By Tim Montgomerie
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Matthew Parris has spent the last 48 hours asking forty Tory MPs in the most marginal constituencies nine questions. He lists the answers in his column for today's Times (£). Thirty of the forty MPs took part in his survey. One refused to take part. Nine never got back to him. Here are the nine questions and the thirty respondents' replies…
Immigration. Has Mr Cameron got it about right? Or further “crackdowns”?
21 said he'd got the balance about right. Nine weren't sure or wanted more crackdowns.
Euro-referendum: should the date be brought forward?
25 said Cameron should stick to his current timings.
Euro-withdrawal: would the Forty like the Party to get off the fence and recommend this?
28 said not yet but some in this number wouldn't rule it out if the PM couldn't get better terms.
Human rights: scrap our Human Rights Act? Withdraw from the European Convention?
Mixed views on this question but Matthew Parris reports, in my view crucially: "My respondents’ only (and common) hesitation was that the PM must not promise what cannot be delivered." Mark Field MP has already spoken powerfully about the danger of over promising and not delivering on the ECHR.
Taxation: a substantial tax cut before the next election?
All wanted tax cuts but 23 ruled out a tax cut that wasn't properly funded.
Welfare: substantial new spending cuts before the next election?
Nineteen said no; eight said yes.
NHS: further structural market-based reform or privatisation before the next election?
23 said no.
Overseas aid: cut it this side of an election?
26 said the Coalition must stick to its promises on 0.7%.
And gay marriage: jettison the Bill?
28 said no believing a U-turn was now too late.
Finally, I asked whether in their own constituency (and whatever their own opinion of the Prime Minister) they found David Cameron to be, on balance, a vote-winner or vote-loser.
On this question all thirty of Mr Parris' respondents voted the same way: "Every one of them believed that Mr Cameron was an asset for them with the general voter."
You can read Matthew Parris' full article here (£) but his key message is that the Tory MPs who appear on TV moaning about the Coalition and David Cameron generally represent safer seats and are not representative. His article concludes with these words from one of his respondents: "The biggest divide in our party is not Left versus Right; it’s safe versus marginal."