Elections

Diagnosis of Defeat: Labour’s Turn to Smell the Coffee

By Lord Ashcroft

After the Conservatives lost their third consecutive election in 2005, I published Smell the Coffee: A Wake-Up Call for the Conservative Party. I felt that the Tories had failed to grasp the reasons for their unpopularity and needed a serious reality check if they were ever to find their way back into government. With Labour now having been rejected by the voters four times in a row, I thought it was time to do the same for them.

No doubt some will be suspicious of my motives. I’m a Tory, after all – indeed, a former Deputy Chairman of the party. There are two answers to that. The first is that the country needs a strong opposition. Britain will be better governed if those doing the governing are kept on their toes. Moreover, at its best, the Labour Party has been a great force for decency, speaking up for people throughout the country and ensuring nobody is forgotten. We need it to reclaim that role.

The second answer is that you don’t have to trust me – just listen to what real voters have to say in the research that follows. Last month I polled over 10,000 people, paying particular attention to those who voted Labour in 2017 but not in 2019. We have also conducted 18 focus groups in seats Labour lost, with people who have moved away from the party (often feeling that the party had moved away from them). The report includes extensive quotes from these discussions, since they explain Labour’s predicament better than any analyst could. They are all the more powerful when you consider they come from people who were voting Labour until very recently and probably never expected to do otherwise.

We also polled over 1,000 Labour Party members, and conducted focus groups with members of the party and of Labour-supporting trade unions, to see how the Labour movement’s understanding of the election differs from that of the electorate at large and whether – and how far – they think the party needs to change (more…)

Was it really ‘Brexit wot lost it’ for Labour?

By Lord Ashcroft

John McDonnell was first with the theory, as soon as the exit poll had stunned the nation. “Brexit dominated the election,” he said. “I think people are frustrated and want Brexit out of the way.” The theme was taken up over the hours and days that followed, culminating in the claim Labour “won the argument” and that Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership had nothing to do with the party’s worst result since 1935. Brexit alone was to blame.

Well, if this is the result you get when you win the argument, we can only imagine what losing it would look like. But what about the idea that the result can be put entirely down to Brexit, rather than the broader questions of policy and leadership that usually go into people’s voting decisions (more…)

How Britain voted and why: My 2019 general election post-vote poll

By Lord Ashcroft

I surveyed over 13,000 people on election day who had already cast their vote, to help understand how this extraordinary result came about. The results show who voted for whom, and why.

 

The demographics

Labour won more than half the vote among those turning out aged 18-24 (57%) and 25-34 (55%), with the Conservatives second in both groups. The Conservatives were ahead among those aged 45-54 (with 43%), 55-64 (with 49%) and 65+ (with 62%) (more…)

There’s only one way to get Brexit done and stop Jeremy Corbyn

By Lord Ashcroft

A funny thing about elections is that people’s expectations of what the result will be can affect what the result actually is. There have been hints of this in my polling over the course of the election campaign. The survey I published yesterday found more people expecting a Conservative victory than was the case last month. At the same time, enthusiasm for switching to the Tories among some critical voters – the thing that makes such a result possible – has diminished.

There could be several reasons for this. But one might be that with Boris Johnson apparently safely on course for a majority, some may feel they don’t need to sully themselves with a Conservative vote (more…)

Labour support solidifies as expectations grow of a Tory win: my final General Election Dashboard

By Lord Ashcroft

The final round of my general election polling dashboard, based on 4,046 interviews between 5 and 9 December, shows clear Conservative leads on most measures – but with Labour support continuing to harden at the expense of the Liberal Democrats as polling day approaches.

When we ask how likely people are to vote for each party on a 100-point scale, the Conservatives receive an average score of 36 (down slightly from its peak of 37 last week), with Labour up a notch from 28 to 30, the Lib Dems down from 15 to 14 and the Brexit Party (in non-Conservative seats) down from 9 to 8 (more…)

Would victories for Johnson and Trump mean the triumph of conservatism? My speech to the International Democrat Union

By Lord Ashcroft

This is a text of a talk I gave last week to the International Democrat Union, the global alliance of the centre right, looking at the challenges the conservative movement will face whatever the result of the current round of UK and US elections.

The title of this session is ‘Conservatives at a Crossroads – where do we go from here?’ This is always an excellent question, but when deciding where to go and how to get there you first need to know where you are.

At first glance, we seem to be in a good position. In the US, the Republicans control the White House, the Senate, and most state legislatures. In the UK, the Conservatives have been in government for nine and a half years and, according to the bookies and most pollsters, look set to get a new mandate with an overall majority.

But when we look in detail at the research – both on current elections and over the longer term – we can see hazards that the conservative movement is going to have to navigate on both sides of the Atlantic, and which will apply in different ways in all the countries represented in this room. Let’s start with the election in the UK (more…)

‘He’s just a craven opportunist’ ‘She’s a bit militant for me’ ‘I want it over and done with now’: My final election focus groups in Bishop Auckland, Warwick & Leamington and Wimbledon

By Lord Ashcroft

My final round of general election focus groups take us to three constituencies of the kind that will determine what happens next Thursday: Bishop Auckland, which the Conservatives are hoping to gain on the basis of a heavy leave vote although it has never had a Tory MP; Warwick & Leamington, a middle England seat (literally and geographically) which Labour managed to capture in the 2017 upset; and Wimbledon, where the fate of re-instated Tory rebel Stephen Hammond is in the hands of the huge local remain majority.

 

‘Or is it two billion?’

What has been going on in the campaign? “Fifty thousand more nurses, but it turns out 19,000 of them are employed already. That’s why nobody believes these people;” “A billion trees being planted by Corbyn. Or is it two billion? (more…)

Will the Tories really get Brexit done? Who proposed which policy? What if you had to choose a Johnson government or a Corbyn one? Week 4 of my General Election Dashboard

By Lord Ashcroft

My latest 4,000-sample poll, conducted between Friday and Monday, finds little change in the overall picture, with Labour continuing to do better among its former voters than was the case at the start of the campaign.

The most noticed specific election stores of the last few days were promises of extra nurses, the Channel 4 climate debate, the Labour antisemitism controversy, and the question of whether Boris Johnson will be interviewed by Andrew Neil (more…)

‘Does he want to be PM, really?’ ‘It was worse than Prince Andrew’ ‘She has bagpipes playing in her head all the time.’ My election focus groups in Scotland

By Lord Ashcroft

My general election focus groups this week take us to Scotland, and three seats the SNP are hoping to regain after losing them in 2017: Aberdeen South and East Renfrewshire, both won by the Conservatives two years ago, and Glasgow North East, now one of Labour’s seven constituencies north of the border.

 

Fairy godmother

Of the manifestos launched in the days before this week’s groups, it was Labour’s that had made the biggest impression on our undecided voters. Whether they had voted Conservative, Labour, SNP or Lib Dem in 2017, their general view was decidedly sceptical: “Corbyn’s £80 billion reminded me of the £350 million on the side of the bus. It worries me that a large proportion of the population will believe it;” “If you combed your way through all the manifestos you could drive a bus through all of them. But the Labour one is astonishing; I’ve never seen anything like it (more…)

Would you vote tactically? What worries you most about a Tory or Labour government? What would actually happen under Johnson or Corbyn? Week 3 of my General Election Dashboard

By Lord Ashcroft

My third general election survey shows the Conservatives still ahead on the fundamentals, but there is some evidence that Labour is managing to firm up its vote among 2017 supporters at the margins, with Labour Leavers showing slightly more reticence about switching to the Tories.

When we ask people how likely they are to vote for each party on a scale from zero (definitely not) to 100 (absolutely certain), the Conservatives’ average likelihood score is unchanged at 36. Labour’s is up from 25 last week to 28, the Liberal Democrats’ down from 17 to 15, and the Brexit Party’s (asked of respondents in non-Conservative seats only) down from 11 to 9 (more…)