Tomorrow, my company Biteback publishes Lord Ashcroft's follow up to Smell the Coffee, his book about the 2005 election campaign. The new book is called MINORITY VERDICT: THE CONSERVATIVE PARTY, THE VOTERS & THE 2010 GENERAL ELECTION and can be pre-ordered HERE. Andrew Alderson has the story in today's Sunday Telegraph HERE together with an interview with Lord A HERE.
Lord Ashcroft, the controversial billionaire Tory donor, has written a tough
public critique of what he sees as the costly flaws in the Conservative Party's
election campaign. He informed David Cameron, the Prime Minister, on Friday
night that he will resign as Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party at its
board meeting in eight days' time.
On Monday Lord Ashcroft will publish his verdict on the party's failure to win an overall majority in the May general election. In his analysis, the Tory life peer criticises the party for:
* Failing to get its "message" and "brand" across to the voters.
* Relentless counterproductive attacks on the Labour Party and Gordon
* Agreeing to a televised debate of political leaders which enabled the Liberal Democrats to seize the "real change" initiative.
The departure of the Tory peer, who was a tax exile in Belize for many years before
returning earlier this year to live and pay income tax on his worldwide earnings
in Britain, will leave a hole in the party's structure because he has
masterminded the party's marginal seats campaign and its internal polling.
Lord Ashcroft indicated before the election that he would stand down as
Deputy Chairman, the role he has held since 2005, but his resignation will now
end growing speculation over the past month that he would retain a prominent
official role with the party.
In Lord Ashcroft's assessment of the election campaign, seen exclusively by The Sunday Telegraph, he highlights what he believes were the Conservative Party's tactical errors and why it failed to win the majority that many were predicting.
This meant the party had to form a Coalition Government with the Liberal Democrats. He writes that in 2008 and 2009 nearly all published polls showed a "double-digit" – 10 per cent or more – Conservative lead.
"Why did these figures not translate into a thumping majority? The key lies in the gap between the change people wanted and the change people thought we were offering.
"Going into the election, many voters had little clear idea of what we stood for or what we intended to do in government.
"At a national level, too much of our message was focused on unnecessary and counterproductive attacks on Gordon Brown and Labour, which meant that voters were not clear about our own plans.
"We did not make as much progress as we should have done in transforming the party's brand, and in reassuring former Labour voters that we had changed and were on their side.
"This in turn gave Labour's scare campaigns about Conservative plans
more resonance than they would otherwise have had, and meant that, for many,
voting Conservative was a much harder decision than it might have been."
The Tory peer believes the analysis is constructive criticism and many
in the party will be relieved that his verdict on the election campaign is not
as damning as some political insiders have been predicting.
Lord Ashcroft, 64, goes out of his way to praise Mr Cameron's personal contribution
to the election campaign and says the party should feel "proud" of the result.
He makes his comments in the executive summary for his 133-page book:
Minority Verdict: The Conservative Party, the voters and the 2010 election,
which will be published tomorrow.
The Tory peer, who has donated around £15 million to the party over the past two decades, told The Sunday Telegraph: "There has been speculation as to my view of the party's performance in the election, and of David Cameron's subsequent decision to forge a coalition with the Liberal Democrats.
"By putting an end to speculation, Minority Verdict sets the record straight.
"This is a record of what I really thought at the time, and what I think now. And if there is to be a public debate about this subject, Minority Verdict represents my first and only contribution to it.
"I do not intend to comment beyond what is contained in these pages."
However, Lord Ashcroft clearly feels frustrated that the party's leadership did not offer him greater public support in March of this year when he was forced to admit – in the run-up to the May election – that he had enjoyed the status of a "non-dom" – and had not been paying income tax on his worldwide earnings.
Critics tried to portray him as dishonourable and claimed he had reneged on an earlier pledge.
In his interview, Lord Ashcroft said: "I think they could have mounted a more spirited defence of the situation. It did prove to me that the Labour Party attack team was much more effective than the Conservative Party defence team.
"The negotiations [in 2000] with the [Labour] Government for me to join the House of Lords did not include any commitment on my part to be taxed on my worldwide income."
He made it clear that he will not be donating as much money to the party as he has done in the past.
"The party is actually in pretty good shape financially, which is a great credit to Michael Spencer [the outgoing treasurer] and his team.
"They raised even more money than we were allowed to spend in the election campaign, so I'm not sure they need me for now," he said.
The peer also believes that – in the long run – his close friend William Hague, the
Shadow Foreign Secretary and former party leader, will pursue an alternative
"I think he will make a future career out of politics – and it will be a poorer place without him," he said.
For those interested in the Ashcroft VC Collection, it goes on public view at the Imperial War Museum from 12 November. A new website has been launched HERE.