“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

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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Escape From A Nazi Firing Squad

First published in the Mail on Sunday on 18 October 2020.

Handcuffed and led into the woods at dawn, two SAS men prepared to die… What followed was one of the most breathtaking episodes of the entire war, writes LORD ASHCROFT.

It was approaching dawn on August 9, 1944 and the seven prisoners of war caught operating behind enemy lines in German-occupied France thought they knew their fate.

After weeks of imprisonment, including brutal interrogation at the hands of the Gestapo, their end was near.

German SS men, armed with automatic weapons, led the seven SAS men, all of whom were in handcuffs, from a lorry to a clearing some 100 yards into a wood.

‘Are we going to be shot?’ asked Corporal Jean Dupontel, one of the prisoners. (more…)

“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

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

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?

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

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

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

The October issue of the magazine has four pages on the life and career of Lieutenant-Commander Geoffrey Saxton White, who was awarded the VC for bravery during the First World War.

White was one of only five submariners to be awarded the VC during the Great War and it marked the first and only time that the prestigious decoration was awarded to two different captains of the same submarine. (more…)

I welcome the George Cross ruling recognising men and women who repeatedly confront and conquer their fears

First published in The Sun on 24 September 2020.

THE Government, in consultation with the Queen, has ruled that the George Cross (GC) has parity with the Victoria Cross (VC) as the most prestigious bravery decorations awarded by the UK and the Commonwealth. (more…)

Give NHS heroes the George Cross!

First published in the Mail on Sunday on 20 September 2020.

The medal awarded to the bravest of the brave celebrates its 80th birthday next week… and what better way to mark it than to hand it to all those who went into battle with Covid-19, says LORD ASHCROFT.

They are an eclectic mix of people – bomb disposal experts, secret agents, police officers, a schoolboy, a tram conductor and even an air stewardess. They have one thing in common: at some point in their lives they displayed such outstanding courage that they were awarded the George Cross (GC), Britain and the Commonwealth’s most prestigious award for bravery when not in the presence of the enemy. (more…)

Scraping the rooftops… the most remarkable aerial duel ever

First published in the Daily Express on 15 September 2020.

On the 80th anniversary of Battle of Britain Day, Lord Ashcroft asks whether an RAF pilot was denied a posthumous VC because he RAMMED his German rival.

EVEN by the standards of do-or-die aerial duels, it was a remarkable spec­tacle. The Battle of Britain was more than ten weeks old but the residents of Hailsham, Sussex – accustomed to watching dogfights overhead – had never seen anything quite like it. Screaming just feet above the town’s rooftops were the aircraft of Hauptmann Horst Liensberger and Flying Officer Percy Burton. As the two aircraft lifted away over the nearby country­side, they were just yards apart with Burton’s Hurricane on the tail of Liensberger’s Messerschmitt 110 fighter-bomber.

What happened next was certainly deadly but it was also controversial. Eighty years on, there is still a debate over whether Burton should have been awarded the Victoria Cross, Britain and the Commonwealth’s most pres­tigious gallantry award for bravery in the face of the enemy. (more…)

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