More signs that David Cameron’s EU promises aren’t quite connecting
By Peter Hoskin
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Here’s an opinion poll that is worth pondering. It’s from Ipsos MORI, and it asks a single, simple question: ‘Which party do you think has the best policies on Europe – the Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats, UKIP or some other party?’
So, who came out on top? The Conservatives, after David Cameron’s promise of an EU referendum and the budgetary gains he made in Brussels? Ukip, with Nigel Farage soaring high across the airwaves? Nope, neither. Here’s your answer:
Before we go any further, it’s worth applying a caveat. This poll doesn’t provide any details about the Europe policies in question; it just lists the names of the parties. That probably makes it more likely that respondents will just pick the party they like – or at least it ups the chances of them saying “don’t know”. A poll that concentrated on policy, rather than party, would probably yield very different results.
But, that said, some points do stand out from this Ipsos MORI poll. I have two in mind, in particular.
The first is illustrative: despite Mr Cameron’s recent endeavours on the Europe front, the political gains have not been unambiguous or overwhelming. Part of this may be due to a growing outpouring of love for the European Union. But part of it is also due to persistent support for Ukip.
According to this poll, 16 per cent of current Conservative supporters think that Ukip have the best policies on Europe – the highest proportion among any party – while only 7 per cent of Ukip supporters return the compliment in the other direction. What’s more, less than half of those who voted Tory at the last election believe that the party now has the best Europe policies, with 28 per cent of them preferring Ukip’s.
Of course, Europe is not the only issue that transfers votes between these two parties, but it’s part of an overall picture. Tory strategists will worry – particularly after Eastleigh – that Mr Cameron’s words on Europe haven’t persuaded Eurosceptic voters.And the second point is speculative. Only 38 per cent of current Lib Dem voters believe that their party has the best policies on Europe – the lowest proportion among any party. 17 per cent of them prefer the Tories’, compared to 12 per cent for Labour’s. Could it be that the Lib Dem leadership will face pressure to turn more Eurosceptic as the next election approaches? Perhaps not. But, as I’ve said before, there’s probably more room for cooperation between the Coalition partners in this area than many folk realise.