Looks like Lord Ashcroft flopped again

Back in March I doubted how good Lord Ashcroft’s target seat operation for the Conservatives might actually be, pointing out:

Here’s his own account of his record supporting target seats at the 2005 general election:

The national swing from Labour to Conservatives was 3.2 per cent, yet the swing in the seats which we supported was 3.8 per cent.
Dirty Politics, Dirty Times by Michael Ashcroft, p.296

You read that right: by his own admission, all his expertise and money achieved was a paltry o.6 per cent extra swing.

Looks like my doubts were right because, as Anthony Wells points out:

The Conservatives performed only slightly better in marginal seats. In the country as a whole they had a swing of 5.03% from Lab=>Con, in Lab held marginal seats with a majority of under 10% they got a swing of 6%, in Labour held marginal seats with a majority between 10% and 20% they got a swing of 5.13%.

That’s be an edge in the marginal seats of either 0.97% (majorities under 10%) or 0.10% (majorities of 10%-20%). Hardly a big step forward from 2005’s 0.6% edge, especially given all the grief his tax affairs have brought the Conservative Party.

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  • Matthew Huntbach 10th May '10 - 1:35pm

    I now live in Eltham, but for targetting reasons and also because I lived there until recently, put most of my effort into neighbouring Lewisham East. I am sure Lewisham people are disappointed not to win, but it was one of the best swings to us in the country, so very well done. If we had a better and more supportive national campaign we could have won Lewisham East.

    Very briefly here’s what went wrong, in my opinion with our national campaign (edited highlights only):

    1) Failure to link national and local campaign. It was almost as if two separate things were happening, a vote for Prime Minister and a vote for your local MP. There should have been synergy with what we were doing locally and what we were doing nationally, but there was not. ONCE AGAIN clueless ad-men and PR people running the national campaign let down our local campaigners. Liberal Democrats, NEVER let this happen again.

    2) It fizzled out. Yes, we had that great start with the very positive response to the first leaders’ debate, but then what? Clegg just seemed to stumble on trying to repeat what happened there rather than take it forward onto new ground. He quite clearly fluffed several questions in the later debates where he really ought to have had his answers well worked out. What was needed at the end was a barnstorming speech, not “vote for us because we’re a little bit different” but one calling for real unity in this country “all pull together, strongest pull hardest” against the Tory line which is really “look after the rich, and everything will come out ok”. After Clegg’s closing speech, I thought “Huh, is that it?”. I still thought “OK, he will deliver than barnstorming vote-winning speech on eve-of-poll”. He didn’t.

    So, in Eltham, Labour held in 2005 but with a slim majority, I saw what an Ashcroft campaign looked like. Slick, but boring. Very samey. Essentially the same leaflet delivered 5-6 times. The decent local Tory councillor who stood last time shunted aside for a vapid Cameron-lookalike and soundalike. This did not work against a sitting Labour MP who does the local man stuff very well, and has enough of a record of not being a New Labour clone to gain much more respect than I’d give the outgoing Labour MP for Lewisham East, as an example. So, Eltham saw one of the lowest swings to the Conservatives in England, and a somewhat surprised Clive Efford re-elected.

  • rogernomics 10th May '10 - 2:37pm

    I think you’re right about the national vs local campaigns.

    Here in my city we’ve run brilliantly successful local election campaigns over the past several years, but in the General Election of course Cowley St knew best – keep your candidate at arm’s length from what the (highly popular) Lib Dem run council’s doing, people will get confused if you mix them together, your campaign will rub off on your local council candidates. Meanwhile canvassing is nowhere near as important as shoving 1000s of tonnes of paper through people’s doors. Was this strategy successful? Was it heck!

    It will be very difficult, not to say a long time, before any degree of trust is established between the local party where I am, and the National party’s HQ again. Indeed perhaps it never will be.

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