Conservative Party

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…)

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…)

A New Political Landscape?

By Lord Ashcroft

The covid crisis has dominated the news for so long that it sometimes seems as though politics has gone into suspended animation. But as the agenda moves on, the challenge for parties in consolidating and expanding their coalitions of support remains the same. As I argued in yesterday’s Mail on Sunday, Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer each have a conundrum to wrestle with on that front. My latest research, published today, looks in detail at how voters have reacted to the government’s handling of the crisis, what they make of Labour’s new management, and how much – or how little – the pandemic has transformed the political landscape. The full report is below, but here are the main points.

Overall, I found people more likely to think the government had underreacted to the pandemic than overreacted. Half of 2019 Conservative voters thought this – including two thirds of those who had switched from Labour – as well as more than six in ten voters overall (more…)

Voters have turned, but all is not lost for the Tories

By Lord Ashcroft

This article first appeared in the Mail on Sunday

It seems scarcely believable that only just over nine months ago a triumphant Boris Johnson was returned to Downing Street with an 80-seat majority that transformed the political map of Britain. The covid crisis has not just derailed the “levelling up” agenda and overshadowed the sunny optimism that was Johnson’s hallmark until the pandemic struck: in political terms it has given the Conservatives a premature case of the midterm blues.

Many voters on all sides take a much more forgiving view of the government’s handling of the crisis than the media coverage might suggest. As I found in my latest research, people spontaneously praise the furlough schemes and the speedy creation of the Nightingale hospitals. Even critics admit that ministers are doing their level best with no precedent to help guide their decisions. In my poll, the proportion saying the government had done a reasonable job in difficult circumstances matched those who thought its handling had made things worse. Boris himself has won some unlikely hearts: “He’s stuck by the British people and done his damnedest to help,” said one 2019 Labour voter explaining his change of heart towards the PM.

But the criticisms are many: why did we not take action sooner, people ask, at the very least by restricting flights from covid-hit countries like China? (more…)

The trouble with the “true Brexiteers”: final day of my Conservative Conference Diary

By Lord Ashcroft

Twitter wags have complained that the omnipresent message of the week – “Get Brexit done. Invest in our NHS, schools and police” – means that the conference centre is emblazoned with a list of things the Tories have not delivered. This seems unfair – parties need to look forward not back, as that Mr Blair used to say – but as I found in my most recent research, many voters are treating the “invest” part of the proposition with more than a little scepticism, even if they are pinning their hopes on the first.

I can’t help noticing, by the way, that some of those demanding that we “get Brexit done” had the chance to do exactly that three times but voted not to do so on each occasion. What they mean is that we should “get Brexit done” on terms they find acceptable. Fine – but as so often in politics, it depends how we conjugate the verb: I’m defending an important principle, you are being obstructive, he is undermining democracy (more…)

Perhaps Johnson really is the British Trump – and voters like it: my Conservative Conference Diary

By Lord Ashcroft

As the story about Jennifer Arcuri rumbles on, people in quiet corners here in Manchester occasionally ask each other if she will spell real trouble for Boris Johnson. To which the answer seems to be, why this one in particular? The surrounding allegations about the PM’s behaviour towards women – heavily denied, it should be noted – have merged with complaints about his supposedly inflammatory use of language into a narrative about his fitness for office. All this has a familiar ring about it. The sense of déjà vu comes from the early months of the Trump presidency, when his opponents would latch on to each new story about his personal conduct in the hope that surely now his supporters would realise their terrible mistake. Unmoved, Trump voters had long since decided that they could tolerate his foibles as the price of getting things done: “we didn’t elect him to be a saint, we elected him to be a leader,” as one memorably told us during my US research.

I suspect something similar is happening here (more…)

Could Tory MPs be whipped to vote that they have no confidence in their own government? My Conservative Conference Diary

By Lord Ashcroft

In most spheres of life, whether in politics or business or anything else, when trying to predict what will happen in an uncertain situation you usually have some kind of solid foundation from which to project. The thing that makes it so hard to forecast where things will go with parliament and Brexit is that there are no firm assumptions from which to build. The combination of the PM’s determination to hold an election, Labour’s refusal to do so until no deal is off the table combined with the SNP’s newfound resolve to topple Boris Johnson potentially takes this uncertainty to new heights, or depths. Could we see Conservative MPs whipped to vote that they do not have confidence in their government, and the official Opposition whipped to vote that they do?  (more…)

State of the Nation: my new polling on the political landscape and the battle lines for the next election

By Lord Ashcroft

The Conservative Party conference that opens today takes place at a more volatile and unpredictable time than any previous gathering I can remember. My new research, including an 8,000-sample poll, helps to make sense of what is going on by showing what the voters themselves make of the unfolding drama.

 

The Brexit Saga, part 94

When asked what they would most like to happen with Brexit, nearly eight in ten Conservative Leave voters choose Boris Johnson’s position of leaving the EU on 31 October with or without a deal. However, only 32% of them think this is the most likely outcome. One in five of them think we will leave after the current deadline, and nearly a quarter believe we will end up remaining in the EU. Overall, 36% back the PM’s policy, including six in ten 2017 Conservatives, nearly seven in ten Leave voters overall, and more than half of Labour Leavers. A further 15% said they would prefer to leave with a good deal even if this meant waiting beyond October, and nearly four in ten – including three quarters of remainers and just over half of Tory remainers – said they would like to see the UK remain in the EU (more…)

The public’s verdict on our political class? They waver between fury and contempt

By Lord Ashcroft

This article was first published in the Mail on SundayThe full report and data tables are below.

On the face of it, the government is in real trouble. The Supreme Court ruling against the Prime Minister follows a succession of parliamentary defeats, defections, expulsions and daily headlines about turmoil and chaos. But it is a good rule of thumb in politics that the noisier it gets, the more it pays to take a step back, a deep breath, and a good look at the bigger picture.

My latest research, published today, looks at the fundamentals: how voters have reacted to the drama not just of the last few weeks but the years since the referendum, and how this week’s events fit into the longer story. For many people, and not just among those who backed Leave in the increasingly distant 2016 referendum, that story is one of frustration and failure – or, worse, deliberate actions to delay Brexit for as long as possible or stop it altogether. That is the context in which many see the Supreme Court’s decision. Many of the Brexit supporters we spoke to were not so much angered as bemused by the ruling: “they seem to have made up a law and found Boris guilty of breaking it (more…)