By Tim Montgomerie
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ComRes has completed a survey for the People's Pledge campaign in David Cameron's own Oxfordshire constituency of Witney. These are the findings:
- 64% of all Witney voters want
an EU referendum;
- 68% of Conservative voters want
an EU referendum;
- 30% of all voters would
seriously consider voting for another party if it offered an EU referendum;
- 29% of Conservative voters
would seriously consider voting for another party if it offered an EU
- 47% of voters in David
Cameron’s own constituency think it unlikely that he will hold a referendum on
the EU if he wins the next General Election;
- 35% of Conservative voters in
Witney think it unlikely that he will hold a referendum on the EU if he wins
the next General Election; 53% of Conservative voters think there is no point in a referendum which
doesn’t offer In/Out.
The poll – seized on by The Sun – will undoubtedly be used to increase the pressure on David Cameron to promise a referendum before too long. In today's Mail on Sunday James Forsyth writes that the PM will give a major speech on Europe before Christmas but what will he say that can satisfy both the sceptics in his own party but without frightening Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats? I'm not even sure that he can deliver a message that can satisfy his whole party.
In The Sunday Telegraph Tory MP Andrea Leadsom insists that the Conservative Party is united on Europe. There’s "violent agreement", she writes on the need for "fundamental reform and a halt to the EU’s ever-encroaching power base". There's certainly common ground, as Andrea suggests, but I'd say the party is split between one-third of Tory MPs who are moving towards the exit door if renegotiation fails to deliver substabntial change; one-third who would be happy with some kind of renegotiation deal (fundamental or not); and another third who just wish the issue would go away.
The public-at-large seem to think that rebellions on Europe are producing a divided Conservative Party. Today's YouGov poll for The Sunday Times suggests that twice as many voters think the Conservative Party is divided (69%) as think that of the Labour Party (35%) (PDF). If Cameron thinks this will encourage Tory MPs to quieten down another YouGov finding may embolden them. 25% of voters see Tory backbenchers as MOST in touch with public opinion compared to only 11% who think that of Cameron. 10% say both are equally in touch. 45% say neither are in touch.
In an article for ConservativeHome today Bernard Jenkin warns David Cameron that his "policy-free" position could be politically very dangerous for the Conservative Party. "Labour’s decision to back euro–scepticism is a game changer," he writes. He argues that we need a referendum in this parliament which asks this fundamental question: “Do you want the UK government to negotiate a new relationship with the EU based on trade and political cooperation?” “Yes” or “No?”
"We'd better get on with this soon," he continues, "or Labour might surprise us once more, and beat us to it again." Read Bernard's full piece.