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…)

My perspective on the UK and US elections – and how politics ended up like this

By Lord Ashcroft

This is the text of a speech I gave in London last Friday covering the background to the current political situation on both sides of the Atlantic, and my perspective on the UK and US elections.

Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon. I don’t know if it’s significant that you have asked me to speak about the political situation on the anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination, Margaret Thatcher’s removal from Downing Street, and Angela Merkel’s appointment as Chancellor of Germany. We are living through what feels like a momentous time in politics, not just in this country, and I have spent some time trying to make sense of the disruption – and in particular, what the voters make of it all – through my opinion research on both sides of the Atlantic (more…)

‘It’s insulting people’s intelligence.’ ‘The government is paying, so we are.’ ‘It’s so overwhelming, I feel quite sick.’ My election focus groups in Alyn & Deeside, Wrexham and Newport

By Lord Ashcroft

This week’s round of general election focus groups took us to three more Leave-voting, Labour-held seats of the kind the Tories will need to build a majority, this time in Wales: Alyn & Deeside, Wrexham, and Newport West.

 

Unleashed

What campaign news had caught people’s attention in the last few days? “I saw a thing on Twitter with Michael Gove in his constituency. He was surrounded by a load of 60 or 70 year-old white pensioners, and it said ‘unleash our potential’. I thought, what kind of message is that?” “Free school meals. I think that was from Labour;” “The Conservatives want to bring back foxhunting;” “Corbyn wants to nationalise the railways;” “Various ones have jumped on the climate change agenda, but I don’t know who’s said what. To be honest I’ve heard more from Greta Thunberg on that;” “I’ve seen clips on Facebook of Labour people knocking on doors and getting a mouthful;” “The police – the Conservatives took 20,000 away but now they want to put them back;” “Didn’t Corbyn say something about putting the minimum wage up to £10 an hour?” “I think Labour said they were not going to restrict immigrants coming in. They’re going to continue with free movement, whereas the Conservatives are saying it’s not fair on people from outside the EU;” “There was something about a four-day working week. I reckon it would just mean doing four 12-hour shifts;” “It’s insulting people’s intelligence. I’m going to be working 7.30 till four, four days a week with three days off, for the same wage? It’s bollocks, isn’t it?” (more…)

Have you decided yet? Who will win the debate? Will you put up with Boris to get Brexit? Week 2 of my General Election Dashboard

By Lord Ashcroft

In this pre-debate, pre-manifesto stage of the campaign, my latest round of polling finds no signs of a seismic shift in opinion so far. We find a similar picture to last week’s, including a clear lead for Boris Johnson over Jeremy Corbyn as best Prime Minister and, in a forced choice, an overall preference for a Johnson-led Tory government over a Corbyn-led Labour one. Leave voters, however, appear more settled in their voting decisions at this stage than remainers. There are some small changes, but most are well within the margin of error.

When we ask people how likely they are to vote for each party on a 100-point scale, we find the Conservatives’ mean score up slightly since last week from 33 to 36, with the other parties unchanged (more…)

Think this impeachment hearing’s the end of Trump? Don’t bet on it

By Lord Ashcroft

This article was first published in the Mail on Sunday

For now, all eyes are on the extraordinary spectacle of a televised attempt to impeach Donald Trump. Yet only a year from now, the presidential election will be over, the votes counted and the victory speeches made. By whom? Most polls currently suggest it will be a Democrat who finds himself or herself huddled with the a transition team while Mr Trump contemplates a return to his newly-chosen home state of Florida.

My advice is that anyone planning to bet their house on such an outcome had better line up a friendly neighbour with a spare room, just in case (more…)

‘He put the milk in before taking the teabag out!’, ‘He’s a proper nutcase’, ‘Who’s going to pay me for a four-day week?’ My election focus groups in Stoke, Bolton and West Brom

By Lord Ashcroft

Last week my election focus groups took us to three constituencies in which the Liberal Democrats were hoping to corner the market in disgruntled remainers. This week we have visited three Labour-held, Leave-voting seats of the kind the Conservatives are looking to regain in their quest for a majority: Stoke-on-Trent North, Bolton North East, and the seat held until recently by Labour’s deputy leader, West Bromwich East.

 

Oven-ready

Boris Johnson’s opening election broadcast, ostensibly filmed during his tea break at CCHQ, had garnered an unusual degree of attention. “I thought it was for Children in Need;” “I thought it was a joke at first, but some people will like that;” “He put the milk in before taking the teabag out!” “He said, ‘our deal is oven-ready, sling it in the microwave,’ and I thought, you’ve never cooked a thing in your life, mate, have you?” (more…)