Opinion: A rousing campaigning message from Lord Ashcroft (of all people)

Lord Ashcroft has done another enormous piece of polling, this time into the Lib Dem vote. A few of the more encouraging findings:

    • More people want a coalition including the Lib Dems (31%) than a Conservative majority (30%)
    • 30% of people could see themselves voting Lib Dem at the next general election
    • Only 1 in 5 think the Lib Dems have no real influence
    • Lib Dems outpoll the Conservatives on:

      o“Represents the whole country, not just some”(24% v 21%),
      o “Its heart is in the right place”(47% v 35%),
      o “stands for fairness”(41% v 30%)
      o “Stands for equal opportunity for all”(39% v 28%)
      o “Wants to help ordinary people get on in life”(42% v 31%)

There are also some less encouraging findings (well covered in the media) although very little, if any of it is new – many fewer people say they will vote for the party than in 2010, there have been considerable defections to Labour, and the party is not as trusted as it used to be.

All very interesting, but much of it is potentially meaningless. Why?

Because the sample for this poll was the whole country. But, thanks to our electoral system, the Lib Dems’ election will essentially be fought in the 57 seats that the party currently holds, plus a handful of target seats. And we don’t know whether the national opinions map onto the local ones …

Or do we? Lord Ashcroft helpfully asked a lot of the same questions in a marginal Lib Dem constituency called Eastleigh (anyone heard of it?) before the party’s formidable campaign had kicked in. So we can compare the results.

The headline figures in the first Eastleigh poll were Con 34, LD 31, Lab 19, UKIP 13, Other 3. This compares to Ashcroft’s national result: Con 32, Lab 40, LD 10, UKIP 10, Others 8.

Do these two samples actually think differently of the Lib Dems (or any of the three parties)? On national issues, it turns out the answer is “not really”. On the economy, NHS, immigration, welfare and so on, the results were very similar in Eastleigh to the national ones (Labour’s ratings are depressed a little in Eastleigh as you’d expect in a southern Lib/Con marginal). On ‘influence in the Coalition’, the Lib Dems’ ratings are almost identical in Eastleigh and nationally.

So, if there’s little to separate the party’s national and local ratings, how on earth do we account for the Lib Dems getting 31% in Eastleigh and 10% nationally? Turns out there is one area where there’s a big difference between the party’s local and national ratings – where the Lib Dems scored 20% locally and 67% in Eastleigh. That was “The Lib Dems do a good job locally in my area”.

As Mark Pack has pointed out – What do the academics say? Being local works – the experiences of campaigners (not to mention study upon study upon study) have shown that local work and face to face contact is by far the most powerful campaigning method. Now Ashcroft has too.

It’s a party cliché for a reason: “where we work we win”.

* Tom Richards is a Liberal Democrat member in London.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds and Polls.


  • Paul Griffiths 9th Mar '13 - 8:54am

    The data itself is very interesting, although I have to grit my teeth to get past the usual Tory dogma that the Lib Dems are a blank slate on which anything can be written.

  • paul barker 9th Mar '13 - 12:31pm

    For me the crucial fact was that 31% who want to see a coalition including the Libdems. We have to keep reminding the 31% that the only way to make another coalition more likely is to vote for us.

  • The very fact that the Tory agenda can be dictated to them by Lord Ashcroft (semi-offshore billionaire) shows why they should never be trusted with the economic governance of this country. This poll alone is symptom of what an anti-democratic force the Tory party is.

    On the question of doorstep campaigning, I totally agree. Most people have been drip fed hate stories about the Lib Dems and their policies through the media for the past three years, ever since the first leaders’ election debate. It will be a huge task, but if we can only talk to enough people on the doorstep, we have a chance of overturning this avalanche of misinformation that has been directed at us. As has been evidenced in recent weeks, the mass media will never give us fair coverage due to the vested interests they represent, so it is up to us to fight our corner directly.

  • paul b- that is partly true, but in Con-Lab marginals voting LD is likely to reduce their national influence, as those voting LD in Lancaster, Ipswich, Thurrock and Morecambe saw last time.

  • Peter Watson 10th Mar '13 - 9:51am

    @paul barker “For me the crucial fact was that 31% who want to see a coalition including the Libdems. We have to keep reminding the 31% that the only way to make another coalition more likely is to vote for us.”
    The thing is, that 31% was split between 18% wanting a LD-Lab coalition and 13% wanting a LD-Con coalition. Add to this the fact that 0% in the poll wanted a Lib Dem majority. So what message can Lib Dems take to the electorate in 2015 that will make people more likely to vote for us? Based upon these figures it is simply that we are the least-worst alternative to voters who dislike either Labour or Conservative.

  • I can’t understand why Lord Ashcroft is giving us this info. I genuinely can’t weigh up this bloke. What’s he hoping to achieve beyond some super duper election service which appears to help everyone?

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