After a turbulent few weeks, where do Johnson – and Starmer – really stand with the voters?

By Lord Ashcroft

This week’s local elections take place against the backdrop of leadership plots and follow perhaps the most politically turbulent few months since the Brexit wars. My new research, including an 8,000-sample poll and focus groups with 2019 Conservatives in different types of seat throughout the country, shows how voters have reacted to the recent controversies and where Boris Johnson, Keir Starmer and their parties now stand in relation to the voters.

Partygate: is it over yet?

Just under half of all voters (47%) including nearly one in five 2019 Tories, said they thought “breaking the rules is a very serious matter, and Boris Johnson should resign”. This included more than 3 in 10 (31%) of those who switched from Labour to the Conservatives at the 2019 election (more…)

Three reasons why Boris Johnson can survive the public’s anger at Partygate

By Lord Ashcroft

This article first appeared in the Mail on Sunday.

Looking at my latest polling it is easy to see why many believe Boris Johnson’s Downing Street days are numbered.

My new 8,000-sample survey shows the opposition ahead not just on traditional Labour issues like the NHS and public services, but on supposedly Tory territory like immigration and crime. Voters say they are more inclined to trust Labour to run the economy.

When it comes to the premiership, Keir Starmer rates higher than Johnson in nearly all areas: communicating effectively, leading a team, formulating effective policies, having the right judgment in a crisis – and doing the job of prime minister overall. Apart from willingness to take tough decisions for the long term – a double-edged sword that can suggest callousness as well as realism – the Conservatives lag Labour on all other qualities we asked about: unity, values, being “on the side of people like me”, having the right priorities and (disastrously for a centre-right party) competence.

The government’s response to rocketing living costs has hardly helped (more…)

For now, Russia backs Putin and the invasion – but younger people are sceptical of the Kremlin line

By Lord Ashcroft

Two weeks ago I published survey in Ukraine that showed the determination of its population to defend their country and their view that Britain was doing more than most allies to help.

My latest poll, conducted by telephone in Russia from a neighbouring state, comes with two obvious caveats. The first is that the Putin regime effectively controls what Russians see and hear about the “special military operation” in Ukraine – and this is on top of two decades of Kremlin propaganda for the president and his works. The second is that with protests crushed and prison terms for anyone accused of spreading of “fake news” about the war, many might be cautious in talking about their views to a stranger. We also know, however, that a crisis can often prompt a surge of national loyalty.

With those health warnings, the survey suggests that Putin has managed to shape Russian opinion strongly in his favour – at least for the time being. Here are the main findings.

 

Most Russians back the invasion of Ukraine – but they don’t claim all of it

76% said they support the “special military operation” in Ukraine, with more than half (57%) saying they do so strongly. (more…)

My new book on the NHS – and what the voters really think about their favourite institution

By Lord Ashcroft

My new book, published tomorrow, could be my most controversial yet.

No, not that one. I mean Life Support: The State of the NHS in an Age of Pandemics. In it, my co-author Isabel Oakeshott and I ask hard questions about how good the National Health Service really is, and what needs to change if it is to offer the consistently high quality of care that patients and taxpayers deserve.

An objective study of a public institution ought not to be controversial, but any attempt to offer an unvarnished view of the NHS today will inevitably be seen in some quarters as an attack. Life Support is no such thing, of course. (After all, I spent a year campaigning, successfully as it turned out, for a rare collective award of the George Cross for the NHS and its staff). Nor is it an argument for doing away with the principle that services should be free at the point of delivery, which would be politically impractical even if I thought it a good idea, which I don’t. Rather, it is a rigorous study of the NHS as it really is today – the good, the bad and the ugly – based on detailed on-the-ground research and hundreds of interviews with health professionals and others (more…)

Ukrainians want to stay and fight, but don’t see Russian people as the enemy. A remarkable poll from Kyiv

By Lord Ashcroft

We have all seen the extraordinary bravery and spirit with which the people of Ukraine have responded to Putin’s brutal invasion. The results of a survey which, somewhat to my astonishment, a research firm in Kyiv was able to conduct for Lord Ashcroft Polls in the past few days only add to my admiration.

You might think an opinion survey is a rather trivial distraction given the magnitude of events that are unfolding. If so, let me say that our partners in Kyiv were pleased to have the work and – most importantly – the chance to show the world something of what Ukrainians are thinking and feeling as they defend their country. These are the main findings:

Ukrainians want to stay and fight.

Only 11% of Ukrainians agreed “if I could leave Ukraine safely tomorrow for another country I would.” Nearly 7 in 10 (69%) strongly disagreed. Only 1 in 20 (5%) of those aged 65 or over said they would leave if they could (more…)

Parties aren’t Boris’s only problem – his voters want real change

By Lord Ashcroft

The front page of Wednesday’s Daily Mail bewailed “a nation that’s lost all sense of proportion”. The paper remains a good barometer of opinion for a large chunk of the population, and many people will have nodded with approval at the headline.

The splash cited a political class fretting over the Prime Ministerial birthday cake while Russia prepared for war, but this was not the only incongruity at hand. Readers might also have wondered whether a lengthy investigation into alleged Downing Street parties was the best possible use of the Met’s time, especially given that this news emerged on the day a woman was murdered in broad daylight on a London street by a man who by all accounts ought to have been in its custody. Perhaps they also considered it curious that the fate of a leader who owed his position to nearly 14 million votes and an 80-seat majority in parliament seemed to depend so heavily on the judgment of a civil servant. If Boris Johnson survives it, the last few weeks might look quite bizarre in retrospect.

But that is not dismiss the charges against the PM (more…)

Northern Ireland: Unification, or the Union?

By Lord Ashcroft

Two years ago, my polling found a wafer-thin majority among Northern Ireland’s voters for unification with the Republic. My latest research, published today, shows a clear swing back towards remaining in the United Kingdom – an echo of the fall in support in recent months for Scottish independence. But as I also found in my survey of over 3,000 voters and focus group discussions throughout the province, it is the nationalists who feel things are heading their way.

 

Unification, or the Union?

Asked how they would vote in a referendum or “border poll” tomorrow, 49% said they would vote to stay in the UK, 41% said they would choose a united Ireland, and one in ten said they were undecided: a majority of 54% to 46% for the Union among those voting. (more…)

Ulster and the Union: the view from the North

By Lord Ashcroft

This article was first published in the Mail on Sunday.

Click here for the full report: Ulster and the Union: the view from the North

The news that Northern Ireland voters would choose to stay in the UK – by a majority of 54% to 46% in my poll, once undecideds are excluded – is a welcome early Christmas gift for unionists. In a similar survey two years ago, I found a wafer-thin margin for Ulster to join the Republic in a united Ireland. As in Scotland, where support for independence has fallen, ideals of national identity are being edged aside by a renewed post-pandemic focus on practicalities like public services and living costs.

Some doubt that Ireland would want to take on the North, given the current state of both economies and the extent to which Northern Ireland benefits from UK public spending. Apart from the call of old loyalties and historical destiny there are practical questions: what would the health service be like, would you have to pay to visit the GP, would you still get your old age pension? Then there’s the tenor of any border poll campaign, never mind the aftermath the result, whatever it is. All these things add up to a majority for the status quo… at least for now.

But in Northern Ireland, politics is played for the long term, and with that in mind few are resting easy on the unionist side. (more…)

Living the Kiwi Dream? Politics and public opinion in New Zealand

By Lord Ashcroft

Download the full report here

If it seems odd that a British businessman and philanthropist should devote nearly three months to researching and analysing politics and public opinion on the other side of the world, let me explain.

The first reason is that over the years I have been fortunate enough to spend a good deal of time in New Zealand. I have many friends there, and I’m always eager to discover more about this beautiful and remarkable country. I hope this research – encompassing New Zealanders’ attitudes to political and social issues, the economy, their country’s overall direction and its place in the world – will prove valuable to anyone interested in the subject.

The second is that I was keen to see how the dynamics that have shaped recent politics in the UK, the US and Europe, where I have conducted most of my research to date, are making themselves felt in other democracies. As honorary chairman of the International Democrat Union, the global alliance of centre-right political parties, I have a further interest in studying how voters around the world view the challenges and opportunities that face them and the impact this has on political debate.

Third, New Zealand has enjoyed unaccustomed worldwide attention thanks to its response to the covid pandemic, propelling Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to the status of an international celebrity. I was intrigued to find out more about her apparent political success and to see whether New Zealanders themselves accord their leader as much reverence as do the pundits overseas – and where this leaves the National Party opposition (more…)

Living the Kiwi Dream?

By Lord Ashcroft

This piece was first published in the New Zealand Herald

Jacinda Ardern was an already familiar figure in Britain by the time she concluded the NZ-UK trade deal with Boris Johnson last week. It’s not often that a New Zealand Prime Minister becomes a global celebrity, but Ardern’s handling of the Covid pandemic put her at the forefront of international politics.

As a pollster, I wanted to find out how far the worldwide praise for Ardern is echoed at home – and as a former Deputy Chairman of the UK Conservatives during their long years in the wilderness, to understand what this means for the National Party opposition.

I found strong support for Ardern’s decision to lockdown “fast and hard”, and appreciation across the political spectrum for her ability to speak for and to the country in a crisis. But after sluggish vaccine rollout and signs that the world is returning to business as usual, an unmistakable feeling of frustration with the Government’s strategy had begun to set in (more…)