The disagreement between Theresa May and Michael Gove over how the Government should tackle Islamist extremism was, as I wrote at the time, as much personal as political – indeed, one would have to be an expert in the subject to understand the latter in the first place. I have tried to follow it as best I can for almost ten years, and the divergence of view on the latter was hard to pin down.
There was therefore a case for not asking Party members about the matter at all. However, Islamism is very much in the news, both here and abroad, and it seemed worth getting their sense about the rights and wrongs of the matter. The answer to the question of which minister’s view is closest to theirs is as follows: Gove 43 per cent, May 25 per cent, Neither 14 per cent, Don’t Know 18 per cent.
The relatively high proportion of Don’t Knows surely reflects the obscurity of the disagreement. Different explanations will be offered for the fact that Gove’s view has emphatically more support than May’s. Mine is that Party members want a tough line to be taken on such extremism, and in their view Gove’s view is tougher than May’s – which meets their approval.
“Neither” seems to me to come in quite high at 14 per cent. It could reflect the difficulty in getting to the heart of the row. It could mean that neither Minister is believed to be tough enough. Or it could mean something else entirely – over to you. There were over 800 party member responses to the survey. These are tested against the responses of a control panel supplied by YouGov.