On Lord Ashcroft and Labour…

March 8, 2013 8:41 am

Lord Ashcroft – once the bête noire of Labour activists and marginal seat holding MPs – has been reinventing himself recently. And his hugely in depth polling has certainly been helpful (and often positive) for Labour.

According to the latest Ashcroft “mega-poll” out today, 39% of the British public want a majority Labour government. It was conducted 6 weeks ago (an age in Westminster terms) but its findings are stark. Only 30% of those polled want a Tory majority government, and only a miserable 13% would like to retain the current Tory-Lib Dem Coalition.

But when you start stacking the numbers up it begins to look even worse for Cameron, because that means when the “squeeze” begins on swing voters (and there is no greater squeeze point than a general election) 57% of voters would like a Labour or Labour-led government, compared to 43% for a Tory or Tory-led government. And although the Tories will no doubt point to the individual leadership advantage Cameron enjoys over Miliband (in some polls at least) – a 14 point advantage is still more than significant.

Worse still for Cameron, as Mike Smithson has noted, a Tory majority is only the third choice option for the British people, after a Labour Majority, and another coalition (either red-yellow or blue-yellow). That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement of the Tory Party (perhaps they’ve come across some of their backbenchers?).

Meanwhile, and perhaps conveniently, as the poll is released Lord Ashcroft has also popped up in the papers this morning. The Daily Mail has rehashed a story from last week’s New Statesman about the Tory peer meeting with Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander.

Yet what’s interesting is not so much that the meeting took place (which is of course noteworthy) but that it describes Alexander as “one of the architects of the party’s 2015 campaign”. Whilst Alexander was Labour’s 2010 general election co-ordinator, it’s not yet certain that he’ll play a similar role in 2015, although as we’ve reported before it’s no secret that he wants it. This reference in the Daily Mail could be a simple misunderstanding, or it could be the leadership sending a message that Douglas will be playing a key role in the General Election campaign. Or perhaps it might of course be Alexander trying to talk himself into a position that he covets.

Certainly if he were to take over as Labour’s election strategist, he would have to replace Tom Watson – which the West Bromwich MP is unlikely to be keen on.

Watch this space…

  • John Ruddy

    Lets face it, one thing the party needs to do is more polling and focus groups. Its what helped us gain victory in 1997, and the lack of it led to defeat.
    Although Ashcroft would want to publish results, I dont see it as being incompatible to get him to do some work which we could use…especially as he now pays his taxes here.

    • postageincluded

      I’ll sup with anyone, provided the spoon is long enough.

  • Jeremy_Preece

    This analysis backs up what I have though to be the case when talking to people.

    In spite of all of Cameron’s obvious faults, and he is not popular in the UK, Ed M is 14 points even worse.

    “And although the Tories will no doubt point to the individual leadership advantage Cameron enjoys over Miliband (in some polls at least) – a 14 point advantage is still more than significant”

    No surprise since as I talk to people they usually say that we have the wrong leader. This really is not good news.

    So if we had a different leader who could get his message across (and have the party actaully put its message together in an accessible way), then we might well be many points ahead.
    On the GE day, people will vote for not only the party and the polices, but largely on whether they trust the PM who has powers to react to whatever emergency or unpredictable issues unfold when they are in office. Having such an unpopular leader is a huge issue.
    Ed M still needs to shape up, or ship out. So “you are the weakest link – Goodbye”

    • postageincluded

      What’s missing form your remarks, Jeremy, is an estimation of how many votes are swung by the leaders’ popularity rating. Airy generalisations that people vote “largely on whether they trust the PM” just won’t do.

      Now, if you could demonstrate that for say 20% of the electorate “who would make the best Prime Minister” was the decisive issue I’d be worried. I seriously doubt there are that many, but even then (based on most recent YouGov poll) the Tories only get a 2-3% benefit from their “secret weapon”.

      And I don’t accept your assertion that Ed isn’t “getting his message across” either.

      • Jeremy_Preece

        I would agree that Ed is doing better than last year, and is more popular with the party and party members. However I do have an issue as to whether he is getting his message over to the electorate.
        In the British system it is not really clear what makes a voter put their cross against one particular candidate. Are they voting for their local MP (someone that the local comminity likes)? Are they voting for the party, either out of a sense of tradition, or because they like some or all of the manifesto pledges. Are they voting for the prime minister?
        As for policy, probably the single most important area at the moment is how are we going to kick-start the economy. Cameron started the year with “the good news will keep on coming” and now has stated that “there is no alternative” – surely an admission of failure.
        So what are Labour going to do? Kick off some investment to get things running? Bring forward some infrustructure projects? Stop cuts that cut jobs?
        Answer – not cut too much and not too deep. What does that mean? Yes there will be cuts? If so which things are going to be cut and by how much? Just saying not so fast and not so deep does not convey a clear message.
        Will Labour stop that Atos sickness benefit tests – yes or no?
        My point is that what Labour is standing for and what makes it different from the coalition should be crystal clear. I would argue that it must be clearly different, and I would say that the differences (if they are there) are not clearly understood.

        • postageincluded

          If “it is not really clear what makes a voter put their cross against one particular candidate” then why did you originally assert that voters base their vote “largely on whether they trust the PM”? Either provide some evidence or withdraw the silly assertion on which your original argument was based.

          As I rather suspected your moaning about “we need a better leader” was merely a run in to your policy wish list, which was not the original issue. I can’t, however let one point go. “Just saying not so fast and not so deep does not convey a clear message”. Actually, yes it does convey a clear message and polling shows voters agree with that message. What it doesn’t do is give hostages to fortune, either to the Coalition or to sectional wish-lists of party factions.

          • Jeremy_Preece

            If Cameron can poll above his party’s rate and Ed M below his, then clearly Ed M is the weakest link.
            As I say, while i do not have figures, I am very aware of the sheer number of ordinary voting public who say to me that they don’t like our leader and wouldn’t want to see him as PM. It is as pragmatic as that, and I don’t consider that to be silly.

          • John Ruddy

            Yes, and Mrs Thatcher was the weak link in the conservatives 1979 campaign….

          • Jeremy_Preece

            Thatcher was able to get her message across and was on every TV news programme in the run up to 1979. Everyone was clearly very aware of what she said and what she was about.

          • John Ruddy

            So how come the Tories won in 79 when she trailed her party considerably, and Jim Callaghan was seen as being the better Prime Minister?
            You know, exactly the same situation as today?

        • postageincluded

          If “it is not really clear what makes a voter put their cross against one particular candidate” then why did you originally assert that voters base their vote “largely on whether they trust the PM”? Either provide some evidence or withdraw the silly assertion on which your original argument was based.

          As I rather suspected your moaning about “we need a better leader” was merely a run in to your policy wish list, which was not the original issue. I can’t, however let one point go. “Just saying not so fast and not so deep does not convey a clear message”. Actually, yes it does convey a clear message and polling shows voters agree with that message. What it doesn’t do is give hostages to fortune, either to the Coalition or to sectional wish-lists of party factions.

    • AlanGiles

      It would look very bad to change leaders now – the Conservatives and LibDems are contemplating it because they are desperate, and Labour would look equally desperate if it did the same thing at this point in the game.

      Actually, one of Labour’s problems is this long-winded Crudas review (which one suspects will merely re-arrange the deckchairs). Till the great man reports there is little to offer except soundbites and slogans.

      Burnham would probably the best replacement (though I still don’t fully trust all his posturing on NHS privatisation), but who else is there, and what message are they wanting to essay rather than the meaningless dreaded “1M”?

      • Chilbaldi

        I bet you Alan, that when Cruddas does report it will still be soundbites and slogans – albeit quirky and esoteric ones in his inimitable style.

    • Amber_Star

      Jeremy, please read the article again. It does not say that Miliband is 14 points behind Cameron; you have misread a (rather clunky) sentence. It is trying to inform us that Labour leading a government is +14% more popular than the Tories leading a government; Labour has this +14% lead, despite Miliband being less popular than Cameron in some polls.

    • Amber_Star

      Jeremy, please read the article again. It does not say that Miliband is 14 points behind Cameron; you have misread a (rather clunky) sentence. It is trying to inform us that Labour leading a government is +14% more popular than the Tories leading a government; Labour has this +14% lead, despite Miliband being less popular than Cameron in some polls.

    • Amber_Star

      Jeremy, please read the article again. It does not say that Miliband is 14 points behind Cameron; you have misread a (rather clunky) sentence. It is trying to inform us that Labour leading a government is +14% more popular than the Tories leading a government; Labour has this +14% lead, despite Miliband being less popular than Cameron in some polls.

    • Amber_Star

      Jeremy, please read the article again. It does not say that Miliband is 14 points behind Cameron; you have misread a (rather clunky) sentence. It is trying to inform us that Labour leading a government is +14% more popular than the Tories leading a government; Labour has this +14% lead, despite Miliband being less popular than Cameron in some polls.

      • Jeremy_Preece

        Yes okay Amber Star. I have re read this sentence and I would agree with your point. However it is saying that Ed M is less popular (or more unpopular) than Cameron.
        The main thrust of my argument remains, that if voters I speak to keep telling me that we have the wrong leader, and if it is a real effort to work out exactly what it is that he is saying, then we have a problem.
        To be more unpopular than Cameron however really takes some doing!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001102865655 John Ruddy

      If it was the case that people voted on who they thought was the better leader, the leader of the opposition (polling behind their party) or the Prime Minister (polling ahead of their party) we would never have had Mrs Thatcher elected in 1979.

      Lets not forget that her personal ratings were every bit as bad as Ed Miliband’s are. Jim Callaghan was seen as much better.

      • Jeremy_Preece

        Having lived through the whole of that era, I would have to say that it was clear exactly what Thatcher was all about. It was also pretty clear what her policy direction would be.
        Do you think that Ed M displays the same clarity?

        • postageincluded

          I was there in 79, too, and I don’t agree at all that everyone – i.e. the voters – knew exactly what Thatcher was up to. Apart from TU reform she kept her hand well guarded and was cautious in her policy statements.

          It was a negative campaign based largely on “Cap in hand to the IMF”, “Winter of Discontent” “Labour isn’t working” type slogans. We’re on the same ground now.

  • Daniel Speight

    So Alexander and Ashcroft together. All we would need is to add the supermarket lord to the mix and we would have the makings of SDP Mark 2. May even find a job for Alexander’s sister in it.

  • postageincluded

    Yes, it’s nice to know that the Prince of Darkness says we’re doing well, but let’s not, as Jim Murphy said, get lazy about it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/renie.anjeh1 Renie Anjeh

    Hopefully Douglas Alexander will become a full-time Election Co-ordinator – he is a great talent and Ed is doing well by keeping him close. Perhaps a vacancy in the job of Shadow Foreign Secretary, could allow for the return of David Miliband.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Graeme-Hancocks/1156294498 Graeme Hancocks

    In tomorrow’s – Saturday 9th March 2013 – Times, it is reported that only 7% of tory voters believe that Cameron can win in 2015. The overwhelming majority of tory voters now believe that a Labour victory is the likely outcome.

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