Lord Ashcroft: Tories ‘in denial’ about losing next election

The Conservative party are in denial about their chances at the next election, the Conservative party's former deputy chairman and treasurer has said.

Lord Ashcroft, who is now a leading political pollster, described reports that the Conservatives' private polling showed the party on course to victory as "nonsense".

"There is nothing wrong with trying to cheer up the troops. But the correct response to bad poll numbers is to learn from them and change them, not to try and rebut them," he wrote.

"Boosting morale is one thing; being in denial is another thing altogether."

In September, Ashcroft conducted a poll of 12,809 people in 40 Conservative-held marginal constituencies.

The poll revealed that in 32 of Labour's target seats, the Tories trailed by 14%, a much larger lead than national polls suggest.

"For the Conservatives, the challenge of remaining in government, let alone winning an overall majority, is formidable," Ashcroft wrote.

However Tory sources told the Telegraph, the party had privately "re-run" Ashcroft's polls while mentioning the names of Conservative incumbents to voters.

They claimed that when this "incumbency factor" was included, the party was actually two points ahead in the marginals.

Ashcroft today dismissed this as "comfort polling".

"It was precisely this kind of nonsense that prompted me to start polling in the first place.

"Lord Saatchi, then the Conservatives’ co-chairman, announced in 2004 that despite Labour’s national lead the Tories private polling put them ahead in the marginals, and on course to win the election.

"This sounded so unlikely to me that I decided to commission my own research to find out whether it was really true. We know what the answer was."