The midterms and beyond: my reflections on the next chapter of American politics

For many months before America’s midterm elections the conventional wisdom was that newly enthused Democrats, Republicans embarrassed by the antics of President Trump, and non-voters spurred into action by indignation at the state of their country’s leadership, would join forces to sweep the GOP from Capitol Hill.

As we know, this did not quite come to pass. While the Democrats gained 40 districts to take control of the House of Representatives, the Republicans strengthened their hold on the Senate, making a net gain of two seats in the upper chamber. Hardly the rout that Democrats had predicted – in fact, more like the tide flowing in both directions at once. What’s going on?

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Special report on St Helena: the island of fading hopes and dreams

First published on on 14 December 2018.

The breath-taking view during the last half-mile of the short taxi ride from St Helena Airport to the heart of Jamestown is one that I will never tire of admiring. (more…)

Polls show that voters are hardening against a Brexit compromise

First published in the Daily Telegraph on Tuesday 12 December 2018.

Many admire Theresa May’s fortitude in trying to construct a Brexit deal that will simultaneously please or at least placate Leavers, Remainers and the EU – but they have rather less regard for the fruits of her endeavours.

My latest research finds that few believe the draft Brexit deal honours the referendum result, or that it beats remaining in the EU on our current terms. And while voters overall still think, just, that Mrs May’s deal is better than no deal, Tories as a whole now disagree, as do Leavers by a wide margin.


What should happen next? What really matters? And how bad is this crisis? My new Brexit deal poll

The vote has been deferred while the Prime Minister seeks “reassurances” from the EU, but her message to the House of Commons yesterday was clear – this is the only Brexit deal on the table, and there is no realistic prospect of substantially changing it. Theresa May’s campaign to sell the agreement to sceptical MPs and the public therefore continues. My last survey in late November found that the proposed deal had a cool reception, but with large numbers still to make up their minds. My latest 5,000-sample poll finds shows that more people now have an opinion – but with the balance tipping away from the deal rather than in its favour.

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See the December issue of Britain at War for Lord Ashcroft’s new bravery article

Lord Ashcroft KCMG PC has had a new-look “hero of the month” article published in Britain at War, the country’s best-selling military history monthly magazine.

The December issue of the magazine has a new design for the four-page write-up on the life and bravery of Major Sir Tasker Watkins, VC, GBE, PC, QC, DL. (more…)

Tanzania – a case study in the bulging textbook of aid failure

First published on on 30 November 2018.

I  first visited Tanzania aged six. My father was a colonial civil servant so we were living in Malawi, then called Nyasaland and a wonderful place for a child such as me to grow up. We were heading home on leave, taking the ship to Tilbury, and so travelled through the bustle of Dar Es Salaam, enabling my dad to meet up with some colleagues. The city seemed an amazing, exotic place through my young eyes, with its thriving port and throng of cultures. (more…)

My new Brexit poll: good for Theresa May, bad for her deal

After perhaps the most difficult fortnight as Prime Minister, which is saying something, the news from my latest poll, conducted on Wednesday and Thursday, is surprisingly mixed for Theresa May. Though she would probably say this is a side issue and she is focused on other things, her personal standing among voters is actually consolidated. She now leads Jeremy Corbyn by 15 points in the best Prime Minister stakes, and while “not sure” still leads the field over both leaders, the proportion naming Mrs. May has risen while Mr. Corbyn’s numbers have fallen, most dramatically among his own voters.

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The Cenotaph is a place of hope for global peace

First published in the Sunday Express on Sunday, 11 November 2018.

By any standards, this is a momentous day: Armistice Day, Remembrance Sunday and the centenary of the end of the First World War.

Momentous days in history deserve to be marked in a significant way and this is why I hope that November 11 2018 will, for many decades to come, be recalled for the “r” word: reconciliation. (more…)

Heroic tale of the last VC action of the First World War

First published in the Daily Express on Tuesday, 06 November 2018.

All is tranquil and peace­ful on the River Sambre in northern France. Trout swim in the water, wild ducks fly overhead and the only noise, other than birdsong and church bells, comes from the occasional vehicle that rumbles over Quartes Bridge. It could hardly be a greater con­trast to the events of exactly a cen­tury ago today when, amidst an atmosphere of apprehension and danger, Major Brett Cloutman risked his life under heavy fire to take part in what was to become the last Victoria Cross action of the Great War. (more…)

‘I was like, we have to pick between these two? But honestly, I’m kind of pleasantly surprised’: my final pre-midterm focus groups in California

The final round of our American research tour takes us to two districts in California, one in prosperous Orange County, and another further north around the city of Fresno. This is usually thought of as a heavily Democratic state, but the Republicans are defending crucial districts here that could decide whether they keep control of Congress this week. These include districts which elected Republican Congressmen two years ago but chose Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump for President – how they choose this time will help determine the balance of power in Washington.

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