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What Lord Ashcroft’s breakup with the Tories means for David Cameron

24 February 2013

Now Lord Ashcroft has withdrawn his funding (£) from the Tory party, what implications does the move have for David Cameron? Much like losing Britain’s AAA rating this week, it’s less about the actual impact for his government but the message it sends out about where they are going. As the Sunday Times reports today, the Tory peer has lost all faith in Conservatives’ ability to win the next election:

‘It comes amid mounting pessimism among Tory supporters about the prospects of victory. Although Ashcroft has not publicly expressed doubts over the party’s ability to win, privately he is said to fear Labour is likely to secure more seats. A source close to Ashcroft said: “He feels he has done his bit.”’

Although Ladbrokes still has the odds of a Tory majority at 4/1, Ashcroft commented to a friend recently that he wouldn’t place money even on those odds. The peer seems to have concluded this is not the best use of his money. The concern for Cameron is whether other the other big donors will follow his lead.

As I’ve examined before, Ashcroft has been Cameron’s biggest single supporter during his leadership, donating £10 million to the party. Look at this chart to see how much he has given over the past five years compared to the other big donors:

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Ashcroft’s withdrawal is not unexpected. Firstly, as the above chart shows, he’s been donating less and less to the party (although one has to remember the electoral cycle), instead pushing his funds towards ever-growing ConservativeHome and his valuable polling exercises. It’s interesting that Ashcroft feels he can now have more influence outside the party than in.

The second was the hiring of Lynton Crosby. Ashcroft argued strongly against bringing in the Australian consultant.His tongue-firmly-in-cheek advice letter to Crosby bemoaned the abundance of people trying to head up strategy — suggesting he was beginning to feel the party didn’t need his voice.

Where does this leave the Tories? His expertise (possibly even more than his money) will be the key commodity missed, as seen in his sophisticated target seats strategy at the 2010 election. Cameron left Ashcroft to run the operation without any interface, which came very close to unseating Ed Balls. The Liam Fox/David Davis backed-Conservative Voice are left to pick up the slack with their 25 + 25 seat plan for seats to hold and gain, as well as CCHQ’s 40 + 40 strategy. Both lack the Ashcroft firepower.

Although Labour are calling the move a vote of no-confidence in the Prime Minister, Ashcroft’s withdrawal is more an indictment of what the last two years of government has done to the Tory party. Ashcroft believes the ragged process of coalition has added five points to Labour and believes the Conservatives need to add ten points to their current voting intentions polling to gain a majority. He doesn’t see where those ten points will come from,  given the lack of economic progress.

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Show comments
  • Reasonable Telemachus


  • Radford_NG

    All the above tactics are based on looking at individual constituencies where the majority is narrow enough to be finangled into a conservative victory.They take no heed of the strategic situation whereby in 1997 they lost 33% of their historic vote.Cameron only reduced this to a lose of 25%,and there is no reason to think it will not increase again.That the top men ignore this in favour of finangling a few thousand votes here-and-there is insulting to the Tory Alienated.

  • derekemery

    Coalition government is weak and ineffective government. There is no focus on the issues that matter to the majority of the public. This is replaced with issues that only matter to the political elite such as AV, Lords reform, Gay marriage. Cameron lacks the drive to deal with the important issues. Even if he did the Lib Dems would be violently opposed to the changes to bring spending under control as their only drive is equality and increasing their own importance.

    Massive and ever-increasingly doses of equality will do absolutely nothing about the UK’s problems which are chronic over-spending by the public sector on current spend “paid” for by dumping ever increasing debt on our children and grandchildren.

    The UK is therefore on a path towards continual inflation and an ever-devaluing pound as debt rises towards around 110% of GDP by 2016. This is going to make the average person poorer and poorer because the UK is an import based consumer economy. Fuel food and most goods are going to become ever-dearer due to a falling pound.

    The Conservatives lack any vision for the future. Neither the Lib Dems or Labour have any meaningful vision for the future as our massive debt problems will not be solved even by the tiniest degree by more public spending and more equality which is all they can offer.

  • In2minds

    “The concern for Cameron is whether other the other big donors will follow his lead” –

    And no doubt that’s the only concern for Cameron having lost contact with the ordinary voter long ago.

    • Tom Tom

      J P Morgan will fund him – they funded Blair.

  • Ray Veysey

    Conservative home seems to be changing direction slowly as well, you can say what you like, this points very sharp fingers at the party leadership.

  • Austin Barry

    I have the horrible feeling that there will soon be all party support for the mandatory funding of the principal political parties by the State (i.e. taxpayers).

    And, as always, the great British electorate will shrug and try not to think of how much it will be contributing to our corrupt political elite’s earnest, pious idiocies (er, sorry, policies).

    • dalai guevara

      Our funding of political parties is compromised. The US are leading the way of how not to do it – rumours of favouritism in return for cash rarely go away, I thought we had already seen enough of that here, on both sides.

      Why expose any party to this ‘moral’ dilemma? Why police all these Lords and use them as scapegoats every time excrement hits the fan? There would be little to object to if funding was linked to vote count, but only if representation was proportional.

      • Tom Tom

        Voters have been forced to subsidise Banker Bonuses now you want Politicians to have a Taxpayer Credit Card. Germany has ended up with the SPD owning a cruise liner, the FDP owning castles in Spain, and the richest party of all, the SPD owning printers and apartment complexes. The CDU in contrast takes its State funding and runs secret Swiss Bank Accounts where the current German Finance Minister used to park suitcases of cash for the Party when Helmut Kohl ran it – indeed that is a key reason Angela Merkel was Kohl’s chosen successor

        • dalai guevara

          TomTom, the SPD did not buy print media with monies from the *Wahlkampfpauschale* – that is utter nonsense. You are right, suitcases of cash will of course always exist – but when your entire party funding depends on it, you would be spending more time actively ‘recruiting’, would you not?

          • Tom Tom

            No. Parties should not be funded because it undermines the concept of an MP being an Individual. German MdBs are elected on a List with some on Direct Mandates but senior politicians are no longer connected to constituencies. The Independent standing against a Party Machine is disadvantaged. The German System is barely democratic and results from a “Constitution” imposed by the Allies in 1948 which Germans have NEVER voted on. Parties are not under popular control. The Party System is the problem

            • dalai guevara

              Nonsense. More than 25% of UK voters are not represented in UK Parliament, simply as there are no UKIP, no BNP, Greens (well one). They cannot even discuss *the EU* in Parliament, as there is no elected opposition – how hilarious!

              Proportional representation is not less democratic just because -as you point out- Germany still has local MPs but balances unjust onesidedness with d’Hondt. And would you believe it if I asserted that no one in Germany gives a monkey’s whether they ever voted for that system – they know it works, they know it’s just – if they found it didn’t, they would attempt to change it, unlike our lot.

              • Tom Tom

                Helmut Schmidt says the system fails to give Germany proper government. The Verfassungsgericht declared German Election Law unconstitutional because it is unrepresentative with Overhang Mandates. Germans cannot change the system – ONLY the political caste can. 40% German MPs are Civil Servants – Beamte. Actually 40% British electorate are not represented in Parliament in the UK – Abstention Party is the biggest bloc

                • dalai guevara

                  Overhang mandate issues do not call d’Hondt into question, it is a minor detail. Re: Helmut Schmidt -who I hold in the highest regard- I wish he could lift the smoking ban in our public houses. No one but the British (and Irish) stick so sheepishly to the rules…

                • Tom Tom

                  30% German Voters chose the Abstention Party; 40% Britons vote for that Party except in EU Elections where it rises to 63% and Parties receive EU funding

      • Koakona

        I object to funding political parties through taxation. My money, my vote, my choice. Perhaps a party which could command more widespread respect and support would be able to fund itself from member donations.

        • Grrr8

          Once you pay your taxes, it’s not your money.

          • Tom Tom

            Funny – in the old days when Charles I was beheaded, Parliament thought it represented those paying taxes. You now see it for what it is an Extortion Racket. Time to end the charade then

          • fubarroso

            So once you’ve been mugged that gold watch taken from you is no longer yours. I see! Got it now!

            • Grrr8

              Try to remember that taxes pay for some things we actually want from the state: police, fire services, the “much loved around here” border control force. It’s really not that hard.
              Sent from my iPad

              • fubarroso

                Apart from the armed forces I think your list is more or less a complete list of what I think the state should provide. Their provision would require nothing like the 40% mugging we are currently experiencing.

                • Grrr8

                  Fine. Then argue for lower taxes. But don’t equate taxation with mugging.
                  Sent from my iPad

                • fubarroso

                  We the people have no control over the levels of taxes extracted from us. If we had agreed a level then no that would not be a mugging. As things are we have no such control and our money is taken under threat of imprisonment so I stand by my statement. We are being mugged!

                • Grrr8

                  I guess you don’t vote in elections. Or you are one of those denialist right wing nutters who can’t get any MP to represent their position.

                • fubarroso

                  Upto and including the 2005 GE I voted Conservative, indeed I was a member once. Finally gave up on them when Cameron became leader. Not so very right wing but I am concerned at the lack of democracy. I have become a staunch supporter of the Harrogate Agenda.

      • CharlietheChump

        Proportional representation would be a disaster because it would lead to permanent coalition with all the trimming and back room deals that go with it.

  • Call Me Dave

    Dave will lead the Tories to victory with his popular agenda of gay marriage and wind turbines! Hurrah!

    • Tom Tom

      Since EDF raised prices 10.8% in December but admitted only 2% of this was due to energy prices with the rest being National Grid transmission costs and Renewables Subsidy – Cameron had better focus on gay marriage as his Key Selling Point

  • Daniel Maris

    Good riddance. Parties don’t need personal funders like that. They are always bad news. The Tories used to have about 500,000 members through their network of associations. Many are well off. They really ought to be doing better at fund raising from ordinary members. Given how keen the Tories always are to tell community projects to go get funding from the public, perhaps they should heed their own message.

    • JoeDM

      Maybe the leadership will now have to take note of the concerns and interests of the core Tory support and membership.

    • MirthaTidville

      Many of those supporters you mention have voted with their feet and left the party taking their dosh with them. They will return but only when the party has found the will to kick Dave out. Cant blame `em can you

    • Tom Tom

      How much have you given this year Daniel ?

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