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Westlake Legal Group > Opinion Polls

Iain Dale: Were the Prime Minister to pull the plug on HS2, would he call time on Heathrow expansion too?

Iain Dale presents the evening show on LBC Radio, and is the author of the forthcoming book ‘Why can’t we all just get along’.

I have very mixed feelings about HS2. I am usually all in favour of visionary transport infrastructure projects. I rather liked the idea of the Boris Island Airport, and still regret that he didn’t make it part of his leadership campaign. I also think high speed rail is a good thing.

However, I still don’t think the business case for HS2 has really ever been properly made.  Capacity is clearly an issue on parts of the West Coast main line, but it seems to be the Manchester trains which suffer, rather than the Birmingham ones.

The Prime Minister is clearly minded to cancel the whole project, and hopes that the review announced this week will give him political cover. Quite how he will explain the waste of upwards of £7.2 billion I don’t know, but presumably the saving of a further £80 billion will be used to show how other parts of our transport system could be improved.

Of course, if HS2 is cancelled, one would quite reasonably wonder whether the third runway at Heathrow might be next on the list for a prime ministerial cull.

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A new Kantar poll puts the Conservatives on 42 per cent, with Labour trailing on 28 per cent and the Brexit Party on only five per cent. The Liberal Democrats were constant on 15 per cent.

So, a 14 per cent lead for Johnson. Is this a “Boris bounce”? None of the other polls have shown a lead anything like this big, so everyone should treat with a huge degree of scepticism. But since it is widely believed that there will be a general election by the end of November, this is not a bad place to start from.

But as ever, a Conservative election success surely relies on us leaving the EU on October 31st. If we don’t, quite a few of those per centage points will be shaved off by Nigel Farage.

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Talking of Farage, he has made clear that, if the Prime Minister signs up to any form of deal with the EU, the Brexit Party will stand candidates against every Conservative candidate up and down the country. The only way to avoid that would be for us to leave on 31 October with no deal.

That outcome seems ever more likely as each day and each exchange of letters with Donald Tusk takes place. But as with Farage, I have a feeling in my water that the prospect of a last-minute deal hasn’t entirely disappeared. Yet.

The purists may hate it, but in the end, we have surely to remain of the view that a good deal is better than no deal. The trouble is that few can see what would actually constitute a good deal from the UK viewpoint. We can all see what a bad deal looks like, of course. But how we get from that to a good deal is anyone’s guess. –

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The ‘N’ key to my laptop has come ustuck. Makes me thik a ew computer may be i order. I could stick it o agai , I suppose. But where’s the fu i that?

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This is my first and only week’s holiday of the year. I’m spending it in Norfolk doing nothing at all – apart from writing this, and two other columns.

And watching box sets. I’ve finished Designated Survivor on Netflix and have now started the Korean version. I’m quite used to watching programmes with subtitles, but normally I can pick up a few words of the language. Not Korean. It’s almost impossible to follow.

I’m also reading Andrew Roberts’ brilliant thousand page biography of Winston Churchill. I always find these doorstops of books incredibly intimidating, mainly because I normally only read before I go to sleep, and therefore only manage three pages a night. So I’m pleased I’m already on page 200. Right, time for another chapter…

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Patrick Spencer: What the new Government should do to ensure migrants are better skilled – and supported

Patrick Spencer is Head of Work and Welfare at the Centre for Social Justice.

The debate around immigration has become fraught to the point of complete intransigence in recent years. Events as close to home as the Grenfell Tower tragedy and as far afield as the Syrian civil war have brought the subject to the fore again. Inflammatory rhetoric here as well as in other countries hasn’t helped. As we leave the European Union, cooler heads must prevail.

The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) is today releasing a report that brings a level-headedness to the debate that is sorely needed. Importantly, it places the interests of immigrants squarely at the centre of its proposals. Immigration policy should not just be about who is allowed to come and work in Britain, but also how we support those people who do, so that they can avoid the trappings of low pay, unsafe working conditions, crime, social marginalisation and poverty.

The reality is that uncontrolled immigration growth over the last 15 to 20 years has worked – to a point. Our services, manufacturing and agricultural industries have benefited from skilled and inexpensive labour from EU new member States.

However, the economic costs of low-skilled immigration have been both wage stagnation at the bottom end of the income spectrum – analysis at the Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration found that “an inflow of immigrants of the size of 1 per cent of the native population would lead to a 0∙6 per cent decrease at the 5th wage percentile and a 0∙5 per cent decrease at the 10th wage percentile” – and low levels of productivity boosting capital investment. High-skilled immigration has had the opposite effect though, increasing wages, productivity, innovation and capital investment.

In the long term, it is also likely that the British economy will demand less low-skilled labour. Automation, technology and changing firm dynamics are likely to mean a greater focus on hiring higher-skilled workers, and more fluid jobs in which individuals are expected to take on multiple roles and work across multiple teams. The CSJ argues therefore that is irresponsible to continue to operate an immigration system that is deaf to the demands of our changing economy, and risks leaving migrant labourers unemployed and at risk of falling in to poverty.

It is for this reason that the CSJ’s first policy recommendation for this Conservative Government post-Brexit is folding all EU immigration in to the existing Tier 2 skilled immigration system, and tightening up the eligibility for Tier 2 applicants so that they are genuinely skilled and can command a wage well above the UK median. Key to this recommendation is carving out occupations that are deemed of strategic interest to the UK economy, for instance nurses and doctors who come to work in our NHS, but do not earn above average salaries.

The Government’s responsibility to immigrants should not stop there. For those that do come to Britain legally, whether under refugee status or another route, we must make sure support is there to reduce the risk that they and their children become socially marginalised, end up in low-paid work or unemployed, and get stuck in the criminal justice system. It is naïve to think the immigration policy debate ends on day two.

In that vein, the CSJ also recommend more integrated support for refugees when they come to Britain, including better financial support, longer term housing options and help with English speaking skills. The report also calls for a beefing up of the Director of Labour Market Enforcement financial powers and reach. There are potentially thousands of foreign individuals kept in forced servitude in Britain today, and many more working in unsafe conditions for illegally low pay.

Finally, it is high time the Government addresses the huge disparities in economic outcomes among minority and indigenous ethnic groups. Generations of immigrants from some groups still perform poorly in the education system, labour market and criminal justice system.  The Joseph Rowntree Foundation found that poverty rates among Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) Groups are twice as high as for White British groups. Dame Louise Casey discovered that individuals of South East Asian and Caribbean descent were three times and twice as likely to live in deprived parts of the UK, when compared to White British groups. Just one third of Bangladeshi women living in Britain are in employment compared to three quarters of White British women. One in five Black African and Black Caribbean men and almost one in four Mixed Race men are economically inactive. Unless the Government addresses the problem with real gusto, it will persist.

This report calls for calmer and more long-term thinking on immigration policy that prioritises high-skilled immigration and increases support for parts of the country that have struggled due to uncontrolled low-skilled immigration. Public opinion reflects this – polling by Hanbury Strategy earlier this year found that 51 per cent of the UK public recognise that not all parts of the UK have benefited from immigration, while YouGov polling in 2018 found that ‘treating EU citizens who want to come and live in the UK the same as people from elsewhere in the world’ was supported by 65 per cent of respondents and scrapping the limit of high skilled immigrants was supported by 46 per cent of respondents.

This is a great opportunity for the new Government to fix this long-standing issue of contention in British politics for the long term.

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The Boris bounce: where are the votes coming from, and where might more be available?

As you’d expect on the Sunday after a new Prime Minister takes office, there are a raft of new polls out in today’s newspapers, each trying to judge what impact Boris Johnson’s arrival in Downing Street is having on the electorate.

The four polls vary in various details beyond being from different pollsters – some include different lists of parties (Greens or no Greens), some are based on more recent fieldwork than others and might therefore pick up the effects of more news about the new Government, and they each test rising or falling vote shares by comparing back to differently dated previous polls, ranging from earlier this week to all the way back to the start of June. Here are all the details:


Conservative: 28 per cent (+3)

Labour: 27 per cent (-1)

Liberal Democrat: 19 per cent (+2)

Brexit Party: 16 per cent (-3)

Green: 4 per cent (-1)

Poll undertaken Wednesday 24th – Thursday 25th July. Changes compared to 16th July.


Conservative: 31 per cent (+6)

Labour: 21 per cent (+2)

Liberal Democrat: 20 per cent (-3)

Brexit Party: 13 per cent (-4)

Poll undertaken Thursday 25th July – Friday 26th July. Changes compared to 24th July.


Conservative: 30 per cent (+10)

Labour: 25 per cent (-1)

Liberal Democrat: 18 per cent (+2)

Brexit Party: 14 per cent (-10)

Poll undertaken Thursday 25th July – Saturday 27th July. Changes compared to 1st June.


Conservative: 30 per cent (+7)

Labour: 28 per cent (+3)

Liberal Democrat: 16 per cent (+1)

Brexit Party: 15 per cent (-7)

Green: 5 per cent (-3)

Poll undertaken Wednesday 24th – Friday 26th July. Changes compared to 5th July.

There are few things to note.

First, the Conservative vote is up in each poll. Which you believe, +3, +6, +7 or +10, is up to you, but the presence of a shift in the same direction in the findings of each company is hard to ignore.

Second, the Brexit Party appears to be being squeezed, with changes in their vote share of -3, -4, -10 and -7. Watch how closely those match the Tory rise in each respective pollster’s results.

Third, the Liberal Democrat vote is essentially unchanged across the board: +2, -3, +2, +1. They gained a new leader this week, just as the Conservatives did, but Jo Swinson appears not to have changed their standing much at all as yet.

Fourth, Labour is essentially unchanged, too: -1, +2, -1, +3.

So what we’re currently seeing is not a single, two-sided race, as is traditional; nor a simple free-for-all melee in a country which has become a four-way marginal.

Rather, there are two electoral contests underway. The Conservatives under Boris Johnson are squeezing the Brexit Party, to try to reunite the old Vote Leave majority for getting out of the EU. At the same time, Labour and the Liberal Democrats are battling over territory which is varyingly lefty and Remainy.

In the former contest, Johnson’s early days show some promise, but in the latter it appears Labour are unable to win back the votes they lost to the Lib Dems, while Swinson is in search of a moment to cut through to further eat into, and maybe even overtake, the Labour vote.

Each race has one new participant within it, which makes both unpredictable and subject to potentially swift change as voters get to know the new leaders. While the Conservatives have made early progress, any actual seizure of voters from the Brexit Party at the ballot box is for obvious reasons dependent on actual results in delivering Brexit. By contrast, Swinson inevitably had difficulty cutting through in the media in a week dominated by Boris Johnson, but as the only female leader among the four top parties, and the youngest leader too, she has a clear chance to differentiate herself if she gets and seizes the opportunity. She must be hoping hard for a TV debate along the lines of the one that created Cleggmania in 2010.

The final thing to consider is that while these early stages of Johnson’s leadership involve a battle for votes with the Brexit Party, there’s nothing confining the Prime Minister to that conflict forever. If – and it’s not a small if – he can really squish down Nigel Farage’s vote, or somehow form a pact with him, then he can turn, secure in his Brexit flank, to focus more fully on Labour. The nightmare scenario for the Opposition is one in which they lose Remainer and moderate left ground to the resurgent Liberal Democrats and Leaver plus working class ground to the Conservatives.

In a four-way contest, currently divided into two skirmishes, the race is on to find who will be trapped fighting two opponents at the same time.

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Lord Ashcroft: Will voters still give Johnson the benefit of the doubt? We’re about to find out.

Lord Ashcroft KCMG PC is an international businessman, philanthropist, author and pollster. For more information about his work, visit www.lordashcroft.com and www.lordashcroftpolls.com.

Six years ago, I published some research entirely dedicated to the Boris Johnson phenomenon. The title of the report – Are You Serious? – encapsulated two things: the reaction of Johnson-sceptics to the idea that he might rise to an office greater than the London Mayoralty, and the question many voters, intrigued but not altogether convinced by this unusual adornment to public life, were asking of Johnson himself.

We know the answer to the second question, if it was ever in doubt: yes, deadly. His pursuit of the top job has been skilful and relentless. His apparently playful approach to life masks a fierce determination, which voters can sense. If the achievement of his ambition were not itself proof enough, his ruthless remaking of the Government around his central policy of a Halloween Brexit puts to rest any doubt about the seriousness of his intent.

Strangely, the first question – can this possibly be happening? – is alive and well among elements of the commentating class, as well as some of his adversaries. Here there are echoes of the reaction not just of the EU referendum result and the election of Donald Trump – which stemmed from an inability to understand why a reasonable person could vote for either – but more distantly to Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.

Despite their opponents’ continued belief that they were too hapless, dim or otherwise unqualified for public office, both were re-elected – partly because of their critics’ inevitable tendency to underestimate someone whose rise to power seemed to them some sort of cosmic mistake. If this is how Johnson’s elevation appears to those who already want to see the back of him, that can only work to his advantage.

Despite coming down on the side of Jeremy Hunt in the leadership election, I wrote a few weeks ago on this site that I did not fear disaster in the event of a Johnson victory. Both are proper Tories, committed to honouring the referendum result, personally engaging and with good ideas. The first hours of his administration have confirmed that. Though I wonder about some of his appointments – the loss of Penny Mordaunt is particularly regrettable – the sense of direction is unmistakeable and refreshing.

His speech on entering Downing Street was ambitious and wide-ranging, and more specific in some of its ideas than many would have expected. And while the cynics increasingly equate optimism with delusion, tone matters, and the cheerful sense of belief he exudes is already a welcome contrast from the last three glum years. Most important of all, he is making it clear that he intends to do everything he can to deliver on his promise, at a time when so many are exasperated with parliament’s inability or refusal to carry out the country’s wishes.

But this is only day three. When the smoke clears from the initial burst of shock and awe, the tiresome reality will come back into focus – the precarious parliamentary maths and the so far unwavering stance of the European Union. There is also the fact that sooner or later, voters are going to pass judgment on their new Prime Minister – their third in 37 months.

Here is it instructive to look at what people actually said about him in my 2013 study. A majority of voters thought of him as “different from most politicians, and in a good way”, while the next most popular view was that he was “not really a politician at all”. While he was famous for speaking his mind (“He says it how it is. In a very posh voice,” as one of our focus group participants put it), most were at a loss to say where he stood on any particular issue, including Europe.

And though obviously a Tory, he seemed somewhat detached from the party and had his own appeal. Though people thought he was a good Mayor of London, many thought the role was about being an ambassador for the city rather than carrying any executive authority (“do we want someone on zipwires making decisions about the NHS and education and going to war?” Johnson as Prime Minister “would be excellent until it all went tits up.”) Offered a range of potential descriptions for him, people were most likely to choose “likeable” and “a people person”; they were least likely to say he was “on my side” or “a safe pair of hands.”

As it happened, he did not have to alleviate these concerns (which still persist, along with others, as my research during the leadership contest confirmed) before reaching Number Ten. But he will have to do so if he wants to stay there. Though he remains unlike any other politician, he and the Conservative Party, and the Conservative Government, are no longer mere nodding acquaintances. Despite his declaration that EU migrants in Britain can stay and his appointment of the most diverse Cabinet ever, he seems unlikely to re-emerge as the cuddly cosmopolitan of a kind who could persuade socially liberal London to give him the biggest personal mandate in British politics.

When it comes to executive ability, people will make their judgments as they see him in action – just as they will as to whether he is on their side, especially if they put something other than Brexit at the top of their priority list. Retrieving those voters tempted by the Brexit Party is crucial – but neither can the Tories afford to lose those at the other end of their voting coalition.

One more thing leaps out at me from my six year-old study. Despite the regular mishaps, outrages and minor scandals that seemed to punctuate his career, people often went out of their way to put a generous interpretation on them. I observed that “Boris is given the benefit of the doubt to an extent that other politicians can only dream of”. We’re about to find out how true that still is.

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ConHome and the contest. Our eve-of-ballot survey had Johnson’s total to within a point.

“If the bulk of Party members voted early, it follows that our first survey, the responses to which came in just before most ballot papers arrived, is likely to prove most accurate” – ToryDiary, July 21.

So Boris Johnson has won 66 per cent of the vote to Jeremy Hunt’s 34 per cent.  That’s a thumping two-to-one margin – but just a fraction less than the former Foreign Secretary’s team will surely have hoped for.  David Cameron defeated David Davis in 2006 by 68 per cent to 32 per cent, and Camp Johnson will have wanted to be there or thereabouts, not least to give them maximum reshuffle majority.

At any rate, how did the ConHome survey’s Next Tory Leader question and answer work out?  The best way of finding an answer is to look at its three most recent outings,

Our first, compiled early this month as ballot papers were going out (a few had already been received) found Johnson 67 per cent, Hunt 29 per cent, “Other” four per cent.

Our second, a week later, had Johnson on 72 per cent and Hunt on 28 per cent.

Our third and final survey, conducted last weekend, found Johnson on 73 per cent and Hunt on 27 per cent.

We know of only one other poll or survey of Party members. A YouGov poll for the Times carried out at about the same time as our second survey above had Johnson on 74 per cent and Hunt on 26 per cent.

Our three surveys are thus all in the odd position of being closer to the final result than YouGov’s poll, although the difference between its finding and our last two surveys is very marginal indeed.

We don’t know what proportion of the electorate voted early, but readers will see that our first survey had Johnson’s share of the vote almost spot on.  In retrospect, we wish that we had stripped the “other” category out at that stage to force the choice for respondents.

Last weekend, we also noted that “people don’t always recall accurately how they’ve voted – that’s a general feature of political polls and surveys”, thereby suggesting that in our two later surveys there may have been a bit of a Johnson bandwagon event.

Or perhaps there was a late movement to Hunt; or maybe there was a smattering of “shy Hunt” voters.  Or, most likely, both our surveys and YouGov’s polling are slightly “to the right” of where Party members are by a few points.  But overall the result suggest that the survey is in a good place.

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Lord Ashcroft: What my latest poll of eight thousand people says about Hunt and Johnson

While Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hiunt make their pitch to Conservatives around the country, I have been giving their tyres a good kicking. My latest poll of more than 8,000 people shows in detail what people make of the two candidates vying to be their next Prime Minister – particularly their appeal to voters who are not already Tories.

Who would be best – and who will win?

Asked which candidate would make the best Prime Minister, 34 per cent of all voters said Jeremy Hunt, and 27 per cent said Boris Johnson, with 39 per cent saying they didn’t know. Remain voters overall prefer Hunt by a 45-point margin; Remainers who voted Conservative in 2017 do so by 57 per cent to 19 per cent.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-07-05-at-16.35.35 Lord Ashcroft: What my latest poll of eight thousand people says about Hunt and Johnson Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls Next Tory leader Jeremy Hunt MP Highlights Conservative leadership election 2019 Comment Boris Johnson MP   2017 Conservative voters as a whole currently prefer Johnson by 47 per cent to 29 per cent. Tory Leavers do so by 58 per cent to 19 per cent – and Labour Leavers by 33 per cent to 23 per cent.

Though their preference is for Hunt, voters overwhelmingly expect Johnson to win the contest: 67 per cent expect him to be chosen by party members, with just eight per cent anticipating a Hunt victory.

Why will the Conservatives choose as they do?

The few who expect Hunt to win the contest think Tories will choose him because is character is better suited to the job of Prime Minister, and that they regard him as the more competent candidate.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-07-05-at-16.39.44 Lord Ashcroft: What my latest poll of eight thousand people says about Hunt and Johnson Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls Next Tory leader Jeremy Hunt MP Highlights Conservative leadership election 2019 Comment Boris Johnson MP   Those who think Johnson will win think Tories see him as their best chance of winning a general election, and that his view on Brexit is closest to that of Conservative Party members.

Does it matter?

We asked respondents whether they thought the two candidates “would be very different Prime Ministers and it could make a great deal of difference to Britain which one is chosen,” or if they thought “what happens in Britain over the next few years will be pretty much the same” whichever of them goes to Downing Street.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-07-05-at-16.40.49 Lord Ashcroft: What my latest poll of eight thousand people says about Hunt and Johnson Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls Next Tory leader Jeremy Hunt MP Highlights Conservative leadership election 2019 Comment Boris Johnson MP   Voters as a whole agreed more with the first statement, and Conservatives – both Remainers and Leavers – were the most likely of all to do so.

Against Jeremy Corbyn

Voters as a whole said they thought both Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson would make better Prime Ministers than Jeremy Corbyn – Hunt by a 28-point margin (47 per cent to 19 per cent), and Johnson by 18 points (42 per cent to 24 per cent). While Conservative Leavers prefer both candidates by similarly high margins, Tory Remainers prefer Hunt over Corbyn by 83 points but Johnson over Corbyn by 56 points; one in three say ‘don’t know’ to that particular choice.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-07-05-at-16.41.42 Lord Ashcroft: What my latest poll of eight thousand people says about Hunt and Johnson Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls Next Tory leader Jeremy Hunt MP Highlights Conservative leadership election 2019 Comment Boris Johnson MP   Remain voters as a whole prefer Hunt over Corbyn by nine points, but Corbyn over Johnson by 20 points. Labour Leavers prefer both Hunt (by five points) and Johnson (by nine points) to Jeremy Corbyn.

Forced to choose between a Conservative government led by Jeremy Hunt and a Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn, voters as a whole plumped for a Hunt administration by a 20-point margin. A Johnson-led Tory government was more popular than a Corbyn Labour administration by the lower margin of 54 per cent to 46 per cent.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-07-05-at-16.46.22 Lord Ashcroft: What my latest poll of eight thousand people says about Hunt and Johnson Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls Next Tory leader Jeremy Hunt MP Highlights Conservative leadership election 2019 Comment Boris Johnson MP   While Leave voters say they would prefer Conservative governments led by either candidate by 60-point margins, Remain voters as a whole prefer a Corbyn-led Labour government over a Hunt-led Tory government by 14 points, but a Corbyn-led Labour government over a Johnson-led Tory government by 40 points. Tory Remainers prefer a Johnson administration by 66 points, but a Hunt administration by 95 per cent to five per cent.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-07-05-at-16.43.02 Lord Ashcroft: What my latest poll of eight thousand people says about Hunt and Johnson Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls Next Tory leader Jeremy Hunt MP Highlights Conservative leadership election 2019 Comment Boris Johnson MP   Asked how positively or negatively they felt about a number of politicians and parties, voters gave Hunt and Johnson identical average scores, higher than those of the Conservative Party as a whole and other political leaders. However, it was notable that while Hunt’s scores were clustered largely around the neutral centre, Johnson’s overall total was the result of a balance between the very positive and very negative ends of the scale.

Who could do what?

We asked whether certain things were more likely to be achieved by Jeremy Hunt or Boris Johnson, or were equally likely (or unlikely) to happen under either of them. Voters think Hunt would be more likely to be a credible and effective leader for Britain on the world stage, build and lead an effective team in government, deal with important issues other than Brexit, take a reasonable and sensible approach to problems, and win the respect of people who don’t vote for him.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-07-05-at-16.49.48 Lord Ashcroft: What my latest poll of eight thousand people says about Hunt and Johnson Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls Next Tory leader Jeremy Hunt MP Highlights Conservative leadership election 2019 Comment Boris Johnson MP   Johnson is thought more likely to take Britain out of the EU with no deal, win a general election for the Conservatives, be a strong leader, and to make promises he knows he can’t or won’t deliver.

People were most likely to say that two candidates would be equally unable to achieve a good Brexit deal for the UK, be honest with the public, represent the whole country, unite Leave and Remain voters, make the right decisions even when they are unpopular, and care about “people like me.”

Reach v grasp

To get a better understanding of the two candidates’ comparative appeal, we repeated a process used earlier in the year to assess the potential success of new parties (with, as subsequent events have proved, some prescience, if I say so myself). We showed people pairs of opposing statements that might describe a Prime Minister – personal characteristics and policy positions they might take – and asked how strongly they preferred one or the other in each case.

hese answers are plotted on the attitudinal map below – for example, those preferring a Prime Minister who supports austerity are in the top right, and those wanting an anti-austerity Prime Minister in the bottom left. Analysing these responses along with people’s past votes and how positively or negatively they felt towards parties and politicians allowed us to chart Hunt and Johnson’s support and potential reach.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-07-05-at-16.57.41 Lord Ashcroft: What my latest poll of eight thousand people says about Hunt and Johnson Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls Next Tory leader Jeremy Hunt MP Highlights Conservative leadership election 2019 Comment Boris Johnson MP   The shaded areas represent what might be called the boundaries of the Hunt and anti-Hunt hemispheres, and the Boris and anti-Boris hemispheres – and show where they overlap and where they do not. Both candidates are within what might be called the Conservative quadrant of the map: those who take a positive view of either candidate are also likely to take traditional centre-right positions on, for example, economic policy, austerity and crime. Even so, they clearly occupy distinct positions.

While Johnson is closer to those who want a Prime Minister who listens to the people and does what they want, Hunt is closer to those who want a leader who does what they think is right even if it is unpopular. Hunt’s hemisphere includes those who prefer a Prime Minuster who is very diplomatic and prefers to act multilaterally, but Johnson’s takes in those who want a leader who says exactly what he thinks and prefers to act independently in international affairs. While Johnson is in reach of those who voted UKIP in 2017, Liberal Democrats are in the same hemisphere as Hunt.

In 2017, Labour and the Conservatives between them accounted for 82 per cent of the vote. As things stand, this looks unlikely to happen again. The winner, then, will be the party whose 2017 voting coalition unravels the least. In terms of the attitudinal map, the Tories cannot afford to be confined to a single quadrant in the top right, just as Labour need to avoid appealing exclusively to the bottom left. The question is whether Hunt or Johnson is more likely to succeed in turning their theoretical reach into general election votes.

Portrait of a candidate

We offered respondents a selection of 25 positive and negative words and phrases and asked them to choose those that they thought best described the two candidates. For Hunt, the top five overall choices were, in order, “smug,” “out of his depth,” “competent,” “out of touch” and “arrogant.” The five most often chosen for Johnson were “arrogant,” “dishonest,” “dangerous,” “unreliable” and “amusing.”

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-07-05-at-16.56.19 Lord Ashcroft: What my latest poll of eight thousand people says about Hunt and Johnson Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls Next Tory leader Jeremy Hunt MP Highlights Conservative leadership election 2019 Comment Boris Johnson MP

Among 2017 Conservative voters, the top choice for Hunt was “competent”. For Johnson, it was “stands up for Britain.”

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-07-05-at-16.55.21 Lord Ashcroft: What my latest poll of eight thousand people says about Hunt and Johnson Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls Next Tory leader Jeremy Hunt MP Highlights Conservative leadership election 2019 Comment Boris Johnson MP   Voters as a whole, and especially Leave voters, said they would rather have Johnson round for dinner (though Hunt was the more popular invitee among Remainers). But by very wide margins, all groups – including Conservative Leavers – said they would rather allow Hunt to babysit their children, trust him with an important secret, lend him money in the expectation of getting it back, and (especially) let him drive their daughter or the daughter of a friend home from a party.

The next general election

We asked half our sample how likely they currently thought they were on a 100-point scale to vote for each party at the next election if Jeremy Hunt were Prime Minister, and the other half the same question if Boris Johnson was in Number Ten.

On average, 2017 Conservative voters who voted Leave in the referendum put their chance of voting for the Brexit Party at 50.4/100 if Hunt were PM, higher than their chance of voting Tory again (44.9). Under Prime Minister Johnson, they put their likelihood of voting Conservative at 60.4, and the Brexit Party at 37.8.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-07-05-at-16.50.45 Lord Ashcroft: What my latest poll of eight thousand people says about Hunt and Johnson Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls Next Tory leader Jeremy Hunt MP Highlights Conservative leadership election 2019 Comment Boris Johnson MP   Conservative Remain voters put their chance of voting Tory again higher under Jeremy Hunt (57.9) than under Boris Johnson (46.7), and their likelihood of voting Liberal Democrat higher with Johnson as PM (32.4) than with Hunt (25.4). The Brexit Party’s overall mean score put it second to the Conservatives with Jeremy Hunt as Prime Minister, with Labour third and the Lib Dems fourth. Under Boris Johnson, the Brexit Party were fourth, with Labour second and the Lib Dems third.

Full details of the research can be found at LordAshcroftPolls.com.

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YouGov’s poll. Johnson’s electoral advantage over Hunt has vanished.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-06-28-at-17.32.22 YouGov’s poll. Johnson’s electoral advantage over Hunt has vanished. YouGov ToryDiary Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls Jeremy Hunt MP Conservative leadership election 2019 Boris Johnson MP

We reproduce above YouGov findings about which Mark Wallace wrote on this site last week.  As he reported, “the identity of the new Prime Minister makes a difference to the polls. But Brexit is a far more dominant factor”.

According to the research above, Jeremy Hunt would deliver, were Brexit achieved and were he Prime Minister, a Conservative majority of 14 in a spring election – if the findings in question are punched into the Electoral Calculus reckoner.

By contrast, Boris Johnson would deliver – were Brexit achieved and were he Prime Minister – a Tory majority of 122, using the same method.

Were Brexit not achieved, the Conservatives would be obliterated, regardless of which one of them was Prime Minister.  Now look at this week’s table below.

This time round, Johnson’s advantage has vanished.  If Brexit is achieved, he leads the Tories to a majority of 82.  Hunt now leads them, under the same circumstances, to one of 86.

We suspect that the reason for the change is largely a change in profile.  A week ago, Hunt was simply less well known than he is now.  So the recognition factor is at work.

And the whole exercise can be dismissed as a dabble in hypotheticals.  None the less, its central message – that what matters most to the Conservatives is delivering Brexit, not changing their leaders – sounds spot-on.

Having reported last week’s finding, it seems only fair to report this one too.  We expect YouGov to have another go next week.  We ourselves will be undertaking a further Next Tory Leader survey.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-06-28-at-17.31.28 YouGov’s poll. Johnson’s electoral advantage over Hunt has vanished. YouGov ToryDiary Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls Jeremy Hunt MP Conservative leadership election 2019 Boris Johnson MP   Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Meanwhile, the Conservative poll rating is at under a quarter of the vote

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-06-26-at-07.48.20 Meanwhile, the Conservative poll rating is at under a quarter of the vote YouGov ToryDiary Politico Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls Lord Ashcroft Jeremy Hunt MP Highlights Electoral Calculus Conservatives Conservative leadership election 2019 Brexit Party Brexit Boris Johnson MP

Source: Politico

The Conservative leadership election is so attention-seizing, at least for this site, that there is a danger of forgetting about its wider context.

Which as matters stand is that the polls show that politics in Britain is now a four-way contest, rather than the two-way one of the 2017 election.  (In Scotland, it looks more like like a five-way contest.)

The Party’s last five poll ratings are 24 per cent, 20 per cent, 20 per cent, 21 per cent and 17 per cent.  It last led in a national poll on April 5.

Can Boris Johnson turn it round?  Not if there’s an election next spring and Brexit hasn’t been delivered, according to a YouGov poll reported on this site last Friday.

Under his leadership, the Tories would take 20 per cent of the vote, rather than 18 per cent under Jeremy Hunt, but it would make little difference to the wider scheme of things.

Punch those YouGov figures into Electoral Calculus calculator – admittedly a crude way of proceeding – and one finds the Brexit Party 38 seats short of a majority. The Conservatives would be reduced to 39 seats.

Now polls of course are, as our proprietor always puts it, a snapshot and not a prediction.  None the less, the context in which the present contest is set is one of the possible collapse of one the oldest political parties in the world.

But always look on the bright side of life.  Were Brexit delivered, the same poll finds that Jeremy Hunt could deliver, according to Electoral Calculus again, a Tory majority of 14 and Boris Johnson one of 122.

The reason? Brexit would collapse the Brexit Party vote – to 12 per cent under a Hunt premiership and to nine per cent under a Johnson one.

The YouGov poll didn’t distinguish between a No Deal Brexit and a Theresa May Deal Brexit – or some other form of deal.

And one can make a persuasive case that a general election in the wake of a No Deal Brexit would see the Party pulverised, too.

But be that as it may, there can be little doubt, given Lord Ashcroft’s polling too, about the result if there is No Brexit at all.  The Conservatives wil be out of office – perhaps for a long time and possibly for ever, in their current form.

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James Frayne: Lessons we are learning during this leadership contest

James Frayne is Director of Public First and author of Meet the People, a guide to moving public opinion.

As voters beam in on parties and candidates to an unusual extent, and because media coverage and scrutiny is far more intense, every election campaign tells us a lot about the state of politics at a given time. Not only about the relative merits of different candidates, but about the issues and themes people care about and respond to. Despite the strange nature of the Conservative Party leadership election, with its restricted and hyper-engaged electorate, we have still learned a great deal over the last few weeks. Here are some highlights.

(a) Traditional themes like “fairness” have lost their traction.

Dominic Raab is a great candidate: he’s intellectually serious; he’s got decent judgement; and he’s excellent on broadcast. He’s also not an egomaniac. Raab would have made a good PM and his time will surely come again. His campaign misfired quickly though by his choice to define himself through “fairness”. Fairness can be a very potent phrase – and it can be used to great effect by those on the right – but it has lost its power in the climate we’re now in.

Look at any opinion poll; while the cross-tabs usually reveal big gaps between party affiliation and age (and sometimes gender), referendum vote is still usually the defining characteristic in how people answer questions and how they see the world. In this climate, words like “fairness” mean totally different things to different people. In the Leave-voting Midlands and North, “fairness” might mean fairer (tougher sentencing), or fairer (tougher) welfare payments, or respecting the referendum vote. In the Remain-voting big cities, “fairness” might mean fairer Government spending or fairness towards migrant communities or a fairer tax system. You get the point.

In this climate, once-powerful words like fairness sound weak and bland. Anyone trying to create broad coalition campaigns needs to bring far greater definition to their campaign themes. This means focusing harder on issues than before.

(b) The Conservatives’ provincial strategy looks precarious.

My favourite comment piece from any politician during this contest was Penny Mordaunt’s piece on this site at the end of May. In it, she lamented the Westminster focus of all the leadership campaigns:

“For while the main parties argue about Brexit, 25,000 desperately worried steelworkers across the country anxiously wait on news of their jobs… Set against this, the public now has to endure a parade of leadership candidates speaking to Westminster, from Westminster, about Westminster.”

She made a good point: none of the candidates tried to speak out for provincial Britain. Clearly, in the early stages, campaigns had to spend most of their time in Westminster, given this is where the early electorate was based. But, on substance, it was as if the Midlands and North didn’t exist for most candidates.

The Conservative Party stands on the verge of a massive breakthrough in the Midlands and North, but it’s been standing here for years now and has made little meaningful progress. Nick Timothy was on to the potential of major electoral gains early in Theresa May’s time in office and culturally he bought into this strategy. But he was in a tiny minority within the party. As this leadership election has shown, the party is culturally Southern and middle-middle class; it just doesn’t get working class and lower middle class voters in provincial England. The electoral ramifications of this are potentially huge.

(c) The media environment has deteriorated.

The media environment for Conservatives on the mainstream right – and particularly those campaigning for Leave – has deteriorated significantly. A decade ago, the mainstream right of the party could rely on positive coverage from the Mail titles, pretty much all of Murdoch’s titles, the Telegraph titles and the Express titles. Furthermore, the mainstream right could rely on basically straight (rather than friendly) reporting from the BBC and Sky News. This meant that the right could rely on getting its message out positively on Europe, the economy, crime, welfare, public service reform and other issues.

Now, only The Sun and Sun on Sunday and The Daily and Sunday Telegraph can be solidly relied upon to support mainstream right leaning candidates and causes. The Daily Mail website is now a net negative, the Daily Mail newspaper is only borderline positive and the Express titles are drifting leftwards. While the Times titles remain reasonably friendly, Sky News is moving ever more to the politically correct left. The BBC remains the same as ever (you can work with them). Meanwhile, Channel 4 News and the massively influential Guardian are now essentially self-declared enemies of the Conservative Party and the wider Conservative movement.

There are a number of reasons for this. For example changes in ownership (in the case of the Express); changes in owner attitudes (in the case of the Mail); and changes in owner engagement (in the case of Murdoch’s titles). There are other reasons: the increase in the number of graduates, who have more liberal (in the American sense of the term) world views; and the activism of left-leaning campaigns and voter clusters online who have convinced owners and journalists alike that they represent public opinion (made more powerful by the reality that most people in the media rarely meet people from provincial Britain).

The media climate in this election has been such that mainstream right candidates were given a regular kicking in the media, with only a relatively light defence given from sympathetic outlets. What we saw in this election is only going to get more problematic. This is going to make life much more difficult for the centre right in the coming years.

(d) Social media continues to change the game.

The deterioration of the media environment makes social media a much more important tool than before. At one level, the growth of social media marks a positive change: Conservatives can get their message out to the public unfiltered, and there is now the possibility to reach very particular sub-groups of voters. However, there are two problems. The first is that social media encourages campaigns to create and nurture hardcore activist support which can put off those that aren’t true believers. The second is that social media encourages particular types of candidate: namely, the egomaniacs and the loudmouths. This is also bad news for the future.

(e) Pro-Brexit politicians still struggle to sell a positive vision.

For some reason, Conservative candidates still struggle to sell a vision of a better Britain outside the EU. In this election, candidates either focused on the process required to get Britain out, or on patriotic rhetoric about how we will thrive outside (on this, candidates like Rory Stewart have a point). Nobody has really set out a clear vision for how politics, the economy and society will be better because of the new powers that we will have at our disposal. It wasn’t Vote Leave’s responsibility to do this, but they still had great success with their announcement of a handful of retail policies that might be on the table on our exit (not just higher spending on the NHS). No Conservative has yet tried to own this space, which reflects a missed opportunity but it’s also worrying given that they’ll be potentially designing party manifestos in a month or two.

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The identity of the new Prime Minister makes a difference to the polls. But Brexit is a far more dominant factor.

Westlake Legal Group Marcus-con-vote-brexit-vs-leader-01-1024x875 The identity of the new Prime Minister makes a difference to the polls. But Brexit is a far more dominant factor. YouGov ToryDiary Opinion Polls Nigel Farage MEP Jeremy Hunt MP Brexit Party Boris Johnson MP

The chart above shows the results of some fascinating new polling which YouGov has kindly shared with ConservativeHome at the outset of the final, month-long round in the leadership election.

Up-front, it shows that Boris Johnson is expected by voters to bring some additional electoral advantage over Jeremy Hunt, though not to a vast degree. Instead, as Marcus Roberts notes for our panel, the far more powerful determinant of voting intention is the question of whether the Conservative Party fulfils its promise to carry out Brexit and take this country out of the European Union.

You might think this is obvious, but bear in mind that the outgoing Prime Minister, at least, seemed to think that a failure to keep such a promise was an electorally viable thing to do and the need for such polling becomes clear.

The Brexit Party stands to lose a majority of its vote share when Brexit happens – again something which you might imagine to be obvious (the clue’s in the name, after all) but which apparently is not so clear to those warning that the Conservatives cannot and should not “try to out-Brexit the Brexit Party” in response to Farage’s resurrection. On the contrary, it seems that the only answer to the phenomenon is to out-Brexit them, perhaps not in campaigning style or rhetorical purity but through the key distinguishing factor available to the Conservatives and not to their new rivals: being in Parliament and being in (at least some degree of) power.

In practice, I suspect this poll might even understate the degree to which fulfilling Brexit will determine a future election. YouGov finds that in the hypothetical scenario of a post-Brexit election with Boris Johnson as leader, nine per cent of people still intend to vote Brexit Party. This might be an expression of current scepticism that this would happen, or that it would be done properly. It might be a genuine reflection of an intention to continue backing Farage against the so-called legacy parties. But it assumes that the Brexit Party in its current bullish form, with its current platform, would still exist. At minimum I’d suggest there would be opportunities to squeeze that vote down hard in such a scenario.

What also interesting is that while these findings suggest that getting Brexit done would help the Conservative Party to address its Brexit Party problem, the same does not help Labour address its Lib Dem problem. Crucially, neither would delaying Brexit further – in both scenarios, Labour stay just about neck and neck with the yellow peril, which is a grim prospect for the Opposition. Perhaps, Labour Remainers would counter, that could change by becoming an openly Remainer party, but we simply don’t know if that’s the case. As it stands, neither leaving nor staying shows Labour reassert itself.

There’s one final point to note, which is about the specific terms of the question YouGov have put. “Imagine that a General Election is held in Spring next year…” That does matter, and will play into the ponderings of various people around the Tory leadership candidates. This timing would mean that the second scenario – in which “Brexit has not yet happened” – is an election in which either Prime Minister Johnson or Prime Minister Hunt has conceded yet another delay, of six months or more after 31st October, in effect continuing in the vein of Theresa May’s failure.

I do wonder if there would be any differences to these results if you were to test opinion on an election before 31st October, with Brexit yet to happen but hingeing on the outcome – a not-impossible event. Evidently a huge amount would depend on whether the new Conservative leader could convince Brexit Party supporters they could be trusted to get the job done – and in attempting that task they would be contending with the toxicity of May’s legacy and the sometimes mercurial whims of Nigel Farage. I’d be surprised if that wasn’t already being tested in private.

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