Portofino Resort- Now with a new BEACH BAR!!
Topic Options
#388127 - 09/19/10 09:44 AM Lord Ashcroft quits as Tories' Deputy Chairman
Marty Offline

Lord Ashcroft interview: why I am stepping down from party I helped get elected

Lord Ashcroft’s decision to quit as the Tories' Deputy Chairman on the eve of the party conference will surprise Westminster. Here, in an exclusive interview with Andrew Alderson, he reflects on keeping friends and fighting foes

Lord Ashcroft at his Westminster HQ
'Job done': Lord Ashcroft at his Westminster HQ

Lord Ashcroft of Chichester is like Marmite: people tend to love him or loathe him. He makes similar assessments of those he meets: they are quickly regarded as “home team”, meaning they are expected to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with him in a crisis, or “away team”, meaning they are liable to try to do him down. He cheerfully admits he is a good friend but a bad enemy.

For many years, his “home team” has included Tory political heavyweights such as Margaret Thatcher, William Hague and Michael Ancram, and the “away team” has featured New Labour, the BBC and senior Left-wing newspaper journalists who have made it their mission to try to engineer his public downfall.

Of the two camps, David Cameron, the Prime Minister and the leader of the Conservatives since 2005, is most definitely “home team”. It was Lord Ashcroft’s wife, Susi, who, after a day campaigning with the youthful MP for Witney many years ago, first persuaded her billionaire businessman husband that Mr Cameron had the requirements to be a future party leader.

Yet now Lord Ashcroft has privately told the Prime Minister that he is stepping down as Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party on September 27 – a few days before the party conference. His decision will end recent speculation that he intended to continue to play a prominent role in the party’s hierarchy.

“Job done,” he said, in a rare interview at his personal headquarters in the heart of Westminster. It was a reference to his work prior to the general election in which he masterminded the party’s polling and the marginal seats campaign.

In fact, though, only half the “job” was done. The Conservatives won most seats but without an overall majority, meaning they had to forge an alliance with the Liberal Democrats to ensure that Mr Cameron, not Gordon Brown, was asked by the Queen to form a government. Although Lord Ashcroft’s office is a stone’s throw from Lib Dem HQ, he and Nick Clegg’s party are not natural allies.

So was the election result a triumph or a failure? “There’s no point pretending I wasn’t disappointed. We all were. Having worked for so long with such high hopes, it’s obviously frustrating not to have won outright,” he said.

Lord Ashcroft, who tomorrow publishes a tough critique of his party’s election strategy, said: “Something like 82 per cent of voters said before the election that it was 'time for change’, but only 36 per cent ended up voting Conservative. Obviously, there was a gap between the change they wanted and the change they thought we represented. That is largely because we had not completely mended the Conservative brand.

“We spent too much time attacking Gordon Brown and Labour, rather than setting out our own plans. People had decided they wanted change – the thing they were not sure about was the alternative we were offering, so going on and on about Labour missed the point. By the time of the TV debates, people were still not sure we had really changed or what it was we wanted to do, which gave Nick Clegg his chance.”

Despite widespread speculation that Lord Ashcroft and Mr Cameron have had a fallout, the Tory peer insists that is not the case. “We have a very good, constructive relationship,” he said. “I think that from the moment he became leader – well before that, actually – he grasped what the problem was with the Conservative Party. He realised that we had lost touch with large numbers of people who ought to have been voting for us; that people thought we were untrustworthy and old-fashioned. He has gone a long way to putting that right. And, although we didn’t get a majority at the election, we gained more seats than we’ve managed to do for 80 years.”

Dressed in a navy suit and open-neck pale blue shirt, Lord Ashcroft said he will take a step back from the hurly-burly of day-to-day politics. “I took a very active role in opposition, but now I am going to concentrate on other things,” he said.

Over the past two decades, Lord Ashcroft has donated an estimated £15 million to the party that he has supported since he was an impoverished student. He is a self-made man who made his early millions through cleaning, security and service companies. He says he will continue to be a party donor but will give less than when he “led from the front” as party treasurer from 1998 to 2001 under Mr Hague’s leadership, and turned around the party’s dire financial position.

“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.

Lord Ashcroft, who is twice married and has three grown-up children by his first wife, is a political bruiser. His style – controversial, at times aggressive, or even ruthless – has brought his party mixed publicity, and his critics have sneered at the fact that he was a Belize-based tax exile for years. As well as claims from years ago that he “owned” the party, there was unwelcome publicity this March 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.

Lord Ashcroft is fiercely dismissive of any suggestion that he cost the party crucial votes – or that he lacks integrity. “These things never help, of course, but I don’t think it was a big factor in the scheme of things. It’s the bigger picture that determines how people vote, not side issues like that, however much the Left-wing media, like the BBC, go on about them.”

Seated in the vast company boardroom where he has clinched so many business deals, Lord Ashcroft appears to choose his words carefully when asked if he felt the Tory leadership backed him sufficiently over the row. “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.”

Loyalty is high on his list of priorities. Mr Hague stood firmly by him when the peer was at the centre of controversy in the build-up to the 2001 election and Lord Ashcroft is now equally protective of his friend, who has been at the centre of intense speculation over the nature of his friendship with Christopher Myers, his former special adviser. “I wouldn’t want such a statesman as William Hague, one of the best politicians of this generation, to be disenchanted with politics because of a storm in a teacup,” he said. He does not think Mr Hague aspires to lead the party again, adding: “Nor do I think he will make a future career out of politics – and it will be a poorer place without him.”

And what are his views on the Coalition? “So far, so good. It’s early days but so far I think things are holding together pretty well. They have been quite bold about setting out the need for cuts, which is the right thing to do. It’s good to see that they have hit the ground running.”

But is he uneasy over some of its policies? “Like any entrepreneur – in fact, like any aspirational voter – I instinctively dislike the very high rates of tax that Labour left us with. We need the economy to grow, so any disincentive to invest and create jobs is clearly counterproductive. I know the Chancellor appreciates that. Obviously, he has very little room for manoeuvre, given the state of the public finances, but as things improve I hope that is something he will be able to deal with.” Yet Lord Ashcroft believes that the Tories can and will get a majority at the next election – helped by the marginal seats team that he set up and still hugely respects.

Since the election, the Tory peer has continued to be a powerful figure in the party. Senior Conservatives have said he was instrumental in the resignation last month of David Rowland, the property tycoon, as treasurer of the party – weeks before he was due to take up the post. Lord Ashcroft declined to confirm or deny whether he had played a role in Mr Rowland’s exit, but he did confirm that he had not been consulted over the appointment.

Although Lord Ashcroft is 65 next year, he has no intention of walking away from the multi-million-pound business deals that still excite him. Indeed, his reduced political commitments mean he has more time to launch business ventures, particularly media ones. A year ago, he bought controlling stakes in two influential websites, ConservativeHome and PoliticsHome.

Lord Ashcroft, who along with all members of the House of Lords now pays income tax in the UK on his worldwide earnings, says these interests will expand further. “I believe the future of the media is the internet, and clearly I am a political animal. But I don’t believe it is in my commercial interests to explain to my competitors what my future plans are.”

He adds mischievously: “I may even ask Jeremy Hunt [the Culture Secretary] if I could help him with the issues facing the BBC.” Senior BBC executives, along with the Left-wing newspaper editors who, he believes, have spent years trying to smear him, are not on Lord Ashcroft’s Christmas card list.

By stepping away from day-to-day politics, he will also have more time for his multi-million-pound charity work. In less than two months’ time, he will unveil the Lord Ashcroft Gallery at the Imperial War Museum. It is being built with a £5 million donation from him and will house his pride and joy: a 160-plus collection of Victoria Cross medals, built up since 1986 and now worth an estimated £30 million. Lord Ashcroft has had a lifelong interest in bravery: his latest book, George Cross Heroes, is published next month to accompany a four-part television series of the same name.

He has stated that, when he dies, 80 per cent of his estate will go to a charity foundation. One thing is certain: on his birthday next March he will not be collecting his bus pass and retiring to tend his rose garden.

“I get more ambitious every decade, and I am more ambitious today than ever before,” he said. “I still love the game – and the thrill of the chase.”


#388128 - 09/19/10 09:45 AM Re: Lord Ashcroft quits as Tories' Deputy Chairman [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Lord Ashcroft : why it's time I moved on

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.

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.
Lord Ashcroft believes it was a mistake for David Cameron to agree to the televised leaders' debate Photo: PAUL GROVER

He told David Cameron on Friday night that he would resign as deputy chairman of the Conservative Party at its board meeting in eight days.

On Monday, Lord Ashcroft will publish his verdict on the party’s failure to win an overall majority in May. The 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 Brown.

- Agreeing to a televised debate of political leaders that enabled the Liberal Democrats to seize the “real change” initiative.

The departure of the Tory life peer, who was a tax exile in Belize before returning to Britain earlier this year, will leave a gap in the party’s structure because he 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 had held since 2005, but his resignation will end growing speculation that he would retain a prominent official role with the party.

In Lord Ashcroft’s assessment of the election campaign, seen 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 and was left to form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats.

He writes that in 2008 and 2009 nearly all published polls showed a “double-digit” 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,” he writes.

“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 campaign is not as damning as some insiders have been predicting.

Lord Ashcroft, 64, goes out of his way to praise Mr Cameron’s personal contribution 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.

He told The Sunday Telegraph today that following speculation over his views on the election he was seeking to set the record straight. “This is a record of what I thought at the time, and what I think now. 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,” he said.

Lord Ashcroft clearly feels frustrated that the party leadership did not offer him greater public support in March when he was forced to admit that he had enjoyed the status of a “non-dom” and had not been paying income tax on his worldwide earnings. Critics claimed he had reneged on a previous pledge.

“I think they could have mounted a more spirited defence of the situation,” he said. “It did prove to me that the Labour attack team was much more effective than the Conservative defence team. The negotiations [in 2000] with the [Labour] Government for me to join the Lords did not include any commitment on my part to be taxed on my worldwide income.”

Lord Ashcroft has donated about £15 million to the party over the past two decades, but made it clear that he would not be donating as much in the future. “The party is actually in pretty good shape financially, which is a great credit to Michael Spencer [the outgoing treasurer] and his team,” he said. “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 also believes that in the long run William Hague, the Foreign Secretary and a close friend, will pursue an alternative career. “I think he will make a future career outside of politics — and it will be a poorer place without him,” he said.

In his executive summary to Minority Verdict, Lord Ashcroft begins: “The result of the 2010 election was closer than many had expected — closer than Conservatives had hoped for. Many people, including me, were disappointed.

“The Conservative Party faced a shambolic government, an unpopular Prime Minister, a recession, a huge budget deficit and an overwhelming national desire for change. A year before the election the Conservatives were 20 points ahead in the polls, yet they failed to win an overall majority. Surely this had been an open goal. How could they come so close to missing?

“Minority Verdict attempts to answer this question – both why the Conservatives did as well as they did in 2010, and why they did no better.”

He says the book is not a “hatchet job” or “explosive insider account”. “My motivation for writing Minority Verdict is not to condemn the campaign, still less the individuals who worked on it, whom I regard as friends and colleagues,” he writes. “After all, as deputy chairman I was part of David Cameron’s team; I am not about to start criticising other members of that team who worked so tirelessly to put him into Number 10. But it would be a pretty thin account of our campaign that did not offer some thoughts on why our result was not better than it was. As with Smell the Coffee, my study of the 2005 campaign, I want to help learn the lessons that will lead to the Conservatives once again being elected to govern with an overall majority.”

The Tory peer says the party was right not to make more of an issue of immigration, but he says the televised debates were a “tactical error” that allowed Nick Clegg to portray the Lib Dems as the party for change because “we did not dominate it ourselves”.

“Voters who had been reluctantly concluding that they were going to have to grit their teeth and vote Conservative now found that a more palatable alternative also seemed more credible than they had previously thought,” he writes. “The impact would have been much less if we had already been where we should have been in the public mind.”

Lord Ashcroft ends his executive summary with generous praise for the Prime Minister. “David Cameron’s decision to form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats was the right one both for the country and for the Conservative Party. It is only in government that the Conservative Party can … show doubtful voters that it really is on the side of ordinary people, that it is competent to run the economy, and that it can be trusted with public services like the NHS.

“The offer to work with the Liberal Democrats, and the way David Cameron and his team conducted themselves in the uncertain days after the election, were dramatically at odds with the public view of politicians as childish partisans.

“Of his many qualities, the one which will serve David Cameron best as Prime Minister is his judgment. From the day he was elected leader, he has in the main made the right calls when it mattered most.”



Click for excellent scuba lessons with Elbert Greer!

Things to do

Daily News
Daily Weather

Classified Ads
San Pedro Sun
Ambergris Today
SP Town Council
Channel 7
Channel 5
Love FM
The Reporter
Caye Caulker

TV Newscasts
Radio Stations

Click for our
Search thousands of Belizean-only websites

Event Guides
Event Calendar
Specials & Events
Things to Do
iTravel Belize
Paradise Theater

San Pedro Scoop!
Tia Chocolate
My Beautiful Belize
I-Travel Belize
Belize Adventure
Belize Hub
Romantic Travel
Bound for Belize
Conch Creative
As The Coconuts Drop
More Blogs...
Search thousands of Belizean-only websites
Chaa Creek is an award-winning luxury Belize Resort, rated as one of the worlds best Eco Lodges. We are a pioneer in adventure travel to Belize since 1981!
White Sands Dive Shop - 5 Star PADI Dive Facility - Daily diving, SCUBA instruction and Snorkeling
Caribbean Inspired All Natural Condiments & Spice Blends, Over 100 are Gluten Free!
We manage a variety of homes, apartments, condos and commercial properties here on Ambergris Caye. Our minimum lease on ALL properties is six months.
Conch Shell Inn: All rooms are right on the beach in the heart of San Pedro, so within walking distance to anything and everything!!
Lilí Alphonse has snorkel equipment to fit anyone as well as Marine Park Tickets and flotation devices to assist those not as experienced.
Coastal Xpress offers a daily scheduled ferry run to most resorts, restaurants and private piers on the island of Anbergris Caye. We also offer  private and charter water taxi service.
Mini Chat

Cayo Espanto
Click for Cayo Espanto, and have your own private island
More Links
Click for exciting and adventurous tours of Belize with Katie Valk!
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31
Who's Online
5 registered (WWIII, Pokey, 3 invisible), 36 Guests and 6 Spiders online.
Key: Admin, Global Mod, Mod
Forum Stats
18,631 Registered Members
44 Forums
63,684 Topics
461,182 Posts

Most users ever online: 1,262 @ 06/10/07 02:16 PM

AmbergrisCaye.com CayeCaulker.org HELP! Visitor Center Goods & Services San Pedro Town
BelizeSearch.com Message Board Lodging Diving Fishing Things to Do History
BelizeNews.com Maps Phonebook Belize Business Directory
BelizeCards.com SanPedroDaily.com Picture of the Day

The opinions and views expressed on this board are the subjective opinions of Ambergris Caye Message Board members
and not of the Ambergris Caye Message Board its affiliates, or its employees.