are feeling the pressure of the tightening polls, they are not the only ones – the voters are nervous too: “I swing so much between the two. I have actually got butterflies;” “In most elections nothing really changes, but with this one you know in your gut that something big is going to happen. There are going to be major changes and that is quite frightening (more…)

Migration, TV debates, our “special status”, and the Money Saving Expert: my referendum focus groups in Cardiff


By Lord Ashcroft

My penultimate round of focus groups with undecided voters took place in Cardiff, where many people’s perplexity over the decision at hand was not turning not into enlightenment but exasperation. Among the many words people used to describe the contest so far (“unreliable”, “unrealistic”, “uninformative”, “not that interesting”, “unnecessary”, “a quagmire”, “a lot of bullsh*t”), by far the most common was “confusing”.

The campaign “is not helping one bit. It’s just, ‘this is going to happen’, ‘no it’s not’.” (more…)

Tory wars, Clarkson, Corbyn, Sadiq & Dave, the TUC and immigration: my latest referendum focus groups


By Lord Ashcroft


This week’s focus groups with undecided referendum voters took place in Leamington and in Muswell Hill, North London, with only three weeks to go until the big day. “That will be the actual decision, will it?” It really will. “I don’t think it’s been highlighted that much, considering it’s such a big thing.” “In the paper I always see this ‘Bee-arr-exit’. What does it mean?”

Given the dearth of coverage, what arguments have people noticed from the Leave side? “The amount of money we pay into the EU. It’s a huge figure. If we leave we’ll be £30 billion or £300 billion better off (more…)

Turkey, migrants, the Euro-army, the price of freedom and the Neutrality Paradox: my referendum focus groups in Leeds


By Lord Ashcroft


This week’s focus groups with undecided referendum voters took place in Leeds, where people were doing their best to stay on top of events (“I’m not OCD about it but I like to know what’s going on”). Participants had noticed that recent news had been dominated by migration, including the rise in net migration to 333,000.

For some, this was worrying (“it’s scary when you see it written down”). Others thought it was surprisingly (more…)

How the EU debate turned into CSI Brussels

By Lord Ashcroft

This article was first published in The Guardian


“Usually I’d say ‘What do the Tories want?’ and do the opposite. But you can’t even do that.” This complaint from an undecided voter in one of my recent focus groups sums up the frustration many people feel about the EU referendum campaign. For all that people grumble about partisan politics, the parties’ competing brands – their familiar character, principles, policies, personalities and history, in or out of office – help voters make decisions.

Without party brands to guide them, many voters feel at sea (more…)