By Tim Montgomerie
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This is the fourth instalment of a series of blogposts examining which of 23 ideas to win the next election tested best among Tory members. I've already blogged about the popularity of a blue collar message, members' lukewarm interest in a change of leader and the need for a bolder economic plan. Today we turn to Europe.
The poll finds support for an attempt to end the new division on the Right of British politics and forge some kind of pact with UKIP. Respondents were asked to rate "a pact with UKIP that avoids the two parties standing against each other in marginal seats" on a scale of -5 to +5 (where +5 equalled a "very positive impact" and -5 equalled a "very bad impact".)
1,419 members voted in the survey. 397 members (28%) said a pact would have a negative impact. 128 (9%) said a pact would have no impact at all. 856 (60%) said it would have a positive impact. 38 (3%) did not give an answer.
The overall average rating was +1.18, putting it number 18 in the list of 23 ideas.
Dan Hannan MEP has warned that the Tories could be devastated at the next election if it does not agree some sort of deal with UKIP. Europe may not be near the top of voters' lists of concerns but Lord Ashcroft's recent research revealed that the Conservative Party was losing more supporters to UKIP than to any other party (see item three). Lord Vinson, a close friend of Lord Pearson of Rannoch, is the latest leading Tory to consider defecting.
While a majority of Tory members are supportive of a UKIP deal there is much more support for "a bankable promise to deliver an EU referendum". It scored an average +3.11 on the minus five to plus five scale. This meant it came sixth in the league table of 23 election winning ideas. The word "bankable" is particularly important. After their experience with the Lisbon Treaty voters will be sceptical of any promises to hold a referendum. This is why Tory MPs are encouraging Cameron to legislate for the referendum machinery in this parliament and why I've floated the idea of holding an EU vote on polling day.
Scoring even better than an EU vote is any proposal to replace the Human Rights Act. In the league table of election-winning ideas the idea of introducing a British Bill of Rights came one place higher at number five with an average score of +3.33.
It is much more likely that David Cameron will embrace an EU vote and a strong promise on human rights than he'll consider any alliance with Nigel Farage. If any alliance occurs it will come via individual Tory MPs and candidates forging local deals.
The least popular idea in the league table with an average score of -1.05 was "a pact with the Liberal Democrats that avoids the two parties standing against each other in marginal seats". 776 (55%) thought a pact with the Lib Dems would be negative in impact. 184 (13%) said it would have no impact. 420 (30%) thought a pact would be positive. 39 (3%) gave no answer.
Jacob Rees-Mogg has advanced the idea of a coupon election between Tories and "approved" Lib Dems.
> There is a report on this poll in today's Times (£).
> Tomorrow we will publish the full league table.