Gavin Williamson isn’t exactly flavour of the month in Downing Street, and was about halfway in our Cabinet League Table last month. We will soon see what this month’s results bring.
But whatever our panel’s rating of the Defence Secretary may be, it clearly backs him up on defence spending. Two in three of its members support his push for extra money, with just under one in four opposed.
This finding comes at a time when NATO is under internal pressure unknown since its formation. Its annual summit takes place in Brussels next month.
We haven’t asked the panel about Donald Trump, the organisation, and member spending, but have little doubt that it would a) support NATO and b) believe that other member states, like the UK, should spend more on defence.
Nine in ten of its members agreed in April that “Russia is a threat to the security and interests of the UK”. So while there is a soft underbelly of admiration for Putin on parts of the Right, there very little indeed among Conservative Party members.
But this site’s sense is that support among Tory members for higher defence spending is only partly connected with the Russian military presence or the Islamist terror threat.
Our experience is that Conservative activists believe that higher defence spending is a good thing because the armed forces hold a special place in their hearts. It is for them what the NHS is for Labour members.
So when it comes to making an appeal to Tory activists as well as MPs, Williamson is pushing at an open door. Party conference should be lively on this front.