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Exclusive: Conservative poll showed party would "lose seats" to the Liberal Democrats

Election strategist Lynton Crosby warned the party would lose MPs to the Lib Dems in an early election, sources say.

Against some expectations, Theresa May has kept her promise not to seek an early general election. The Prime Minister prides herself on sticking to her word and a campaign would cost valuable Brexit negotiating time. But one factor has received little attention: the increasing threat posed to the Tories by the Liberal Democrats.

Last month, Conservative MPs from Cornwall and Devon urged May not to go to the country for fear they would lose their seats. In Richmond, Tim Farron's party overturned Zac Goldsmith's 23,015 majority by attracting Remain voters and the Lib Dems have won 34 council seats from the Tories since May 2015.

The MPs' fears, I can reveal, were later reinforced by private Conservative polling. According to multiple sources, a survey conducted by Crosby Textor showed the party would lose most of the 27 gains they made from the Lib Dems in 2015, including all those in south London, all those in Cornwall and most of those in Devon. Lynton Crosby, who masterminded the party's general election triumph, is said to have personally told May of the grim findings. The Australian strategist's reappearance at CCHQ had encouraged speculation that the Prime Minister was preparing to seek an early contest. Tory MPs hope that by 2020, the scheduled date of the next election, the anger felt by Remain supporters at Brexit will have diminished.

Since their general election nadir, the Lib Dems have risen to double figures in national polling and now boast 87,000 members (more than double their low point under the coalition). Tim Farron told the New Statesman last week that only his party could deprive the Tories of their slim majority of 15 seats.

"The SNP cannot gain more than one seat off the Tories, so it can't be them ... Nobody, but nobody, thinks the Labour Party is in any position to make net gains from the Tories at all. So we are living with a Tory government for as long as we can see into the future, unless the Liberal Democrats, through our route, are able to bash the Tories to below a majority. That is the only plausible route at the moment, for Tories losing their majority.

"So I am doing progressive politics the biggest favour I can by strengthening my party, making it more attractive to people who are currently maybe Remain-voting, pro-market, moderate Conservatives, not for the protectionist wing."

A Conservative spokesman said he was unaware of the poll and that the party never comments on such matters.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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White supremacists are embracing genetic testing – but they aren't always that keen on the results

Users of far-right site Stormfront are resorting to pseudo science and conspiracy theories when DNA tests show they aren't as “pure” as they hoped.

The field of genomics and genetics have undergone almost exponential growth in recent years. Ventures like the Human Genome Project have enabled t humanity to get a closer look at our building blocks. This has led to an explosion in genetic ancestry testingand as of 6 April 2017 23AndMe, one of the most popular commercial DNA testing websites, has genotyped roughly 2 million customers.

It is perhaps unsurprising that one of the markets for genetic testing can be found among white suprmacists desperate to prove their racial purity. But it turns out that many they may not be getting the results they want. 

Stormfront, the most prominent white nationalist website, has its own definition of those who are allowed to count themselves as white - “non-Jewish people of 100 per cent European ancestry.” But many supremacists who take genetic tests are finding out that rather than bearing "not a drop" of non-white blood, they are - like most of us a conglomerate of various kinds of DNA from all over the world including percentages from places such as sub Saharan Africa and Asia. Few are taking it well.

Dr. Aaron Panofsky and Joan Donovan, of UCLA’s Institute for Society and Genetics and the research institute Data and Society respectively, presented a research study (currently under peer review for publication) at the American Sociological Association a week ago, analysing discussion of GAT on Stormfront forums. Panofsky, Donovan and a team of researchers narrowed down the relevant threads to about 700, with 153 users who had chosen to publish their results online. While Panofsky emphasised that it is not possible to draw many quantitative inferences, the findings of their study offer a glimpse into the white nationalist movement's response to science that doesn't their self perception. 

“The bulk of the discussion was repair talk”, says Panofsky. “Though sometimes folks who posted a problematic result were told to leave Stormfront or “drink cyanide” or whatever else, 'don’t breed', most of the talk was discussion about how to interpret the results to make the bad news go away”.

Overwhelmingly, there were two main categories of reinterpretation. Many responses dismissed GAT as flimsy science – with statements such as a “person with true white nationalist consciousness can 'see race', even if their tests indicate 'impurity'".

Other commentators employed pseudo-scientific arguments. “They often resemble the critiques that professional geneticists, biological anthropologists and social scientists, make of GAT, but through a white nationalist lens", says Panofsky. 

For instance, some commentators would look at percentages of non-European DNA and put it down to the rape of white women by non-white men in the past, or a result of conquests by Vikings of savage lands (what the rest of us might call colonialism). Panofsky likens this to the responses from “many science opponents like climate deniers or anti-vaxxers, who are actually very informed about the science, even if they interpret and critique it in idiosyncratic and motivated ways".

Some white nationalists even looked at the GAT results and suggested that discussion of 100 per cent racial purity and the "one drop" rule might even be outdated – that it might be better to look for specific genetic markets that are “reliably European”, even though geneticists might call them by a different name.

Of course, in another not totally surprising development, many of the Stormfront commentators also insisted that GAT is part of a Jewish conspiracy, “to confuse whites by sprinkling false diversity into test results".

Many of the experts in the field have admitted to queasiness about the test themselves; both how they come to their results and what they imply. There are several technical issues with GAT, such as its use of contemporary populations to make inferences about those who previously lived in different places around the world, and concerns that the diversity of reference samples used to make inferences is not fully representative of the real world. 

There are other specific complications when it comes to the supramacist enthusiasm for GAT. Some already make a tortous argument that white people are the “true people of color" by dint of greater variation in hair and eye color. By breaking up DNA into percentages (e.g. 30 per cent Danish, 20 per cent German), Panofsky says GAT can provide a further opportunity to “appropriate and colonise the discourse of diversity and multiculturalism for their own purposes". There's is also, says Panofsky, the simple issue that “we can’t rely on genetic information to turn white nationalists away from their views."

“While I think it would be nice if the lesson people would take from GAT is that white nationalism is incoherent and wrong. I think white nationalists themselves often take the exact opposite conclusion."