By Tim Montgomerie
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Lord Ashcroft has completed another one of his mega polls and the results are very good for David Cameron and alarming for Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg. And let's remember before some people start shooting the messenger; Lord Ashcroft's polls don't always make comfortable reading for Tory HQ.
In terms of the overall big question, 'Who would make the best Prime Minister?', Cameron has an impressive 20% lead over Ed Miliband. 54% of the 5,000 representative voters sampled choose Cameron and just 34% choose Miliband. Clegg is down on 12%.
Cameron's lead over Miliband as 'best PM' has grown slightly since the same question was asked in July. The effect of the riots has overwhelmed any effect of 'Murdochgate'. Asked which party leader had made the best response to the riots 34% of voters chose Cameron and just 14% chose Ed Miliband. Nick Clegg was mentioned by a paltry 4%. The Conservative Party's advantage on this issue is because Cameron is speaking the public's language on crime, family and welfare. This must be a big theme of the Tory Conference.
The most interesting results in the Ashcroft poll came when voters were asked to say if they were more favourable to the party or party leader. In the Tory case there was almost nothing in it. 18% were more favourable to the Conservative Party than David Cameron; 21% were more favourable to Cameron than the party; and 61% didn't have a preference. The numbers for Miliband were terrible, however. 36% said they were more favourable to Labour than to Ed Miliband and just 10% said the opposite. One year into his leadership it is clear that the Leader of the Opposition is a big drag on his party.
There are two big reasons for this. Reason one is his strategic failure to decontaminate Labour's spendthrift brand and the second reason is the "weirdness" factor. Some time ago I suggested that Ed Miliband's greatest weakness would not be that he was seen as Red Ed (© Fraser Nelson) but as Odd Ed (© Tim Montgomerie). Lord Ashcroft's research seems to vindicate that. He writes:
"“Weird” was often the spontaneous verdict as soon as Mr Miliband’s name was mentioned… Many did so almost apologetically, as though they would use a kinder word if they could think of one. A number of factors were mentioned. Standing against his brother for the leadership (by far the best- known fact about him), his apparently reluctant marriage, and his manner of speaking all contributed to an overall impression of oddness. (Though “weird” may be a distasteful word to use in political discourse, it has been part of the lexicon since Tony Blair used the word three times to describe William Hague in his 1999 conference speech.)"