What do the next generation of Conservative MPs believe? On Sunday an opinion poll gave the Conservatives an 8% lead. Perhaps more encouragingly, the party was at 43% according to the ICM survey for The Sunday Express. There is a long way to go before we can be confident of seeing David Cameron becoming Prime Minister but a majority Conservative government now appears a realistic possibility after the next General Election.
ConservativeHome has already estimated that a majority Conservative parliamentary party would include fifty to sixty women. Although this will only be a sixth to a fifth of the total number of Conservative MPs it is a big improvement on the current proportion. Francis Maude, Bernard Jenkin and David Cameron will see this as a vindication of their controversial A-list of candidates.
If the A-list has shifted the gender mix of the next Conservative parliamentary party what has it done to its political outlook? ConservativeHome has attempted to find out. We contacted 192 of the men and women who, A-listers and non A-listers, have been selected to fight the top tier of constituencies at the next General Election. 70 of that 192 replied to our survey. That 70 included a broad cross-section of A-listers and non A-listers and also candidates in the most winnable seats.
The full aggregate answers can be inspected in this PDF. What, though, are the big picture conclusions from this first survey of the next parliamentary intake?
The next intake will be Eurosceptic. 94% agreed that too many powers have been transferred from Britain to Europe. None of our 70 respondents thought that we need to see "further integration". 3% of respondents (two candidates) went for the middle option of the British-EU relationship being "about right". When the likes of Ken Clarke, Ian Taylor and David Curry leave the Conservative ranks their views on Europe will leave with them.
Security trumps global warming as a concern. Echoing an ICM survey of existing MPs and ConservativeHome.com's own survey of members, the next intake appears more concerned about terrorism and hostile states than global warming/ climate change. 14% of candidates are most concerned about climate change. Four times as many - 59% - are more concerned about terrorism. 25% said they are concerned about both issues equally.
A nuclear-armed Iran is unacceptable. Although 29% of candidates thought that "a nuclear Iran is probably unavoidable", twice as many - 61% - thought that "we must do all that is necessary to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons". 10% of our sample didn't know.
Four-fifths want "a fairer deal" for England. 81% "largely agreed" with the suggestion that the "UK taxpayer needs to spend proportionately less on Scotland and give a fairer deal to the rest of the United Kingdom, particularly England." Just 13% "largely disagreed".
Immigration to Britain has largely been beneficial but not since 1997. 83% of our 70 candidates sample agreed that immigration has largely been beneficial to Britain over the last few decades. 13% disagreed. Attitudes were reversed when candidates were asked about immigration over the last decade. Only 28% agreed that it had been largely beneficial. 62% disagreed.
Candidates are divided on a 'right-to-die'. 41% (28 candidates) were supportive of legislation that would "make it easier for sick or disabled people to exercise a 'right-to-die'". 44% (30 candidates) opposed such legislation. This question produced the highest number of don't knows (15% (10 candidates)). Two candidates skipped this question altogether.
Strong support for freedom of religious association. We asked our sample if they supported "the right of Catholic or other religious adoption agencies to decline to place children with same sex couples". 71% supported that right. 25% opposed it.
Editor's comment: "The 2005 intake was widely seen as small 'c' conservative in character and has often rebelled against the leadership's most modernising measures. These findings suggest that the next intake of Tory MPs - set to be much larger - also leans towards a familiar understanding of conservatism. Most are Eurosceptics, hawkish on security, supportive of nuclear energy, suspicious of the recent scale of immigration and concerned to protect the freedom of religious organisations to hold traditionalist views."
Later today we'll publish the results of our question on whether politics is largely about conviction or service. Tomorrow we'll be publishing the candidates' verbatim answers to the final question of the ConservativeHome survey: 'Why are you a Conservative?'