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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Opinion Pollster"

James Frayne: The BBC’s growing problem isn’t public hostility. It’s apathy. Fewer people see the point of it.

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

My first focus group was in Watford in 2000. In those days, virtually every other group seemed to take place there. Partly because it was seen as a bell weather seat. But also because it was the nearest vaguely normal place to London that could be reached in an evening.

In those days, people were stuffed full of sandwiches and crisps, beer and wine – unlike now when it’s generally more austere. And every focus group tended to begin with the same ice-breaker: tell us where you get your news from.

The news question provoked a bunch of different answers, depending on the make-up of the group or its location. Older people read the Daily Mail, working class people read The Sun or sometimes the The Daily Mirror, middle class people read The Times or The Daily Telegraph – and yes teachers read The Guardian. Most people in the Midlands and North read a local paper.

But everyone – almost without exception – relied primarily on the BBC1 nightly news bulletins for their daily news. And most supplemented this by dipping into other BBC news sources such as Today, Newsnight or On the Record (the main Sunday interview show, as it then was). For the English, the BBC was ubiquitous.

Over the years that followed, I was often asked to test public trust in the corporation – usually for campaigns that complained bitterly about the BBC’s attitudes towards their cause – on everything from Europe to economic policy. These campaigns hoped that people would share their concerns about BBC bias.

They never did; people almost always said they trusted BBC News in absolute terms, and relatively far more than most political parties and campaigns. Trying to make people question BBC News’ values and motives was a pointless exercise.

It was always hard to say, but the trust the public had in BBC News seemed partly to derive from their wider trust and affection for the BBC as a whole. When you asked people what they thought was so good about the BBC, they generally said wildlife and factual programmes, local programmes (including news) and the fact that there were no ads. Some would talk about the blockbuster shows like Only Fools & Horses. The BBC was interwoven through the lives of ordinary working class and lower middle class life.

Broadly speaking, in my experience, I’d say this was the reality consistently until a couple of years ago. Now, when you ask where people get their news from, it’s almost always Facebook and other social media channels – in turn, directing them to an array of sites (by no means usually the BBC).

Hardly anyone says they make time to watch the main BBC1 news bulletins, and fewer and fewer people say they watch or listen to the main news analysis shows. Furthermore, when you ask people about the shows they watch, they generally reply with an answer about the platform, not the shows themselves. So, they’ll say “Netflix” or “Amazon Prime” or whatever. They never say they “put the telly on” like they did even a decade ago.

Again, in my experience, I have not found that trust has fallen per se – although post the referendum and two brutal election campaigns, there is now a larger minority of people who moan about “BBC bias”. But “trust” has become become less relevant people as the BBC has become less relevant.

By that I mean that they don’t view trust as a negating factor in their views on the decreasing relevance of the institution. This is the big problem that the BBC has: it could always fall back on the trust argument, even as it was getting a kicking from usually right-leaning activists about its output. Now, trust doesn’t cut it because, increasingly, people are saying “so what?”

They’re increasingly saying “so what?” about everything regarding the BBC. When so many people are forking out for Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Sky and other niche content on their phones and tablets, more people (but not all, see below) are starting to view the BBC as “just another service” that’s competing for their attention. In my experience, this is particularly true amongst younger audiences – they just don’t see the point of it, and they don’t even share the nostalgia to “better times”.

This is my experience from the focus groups, but what of the polling? The polling bears this out to a significant extent. My agency Public First polled directly on the question as to whether the licence fee should exist, which got a bit of attention at Christmas.

It showed a clear majority overall favouring its abolition – by 74 per cent to 14 per cent overall – and this was true across all the key demographics. And the poll also showed that people favour decriminalising non-payment of the licence fee.

But it also showed that people were unsure about how the BBC should be funded in the future. Younger people were quite positive about the idea of the BBC being funded like Netflix, through subscriptions, but older people were hostile. More people liked the idea, they said, of the BBC being funded commercially, like ITV. Interestingly, the poll also showed that more people disagreed that the BBC was “neutral”, than agreed with it. Either way, the lesson is clear: very few people support the status quo.

The BBC’s perfectly reasonable pushback to this poll was that it didn’t give sufficient context – that it didn’t present enough alternatives, essentially. Their view is that the BBC always looks better when people are confronted with the alternatives or with the prospect of no BBC at all.

We had never intended this to be any sort of detailed look at public attitudes to the BBC; we ran it because one of our staff was being interviewed about the future of the BBC, and we wanted to have something to say about it. But the problem with the BBC’s pushback is that it almost acknowledges that the status quo is, at best, just the least worst option. They seem to be waiting for the future to make them entirely irrelevant.

So what does all this mean for Number Ten’s future combat with the BBC? My sense is that the BBC is extremely vulnerable to massive change if Downing Street simply and narrowly questions whether its relevance to people’s lives justifies the licence fee. This is where people are. On the other hand, if Number Ten tries to turn change into an ideological battle, it would leave most people cold but probably light up metropolitan lefties in ways that would be problematic.

Which takes us back to the BBC. As I note above, the it was interwoven in the lives of the English working class and lower middle class. This is no longer true – practically or culturally – and the Corporation will struggle to mobilise these people.

All the BBC has probably got left is the hope that at some point the public will view this Government as “just another set of politicians” who mess everything up. And of course the Corporation should seek to mobilise metropolitan lefties who aren’t terribly influential in Number Ten’s thinking. You have to start somewhere. 

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

A good election for the pollsters, but most still under-estimated the Tories

Following a couple of elections in which the pollsters have come in for considerable flak for mis-calling the final outcome, last Thursday proved what must surely have been a welcome corrective.

As Sir John Curtice points out in today’s Daily Telegraph, several companies got the result almost exactly right and ten “put their reputation on the line” by publishing polls conducted very close to polling day.

YouGov’s Anthony Wells, writing on UK Polling Report, has provided a handy summary of those final surveys, which we have listed below in the order of their projected Conservative share (rounded to the nearest whole number).

  • Deltapoll: CON 45%, LAB 35%, LDEM 10%, BREX 3%
  • Survation: CON 45%, LAB 34%, LDEM 9%, BREX 3%
  • Opinium: CON 45%, LAB 33%, LDEM 12%, GRN 2%, BREX 2%
  • Ipsos MORI: CON 44%, LAB 33%, LDEM 12%, GRN 3%, BREX 2%
  • Kantar: CON 44%, LAB 32%, LDEM 13%, BREX 3%
  • Panelbase: CON 43%, LAB 34%, LDEM 11%, BREX 4%, GRN 3%
  • Qriously: CON 43%, LAB 30%, LDEM 12%, GRN 4%, BREX 3%
  • NCPolitics: CON 43%, LAB 33%, LDEM 12%, GRN 3%, BREX 3%
  • YouGov: CON 43%, LAB 34%, LDEM 12%, GRN 3%, BREX 3%
  • ICM: CON 42%, LAB 36%, LDEM 12%, BREX 3%
  • SavantaComRes: CON 41%, LAB 36%, LDEM 12%
  • BMG: CON 41%, LAB 32%, LDEM 14%

It is interesting to note that, whilst several companies did get the Conservative share correct, the average still under-estimated it by two points. The spread is entirely in that direction, with a long tail of pollsters beneath the mainland Conservative share of 45 per cent but none erring in the other direction. Is this because there are still ‘shy Tories’, or is there another reason?

With a solid majority, which the polls largely forecast even if commentators and politicians alike refused to believe them, the polling industry can perhaps look forward to a few years of respite. Questions raised during the campaign about the impact of polls on the race, and whether they should be restricted during elections, will take on less urgency.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Henry Hill: YouGov lowers its Tory expectations in Wales and Scotland – but other sources disagree

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve spent quite a bit of time examining the electoral landscapes facing the Scottish and Welsh Tories in this general election.

Each received an entry in our comprehensive battlegrounds series, whilst this column has looked at what YouGov’s first MRP poll augured for the Party and, drawing on that, the question of whether the Welsh Conservatives could get their campaign back on track.

Yet since then there’s been a final round of fresh evidence (or omens, depending on your faith in polls), and it once again poses interesting questions.

(As a lot of polling is conducted on a Great Britain basis which excludes Ulster, I won’t cover it here. Our battlegrounds profile for Northern Ireland, which includes a link to the latest LucidTalk poll of the Province, was published yesterday.)

Is something afoot in Scotland?

In my previous column on YouGov’s first MRP poll, one point I kept coming back to was how different was the story it told both from general expectations before the campaign began and from on-the-ground feedback from activists.

The same is true for the second one. Despite a general sense that the wind is in the sails of the Scottish Conservatives, YouGov has them going backwards.

Where in the first poll they were on track to hold 11 of their current haul of 13 seats, it is now only eight. On top of losing Stirling and East Renfrewshire – and the latter is widely viewed as an implausible win for the SNP – they are now forecast to lose Angus, Gordon, and Ochil & South Perthshire (confusingly the Times graphic has the SNP winning Moray, but that appears to be a glitch). These losses are partially offset by a predicted gain from the SNP in Lanark & Hamilton East.

Meanwhile Scottish Labour, which just a couple of weeks ago were staring down the barrel of a near-wipeout, are forecast to retain five of their current haul of seven seats, including fending off a rumoured Tory upset in East Lothian.

This conflict between YouGov’s forecasts and the wider narrative of the campaign could mean that the pollster has identified trends which have flown almost entirely beneath everyone else’s radar. Or it could mean that they have mis-calibrated their model and got it wrong – we’ll find out tomorrow.

If they are right, it will pose hard questions both to campaigners and commentators – from many parties – about our ability to read a live election campaign, not to mention trying to work out where the Labour recovery came from and why the Conservatives slipped back in the closing weeks of the campaign.

Conflicting auguries for the Welsh Tories

In Wales, the second YouGov report is also disappointing reading, albeit less so. The Conservatives are still forecast to win back their by-election loss of Brecon & Radnor, reclaim Vale of Clwyd, and make an historic advance by winning Wrexham.

But where two weeks ago they were apparently on track to win Anglesey (‘Ynys Môn’) for the first time since the mid-Eighties, the MRP odds now have them in third. None of the other gains they were anticipating to make from Labour at the start of the race are tipped to fall – although they are neck-and-neck in Delyn and just a few points short in both Bridgend and Alyn & Deeside.

This is a strong level of continuity with the previous poll, and if true poses the questions I raised in last week’s column. But it is not the final word on the subject.

Step forward Professor Roger Awan-Scully, of Cardiff University, and his Welsh Political Barometer poll. This is the main, regularly-conducted Welsh opinion poll and it ought to be familiar to readers of this column.

According to him, Labour are on track for an “historic shock” in the Principality. Whilst the Opposition’s vote share has recovered to 40 per cent, he found the Tories on their heels at 37 per cent. This would apparently be the strongest Conservative vote share in Wales since 1900 – before the universal franchise.

Were this to be true, tomorrow night would play out very differently. The Party would not only pick up Brecon & Radnor, Vale of Clwyd, and Wrexham but also Alyn and Deeside, Bridgend, Cardiff North, Clwyd South, Delyn, and Gower. Meanwhile Mark Williams would take back Ceredigion from Plaid Cymru, which YouGov thinks is deeply improbable.

Such results would cut Labour’s representation to 20, just half of Welsh seats, whilst the Conservative would wrack up a better result than their previous high-tide mark at the 1983 election. By contrast the last Welsh-specific poll, on November 25, forecast Labour to lose just four seats.

Once again, we have a fascinating conflict between YouGov’s model and another source, in this case the well-established Welsh Political Barometer. Which is right? It isn’t just a fascinating academic question (although it is that): the MRP model has played a very prominent role in shaping public understanding of the campaign. If parties have based strategic choices on it, and it turns out to be wrong, that could have profound consequences for the result of the election.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Red Swan…or Conservative landslide…or…

We’ve been here before – and recently, too. Today’s YouGov MRP poll may be “wrong”: that’s to say, its data may not represent what happens on election day, either because voters change their minds substantially, or the findings will be out of date by then, or are simply mistaken.

It doesn’t follow that because this particular MRP was right in 2017, so to speak, it will necessarily be right this time.  Other MRP polls were wide of the mark two years ago.  And one conventional pollster, Survation, got it right (in other words, its final poll mirrored the actual result).

When all that is said and done, however, the poll is roughly where one might expect.  We noted in our final campaign summary last Friday that Labour’s support had risen according to the polls.  The most simple explanation is that a swathe of the party’s supporters are coming home.  Lord Ashcroft’s latest election dashboard suggests the same.

At any rate, the YouGov MRP headline finding is a Tory majority of 28 – down from 68 last time round.  Our media colleagues are making much of the consequent possibility of a hung Parliament.  And no wonder: journalists love a contest. They are making rather less of that of a Conservative landslide.  (John Rentoul tweets that if the YouGov MRP has the same relationship to the final result as in 2017, thid election will produce a Tory majority of 44.)

As we wrote last week, Labour could yet produce a “Red Swan”. “[It] could yet close the divide for a mix of reasons: if there is large-scale tactical voting; if the vote distribution works for it; if its ground campaign is sufficiently strong; if the polls are “wrong” – and perhaps above all if there is differential turnout that favours the party,” we said.  And if the YouGov MRP is picking up a late swing.

Boris Johnson would have to be unlucky for such a combination of events to occur.  But even a mix of some of them might do for him.  He would see the seats that the YouGov MRP find competitive between the two main parties fall overwhelmingly to Labour.  And the Tories fare poorly against the Liberal Democrats and the SNP, too.

All in all, a Conservative win is still the most likely result.  But if the YouGov MRP, the Ashcroft dashboard and other polls are accurate, it is less likely than it was.  Just as Johnson wouldn’t have been entirely happy with his bigger lead last time, so he won’t be entirely unhappy now.  A closer race means more incentive for Tory voters to turn out.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Iain Dale: Is Labour’s manifesto the longest suicide note yet?

Iain Dale presents the evening show on LBC Radio and is a commentator for CNN.

Manifesto launch season is well underway. As I type this, I’m listening to the fag end of Labour’s launch in Birmingham. There’s no doubt that the leak of the party’s manifesto in 2017 transformed their campaign. It was leaked three days before the official launch. Whoever leaked it performed a major service for Labour – although it may not have seemed so to its head honchos at the time.

It will be interesting to see if the 2020 manifesto creates the same sense of momentum and interest. Lightning may not strike twice, but there’s no doubt that Labour have announced a lot of eye-catching promises. Jeremy Corbyn calls it the most “radical” manifesto ever.

What he means it’s the most left-wing manifesto ever. It makes Michael Foot’s 1983 offering look moderately sensible by comparison, and that, of course, was described by Gerald Kaufman as “the longest suicide note in history”.

Time will tell whether this manifesto will go down in political history in the same way, or whether it will be seen as an election campaign changing moment which will propel Corbyn into power. I think I know which my money is on.

– – – – – – – – – –

The Liberal Democrats launched their manifesto on Wednesday at the bizarre time of 5pm. It meant that they couldn’t dominate the news agenda for the day, which, had they launched it earlier in the day, they would have. Their luck proved to be really out when, at just after 5pm, Buckingham Palace announced that Prince Andrew would be stepping back from royal duties.

In addition, they didn’t have enough spokespeople lined up to do the media rounds. For our Newshour on LBC, we were initially told we couldn’t have anyone to talk about the manifesto. Eventually, I pulled a few strings and we were given Ed Davey – but the point is that they should have had a whole raft of people available.

In addition, launching it at 5pm meant that their main spokespeople had no time to digest the content. Sam Gyimah, in a phone-in with my colleague Eddie Mair, had a “Nightmair” of a time and was exposed time after time – not having a clue about the manifesto promises or how they would be funded. Alistair Carmichael had a similar car crash with Tom Swarbrick a few hours later.

These were not ‘gotcha’ interviews, but if you go into one not having a clue what you’re talking about, you should expect to be exposed. I’ve had similar interviews with LibDems over the last few weeks – Wera Hobhouse and Luisa Porrit spring to mind – in which they hadn’t done their homework, and I exposed them for it. Hopefully, they will learn the lesson.

– – – – – – – – – –

The Conservative manifesto is apparently due to be launched on Sunday, which again seems rather odd. It’s almost as if they want to hide it away.

Can’t think why. There’s no point in trying to ‘outradicalise’ Labour in terms of policy promises. I’d just stick to three or four main ‘retail offerings’ concentrating on delivering Brexit, tax cuts for the lower paid and an ambitious play for housebuilding. Everyone will be looking to see what is said on social care, given the shambles of a social care policy in 2017. I sense the advent of a Royal Commission…

– – – – – – – – – – –

The ITV leaders’ debate suffered from being far too short. Once you take into account its late start, that there was an ad break, and that it finished at 54 to the hour, it wasn’t an hour long – it was 48 minutes.

The host, Julie Etchingham, felt it necessary to thank both participants after each of their answers, which must have wasted at least another minute. Each of those answers was no more than a minute long.

I know we are all supposed to have the attention span of a gnat, but this led to a very sterile hour in which neither candidate for prime minister really sought to engage with the other. I hope the BBC learn from this for their debate, a week before polling day.

My analysis was that Boris Johnson was the clear winner, but that doesn’t seem to be the consensus in the ‘punditerati’ or in the online polls. The fact is that Corbyn had score a zinger to change the course of the election campaign, and he didn’t. I thought he looked bored, uncomfortable and unnatural throughout the whole thing. He sometimes sounded mean, and couldn’t crack a smile during the whole thing.

The best line of the evening came right at the end when they were asked what they’d give each other for Christmas. Johnson eventually offered Corbyn a jar of Damson jam, which apparently was refused. “He doesn’t even want my Damson Jam” was the Prime Minister’s off-screen moan right at the end, which the microphones picked up.

– – – – – – – – – –

We are now three weeks from the morning of the day after. I’m still not confident enough to make a firm prediction, but the polling trends are relatively clear. They show a collapse in the Brexit Party vote and the LibDems on a downward spiral too.

I’m not wholly sure that the latter is a good thing for the Conservatives since, in some constituencies, the Tories need the LibDems to perform well by taking away Labour remain votes. Were polling day tomorrow, the Conservatives appear to have a big enough lead to win an overall majority, but a lot could change in three weeks, especially if tactical voting becomes “a thing” in this election.

– – – – – – – – – –

The BBC hasn’t yet announced its election night line-up, although we know what Huw Edwards will be presenting, with Andrew Neil doing the big interviews.

ITV’s coverage will be headed by Tom Bradby, while Sky News has proudly announced that John Bercow will be their main pundit, alongside Dermot Murnaghan.

Channel 4 has gone full tonto with its “Alternative Election Night” which will be fronted by Rylan from the X Factor. In 2017 it was Jeremy Paxman. And who said dumbing down was a thing of the past? Luckily, he will have Krishnan Guru-Murthy to keep him on the straight and narrow. Perhaps on LBC we’ll invite Timmy Mallett to join us… Or maybe not.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Neil O’Brien: There are still weeks to go, but for backbenchers like me, campaign 2019 feels much, much better than 2017

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-11-17-at-21.08.02 Neil O’Brien: There are still weeks to go, but for backbenchers like me, campaign 2019 feels much, much better than 2017 YouGov The North south SNP Scunthorpe Rother Valley Polling police Philip Larkin Peterborough Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls NHS New Labour Midlands Liberal Democrats Law and order Labour immigration Highlights Great Grimsby General Election Fiona Onasanya MP Don Valley Daniel Finkelstein Culture crime Conservatives Columnists Caroline Flint MP Campaigning Brexit Alasdair Rae

Neil O’Brien is MP for Harborough.

The Midlands sky was November grey, and there was the smell of a coal fire from somewhere. I was out delivering leaflets in a council estate in my constituency. Moments after popping one through the door of a bungalow, I heard a door being flung wide open behind me.

A large and angry man appeared. “You can have that back” he said, thrusting the leaflet into my hands. And with that, he swung back into the house and the door thumped shut.

I went on my way. But moments later, I heard the door swing open again. It was the big guy again, and I braced myself for a free and frank exchange of views.

But this time he was in a more sunny mood.

“Sorry. I thought you were Labour,” he said. “Are you the Conservatives? Can I have another one of those?” He told me he was going to vote for us.

It gave me a little taste of what it’s like to be a candidate today for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party.I don’t know what it is about life-long terrorist suck-up Jeremy Corbyn, or self-described Marxist John McDonnell, or police-hating Diane Abbott, or their two-faced approach on Brexit… but in many places where Labour might once have done well, they are now regarded with something approaching hatred.

There are still weeks to go till the election, but for backbenchers like me, campaign 2019 feels much, much better than 2017.

The ideas we are putting forward are more popular. The campaign feels better run, including on line. People massively prefer Boris Johnson to Corbyn. The question is whether it is enough.

As Daniel Finkelstein has pointed out, we have to win outright, while others can win even if they lose. Why? Because we will never team up with the SNP – while Labour are already dangling another separation referendum to cosy up with the nationalists. The Liberal Democrats can form a remain alliance with Labour – but not us. If we are going to win, it means pushing deeper into Labour territory in the north, midlands and south west, while holding off Lib Dems in the south east and the SNP up north.

The signs are encouraging. One set of constituency polls this week showed us holding seats in London, while another national poll showed us ahead among working class voters by a margin of nearly two-to-one (YouGov, 11-12 Nov).

For someone who got involved in politics when we were in the relegation zone in the mid 1990s, this is heady stuff.
We’ve already come a long way. Alasdair Rae at Sheffield has a neat chart which ranks constituencies in England from the most deprived on the left, to the most affluent on the right.

In 2001, we had no seats in the poorest 30 per cent, and Labour had most of the middle third. [See chart at top of article.] By 2017, the blue tide had already flowed into some areas Labour used to dominate. I hope this time it will surge further. [See chart at bottom of article.]

As we expand, the centre of gravity of Conservative voters has shifted and the Prime Minister has been the fastest to catch the mood. My leaflets this year feature our pledges of 20,000 more police, £450 million for our local hospital and funding for our local schools going up 4.6 per cent per pupil next year. Other than the fact that we also pledge tougher sentences for criminals, controlled immigration and securing our exit from the EU, much of this is the space New Labour used to occupy.

Rumours in the papers say that our tax policy is also going to be squarely focused on helping those working hard on low incomes. I think that would be the right approach.

It’s funny what pops into your head as we pound the pavements in the autumn rain.

For some reason I’ve been thinking about Philip Larkin’s poem, The Whitsun Weddings, describing his sun-drenched train journey from Hull in the north, down through the industrial Midlands to London:

“We ran /
Behind the backs of houses, crossed a street /
Of blinding windscreens, smelt the fish-dock; thence /
The river’s level drifting breadth began, /
Where sky and Lincolnshire and water meet. /
All afternoon, through the tall heat that slept  /
    For miles inland, /
A slow and stopping curve southwards we kept.   /
Wide farms went by, short-shadowed cattle, and
Canals with floatings of industrial froth…”

I feel like we as a party are taking the same journey, but in reverse, with the Conservative tide flowing up through the midlands and north.

Today the route from Hull, which goes via Doncaster, would take you past plenty of Labour marginals. Great Grimsby and Scunthorpe across the Humber. Don Valley and Rother Valley in South Yorkshire. Down through Bassetlaw, where sitting Labour MP and fierce Corbyn critic, John Mann has just stood down, then past Lincoln to the east, and down to London through Peterborough, where we hope to replace jailed Labour MP Fiona Onasanya.

I feel like we have a strong leader, good campaign, we stand for the right things, and people are sick of the delay and dither.

But will it be enough. Will our campaign work this time?

It might just.

Time to get back out there.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-11-17-at-21.08.55 Neil O’Brien: There are still weeks to go, but for backbenchers like me, campaign 2019 feels much, much better than 2017 YouGov The North south SNP Scunthorpe Rother Valley Polling police Philip Larkin Peterborough Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls NHS New Labour Midlands Liberal Democrats Law and order Labour immigration Highlights Great Grimsby General Election Fiona Onasanya MP Don Valley Daniel Finkelstein Culture crime Conservatives Columnists Caroline Flint MP Campaigning Brexit Alasdair Rae  Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Neil O’Brien: There are still weeks to go, but for backbenchers like me, campaign 2019 feels much, much better than 2017

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-11-17-at-21.08.02 Neil O’Brien: There are still weeks to go, but for backbenchers like me, campaign 2019 feels much, much better than 2017 YouGov The North south SNP Scunthorpe Rother Valley Polling police Philip Larkin Peterborough Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls NHS New Labour Midlands Liberal Democrats Law and order Labour immigration Highlights Great Grimsby General Election Fiona Onasanya MP Don Valley Daniel Finkelstein Culture crime Conservatives Columnists Caroline Flint MP Campaigning Brexit Alasdair Rae

Neil O’Brien is MP for Harborough.

The Midlands sky was November grey, and there was the smell of a coal fire from somewhere. I was out delivering leaflets in a council estate in my constituency. Moments after popping one through the door of a bungalow, I heard a door being flung wide open behind me.

A large and angry man appeared. “You can have that back” he said, thrusting the leaflet into my hands. And with that, he swung back into the house and the door thumped shut.

I went on my way. But moments later, I heard the door swing open again. It was the big guy again, and I braced myself for a free and frank exchange of views.

But this time he was in a more sunny mood.

“Sorry. I thought you were Labour,” he said. “Are you the Conservatives? Can I have another one of those?” He told me he was going to vote for us.

It gave me a little taste of what it’s like to be a candidate today for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party.I don’t know what it is about life-long terrorist suck-up Jeremy Corbyn, or self-described Marxist John McDonnell, or police-hating Diane Abbott, or their two-faced approach on Brexit… but in many places where Labour might once have done well, they are now regarded with something approaching hatred.

There are still weeks to go till the election, but for backbenchers like me, campaign 2019 feels much, much better than 2017.

The ideas we are putting forward are more popular. The campaign feels better run, including on line. People massively prefer Boris Johnson to Corbyn. The question is whether it is enough.

As Daniel Finkelstein has pointed out, we have to win outright, while others can win even if they lose. Why? Because we will never team up with the SNP – while Labour are already dangling another separation referendum to cosy up with the nationalists. The Liberal Democrats can form a remain alliance with Labour – but not us. If we are going to win, it means pushing deeper into Labour territory in the north, midlands and south west, while holding off Lib Dems in the south east and the SNP up north.

The signs are encouraging. One set of constituency polls this week showed us holding seats in London, while another national poll showed us ahead among working class voters by a margin of nearly two-to-one (YouGov, 11-12 Nov).

For someone who got involved in politics when we were in the relegation zone in the mid 1990s, this is heady stuff.
We’ve already come a long way. Alasdair Rae at Sheffield has a neat chart which ranks constituencies in England from the most deprived on the left, to the most affluent on the right.

In 2001, we had no seats in the poorest 30 per cent, and Labour had most of the middle third. [See chart at top of article.] By 2017, the blue tide had already flowed into some areas Labour used to dominate. I hope this time it will surge further. [See chart at bottom of article.]

As we expand, the centre of gravity of Conservative voters has shifted and the Prime Minister has been the fastest to catch the mood. My leaflets this year feature our pledges of 20,000 more police, £450 million for our local hospital and funding for our local schools going up 4.6 per cent per pupil next year. Other than the fact that we also pledge tougher sentences for criminals, controlled immigration and securing our exit from the EU, much of this is the space New Labour used to occupy.

Rumours in the papers say that our tax policy is also going to be squarely focused on helping those working hard on low incomes. I think that would be the right approach.

It’s funny what pops into your head as we pound the pavements in the autumn rain.

For some reason I’ve been thinking about Philip Larkin’s poem, The Whitsun Weddings, describing his sun-drenched train journey from Hull in the north, down through the industrial Midlands to London:

“We ran /
Behind the backs of houses, crossed a street /
Of blinding windscreens, smelt the fish-dock; thence /
The river’s level drifting breadth began, /
Where sky and Lincolnshire and water meet. /
All afternoon, through the tall heat that slept  /
    For miles inland, /
A slow and stopping curve southwards we kept.   /
Wide farms went by, short-shadowed cattle, and
Canals with floatings of industrial froth…”

I feel like we as a party are taking the same journey, but in reverse, with the Conservative tide flowing up through the midlands and north.

Today the route from Hull, which goes via Doncaster, would take you past plenty of Labour marginals. Great Grimsby and Scunthorpe across the Humber. Don Valley and Rother Valley in South Yorkshire. Down through Bassetlaw, where sitting Labour MP and fierce Corbyn critic, John Mann has just stood down, then past Lincoln to the east, and down to London through Peterborough, where we hope to replace jailed Labour MP Fiona Onasanya.

I feel like we have a strong leader, good campaign, we stand for the right things, and people are sick of the delay and dither.

But will it be enough. Will our campaign work this time?

It might just.

Time to get back out there.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-11-17-at-21.08.55 Neil O’Brien: There are still weeks to go, but for backbenchers like me, campaign 2019 feels much, much better than 2017 YouGov The North south SNP Scunthorpe Rother Valley Polling police Philip Larkin Peterborough Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls NHS New Labour Midlands Liberal Democrats Law and order Labour immigration Highlights Great Grimsby General Election Fiona Onasanya MP Don Valley Daniel Finkelstein Culture crime Conservatives Columnists Caroline Flint MP Campaigning Brexit Alasdair Rae  Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

The campaign, week two. “Small earthquake in Chile. Not many dead.”

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-11-15-at-07.53.35 The campaign, week two. “Small earthquake in Chile. Not many dead.” ToryDiary Sajid Javid MP Polling Opinion Pollster Nigel Farage MEP Lord Ashcroft Labour Highlights General Election Dudley North Conservatives Claud Cockburn Canterbury Brexit Party Boris Johnson MP  As the end of week Two’s campaigning approaches, we repeat what we wrote at the end of Week One’s.  Which party has a good or a bad campaign, let alone a good or a bad week, doesn’t usually seem to make much difference to the result.

The Conservative Manifesto and campaigning calamity in 2017 is a striking exception to this rule, and in an election that follows a hung Parliament, and may itself produce one, small developments could admittedly make a big difference.

The largest one this week has undoubtedly been Nigel Farage’s decision to withdraw Brexit Party candidates from constituencies that the Tories won in 2017.  One take on it is that it won’t make much impact on the result, because that party will still contest Labour-held marginals, where it is likely to take more votes from the Conservatives.

That view may make plausible psephology, but it is very poor psychology.  By deploring the possibility of a hung Parliament, placing his faith in Boris Johnson’s latest commitment on transition, and standing down a mass of candidates, Farage has signalled that it is acceptable for pro-Brexit voters to support the Tories.

If that logic applies in “safe” Conservative constituencies, it also does so in marginal Labour ones – and for all his criticism of the Tories yesterday, the Brexit Party leader has not renounced his decision.  Its candidates in Canterbury and Dudley North, two prominent marginal seats, have taken the point and stood down.  Anyone following the election closely will have noticed.

Of course, it may be that campaign disaster lightning will strike the Tories twice; or that the polls are nowhere near what the election result will be, or that the distribution of the vote will be unfavourable to the Conservatives – who, as last time round, will pile up votes in seats they already hold.

All that said, Labour has not led in a single UK-wide poll since late July – when Boris Johnson was elected Tory leader.  (And it has been found ahead in only one survey since: on November 4 by YouGov in Wales by a single statistically insignificant point.)

Politico’s tracker finds the Conservatives ten points ahead.  Lord Ashcroft’s new dashboard finds a blue triple slam: Johnson beats Jeremy Corbyn as best Prime Minister; forced to choose between the two main parties, voters plump for the Tories; Johnson and Sajid Javid are more trusted on the economy than their Labour counterparts.

Punch those figures into Electoral Calculus’s calculator, and you will get a Conservative majority of 110.  Of course, that’s a very crude measure, which doesn’t take seat distribution into account.  And the polls may be wide of where we end up.  And lightning really could strike twice.

None the less, the likelihood is that all that polling is meaningful; that the Farage intervention has been net helpful to Johnson, and that everything else this week – the seperate-but-linked Scottish campaign, all policy announcements, flooding, and even Javid’s attack on Labour’s spending plans, let alone the relative trivia of candidate selections, stunts and gaffes, have made no difference to anything meaningful.

If so, it will suit Johnson to keep it that way through the manifesto launch, beyond into the leaders’ TV debates, and onward until polling day – with the exception of a Wobbly Wednesday or Tremulous Tuesday or Meltdown Monday in that last week, in order to downplay expections and thus frighten Tory voters into turning out.  The Prime Minister is a bracing campaigner but it is in his interest for this to be a snoozeathon campaign.

Claud Cockburn and his Time colleagues once ran a regular competition to get the dullest possible headline they could imagine into the paper.  (Journalists are fond of these subsersive practices.)  According to legend, Cockburn only ever won once – his entry being “Small Earthquake in Chile, Not many dead”.  There are not many electoral dead after this small earthquake of a campaigning week.

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Lord Ashcroft: What my latest surveys found voters south of the border think about the Union

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.

In August, my research in Scotland found a slim majority for independence. In September, my poll in Northern Ireland found a tiny margin for leaving the United Kingdom and joining the Republic. This month, to round out the picture, I have surveyed voters in England to see how they feel about the Union, especially the parts of it that voted to remain in the EU, and how they see the prospect of one or more of the home nations deciding to go its own way.

Who benefits?

Many English voters think Scotland and Northern Ireland respectively benefit more from the Union than the rest of the UK. This is particularly the case among those who voted Leave in the EU referendum, and especially among Conservative Leavers – two-thirds of whom say Scotland benefits most from being part of the Union, compared to one in five who think all parts of the UK benefit equally from its membership.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-10-20-at-19.11.57 Lord Ashcroft: What my latest surveys found voters south of the border think about the Union United Kingdom The Union Scotland Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls Northern Ireland Newcastle ireland Highlights England Comment Bexley  Notably, people were slightly more to think Scotland benefits disproportionately from being part of the UK than they were to say the same about Northern Ireland.

Just over half of English voters think that England subsidises Scotland financially, and they are divided as to whether or not they are happy with this arrangement (while four in ten say they don’t know whether they subsidise Scotland or not).

Conservative voters are by far the most likely to think that England provides financial support to Scotland – three quarters believe this to be the case, and most of them are unhappy about it. Tory Leavers are also the most likely to think that England subsidises Northern Ireland, but with the difference that they are more likely to be happy to do so.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-10-20-at-19.11.57-1 Lord Ashcroft: What my latest surveys found voters south of the border think about the Union United Kingdom The Union Scotland Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls Northern Ireland Newcastle ireland Highlights England Comment Bexley  Our focus groups – conducted with voters of different political outlooks in Bexley, south east London, and Newcastle upon Tyne – shed some light on this apparent discrepancy. The widespread view that the English “pay for Scotland” goes hand-in-hand with the knowledge that Scots get certain things – free NHS prescriptions and free university education – that are not available in England: in other words, that English taxpayers are paying for the Scots to have things that they don’t get themselves.

There is an extra dimension to this in Newcastle, where people question the idea of a more prosperous England supporting its poorer neighbour to the north: affluence was really confined to “that belt that goes from the Cotswolds through to London, into Essex to some extent, not as far north as Norfolk and Suffolk, not the Midlands”.

Moreover, it rankled with some of our English voters that Scotland seemed to show little affinity for the Union they felt they were paying to maintain: “It’s always Scotland. They say ‘I’m not British, I’m Scottish’;” “With the Barnett Formula they come out ahead, and they’re still moaning;” “I’ve got nothing against Scotland but if they want to be independent let’s stop paying the funds.”

Indeed, some felt that those who had voted against independence in 2014 had done so for purely economic reasons: “My Scottish friends are worried about their pensions if they become independent. They hate the English;” “I don’t think the people who voted to stay were particularly attached – I think they just thought it was in their best interests.”

These things do not apply in the same way with Northern Ireland, for three main reasons: people feel the province is much less able to support itself financially than Scotland; there was no perception that people there enjoyed benefits that were not available in England; and there was little awareness of a concerted movement to take Northern Ireland out of the UK or “moaning” about the English while enjoying their apparent largesse.

The Brexit effect

A plurality of English voters – including a majority of EU Remainers – think Brexit makes Scottish independence in the foreseeable future more likely, while Leave voters are more likely to think it makes no difference. For some in our groups, this was more because it had given the SNP “an excuse to go for another referendum” rather than any material change: Scots had already had “a chance to make a decision and they bottled it… They decided to stay part of the UK, therefore you have to sort of grin and bear what the general UK decision is. You’ve got to live with that.”

However, this was a minority view. Remainers were unsurprisingly sympathetic to the argument that Scots were being taken out of the EU against their will: “I can identify with their feeling of loss, they’re feeling angry that someone has taken something away that the majority of them wanted to keep. It adds to the longstanding list of things that ‘people in bloody Westminster do and we have to put up with’.”

But English Leave voters – themselves feeling that their democratically expressed will was not being acted upon – also empathised with the Scottish Remainers’ predicament: “I’d be miffed. We’re miffed because we voted out and we’re not;” “Let them have their independence so they can stay in the EU if they want to.”

However, some were less sure that Brexit had hastened Scottish independence, arguing that the post-2016 saga might make some voters reluctant to go through the whole thing again: “If I were Scottish, I would be thinking – is there a Withdrawal Agreement, is it deal or no deal, what does that mean? They don’t want the farce of the three and a half years that we’ve had.”

Indeed, many English Leave voters saw many parallels between some Scots’ desire for self-determination and their own wish to leave the EU: “It’s similar in the way we want to control our own destiny. Scotland want their independence, we want our independence from the EU for roughly the same reasons… Taking back control.”

Remain voters also sympathised – especially with the wish not to be “taken out” of the EU – but often ascribed more noble motives to the independence movement: “With Brexit, a lot of it was prejudice, ‘we don’t want foreigners in our country’. With Scotland it’s not as emotional.” While Brexit had in their view been driven largely by immigration, the Scots “are really into their heritage. It’s ‘I really want to be Scottish’.”

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-10-20-at-19.14.14 Lord Ashcroft: What my latest surveys found voters south of the border think about the Union United Kingdom The Union Scotland Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls Northern Ireland Newcastle ireland Highlights England Comment Bexley  Most voters think Scotland is on course to leave the UK – and while most of those think Brexit has accelerated the process, a large minority of them (and three in ten of all Leave voters) think Scotland would probably vote for independence in the next few years whether Brexit was happening or not.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-10-20-at-19.16.24 Lord Ashcroft: What my latest surveys found voters south of the border think about the Union United Kingdom The Union Scotland Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls Northern Ireland Newcastle ireland Highlights England Comment Bexley  When the same questions are applied to Northern Ireland, English voters are much less likely to have a view. Apart from the observation that “the religious element is very strong,” very few had any grasp of the dynamics of Northern Irish politics, which seem complicated and even mysterious to many people.

Some were not even aware that Northern Ireland’s long-term place in the Union was even an issue, and for others the question seemed less to do with self-determination, as in Scotland, than with identity: while Unionists there “probably feel much like us, that they’re part of us”, it was natural that others should feel that “Ireland is their own country. There’s water separating England and Ireland. So if Northern Ireland became part of Ireland, that’s Ireland, one whole country.”

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-10-20-at-19.18.28 Lord Ashcroft: What my latest surveys found voters south of the border think about the Union United Kingdom The Union Scotland Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls Northern Ireland Newcastle ireland Highlights England Comment Bexley  Only just over a quarter of English voters – and only one in three Conservative Leavers – think it would be wrong on principle for some EU laws and regulations to apply in Northern Ireland after Brexit but not to the rest of the UK. A plurality – and a majority of Tories – think such an outcome is not ideal, but an acceptable compromise to get a sensible Brexit arrangement.

Should they stay or should they go?

On the big question of Scotland and Northern Ireland’s membership of the union, English opinion largely divides between those who say yes, and those who say it is for the Scottish and Northern Irish people to decide.

Of this latter group – more than two in five of the English population – only a handful say that if either voted to leave the UK they would be happy to see them go. Of those who say it is for Scotland and Northern Ireland to decide, a large minority nevertheless say they would be sorry to see them leave if they chose do so. This means that, overall, most English voters would rather keep the Union together if it were up to them – though they recognise it isn’t up to them.

This overall view was also reflected and expanded on in our focus groups. Many felt there was something important but intangible about the Union, and that the country would be diminished if one or more parts of it were to leave: “I like being part of the United Kingdom, I do. I think if we divide it we could make ourselves weaker, not stronger;” “We’re known as the four countries together worldwide. The Royal Family, bringing all of us together – people see us as one. I don’t think people abroad see us as separate countries;” “It’s like a family. You have dysfunctional families but you still come together;” “Historically, worldwide, the UK has been a leading force in a lot of areas. If it was all divided up I don’t think we would have the same standing in the world;” “If we separate from Scotland, would there be a border? That would be pretty sad. It would be going backwards. It’s the Berlin Wall all over again and the Mexicans and Trump. It’s not positive.”

As in the poll, very few of our focus group participants actively wanted Scotland to leave. For those who would be least unhappy to see them go, the point was not that we disliked them, but that the Scots seemed to resent the English. As mentioned above, this made the idea of financial subsidies harder to swallow: “We don’t want to be governed by the EU, they don’t want to be governed by us. But they still want our money.”

And while the idea of unity was good in principle, it seemed illusory to some, who often also felt that rivalry and antagonism went back much further than the Union: “You go up to the borders of Scotland and see the castles and everything. We were always fighting;” “I don’t feel we’re united anyway. They’ve fought us for years and years;” “We’ve been segregated for quite a long time actually. I don’t think there’s much unity.”

This also helps to explain why, when asked what they would do if they had to choose between going ahead with Brexit and keeping Scotland and Northern Ireland in the Union, most Leave voters chose Brexit. As was clear from the groups, this does not reflect a callous disregard for the Union but a pragmatic view that all parts of the UK had the right of self-determination. England and Wales had voted to leave the EU; if Scotland and Northern Ireland wanted to chart their own course, so be it: “If they want to be their country, what’s it got to do with us? Just let them crack on” – especially since their campaigns to leave the UK would continue whether we were in the EU or not.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-10-20-at-19.19.20 Lord Ashcroft: What my latest surveys found voters south of the border think about the Union United Kingdom The Union Scotland Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls Northern Ireland Newcastle ireland Highlights England Comment Bexley  But even most of these voters hoped it wouldn’t come to that: “I’d be prepared to say goodbye to all of them, because that’s what we voted for. But I don’t want that to happen;” “You’d have to change the flag and everything. It wouldn’t be the United Kingdom any more;” “We’re proud of our little nation and I don’t want bits breaking off. I want people to remember us as a dynamic little nation that fought against major powers and beat them. And it’s strength in numbers and historically what we’re known for. I’d rather we all stay together.”

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Lord Ashcroft: What my new poll of 8000 voters tells us about the country, the parties – and Brexit

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.

The Conservative Party conference that opens today takes place at a more volatile and unpredictable time than any previous gathering I can remember. My new research, including an 8,000-sample poll, helps to make sense of what is going on by showing what the voters themselves make of the unfolding drama.

The Brexit Saga, part 94

When asked what they would most like to happen with Brexit, nearly eight in ten Conservative Leave voters choose Boris Johnson’s position of leaving the EU on 31 October with or without a deal.

However, only 32 per cent of them think this is the most likely outcome. One in five of them think we will leave after the current deadline, and nearly a quarter believe we will end up remaining in the EU. Overall, 36 per cent back the Prime Minister’s policy, including six in ten 2017 Conservatives, nearly seven in ten Leave voters overall, and more than half of Labour Leavers. A further 15 per cemt said they would prefer to leave with a good deal even if this meant waiting beyond October, and nearly four in ten – including three quarters of remainers and just over half of Tory remainers – said they would like to see the UK remain in the EU.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-09-28-at-21.44.49 Lord Ashcroft: What my new poll of 8000 voters tells us about the country, the parties – and Brexit ToryDiary Party Conferences Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls Nigel Farage MEP Liberal Democrats Labour Jo Swinson MP Jeremy Corbyn MP Conservatives Conservative Party Conference Brexit Party Brexit Boris Johnson MP  Those who currently say they are most inclined to vote for the Brexit Party at the next election are both the most likely to want to leave on 31 October (85 per cent) and the least likely to think this will happen (31 per cent).

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-09-28-at-21.47.43 Lord Ashcroft: What my new poll of 8000 voters tells us about the country, the parties – and Brexit ToryDiary Party Conferences Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls Nigel Farage MEP Liberal Democrats Labour Jo Swinson MP Jeremy Corbyn MP Conservatives Conservative Party Conference Brexit Party Brexit Boris Johnson MP

Most Conservatives, including two thirds of Tory Leavers, think that if no Brexit deal has been reached by parliament’s deadline of 19 October, the Prime Minister should refuse to ask for an extension to Article 50 and continue with his policy of leaving at the end of the month. Six in ten Leave voters say this, as do three quarters of those who currently say they are most likely to vote for the Brexit Party.

However, all groups including Conservative Leavers were more likely to say he should ask for an extension as required by parliament than that he should resign rather than comply with the new law.

No-deal, or Labour and Corbyn?

If the only two options available were leaving the EU with no deal or a Labour government with Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister, 48 per cent would choose a no-deal Brexit and 35 per cent a Corbyn-led government.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-09-28-at-21.48.33 Lord Ashcroft: What my new poll of 8000 voters tells us about the country, the parties – and Brexit ToryDiary Party Conferences Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls Nigel Farage MEP Liberal Democrats Labour Jo Swinson MP Jeremy Corbyn MP Conservatives Conservative Party Conference Brexit Party Brexit Boris Johnson MP  Two thirds of Conservative Remain voters said they would choose no-deal over Corbyn, as did a majority of Labour Leave voters. Just over six in ten of all Remain voters said they would rather have a Corbyn government than a no-deal Brexit.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-09-28-at-21.48.48 Lord Ashcroft: What my new poll of 8000 voters tells us about the country, the parties – and Brexit ToryDiary Party Conferences Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls Nigel Farage MEP Liberal Democrats Labour Jo Swinson MP Jeremy Corbyn MP Conservatives Conservative Party Conference Brexit Party Brexit Boris Johnson MP

Just under four in ten voters think that if Jeremy Corbyn won an election while the UK was still in the EU, his government would hold a second referendum on Brexit. A further 28 per cent say they think he would cancel Brexit altogether, and one voter in five says they don’t know what he would do – including the same proportion of those who currently say they are most likely to vote Labour at the next election. Most Labour-inclined voters think a Corbyn government would hold a second referendum; only 14 per cent he would achieve a better Brexit deal than the one currently on offer.

Dealing with Brexit in the right way topped the list of the most important issues facing the country as a whole, with 62 per cent naming it among the top three. It was followed by the NHS (53 per cent), crime and the economy (both 25 per cent), then immigration and the environment and climate change (both 21 per cent).

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-09-28-at-21.49.14 Lord Ashcroft: What my new poll of 8000 voters tells us about the country, the parties – and Brexit ToryDiary Party Conferences Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls Nigel Farage MEP Liberal Democrats Labour Jo Swinson MP Jeremy Corbyn MP Conservatives Conservative Party Conference Brexit Party Brexit Boris Johnson MP

However, when we asked what mattered most to people themselves and their families, Brexit fell to third place, behind the cost of living and the NHS. Only four in ten named Brexit among their top three priorities in this respect.

Brexit and the Union

Following my recent polls on Scottish independence and Irish unification, I found just under half of English and Welsh voters saying they would be sorry to see Scotland leave the UK if it chose to do so in a referendum. Remain voters (65 per cent) were more likely to say this than leavers (35 per cent), and Labour voters (58 per cent) more likely than Conservatives (43%).

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-09-28-at-21.55.42 Lord Ashcroft: What my new poll of 8000 voters tells us about the country, the parties – and Brexit ToryDiary Party Conferences Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls Nigel Farage MEP Liberal Democrats Labour Jo Swinson MP Jeremy Corbyn MP Conservatives Conservative Party Conference Brexit Party Brexit Boris Johnson MP  A slightly smaller proportion of voters in Britain as a whole (40 per cent) said they would be sorry to see Northern Ireland leave the UK, with more than one in three saying they wouldn’t mind either way.

Asked what they would choose to do if it were not possible to leave the EU and keep England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland together in the United Kingdom, just over half of voters said they would keep the UK together in its present form.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-09-28-at-21.56.09 Lord Ashcroft: What my new poll of 8000 voters tells us about the country, the parties – and Brexit ToryDiary Party Conferences Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls Nigel Farage MEP Liberal Democrats Labour Jo Swinson MP Jeremy Corbyn MP Conservatives Conservative Party Conference Brexit Party Brexit Boris Johnson MP

Nearly one in three said they would rather go ahead with Brexit, and a further 15 per cent said they didn’t know what they would choose. However, the majority of 2017 Tories, six in ten Leave voters and eight in ten of those who currently lean towards the Brexit Party said they would choose leaving the EU over keeping the UK together.

Parties and leaders

Boris Johnson is chosen as the best Prime Minister by 43 per cent, compared to 24 per cent for Jeremy Corbyn; one in three voters say they don’t know. Conservative Remain voters prefer Johnson by 59 per cent  to 4 per cent, with 37 per cent undecided.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-09-28-at-22.00.33 Lord Ashcroft: What my new poll of 8000 voters tells us about the country, the parties – and Brexit ToryDiary Party Conferences Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls Nigel Farage MEP Liberal Democrats Labour Jo Swinson MP Jeremy Corbyn MP Conservatives Conservative Party Conference Brexit Party Brexit Boris Johnson MP  Labour Leave voters also prefer Johnson, by 43 per cent to 23 per cent, as do nine out of ten of those who voted for the Brexit Party in the 2019 European Parliament election.

Forced to choose between a Conservative government led by Johnson and a Labour government under Prime Minister Corbyn, voters choose Johnson and the Tories by 56 per cent to 44 per cent. Conservative Remain voters do so by 87 per cent to 13 per cent. Labour Leave voters also prefer a Johnson-led Tory government by 52 per cent to 48 per cent; Euro election Brexit Party voters do so by 96 per cent to 4 per cent.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-09-28-at-22.00.41 Lord Ashcroft: What my new poll of 8000 voters tells us about the country, the parties – and Brexit ToryDiary Party Conferences Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls Nigel Farage MEP Liberal Democrats Labour Jo Swinson MP Jeremy Corbyn MP Conservatives Conservative Party Conference Brexit Party Brexit Boris Johnson MP  Asked how positively or negatively they feel about the parties and leaders, voters overall rate Johnson slightly ahead of his rivals and the Conservative Party itself. Labour Leave voters rate the Prime Minister higher than both Corbyn and Nigel Farage. He also receives a higher score from his own party’s 2017 voters than both Corbyn and Jo Swinson.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-09-28-at-22.03.19 Lord Ashcroft: What my new poll of 8000 voters tells us about the country, the parties – and Brexit ToryDiary Party Conferences Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls Nigel Farage MEP Liberal Democrats Labour Jo Swinson MP Jeremy Corbyn MP Conservatives Conservative Party Conference Brexit Party Brexit Boris Johnson MP  Tory leavers gave the Conservative Party a higher score than Tory remainers, while among Labour voters the Labour Party received a higher score among remainers than leavers.

When we asked which attributes they thought most important in a political party, those currently planning to vote Conservative were most likely to mention being “willing to take tough decisions for the long term” Labour-leaning voters prioritised “representing the whole country, not just some types of people,” while those currently intending to vote Lib Dem chose “having the right priorities for the country.” For those saying they are most likely to vote for the Brexit Party, the most important attribute was that they “will do what they say.”

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-09-28-at-22.08.12 Lord Ashcroft: What my new poll of 8000 voters tells us about the country, the parties – and Brexit ToryDiary Party Conferences Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls Nigel Farage MEP Liberal Democrats Labour Jo Swinson MP Jeremy Corbyn MP Conservatives Conservative Party Conference Brexit Party Brexit Boris Johnson MP  In practice, few voters thought any of the positive attributes listed applied to each of the parties. The Conservatives scored best on being willing to take tough decisions for the long term (though only 26 per cent thought this was true of them), Labour on wanting to help ordinary people get on in life (27 per cent), the Brexit Party on being clear about what they stand for (27 per cent) and the Lib Dems on being united (18 per cent) and clear about what they stand for (also 18 per cent).

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-09-28-at-22.12.12 Lord Ashcroft: What my new poll of 8000 voters tells us about the country, the parties – and Brexit ToryDiary Party Conferences Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls Nigel Farage MEP Liberal Democrats Labour Jo Swinson MP Jeremy Corbyn MP Conservatives Conservative Party Conference Brexit Party Brexit Boris Johnson MP  The next general election

Rather than ask how they would vote in an election tomorrow, we asked people how likely they were to vote for each party at the next election on a 100-point scale. 2017 Conservatives were the most likely to say they would stick with their party next time (64/100), though Tory leavers were more likely to say this than Tory remainers.

For 2017 Labour voters, the average declared likelihood of voting Labour again was just 49/100. Conservative Leave voters put their likelihood of voting Tory again (67/100) more than twice as high as their chance of voting for the Brexit Party (33/100). Labour Leave voters considered themselves slightly more likely to switch to the Brexit Party than to the Tories.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-09-28-at-22.12.25 Lord Ashcroft: What my new poll of 8000 voters tells us about the country, the parties – and Brexit ToryDiary Party Conferences Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls Nigel Farage MEP Liberal Democrats Labour Jo Swinson MP Jeremy Corbyn MP Conservatives Conservative Party Conference Brexit Party Brexit Boris Johnson MP  Those who voted for the Brexit Party in the 2019 Euro elections put their likelihood of doing so again at a general election slightly below the chance that they would vote Conservative.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-09-28-at-22.17.08 Lord Ashcroft: What my new poll of 8000 voters tells us about the country, the parties – and Brexit ToryDiary Party Conferences Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls Nigel Farage MEP Liberal Democrats Labour Jo Swinson MP Jeremy Corbyn MP Conservatives Conservative Party Conference Brexit Party Brexit Boris Johnson MP  Asked if there were any parties they would never vote for at a general election, 43 per cent named the Brexit Party. This included a quarter of 2017 Conservatives, but only 10 per cent of Conservative Leave voters. Labour was second on the list, being ruled out by two thirds of 2017 Tories but only 22 per cent of Lib Dems. just over half of Conservative Remain voters ruled out switching to Labour, and only 11 per cent of them said they would never vote Lib Dem. Though just over half of Labour voters said they would never vote Tory, this was only true of 40 per cent of Labour leavers.

The election mapped

Finally, using factor analysis we created a “map” of the 2019 general election which shows the multiple fronts on which the parties will fight when the election is finally called.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-09-28-at-22.19.41 Lord Ashcroft: What my new poll of 8000 voters tells us about the country, the parties – and Brexit ToryDiary Party Conferences Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls Nigel Farage MEP Liberal Democrats Labour Jo Swinson MP Jeremy Corbyn MP Conservatives Conservative Party Conference Brexit Party Brexit Boris Johnson MP  The map shows how different issues, attributes, personalities and opinions interact with one another. The closer the plot points are to each other the more closely related they are. For example, it shows how the Conservatives are competing in the same territory as the Brexit Party, and that the Brexit Party’s vote is closer to the centre of gravity of Tory support than UKIP’s has been in recent years, while in the Euro elections Change UK were competing largely in Lib Dem territory.

It also shows how closely party support is related to various policy priorities and important party attributes, with those closer to the Conservative and Brexit parties prizing willingness to take tough decisions, and those looking for a party that stands for fairness or wanting to help ordinary people get on in life are closer to Labour and Lib Dem terrain.

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

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