My Conservative Conference Diary – Tuesday

By Lord Ashcroft

An honour to welcome the Prime Minister to the annual ConHome party with the 1922 Committee, which has become a regular feature on the conference agenda. It was especially good of her to turn up on her birthday (what better way to celebrate the occasion?) She was on tub-thumping form, and took the opportunity of reminding the audience that the implementation phase of Brexit (not a “transition period”) would last no more than two years. As well as a rousing cheer she was met with an uplifting chorus of ‘Happy Birthday To You’, boldly led (I can exclusively reveal) by Nigel Evans. The event was generously sponsored by The City UK and Heathrow Airport, whose boss, John Holland-Kaye, she had met only recently: “When Philip and I were flying off on our summer holidays, the chief executive of Heathrow came and told us all about their future expansion. I suppose that’s what being Prime Minister is all about,” she said ruefully (more…)

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…)

My Conservative Conference Diary – Sunday

By Lord Ashcroft

In many years of listening to voters in my political research, the same complaints come up again and again: politicians don’t listen, they always break their promises, that sort of thing. One such theme that used to be a regular but which we have not heard for a while, strangely enough, is “the parties are all the same”. You can certainly argue this is a good thing, in the sense that democracy ought to be about a real choice. On the other hand, it also means we have a principal Opposition party that seems intent on turning London into Caracas. It was heartening to hear Theresa May’s staunch defence of free market capitalism which, for all its imperfections, remains the most effective – indeed, the only – system for raising living standards and bringing a measure of prosperity to billions of people around the world. The surprising thing, considering where British politics was only a few years ago, was that it has to be done at all. As Mrs. Thatcher reflected in her memoirs, “in politics there are no final victories… arguments are never finally won (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…)

Rises all round? My public sector pay poll

By Lord Ashcroft

Large majorities think many public sector workers should be given pay rises above one per cent, and most Labour voters think their party should support strike action if pay demands are not met, according to my latest poll.

Support for higher increases in pay is greatest for nurses (86%), police officers (75%) and the Armed Forces (70%), though only just over half say they support rises above one per cent for doctors, and immigration and border staff. Only one in three would support such a rise for civil servants. Most Conservative voters support bigger rises for all the groups we asked about apart from teachers, doctors and civil servants (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…)

Estimated Conservative majority rises in final Ashcroft Model update

By Lord Ashcroft

The final results from the Ashcroft Model shows an increase in the estimated Conservative majority compared to Tuesday’s figures. The new data is based on an updated survey conducted on Tuesday and Wednesday, which found a hardening of the Conservative vote as Tory supporters gave a higher likelihood of turning out to vote than in previous rounds. The upshot is as follows:

  • Using voters’ self-declared likelihood to turn out, the model estimates 373 Conservative seats, or a Conservative overall majority of 96.
  • If turnout were to match that of the 2015 election, the model estimates 364 Conservative seats, or a majority of 78.
  • If everyone who claims to have voted in the EU referendum turns out, the estimated number of Conservative seats falls to 351, or a majority of 52.

Merging these three together and adding each party’s win chances in all the seats they are standing gives a “combined probabilistic estimate” of 363 seats, or a majority of 76, up from 64 in Tuesday’s update (more…)

Ashcroft Model update: potential majorities and seat-by-seat estimates

By Lord Ashcroft

The Conservatives remain on course to win a majority in the general election, according to new figures from the Ashcroft Model. Our “combined probabilistic model”, which calculates the sum of each party’s win chances in all the seats in which it is standing, estimates 357 Tory seats, or a potential majority of 64 (up four from the previous update published last Friday). However, this central estimate, based on an update survey conducted over the weekend, combines the data from three different turnout scenarios: including all those who currently say they will vote on Thursday (giving a Conservative majority of 70); including all those who say they voted in the EU referendum (a Conservative majority of 48); and assuming turnout matches that of the 2015 election (a Conservative majority of 78) (more…)