New Ashcroft in America podcast – my interviews with Christine Todd Whitman and James Pindell

By Lord Ashcroft

Ahead of my new round of research listening to voters across the US, I speak to former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman and James Pindell of the Boston Globe about the midterms, the future of the two parties, the likelihood of a challenge to President Trump in the Republican primaries and the prospect of a third-party candidate.

New Ashcroft in America podcast – introducing my research on the US midterm elections

By Lord Ashcroft

In my latest podcast I talk to MSNBC political analyst Elise Jordan about my Ashcroft in America research looking at next month’s midterm elections in the US, and about my new book White Flag? An examination of the UK’s defence capability.

 

Focus group bingo and the bottomless Pringle tube of outrage: Day 4 of my conference diary

By Lord Ashcroft

I have often thought of creating a game of Political Focus Group Bingo (for which the market would be admittedly niche) in which the players would tick off words and phrases on their cards as they were uttered by the focus group participants. One of these would be ‘Australian-style points system’ – a locution you will hear more often than not once the subject of immigration has come up, as it has in practically every group I have done since I began my research four general elections ago. Until the referendum the point was not so much that people thought the volume of immigration was too high (though many did) as that we did not have control over it or the ability to decide who could and could not come in (more…)

A Defence Secretary who believes that the UK should consider getting stuck in to other people’s wars

By Lord Ashcroft

Towards the end of a fringe meeting yesterday, I half expected to hear a band strike up Rule Britannia. It was an ungodly hour – before 9am on a Monday – and Gavin Williamson had spent 45 minutes or so choosing his words very carefully. At a ConservativeHome event to mark the publication of my new book on the state of the UK’s armed forces, White Flag?, he spied traps everywhere, skilfully sidestepping a series of awkward questions with classic Cabinet Minister-style platitudes.

Did cuts to the armed forces in 2010 go too far? He wasn’t going to admit that! Were government officials twitchy about his decision to send warships to the South China Sea? Best not risk upsetting civil servants by saying anything about that. Wasn’t the Treasury really lily-livered, privately warning him not to risk annoying the Chinese? Williamson wasn’t going there. No way was he risking a headline suggesting he was having a pop at Philip Hammond.

Asked about the UK’s place in the world however, and there was no stopping him (more…)

Moggmania, Churchill’s moon men and the condition of the people: Day 3 of my conference diary

By Lord Ashcroft

Can the Conservatives win in Canterbury, Middlesbrough and Midlothian at the same time? The question was debated by fine minds under the auspices of Policy Exchange, whose director Dean Godson declared it the pre-eminent question “of this conference, of our time, of our epoch”. And the verdict? For the analyst and commentator James Frayne “there are nuances… but I think the answer is no.” No such pessimism from Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houghton or Kirstene Hair, “one of the twelve newly elected Scottish MPs who were proud to impose a Conservative government on England last year.” For her, the answer was a clear message: the Scottish Tories were the only Unionist party, so “whether urban or rural, they knew exactly what they were voting for. Some people held their nose while voting Conservative but they did it because they knew what they were getting (more…)

Blackpool nostalgia, the Badgers’ Vote, and the vortex of perpetual agitation: Day 2 of my conference diary

By Lord Ashcroft

There is no denying that conference-goers are divided on a question that goes to the very heart of our identity and outlook: do we miss the seaside? For all the advantages of Birmingham and Manchester, there are those who miss the bracing days of Blackpool and Bournemouth, and a salty windswept stroll along the promenade before the day’s intrigue and plotting. At my first Tory conference in the northern resort more than forty years ago I found digs in one of the guesthouses along the seafront from the Winter Gardens, lacking in those days the funds to stay at the Imperial Hotel with the grandees (more…)

What voters notice, dancing in Africa, and the Russians: Day 1 of my conference diary

By Lord Ashcroft

One of the most telling parts of the research I do is hearing from voters which political stories have stayed in their minds from the last few weeks and months. Notably, one of the first things to be mentioned in all our focus groups this month was the Labour antisemitism row. This is significant because it is the sort of story that usually stays well inside the beltway. The fact that normal people with a limited appetite for politics raise it spontaneously is a bad sign (more…)

Why Brexit isn’t enough to win the Tories the next election

By Lord Ashcroft

This piece was first published in the Mail on Sunday.

Theresa May can arrive at the Conservative Conference today with a certain spring in her step following her slapdown of EU leaders after the Salzburg summit: my latest research shows that voters think the PM is right to threaten to leave without a deal rather than seek further compromise with an intransigent EU.

Yet with her MPs trying to pull her in two directions at once, this could be the most difficult Tory gathering for many years. Even so, she and her party need to look beyond Brexit and beyond the conference hall. Since the referendum it has become almost a cliché to say we are a divided country, but we are at odds over more than just Brexit: we are split over the whole past decade of political life (more…)

The Two Divides: Austerity, Brexit, and the problem of building a winning coalition

By Lord Ashcroft

Few expect the Conservative Conference that begins in Birmingham today to be dominated by anything other than Brexit. Hard though this may be to avoid, it would be a wasted opportunity. As my latest research shows, if Brexit is at the top of the government’s agenda the same cannot be said for the voters: the next election will be about other things.

 

The parties and leaders

We asked people how likely they thought it was that they would end up voting for each party at the next general election. On average, those who voted Conservative last year put their chances of doing so next time at 77/100, however they voted in the referendum; 2017 Labour voters felt more inclined to stay with their party if they had voted Remain (more…)

America at the midterms

By Lord Ashcroft

With two months to go until the midterm elections, I have conducted a 6,000-sample poll of American voters to provide a snapshot of the national mood as the campaigns get fully into gear.

To start with the biggest-picture question of all, is the country heading in the right direction, or is it off on the wrong track?

Nobody will be surprised to hear that those who voted positively for Donald Trump overwhelmingly think things are going well, that those who did so reluctantly in order to stop Hillary Clinton are less sure, and that those who voted against him think things are going very badly indeed. Independent voters match the population as a whole – just over half say the country is on the wrong track, with 36% saying things are heading the right way.

What might be more significant is the change since we last ask the question nearly a year ago (more…)