By Matthew Barrett
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The People's Pledge campaign group, which argues in favour of a European referendum, has just announced the result of two referendums it held in the Greater Manchester constituencies of Cheadle and Hazel Grove, voting for which closed at 5pm today. The two Lib Dem seats, which would be Conservative targets in a swing election year, saw a combined turnout of 29,276 people out of 83,266 ballot papers issued – a turnout of 35%.
In the Cheadle constituency, 13,606 (86.6%) voted in favour of a referendum. Only 2,068 (13.2%) voted against holding one.
In the Hazel Grove constituency, 12,043 (88.5%) voted in favour of a referendum. 1,559 (11.5%) voted against.
The People's Pledge were quick to point out after the result was announced that the figures of those in favour – more than 12,000 in each case, was greater than the majority of either MP – Mark Hunter (Cheadle) or Andrew Stunell (Hazel Grove). It's also worth noting that the percentages in support – nearly 90% – are very similar to the 89.9% who voted in favour in a referendum held earlier this year in Thurrock. The two constituencies polled today are seen as relatively suburban commuter towns on the outskirts of Manchester, both of which have traditionally elected Conservatives, before turning yellow in 1997, whereas Thurrock is a far more working class Labour-Tory marginal, yet all three constituencies voted overwhelmingly in favour of a European referendum.
Mark Seddon, National Spokesperson of the People’s Pledge, commented about the figures:
"Given that Britain’s relationship with the EU is not currently centre stage, it is remarkable that over a third of voters in Hazel Grove and Cheadle have chosen to participate in this independent referendum. The turnout in the two Manchester constituencies is higher than the turn-out in local elections in Stockport of 34% earlier this year. This result demonstrates that there is a very high level of support for an EU referendum among ordinary voters even within two traditionally Liberal Democrat seats."
"The political parties at Westminster are now going to have to rethink their attitude to a national referendum on the EU. The party that has the courage to adopt a pro-referendum position could potentially win millions of extra votes. If Ed Miliband has the courage to champion the right of the British people to have their say about the EU, he could secure a victory at the next general election."