Liberal Democrats

What my latest focus groups say about the twists and turns of the Brexit drama

By Lord Ashcroft

As last week’s parliamentary drama unfolded, I decided to find out how things seemed to the people on whose behalf it was supposedly being enacted – namely the voters, in the shape of focus groups in Barnet and St Ives.

It was no surprise that people were sharply divided over their new Prime Minister. For many Labour voters he was “dangerous”, a “charlatan”, “bullying”, “running the country into the ground” and “trying to baffle people with poshness;” “he’d be an amazing character if he was fictional.” But Conservative remain voters also had mixed views: while some thought he was divisive, dictatorial and untrustworthy (“I don’t think he’s as proper as some MPs – he can probably go rogue”), for others he was colourful, “flavoursome” and “quite statesmanlike compared to the rest. If you think about how Britain is presenting itself on the international stage, who else would have the personality and persona to stand up and be heard?” “His inauguration speech was actually quite rousing. I thought, we are where we are, but he’s got the right attitude, he wants to try and fix some things.”

A few were less positive than they had once been: “initially I felt it was a good thing, but after what’s happened in the past 24 hours I don’t know. He’s playing a very dangerous game and I’m concerned the game he’s playing could hand the keys to Jeremy Corbyn, which is my worst nightmare (more…)

My latest research on the state of the parties and what people want from the Brexit deal

By Lord Ashcroft

As the government embarks on two years of grueling EU negotiations following the triggering of Article 50, I decided now was a good time for a detailed look at the political landscape – and what voters expect from the Brexit deal. Here’s what I found from my 10,000-sample poll and focus groups around the country.

With three years to go until a general election, rather than asking people how they would vote tomorrow we gave them a little more leeway, and invited them to give their likelihood of voting for each party on a 100-point scale. The answers look like this (more…)

The new political landscape – and what Britain expects from Brexit

By Lord Ashcroft

My latest research is a comprehensive survey of the political landscape as Britain embarks on two years of negotiations over the terms on which it will leave the European Union. Based on a 10,000-sample poll and focus groups around the country, the project asks what voters hope and expect to get from the Brexit deal, how they balance immigration control and access to the single market, the status of EU nationals already in Britain, people’s confidence that the Prime Minister will secure a good deal, and how the Brexit negotiations compare in importance to other priorities.

The research also looks in detail at attitudes to the political parties and leaders, who is switching, and why.

I have written about the main findings and their implications in today’s Sunday Telegraph. (more…)

What really changed over the conference season?

By Lord Ashcroft

Once  again Ukip has seized the political agenda and left the older parties flailing for a response. Douglas Carswell’s spectacular victory in Clacton was at least expected — but Ukip’s quiet insurgency in Heywood and Middleton has shocked the political establishment. If it can come close to snatching a safe seat from under Labour’s nose, where else could it strike?

My own regular national poll — as well as the daily YouGov polls published in The Sun — put the Tories tantalisingly ahead last week. But when it comes to the fundamentals, how much has really changed over the conference season? (more…)

The Lib Dem – Labour battleground

By Lord Ashcroft

The Liberal Democrats’ vote has fallen by half in constituencies where Labour are their main challengers, according to my latest round of polling in marginal seats.

My research in Bradford East, Brent Central, Manchester Withington and Norwich South found the Lib Dem share down from 38% to 19%, with Labour up 11 points to 47%. This amounts to a swing of 15%, enough in theory for Labour to gain 17 current Lib Dem seats if repeated across the board at an election – though as we saw in my polling of Conservative-Lib Dem marginals, swings are very far from uniform where the Lib Dems are concerned. (more…)

“Equidistance” won’t be enough for Clegg to win back lost Lib Dems

By Lord Ashcroft

Earlier this week Nick Clegg raised the prospect of a Lib-Lab coalition after the next election. He said he had observed Labour becoming more open to the possibility while the Tories had become more ideological in office.

Surveys last year found Lib Dem councillors and activists preferred the idea of working with Labour. Meanwhile, on the Conservative benches there is (shall we say) a diversity of opinion about the idea of governing in coalition after next May. Ed Miliband insists he is aiming for an overall majority, while some recent reports have suggested Labour are planning for a minority government if they are the largest party in a hung parliament.

But the fact is that in the early hours of Friday 8 May 2015, the politicians are going to have to deal with whatever situation the electorate has seen fit to present them with. (more…)

What Are The Liberal Democrats for?

By Lord Ashcroft

The mood at the Liberal Democrat Spring Conference this weekend will perhaps be more cheerful than at any such gathering since the start of the coalition. The Eastleigh by-election apparently vindicates Nick Clegg’s approach to government, and his party’s approach to campaigning.

His activists will be relieved to think that pavement politics is back; that despite the polls, strong local government and an invincible leaflet-dropping network will see many or even most of their incumbent MPs safely back to Westminster in two years’ time. Certainly the Eastleigh victory was a considerable achievement for the Liberal Democrats, and there is no doubt, as my research has suggested for some time, that the party remains stronger as a local force that the national numbers suggest.

But that is not the whole story.


To govern alone, Tories must reach out to all voters, not pander to their own

By Lord Ashcroft

The Liberal Democrats used much of their week in Brighton to discuss, as one Twitter wag put it, all the policies they would pursue if only they didn’t have power. For some, notably Vince Cable, differentiation from the Tories was the name of the game. Nick Clegg was steadfast in his commitment to the coalition, with a firm message on the deficit. But he too was keen to draw dividing lines with the Conservatives where he could: “Do you really think the Tories will make Britain fairer?” he encouraged his campaigners to ask on the doorstep.


After the reshuffle soap opera it’s time to focus on the voters again

By Lord Ashcroft

Are MPs conspiring to smuggle an alternative leader into parliament? Who are the shadowy figures who tried to inveigle a respectable Colonel into their treacherous plot? Did the Prime Minister drink wine while sacking his Ministers? Did he offer them a glass? Did he make them cry?

Westminster politics is becoming more and more like a soap opera. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately – whatever would people think of it if they were paying attention?) it is a soap opera that nobody wants to watch. For voters, the reshuffle – which has dominated political coverage since before it was announced – is part of soap opera politics.


Poll of marginal Conservative seats

By Lord Ashcroft

In August 2011 I conducted a poll of 41 marginal Conservative-held seats to find out whether the static national polls were hiding a more nuanced picture on this crucial battleground. The results constitute mixed news for the Conservative Party – the findings are more encouraging for Tories where the Liberal Democrats are in second place than in constituencies where Labour are the main opponents.