Cameron’s Caledonian Conundrum

ScotMap

By Lord Ashcroft

When the Conservatives were booted out of office in 1997 the party was left with no MPs in Scotland. Today they have one – a total which few expect to rise in 2015.

Explanations abound for the Tories’ Scottish decline, economic and cultural as well as political. One of the most common is that the Tories are still being punished for the legacy of Mrs Thatcher and what she “did to” Scotland. But this theory does not ring true. For one thing, the Conservatives’ popularity in Scotland has been waning since 1955, when they were the largest party. For another thing, when the supposedly wickedly anti-Scottish Thatcher was in Number 10, the Tories won more seats and more votes in Scotland than they have ever done since. And for a third thing, even if Mrs Thatcher were universally reviled in Scotland – which she is not – I do not believe that most Scots are so unimaginative as to vote according to what they thought of the PM before the PM before the PM before last.

Whatever the history, the task for the Tories is to work out where they are now and what they can do about it. (more…)

Labour are in poll position but here’s why the Tories could still win the next election

By Lord Ashcroft

This article first appeared in the Mirror.

From the moment the Lib Dems joined the Conservatives in coalition, the next election was Labour’s to lose. Half the people who had voted for Nick Clegg’s party – many of them wanting to keep the Tories out – went straight to Labour, giving their new leader Ed Miliband a big head start. Worse, from the David Cameron’s point of view, Labour could still win outright with a lower share of the vote than the Tories could – and the Lib Dems locked in Labour’s advantage by blocking a plan to make constituency boundaries fairer.

The trickle of Tory voters towards UKIP has made life even more difficult for Cameron. And as I found in my recent poll of marginal seats, things look even tougher for the Conservatives on the key battlegrounds than they do nationally. Not surprisingly, the bookies have Labour as firm favourites to return to government.

So why, as a Tory, do I think we are in for the closest election for forty years – and that we could see another term of Prime Minister Cameron? (more…)

What I told the Tories in Manchester

manchester.ashx

By Lord Ashcroft

Here is the text of the presentation I gave at the ConHome fringe meeting at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester this week. (more…)

Labour still on course in the marginals – but it’s not over yet

Forty seats

By Lord Ashcroft

For most of the summer Labour’s poll lead has been in single digits. Though enough for victory at a general election, this is hardly a comfortable margin for Ed Miliband at this stage of the parliament – particularly since, as I have found in my previous research, Labour’s support is far from firm.

But as we know, the picture is seldom uniform across the country; the national headline figures can sometimes mask what is happening in marginal seats where elections are won and lost. In the last few weeks I have polled nearly 13,000 voters in the 40 Conservative seats with the smallest majorities: 32 of which the party is defending against Labour, and 8 where the Liberal Democrats came second in 2010. (more…)

How many Scots know what the Scottish Parliament does?

© Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body

By Lord Ashcroft

What proportion of Scots say they have a clear understanding of the powers of the Scottish Parliament? Fourteen years after Holyrood opened for business, the number is surprisingly low. In a recent poll I have found only 14% of Scots claiming to have a very good idea of what is decided in Edinburgh and what powers remain with Westminster; 44% said they had “some idea” but four in ten admitted to having “very little idea” which parliament was responsible for what. (more…)

Public opinion and the politics of immigration

AdVan

By Lord Ashcroft

See the Sunday Times for further coverage of this research.

The debate over immigration encapsulates all the stuff of politics: who we are as a country, how we see our economic prospects, our sense of entitlement and obligation, the purpose of public services and the broader welfare state. And while the subject is no longer taboo – if it ever was – it regularly proves to be explosive. Many feel that over the last fifteen years immigration has been allowed to happen on a scale we cannot cope with, and without public consent being sought or given.

Whatever people’s view of immigration itself, few think any recent government has had any real grasp of it, or that any of the parties does today. Most do not feel there is any strategy for dealing with the number of migrants, for their successful integration into British society, or for managing the effects on housing, infrastructure, jobs, the NHS, schools, or the benefits system.

In a poll of more than 20,000 people I found that six in ten thought immigration had produced more disadvantages than advantages for the country as a whole; only 17% thought the pros outweighed the cons. (more…)

Len is right – Unite members are not queuing up to join Labour

Len

By Lord Ashcroft

Len McCluskey, leader of the Unite union, told the Guardian last week that his members were “not queuing up to join the Labour Party”. This is quite a mild remark for a man not usually given to understatement. He added that he could not justify signing up a million of his members to Labour when a large chunk of them do not support the party.

A poll of Unite members I conducted last week shows his crisis of conscience (if that is what it is) to be well founded. (more…)

That’s enough fantasy politics. ‘Margaret Thatcher Day’ is not a vote-winner

By Lord Ashcroft

It is sometimes remarked that the centre ground of politics is not the same thing as the common ground. There is some truth in this. Overall, most people want to vote for parties that seem sensibly moderate rather than those that have veered too far one way or the other, but this does not mean that on any given issue – crime, immigration, the NHS – the centre of gravity of public opinion is always in the middle of the spectrum.

Yet politicians should beware of using this argument as an excuse to pursue preoccupations of their own which few voters share. A good example of this occurred at the end of June in the form of the so-called Alternative Queen’s Speech, a raft of measures (why do measures always arrive on rafts?) put forward by a number of Tory backbenchers which are, according to Peter Bone MP, designed to “recapture the common ground, where most views are”.

I decided to put this contention to the test in a poll. (more…)

“Are You Serious?” Boris, the Tories and the voters

Boris cloud

By Lord Ashcroft

What do we know about Boris Johnson? That he is the most popular politician in the country. That he raises the spirits in gloomy times. That he is a Tory who was elected, and then re-elected, in a predominantly Labour city. And that some think the magic that helped ensure his two personal victories would do the same for his party if, one day, he led it.

It is not a ridiculous idea. But in politics, things are seldom as straightforward as that. I decided to look further into the proposition that Boris is the answer. (more…)

Don’t tell me… It’s him off the telly

him-off-the-telly

By Lord Ashcroft

What proportion of people in Britain can correctly identify a picture of the Prime Minister? Yes, you at the back – correct. 94%. This is as close to a unanimous response as you get in political research, but still means that more than one in twenty of our fellow countrymen and women could in theory bump into David Cameron and not be at all sure who he was. (This ought to be a salutary thought for those in the political world who imagine that the rest of the electorate follow events in Westminster as closely as they do.)

Who, then, is Britain’s second most recognised politician? (more…)