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AshcroftBy Lord Ashcroft KCMG PC.

The Daily Mail is serialising The Austerity Chancellor, Janan Ganesh’s new biography of George Osborne. The first revealing instalment covered his early life and education, accompanied by some photos he may wish had stayed in dusty family albums. In the coming days I am looking forward to seeing whether Ganesh, and indeed the Mail, have anything to say about the time we overlapped at CCHQ before the 2010 election. It will be interesting to see whether George’s recollections about the campaign tally with my own…

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Had a nice chat with Chris Emmett, our candidate in the Corby by-election, who is going about the task in an energetic and professional manner. She is also commendably upbeat, undaunted by my poll in August that put the Tories 15 points behind Labour in the constituency. Earlier she had told a meeting of Women2Win that having been a longstanding activist in Corby, and having applied to be the candidate for 2010, she understood how bruised the local party felt by having to fight a by-election so soon after regaining the seat from Labour after 13 years. She will be an excellent MP for the community.

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Burton MP Andrew Griffiths told the audience of the time his old boss Eric Pickles turned up late to a candidate selection meeting and asked who had been chosen. “It’s thee, lad” he was told, “but don’t worry, it won’t change your life”. Whether you win or lose, being a candidate is a great experience, he said, though gruelling. As Boris once put it when introducing him: “This is Andrew Griffiths. He fought Dudley – and Dudley fought back”.

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According to Alberto Nardelli, founder and CEO of the innovative Tweetminster, there were a handful MPs on Twitter when he started the company in 2008. By the election there were 100, and the day after there were 200. Now there are 370. Not all of them use it to best effect, as he told a fringe: “Isn’t it amazing that so many MPs have had a fantastic day canvassing and got an amazing reception on the doorstep?” Chris Yiu of Policy Exchange said he had found his MP’s website the other day, and been impressed until he saw a banner stating “The House of Commons is in recess until after the general election on 6 May 2010”. Sadly he did not name the offender.

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A questioner at the Times-Populus fringe meeting put it to special guest Philip Hammond that he was running neck and neck with William Hague in the betting odds for next Conservative leader. Times editor James Harding could not resist following up: “So what are your plans for 2016, Secretary of State?” A smile from Hammond: “I’m thinking of running for Mayor of London”.

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The polling presented by Populus director Rick Nye echoed my own in terms of the challenges the party faces in getting a majority. One intriguing point is that more than half of voters agree that "David Cameron’s government probably has a vision for the country that goes beyond dealing with the deficit, but I don’t know what that vision is”. For Matthew Parris this is political nirvana – being seen as a man with a plan by people who don’t know enough about it to disagree. One third of people who currently say they would vote Labour would prefer Cameron as Prime Minister. These are the people who will decide the election. Will they compromise on their choice of party, or their choice of leader?

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Daniel Finkelstein says he regards polls as a much more useful guide to public opinion than local government by-elections, which can be swayed by obscure local issues and are bedevilled by low turnout. Mid-term voting intention surveys can only tell us so much about an election outcome, however: "Asking people how they would vote tomorrow is like asking what they are going to have for lunch on election day in 2015”.

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We were honoured to have the PM as our special guest at the ConHome/ 1922 Committee party. He paid tribute to the Committee’s chairman, Graham Brady: on his regular visits to Number 10 “Graham gives it to me straight, and I never read about it afterwards in the papers”. Cameron said some kind things about me too, and I must say I have been mulling over his suggestion that I could help the cause by buying a national newspaper or two. Which one to choose? To influence the BBC, the answer must be the Guardian. Between April 2010 and February it bought 59,829 copies of the paper – more than any other. Indeed it bought 11,000 more Guardians than Telegraphs, though the latter’s circulation is three times as big. I wonder why this could be. Do you think they like the crossword?

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