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…)

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…)