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Can Tories turn 2015 into a Cameron versus Miliband presidential contest?

By Tim Montgomerie
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Lord Ashcroft has written about his new poll of more than 2,000 voters here.

He argues that the Europe speech has cheered up the Conservatives - "this is not to be sneezed at" - but has not changed voters' perceptions of our party. The latest YouGov survey certainly suggests the boost we received at the weekend may be fading. It puts Labour 12% ahead. This may be because of the lack of potency of the Europe issue - it may be the economic growth gloom - but it may also partly reflect a failure of the Tory machine. There has been no viral or substantial campaign to follow up on Cameron's speech. One Cabinet minister told me that the Tory Party should have used the last seven days to nail every inch of Ed Miliband into a position where he was defined by his opposition to a referendum. The minister also wondered why Conservative HQ hadn't launched a vivid way of communicating that Cameron is absolutely determined to deliver on his referendum pledge. There is no imagination, they complained. We are seeing the same lack of follow-through that was absent after last October's party conference. A good speech is delivered but where is the campaign to do the other 90% of the selling?

On a day when The Guardian splashes with more speculation against David Cameron's leadership (you'd almost think the newspaper had an agenda!) Lord Ashcroft's poll also suggests that the Cameron v Miliband brand is a much better framing of the next election - as far as Conservatives are concerned - than a Tory v Labour framing.

The table below compares the Conservative and Labour identities:

Screen Shot 2013-02-01 at 07.59.40

This second table compares the Miliband and Cameron identities:

Screen Shot 2013-02-01 at 07.59.54

Here are a few other findings from the Ashcroft poll:

  • He finds the Tories just 5% behind Labour. The four headline numbers are Labour 38%, Conservative 33%, LibDem 11%, UKIP 9%.
  • 22% feel positively about EU membership but 45% think negatively.
  • Cameron, Clegg and Osborne have a 43% to 26% lead over Balls and Miliband "to manage the economy in the best interests of Britain".
  • 56% are satisfied with the job Cameron is doing as PM OR, while dissatisfied, would prefer him to stay as PM rather than turn the country over to Ed Miliband. 28% are "dissatisfied with the job that David Cameron is doing overall as Prime Minister AND would prefer to have Ed Miliband as Prime Minister instead".
  • The Conservatives have a 6% advantage over Labour when voters are asked which party has the best team of leaders. We have a 19% DISadvantage when voters assess party unity and a 23% DISadvantage when asked if asked if we are "for ordinary people, not just the better of".
  • 37% agree that "although things are difficult now, the right decisions are being made and things will improve significantly over the next two or three years". 63% disagree.

> More on Lord Ashcroft's polling website.


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