Michael Ashcroft’s book, Minority verdict: The Conservative Party, the voters and the 2010 election, should be on the reading list of anyone wanting to run an election campaign whether at local or national level in the next few years.
The bulk of Lord Ashcroft’s book falls into three parts. First, there is an account of years running up to the general election through the eyes of political opinion poll findings. This section acts as a useful reference work even if it is a little plodding at times.
Second, there are Ashcroft’s own responses to criticisms made of him. These are sometimes almost bafflingly weak, such as when he dismisses his non-cash contributions to the Conservative Party in assessing his own support for the party just a page before he includes non-cash contributions from the unions to Labour in assessing their support. It’s a weak argument that perhaps reveals a blindness about how others see him.
The third part of the book is by far the best, and is what should make the book required reading for people wanting to run campaigns. It is a detailed account of how policy, research and campaigning was integrated in an attempt to reach floating voters with the issues that most matter to them. For anyone interested in how modern political campaigns really work, this section reveals much that outside accounts usually miss, particularly about the central role of direct mail and of modelling the electorate to work out which messages will work best with which voters.