No Turning Back – Rishi Sunak, Liz Truss, and the Conservative voting coalition

By Lord Ashcroft

Polling of Conservative members, including that conducted by ConHome, has consistently put Liz Truss ahead of Rishi Sunak in the race for the leadership. My new research among wider electorate – a 10,000-sample survey together with 12 focus groups around the country – helps explain the gap. It also shows how Boris Johnson’s remarkable voting coalition sees things, and why keeping them together will be such a challenge for his successor.

As I wrote in yesterday’s Mail on Sunday, the Tories’ strategic choices are extremely limited. However much some might regret the direction the party has taken in recent years, recreating a Cameroonian coalition in time for the next election is simply not an option. The new leader’s task will be to turn out as many as possible of those who backed Johnson in 2019.

Conducting this research has brought home once again just how remarkable was the voting bloc that Johnson assembled, albeit with the considerable help of Jeremy Corbyn and parliament’s intransigent remainers. Our venues – all Tory seats – included Esher and Cheltenham, Wolverhampton and Middlesbrough, and in terms of background, occupation and ethnicity the participants – all 2019 Conservatives – were as varied as those in any research project I can remember. Welcome to modern Britain, you might say. My point is that the Conservative electorate did not always look like this.

If the size and diversity of the Johnson coalition is partly explained by Johnson and his unusual appeal, it also helps explain something about his premiership. A charitable view would be that his notorious cakeism was a response to the conflicting demands of his voters, and that if he veered about like a shopping trolley it was to try and stop any of them falling out over the edge (more…)

Liz the lioness? My new polling on the Tory leadership

By Lord Ashcroft

This article first appeared in the Mail on Sunday

The increasingly frantic tone of the leadership election suggests that the Conservatives are making a momentous decision that will define their party for years to come. In fact, the idea that the Tories face a grand strategic choice is an illusion. With two years until the next election, the new leader’s only option is to turn out as many of Johnson’s 2019 supporters as they possibly can.

In the last decade the Tory vote has become much more working class and culturally conservative – more Brexity – than when David Cameron entered Number 10 (a result, ironically enough, of his decision to hold the referendum that ended his premiership). It will not be easy to reassemble Boris Johnson’s big, diverse voting coalition, but no new leader can simply trade it in for a new one. It is too late to send new Tory voters home from the party and reissue invitations to people who have already left.

The trick will be even harder to pull off because none of the three stars that aligned to make the 2019 result possible – the Brexit deadlock, Jeremy Corbyn, and Johnson himself – is still in its place.

Most 2019 Tories agree it was time for Johnson to go. But as I found in my new research, out today, that doesn’t mean they’re happy about it (more…)