Lord Ashcroft’s new book, “Red Knight: The Unauthorised Biography of Sir Keir Starmer”, is published today

By Lord Ashcroft

RED KNIGHT
THE UNAUTHORISED BIOGRAPHY OF SIR KEIR STARMER

BY MICHAEL ASHCROFT

Publication date: 19th August 2021
Price: £20 hardback

Sir Keir Starmer has played many parts during his life and career. He went from schoolboy socialist to radical lawyer before surprising many by joining the establishment, becoming Director of Public Prosecutions, accepting a knighthood and then, in 2015, standing successfully for Parliament. At Westminster, he was swiftly elevated to the shadow Cabinet, and in April 2020 he became the leader of the Labour Party.

Michael Ashcroft’s new book goes in search of the man who wants to be Prime Minister and reveals previously unknown details about him which help to explain what makes him tick. (more…)

Starmer’s Brexit calamity: The irony is exquisite

By Lord Ashcroft

Serialisation of Red Knight: The Unauthorised Biography Of Sir Keir Starmer, in The Mail on Sunday on 20 June 2021.

A forensic new biography of the Labour leader reveals how his arrogant refusal to accept the referendum result unwittingly helped make Boris PM – and gave Britain the hard Brexit he most dreaded…

In the first part of our serialisation last week of Lord Ashcroft’s forensically researched new biography of Sir Keir Starmer, we told how the flute-playing, grammar school educated Labour leader has been accused of overplaying his working-class credentials.

Here, in the final part, we explain how the die-hard Remainer may well have unwittingly secured Boris Johnson’s 2019 General Election triumph and a much harder Brexit. (more…)

King of the Middle Class Radicals: That was grammar school-educated Sir Keir Starmer’s university nickname.

By Lord Ashcroft

Serialisation of Red Knight: The Unauthorised Biography Of Sir Keir Starmer, in The Mail on Sunday on 13 June 2021.

Even now, says a biography the Labour leader tried to obstruct, he’s guilty of overplaying his working-class credentials.

Those who know Sir Keir Starmer well often speak of his decency, integrity, intellect and reluctance to give too much away about himself.

However, Labour’s local elections trouncing in May spurred him to greater efforts on the self-promotion front.

The opening move was an interview on Piers Morgan’s Life Stories, in which he spoke tearfully and movingly about his mother’s life-debilitating illness.

(more…)

My new Scottish research finds independence in the balance

By Lord Ashcroft

Events that change the world sometimes have little apparent effect on politics. At first glance, this is the case with the covid pandemic and the scene in Scotland, according to my latest research.

The independence debate continues to sit on a knife-edge. In my 2,000-sample survey, the 51-49 margin for staying in the UK amounts to a statistical dead heat. To the frustration of many voters on all sides who would rather talk about something else, the question still dominates the agenda: nearly as many people say they will use their votes next week to prevent a new referendum as to try and secure one.

Not only does the SNP maintain its clear lead in the Holyrood elections, its support is more intense: those naming the nationalists as their most likely choice put their chances of actually turning out to vote for them higher than those of other parties’ potential backers.

Nicola Sturgeon herself is more dominant than ever. As her newly appointed rivals (and the perennial Willie Rennie) struggle to make an impression, the First Minister’s handling of the pandemic has enhanced her standing even among her critics. Many praise the clarity of her daily briefings and draw a contrast with Boris Johnson (whom many Scots cannot quite believe has become Prime Minister), even if the more cynical praise “her commitment to being on TV every day,” as one focus group participant archly put it (more…)

Reunited Nation? American politics beyond the 2020 election

By Lord Ashcroft

Joe Biden’s inauguration today will be greeted with a huge sigh of relief by millions in America and around the world. The moment crowns the victory not just of Biden, but of the institutions of American democracy that many still fear are under threat. After a fortnight of extraordinary drama that saw the storming of the Capitol building and a second impeachment for an outgoing President, it would be easy to lose sight of the bigger picture – the movements that brought American politics to where it is, and their effect in the election that feels as though it took place not just eleven short weeks ago but in another age.

If the 2016 election that sent Trump to the White House will stand as one of the defining political events of our time, its successor last year was in many ways at least as remarkable: the supposedly unpopular President winning more votes than any previous Republican, losing only to the candidate with the most votes ever. This week I am publishing my analysis, based on four years of research throughout the US as well extensive polling and focus groups during the 2020 campaign. The research both helps to explain what happened and why, and gives some clues about what we can expect in the next chapter of American politics. Here are some of the key points (more…)

Trump is gone but Trumpism lives on: Hopes of a new age of unity under Joe Biden are surely forlorn

By Lord Ashcroft

This article was first published in the Mail on Sunday.

When Joe Biden takes the oath of office this week he will go down in history: having won more votes than any previous candidate, he will become the oldest person ever to become the country’s Commander in Chief. He will also be perhaps the first President to fulfil his mandate on the day of his inauguration.

For millions of Americans, Biden had one job – to remove Donald Trump from the White House – and he will complete this mission by lunch time on Wednesday. Much of the country will sigh with relief as the twice-impeached Trump leaves Washington to await the Senate’s verdict on charges of high crimes and misdemeanours, and its decision on whether he will be allowed to run for office again.

President Biden’s problems will begin with whatever he decides to do for an encore (more…)

“Trump lies a lot and Biden’s kind of not all there” “The silver lining is that if Trump loses, he can run again!”: My final election focus groups in Pennsylvania and Arizona

By Lord Ashcroft

 The final week of our virtual pre-election focus group tour of America’s swing states takes us to Pennsylvania, which swung narrowly to Trump four years having backed Democrats for president in every election since 1988, and Arizona, which has voted for the Republican in all but one election since 1948 but now high on Joe Biden’s list of targets.

With only days to go, we found some 2016 Trump supporters torn over how to cast their vote: “I was a little concerned that Biden’s not sure what he’s going to do with fossil fuel. And I’m concerned on Trump’s side with the healthcare system, but I like the economics, but maybe Biden has a better plan for disability people like me. So right now I’m stuck;” “Trump has no response plan for the virus, nothing’s going on. But I don’t think Biden really has a plan for this either;” “In 2016 I was willing to give him a chance because of what he could do for the economy and the fact that this was something different, he wasn’t just another politician. It’s not so easy now;” “Trump lies a lot and Biden’s kind of not all there (more…)

“He’s like a great surgeon with a terrible bedside manner” “It’s starting to feel like China” “If you’re voting for Trump, you keep your mouth shut”: My US election focus groups in Georgia and Ohio

By Lord Ashcroft

This week our virtual tour of America takes us to Georgia, widely seen as a toss-up this year despite having voted for the Republican in every presidential election since 1992, and Ohio, the quintessential swing state which has backed the losing candidate only once since 1944.

As if often the case with political news, the Hunter Biden email scandal – the claim that Joe Biden’s son was involved in corruption involving a Ukrainian energy company – seemed to have gained a great deal of attention without moving any votes (more…)

“He’s so toxic he’s worn out his welcome” “He’s the first president I paid attention to because he’s awesome” “There’s a lot of effing stupid people in our country”: My latest US election focus groups

By Lord Ashcroft

This week our virtual focus-group tour of America takes us to two more swing states, one in the rustbelt and one in the sunbelt: Michigan, which voted for the Democrat in every presidential election for 20 years before narrowly backing Donald Trump in 2016, and North Carolina, recently a more Republican-leaning state where polls now give Joe Biden a slim lead.

The week has been dominated by the Senate hearings for Amy Coney Barrett, Trump’s nomination the vacant seat on the Supreme Court following the death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg. The issue is the source of fruitless allegations of hypocrisy on all sides: the Democrats furious that the process is happening at all given the Senate’s refusal to confirm an Obama nominee in the months before the 2016 election, and the Republicans pointing out that the nominee in question would certainly have been confirmed if the Democrats had had the votes in the Senate (more…)

“Who says you have to like the President?” “He pretended it wasn’t a big deal and then went and caught it” “I think there might be riots no matter who wins”: My focus groups in Florida and Wisconsin

By Lord Ashcroft

In the weeks before the United States elected Donald Trump in 2016, I conducted focus groups to find out what was on people’s minds in swing states around the country This year, the Ashcroft in America tour is happening via Zoom, but the aim is the same: to hear what voters themselves are thinking as they weigh their decision. This week we begin in Florida and Wisconsin, speaking to voters who backed Trump in 2016 having backed Obama four years earlier and were having second thoughts, Hispanic voters who had helped elect Trump but were now undecided, and centrist Democrats backing Biden with varying degrees of enthusiasm.

Our 2016 Trump voters had plenty of complaints, often to do with the way he conducts himself: “We were looking for a complete change and we certainly got that,” says one. “But he fails in my mind with acting the way a President should act;” “He’s arrogant, he’s not honest, and, you know, he’s our leader. So I just don’t feel we have anybody to look up to;” “I thought he was a good candidate versus Clinton. But I also feel like when he got into office, his ego sort of took over. All the Twitter stuff – if you’re the president of a country you don’t need to be doing that at three in the morning (more…)