By Tim Montgomerie
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Professor Philip Cowley and Mark Stuart of Nottingham University – who chronicle parliamentary rebellions – predict that today's EU revolt is likely to be the biggest of its kind in the party's history. Certainly much bigger than the Maastricht rebellion against John Major.
On our Comment pages today two MPs make the case for and against the referendum motion. David Nuttall MP speaks for the 68 backbenchers who have publicy supported his motion while the Europe Minister, David Lidington, makes the case against it.
We know the public want a referendum and it's also clear to every Tory MP that their local members want one too. Today ConservativeHome can put a percentage on that. Yesterday 1,125 Tory members answered this question: "In the motion before the House of Commons on an EU referendum, what would you like your MP to do?" Nearly three-quarters said they wanted their MPs to vote for today's motion:
Only 2% want their MPs to abstain.
Some of the Tory leadership's public defenders, notably Danny Finkelstein and Matthew d'Ancona, have been saying that this is not the time for a referendum and that, in due course, David Cameron will repatriate powers if people are patient. I dealt with the straw man that the Nuttall motion requires an immediate referendum on Saturday. In the survey of ConHome members I also asked members to say if they believed that the current Tory leadership is serious about fighting to repatriate powers. Nearly two-thirds don't think it is. Respondents were asked "Which of the following is closest to your view?":
The exact numbers were:
- David Cameron wants to repatriate A FEW powers from the European Union at the earliest opportunity: 17%
- David Cameron wants to repatriate SIGNIFICANT powers from the European Union at the earliest opportunity: 18%
- David Cameron is not very committed to repatriating any powers from the European Union: 64%.
Whatever the scale of today's rebellion, that finding is very significant and troubling. 64% of David Cameron's own party members don't believe his Eurosceptic promises.