Politics

“He’s like a great surgeon with a terrible bedside manner” “It’s starting to feel like China” “If you’re voting for Trump, you keep your mouth shut”: My US election focus groups in Georgia and Ohio

By Lord Ashcroft

This week our virtual tour of America takes us to Georgia, widely seen as a toss-up this year despite having voted for the Republican in every presidential election since 1992, and Ohio, the quintessential swing state which has backed the losing candidate only once since 1944.

As if often the case with political news, the Hunter Biden email scandal – the claim that Joe Biden’s son was involved in corruption involving a Ukrainian energy company – seemed to have gained a great deal of attention without moving any votes.

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“He’s so toxic he’s worn out his welcome” “He’s the first president I paid attention to because he’s awesome” “There’s a lot of effing stupid people in our country”: My latest US election focus groups

By Lord Ashcroft

This week our virtual focus-group tour of America takes us to two more swing states, one in the rustbelt and one in the sunbelt: Michigan, which voted for the Democrat in every presidential election for 20 years before narrowly backing Donald Trump in 2016, and North Carolina, recently a more Republican-leaning state where polls now give Joe Biden a slim lead.

The week has been dominated by the Senate hearings for Amy Coney Barrett, Trump’s nomination the vacant seat on the Supreme Court following the death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg. The issue is the source of fruitless allegations of hypocrisy on all sides: the Democrats furious that the process is happening at all given the Senate’s refusal to confirm an Obama nominee in the months before the 2016 election, and the Republicans pointing out that the nominee in question would certainly have been confirmed if the Democrats had had the votes in the Senate.

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“Who says you have to like the President?” “He pretended it wasn’t a big deal and then went and caught it” “I think there might be riots no matter who wins”: My focus groups in Florida and Wisconsin

By Lord Ashcroft

In the weeks before the United States elected Donald Trump in 2016, I conducted focus groups to find out what was on people’s minds in swing states around the country This year, the Ashcroft in America tour is happening via Zoom, but the aim is the same: to hear what voters themselves are thinking as they weigh their decision. This week we begin in Florida and Wisconsin, speaking to voters who backed Trump in 2016 having backed Obama four years earlier and were having second thoughts, Hispanic voters who had helped elect Trump but were now undecided, and centrist Democrats backing Biden with varying degrees of enthusiasm.

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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.

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

By Lord Ashcroft

This article first appeared in the Mail on Sunday on 04 October 2020.

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.

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I give pupils and teachers 10/10… and shambolic education chiefs 1/10

By Lord Ashcroft

First published in Mail on Sunday on 30 August 2020.

Wearing the same blue and green school tie as them, Boris Johnson addressed a group of children last week and said: ‘Education is the great equaliser. It’s the liberator. It’s the transformer of society. And it’s the single most important way in which we can unite and level up across this whole country, and deliver social justice.’

Quite rightly, ‘levelling up’ has become a mantra with Tory politicians, with his predecessor, Theresa May, talking about tackling ‘burning injustices’ in education. In fact, much has already been achieved. (more…)

Mail on Sunday serialisation of Lord Ashcroft’s new book, Unfair Game, published on 16 June 2020.

By Lord Ashcroft

First published on 14 June 2020 in the Mail on Sunday.

It’s Born Free meets James Bond: The heart-stopping story of how Lord Ashcroft hired a crack team of ex-soldiers – using drones and military-grade tracking devices – to nail the criminals behind South Africa’s lucrative captive lion trade.

I CANNOT abide those who are cruel to animals, but the sad fact is that in our digital age, my strong aversion is aroused all too often. I have lost count of the number of people who post on social media platforms such as Twitter so-called ‘kill shots’ of themselves grinning at the camera (or, even worse, kissing their partner) alongside a beautiful animal they have recently slaughtered.

Revelling publicly in the death of a creature in this way is completely alien to me.

People may be brutal through ignorance or by taking shortcuts to save money, but South Africa’s captive-bred lion industry is conscious, intentional cruelty, sometimes carried out with or for pleasure. I cannot think about this without feeling a burning sense of shame. The question is: for how much longer will South Africa allow this industry to prosper?

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Our emergency service workers are genuine heroes – and those who have sacrificed their lives fighting Covid-19 deserve a fitting memorial in their memory

By Lord Ashcroft

First published in the Daily Express on 06 June 2020.

MY passion for bravery has spanned well over half a century and yet, even now, certain quotations associated with courage still stir my blood.

Thucydides was one of the first Greek historians and a skilled military general.

In the fifth century BC, he wrote: “The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it.”

Nelson Mandela once said: “The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

These two quotations, which I have long cherished, explain why I have such a deep-rooted admiration and respect for our emergency service workers. (more…)

The damage that even the threat of the virus is wreaking on St Helena

By Lord Ashcroft

St Helena AirportFirst published on Conservative Home on 12 May 2020.

These are difficult and challenging times for many people – but spare a thought for the 4,500 islanders of St Helena, situated in the middle of the South Atlantic.

“Saints”, as the islanders are known, have encountered one problem after another over the past four years – just as they hoped their new airport would result in a huge increase in tourist numbers and, in turn, bring economic prosperity.

Now islanders have suffered another major blow: coronavirus. As yet, there are thankfully no cases of Covid-19 on St Helena but the tough measures brought in to ensure that the island remains free of the virus have once again killed off tourism for the foreseeable future. (more…)

Our NHS needs its own army of volunteer reservists – just like the military

By Lord Ashcroft

First published in the Mail on Sunday on 19 April 2020.

Lance Corporal Matthew Croucher was on a mission to investigate a Taliban compound near Sangin in Afghanistan in 2008 when he accidentally triggered a booby-trapped grenade.

He and his men were heading back to base under cover of darkness when he stumbled into a four-metre tripwire linked to the explosive.

Instead of running for cover, the Royal Marine threw himself on to the device, dropping down backwards and praying his backpack and body armour would absorb most of the blast – an act of supreme bravery that saved the lives of the three other members of his patrol. (more…)