I reported yesterday that the top "red line" for Conservative Party members for any coalition negotiations with the Liberal Democrats after the 2015 election is holding the In/Out EU referendum in 2017 – after the promised renegotiation.
If these commitments are treated as one, the next four red lines in our members' poll came in as follows. On a scale of one to ten, with one representing "very negotiable" and ten representing "non negotiable", all came in at eight, with very marginal differences beween them, as follows:
- The number of constituencies should be reduced and their size equalised.
- The benefits cap should be maintained or lowered.
- The immigration cap should be maintained or lowered.
- Press ahead with the development of shale gas as swiftly as possible.
I am not at all sure that the reduction and equalisation of seats will be in the Tory manifesto, given events in this Parliament, but the priority which members give to the move reflects their frustration and anger with how the Liberal Democrats behaved.
The benefits and immigration caps are popular with members as well as voters, and their ranking reflects that. There is unabashed enthusiasm for shale. It's perhaps surprising not to see the economy or tax in the top five issues. We will turn to them tomorrow.