The last few weeks have seen two major interventions in the Brexit process. The first, apparently intended to pre-empt the second, was Boris Johnson’s lengthy article in the Daily Telegraph. The second was the Prime Minister’s speech in Florence.
This month’s ConservativeHome survey of Party member readers of ConservativeHome tested opinion on both these events. There’s a notable divergence in the response to the two events.
Eight in ten Party members welcomed Johnson’s article
Given that some Eurosceptics had expressed concern with the timing, rather than simply the content, of the Foreign Secretary’s Telegraph piece, we offered the 1,239 respondents to our survey three options – asking whether they either “agreed with the thrust of it, and thought it needed to be said”, or “agreed with the thrust of it, but thought that its timing was poor”, or “disagreed with the thrust of it.”
To take the last of those responses first, the proportion of respondents who disagreed outright with what Johnson had to say is strikingly low – just under 14 per cent gave this answer.
Of the 81 per cent who declared that they “agreed with the thrust of it”, most endorsed his timing as well as his content – with 56 per cent of all respondents answering “I agreed with the thrust of it, and thought it needed to be said”. That leaves 25 per cent of the Party members who “agreed with the thrust of it, but thought that its timing was poor”.
Overall, then, Johnson’s decision to speak out when he did secured a strong vote of approval among Party members.
More Party members were displeased by May’s Florence speech than pleased by it
The same cannot be said for the Prime Minister’s Florence speech, unfortunately. As with the question about Johnson, we subdivided the possible responses to explore the various reasons why people might be pleased or displeased with what she had to say. Respondents had a choice of:
- I was pleased by the speech, because I support Brexit, and was reassured that she is committed to Brexit.
- I was displeased by the speech, because I support Brexit, and was not reassured that she is committed it.
- I was pleased by the speech, because I oppose Brexit, and am now less sure than I was that she is committed to it.
- I was displeased by the speech, because I oppose Brexit, and am just as sure as I was that she is committed to it.
- I was neither pleased nor displeased by the speech, which made no difference to my view of her commitment to it.
The overall tally shows a divide – 31 per cent of respondents were pleased by the speech, while 40 per cent were displeased. Twenty-seven per cent reported they were neither pleased nor displeased, and it had made no difference to their view of her commitment to Brexit.
The breakdown of those numbers adds some more detail. Of those who say they support Brexit, the proportion who were displeased outnumbered those who were pleased by 37 per cent to 27 per cent. Among those who say they oppose Brexit, the numbers reporting any reaction at all were very small indeed – pleased outnumber displeased, but only by just under five per cent to just over three per cent.
It’s evident that the vast majority of Party member respondents do not describe themselves as opposing Brexit, but also that a decent chunk of the minority who do might well have felt neither pleasure nor displeasure at the result.
The field in which May’s speech was operating, therefore, was among the Brexit-supporting majority in her Party – and they were noticeably more likely to be displeased than pleased by what she had to say.