My choice for the next PM

By Lord Ashcroft

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Like most Conservatives, I wanted Brexit wrapped up and out of the way under Theresa May’s stewardship, allowing a new leader to begin a new chapter, reinvigorate the party and – at long last – change the subject.

So much for that. Far from drawing a line under the unhappy recent history of British politics, the new Prime Minister will face exactly the same problem as his predecessor. He will also face the same parliamentary maths and apparently, despite the personnel changes in Brussels, the same stance from the EU. The first question on the minds of many Conservative Party members as they ponder over their ballot papers, then, will be who is finally going to get Brexit signed, sealed and delivered.

For Boris backers, the answer is clear: we must leave on 31 October, come what may, do or die. Only by convincing the EU that we are serious about this will they move – and if they don’t, we’ll be out. There is no other way to escape the “hamster wheel of doom”. Hold your horses (or your hamsters), say the Boris-sceptics: now is a time for cool heads and calm negotiation, not heroic ultimatums. Plan for no deal, but talk.

The problem with choosing between these two approaches is that there are so many unknowns in both scenarios (more…)

Hunt v. Johnson – what Britain thinks

By Lord Ashcroft

While Boris and Jeremy make their pitch to Conservatives around the country, I have been giving their tyres a good kicking. My latest poll of more than 8,000 people shows in detail what people make of the two candidates vying to be their next Prime Minister – particularly their appeal to voters who are not already Tories.

 

Who would be best – and who will win?

Asked which candidate would make the best PM, 34% of all voters said Jeremy Hunt, and 27% said Boris Johnson, with 39% saying they didn’t know. Remain voters overall prefer Hunt by a 45-point margin; Remainers who voted Conservative in 2017 do so by 57% to 19% (more…)

Voters would love Boris round for dinner – but even his biggest fans would pick Hunt to babysit their children

By Lord Ashcroft

This article was first published in the Mail on Sunday

 

Boris Johnson generates enthusiasm of a kind I don’t recall seeing for any other Conservative politician. On the other hand, he drives his many opponents nuts. Antipathy for Jeremy Hunt is largely confined to those who don’t forgive him for his firm stance during the 2016 junior doctors’ strike – but Conservatives tend to like and respect him, rather than queue eagerly round the block to catch a glimpse, as they do for his leadership rival.

So if neither candidate has what we might call the Hillary Clinton problem – opponents who would walk over hot coals to stop her but no matching passion on her own side – nor does either hit the sweet spot of inspiring Tory fervour without galvanizing the opposition.

On the face of it, the two potential Prime Ministers offer very different things (more…)

What my focus groups of wavering Tory voters said about the leadership race

By Lord Ashcroft

As MPs prepared to begin the process of narrowing the field of leadership contenders this week, I conducted focus groups in two rather different Conservative seats – leafy Putney and leave-y Thurrock – to see what wavering Tory voters made of the race.

Just as there were mixed views about Theresa May’s tenure in Downing Street – “she was in an impossible position and had no loyalty from her party;” “it was her choice to take that position and she made mistakes;” “history will be kind to her because she stayed strong in an absolute shitstorm” – there were varying degrees of optimism as to whether her successor would be able to get out of the Brexit rut. Few thought a new Prime Minister would be able to persuade more MPs to back a version of the Withdrawal Agreement (“the problem wasn’t personal, the problem was the deal”), but most leave voters and even some remainers thought there might now be scope for progress with the EU: “They say they’re not going to negotiate any more so you get the impression there won’t be a chance for a new leader to get a different deal, but somehow I think there will be. A new person will be able to have a new discussion;” “Someone with a will to do it. You got the impression that Theresa May was dragging her feet at times;” “You’ve got to have faith, you’ve got to give them a chance. The way they conduct themselves initially is the key thing;” “There’s a lot of room for improvement… You need someone with a bit of personality, a bit of persona.”

What, if anything, had people noticed about the contest to find such this individual? “All I’ve heard is someone sniffing cocaine. I can’t think of his name (more…)

“Candidates are supposed to pay attention to the voters’ backstory, not the other way round”: my E2 Summit speech

By Lord Ashcroft

Each year Mitt Romney puts together a meeting of ‘experts and enthusiasts,’ the E2 Summit in Utah. This year he invited me to speak about what my research had to say about political disruption in Britain and America, its causes and consequences. This is what I had to say:

In recent years, political change has arrived in some unexpected forms in both our countries, and it’s hard to know what to expect next. I have spent some time trying to make sense of the disruption through my opinion research on both sides of the Atlantic.

This began 15 years ago when, as a longstanding donor to the Conservative Party, I decided it was about time someone made a proper study of why we kept losing general elections – usually after being reassured by the party hierarchy that we were on course for a famous victory. I published the findings under the unambiguous title Smell The Coffee: A Wake-Up Call For The Conservative Party, and on the strength of this, David Cameron appointed me the party’s Deputy Chairman to help ensure its lessons were acted upon. Since stepping down from the role I’ve continued with the research, since it struck me that while commentators were always blessed with an abundance of opinion, real evidence was in rather shorter supply (more…)

My Euro-election post-vote poll: most Tory switchers say they will stay with their new party

By Lord Ashcroft

Since polling opened in the European elections I have surveyed over 10,000 voters to ask how they voted, why they chose the party they did, and – at least as of this weekend – what they see themselves doing at the next general election.

 

Who voted for whom?

More than half (53%) of 2017 Conservative voters who took part in the European elections voted for the Brexit Party. Only just over one in five (21%) stayed with the Tories. Around one in eight (12%) switched to the Liberal Democrats. Labour voters from 2017 were more likely to stay with their party, but only a minority (38%) did so. More than one in five (22%) went to the Lib Dems, 17% switched to the Greens, and 13% went to the Brexit Party (more…)

Lord Ashcroft’s exclusive revelations about “horrific” captive-bred lion farming

By Lord Ashcroft

Lord Ashcroft, the former Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party,  has made a series of major revelations about the captive-bred lion industry in South Africa.

In the light of his exclusive disclosures, Lord Ashcroft called on the South African Government to halt the “horrific and abusive” activity of “lion farming” and urged the UK Government to bring in new import laws to discourage the practice. (more…)

The Battle Lines for 2020 – what my polling says about the next Presidential election

By Lord Ashcroft

My presentation to the International Democrat Union executive meeting in Santiago, Chile, looking at what my polling shows about the prospects for the 2020 US Presidential election.

 

Since the midterm elections in November I have conducted further research looking at the state of play at the midway point in Donald Trump’s term – or should that be his first term? This is presented in detail in my latest book, Half-Time!, which also brings together more than two years of my work on the Ashcroft in America project. The aim is to work out where the American public is and where is seems to be heading as the battle lines are drawn for the 2020 election. I will set out some of the main points here, but do take the chance to help a struggling author and get hold of a copy either from Amazon or direct from Biteback Publishing.

I should say at the outset that there have been a few developments since the work I’m going to talk about was completed. One of these is the announcement that the Mueller investigation has found no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election (more…)

The space for a new party isn’t just in the centre of politics

By Lord Ashcroft

Divided though we are, one thing everyone in the country seems to agree on is that they are sick to the back teeth of our political class. Individual politicians still sometimes inspire support or admiration – Theresa May not least among them, it should be said. But depending on your point of view, politicians have either failed to deliver on a clear and unambiguous promise to the voters, or spent two years indulging their own obsessions at the expense of things that really matter, or some combination of the two. Whatever the outcome of the current debacle, one casualty could be the parties as we know them today, with The Independent Group – in its new guise as Change UK – in the vanguard of a new political order.

Bring it on, many will think. But beyond general exasperation, what is the real nature of people’s discontent? Where is the real space for a new movement, and what could this new world look like? (more…)

Mind the Gap(s): why the Brexit debacle has put both Labour and the Tories under threat from new parties

By Lord Ashcroft

This article first appeared in the Mail on Sunday.

 

Ten years ago, when I was responsible for the Tories’ private polling as the party’s Deputy Chairman, we often asked voters to choose from a selection of words and pictures those which they most associated with the main parties. The Conservative selection would invariably include a picture of an aristocratic family standing outside an enormous house, and other indications that the party was for the rich and out of touch with ordinary people. Labour’s often featured a fat man lazing on a sofa, usually signifying those who lived this way rather than going to work.

Over the last month I have repeated this exercise – and if a week is a long time in politics, in terms of the party brands the last decade might as well not have happened (more…)