I like to think there are three angles to understanding public opinion on issues and their impact on politics – support, salience and image – and all three are necessary to understand the issue of Europe.

Support is the most basic and simple to measure level of public opinion, and in the case of Europe is relatively straightforward. The British public tend to have a negative impression of the European Union – asked to rate their feelings towards it on a scale of 0 to 10, 38% say 0-3, 33% 4-6, 19% 7-10. 45% of people think that Britain’s membership of the EU is a bad thing, compared to 22% thinking it is a good thing. 50% think membership has had a negative effect on the UK, 29% a positive effect. While the figures are different depending on the questions asked, the same rough pattern normally emerges – putting it very crudely around a quarter of people are generally positive towards the EU, around half are suspicious or negative towards it.

When YouGov have asked people directly about Britain’s relationship with Europe they’ve found around 10% of people who support a more integrated Europe, 13-17% happy with the status quo, 33-40% supporting a less integrated Europe with more powers returned to the UK, 23-29% in support of total withdrawal from the EU.

On a forced choice between staying in or getting out, those who support a less integrated Europe tend to come down on the side of get out, meaning straight YES/NO polls on British membership of the EU tend to show much higher figures in favour of withdrawal – around 50% – and questions on how people would vote in a referendum on EU membership tend to show a big lead for withdrawal (for example, 27% stay, 51% go here.) Asked how people would vote in a three option referendum, people prefer renegotiation to withdrawal – 15% would stay, 47% renegotiate, 28% go.

Polls on attitudes towards Europe have become increasingly anti-EU in recent years, but this is not a long term trend. Looking at long term trackers from MORI, attitudes towards the European Union and its predecessors have ebbed and flowed over the years – the peak of opposition towards Europe was in the early 1980s, its nadir in the late 1980s and early 90s (while I’m on the subject of changing attitudes towards Europe, it’s probably also worth noting the experience of the 1975 referendum. Before the campaign started polls showed a majority in favour of withdrawal, eventually people voted 2-1 in favour of staying in – so don’t assume that because polls currently suggest people would vote to leave the EU that they actually would in practice).

Finally, polls nearly always show a large majority in favour of a referendum, a result that should largely be ignored. Referendums are popular per se, and I have yet to see any poll showing, in a straight question, that people think there should not be a referendum on an issue. Asking if there should be a referendum on an issue is essentially asking if politicians should decide an issue, or whether the respondent should be allowed a say. That said, a referendum on EU membership is more popular than referenda on some other issues – a YouGov poll for the Constitution Society last Sept asked which of a list of various constitutional issues people would like to see a referendum on, and the EU came top with 43%.

That brings us onto salience. We know that far more British people are negative than positive towards the EU, but do they actually care? People saying they support or oppose something when a pollster intrudes into their lives and asks about it is entirely different to them thinking about it the rest of time. If we hadn’t have asked, perhaps it would never have even crossed their mind.

Polling people on whether they support an issue is relatively straightforward. Polling on whether an issue is important or not is tricky. You cannot ask “whether issue X is important”, as people will almost always say yes because they feel they should consider these issues important. The real question is whether issue X is important when compared to issues A, B and C. (There are similar problems with the question “will policy X make you more or less likely to vote for party Y”, but I think I’ve ranted about that far too many times in the past. Suffice to say that the way people actually answer such questions means they really only measure support or opposition and tell us virtually nothing about salience)

The best regular measure of salience is Ipsos MORI’s monthly issues tracker, since it is entirely unprompted. MORI ask people what they think the most important issue is facing the country, and what other important issues there are facing the country. Europe normally rates very, very low on this survey. In September 3% of people counted Europe as an important issue facing the country, which is typical of the last five years. When placed alongside issues like the economy, immigration, crime, health and unemployment people simply do not care about Europe.

However, it is also important to note that while very few people care about Europe presently it is not incapable of being a salient issue. Go back to the 1990s and up to a third of people were regularly telling MORI that relations with the EU were one of the most important issues facing the country, and indeed that it would be an important issue in deciding how they would vote. So while people don’t care now, it doesn’t follow that they won’t in the future if it becomes a major issue of political and media debate.

The final angle on any issue is the most difficult (indeed, often impossible) to measure. What difference does a party’s stance upon that issue make to the overall way the party is viewed? Does going on about an issue people don’t much care about make you look out of touch, does arguing about it make the party look divided. Are some issues associated with moderation and others with extremes, some with being modern, others with being stuck in the past? Take the Conservative party’s attempts to rebrand itself under David Cameron – he spoke a lot about an issue that not many people care much about (the environment), and virtually ignored a very salient one (immigration) because (one assumes) the party thought talking about the first one made the party look more modern and moderate, and the latter would have reinforced existing negative perceptions of the party as bigoted and intolerant.

I have yet to see a really good way of measuring the effect of policy standpoints on party image, so with no evidence to back it up I am not going to suggest that a particular policy on the EU would have an impact one way or another, but we need to recognise that this impact is there. One thing we can be more confident about is the risk to perceptions of party unity – looking again at MORI’s long term trend data, in 2010 just 13% of people described the Conservative party as divided, their lowest for 23 years. At the peak of the Maastricht rebellion in 1993 50% of people described the Conservative party as divided, and it didn’t fall below 30% again until 2005. This is probably not a party image the Conservatives wish to regain.

So, in summary, the British public are generally hostile towards the EU if asked, but will tend to favour renegotiation or repatriation of powers over withdrawal if given the choice. Secondly, while it has been regarded as an important issue in the past, only a tiny minority particularly care about the issue at present. Thirdly, the Conservative party are seen as vastly less divided these days than during the years of arguing with each other over Europe, a unity that took a decade to reforge and which they would probably be well advised not to throw away lightly.


203 Responses to “Public opinion on Europe”

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  1. 1st?

  2. …Regards, Martyn

  3. Referenda are ever-so tricky.

    “….its probably also worth noting the experience of the 1975 referendum. Before the campaign started polls showed a majority in favour of withdrawal, eventually people voted 2-1 in favour of staying in – so don’t assume that because polls currently suggest people would vote to leave that they actually would in practice.”

    We saw the same thing with AV; AV was neck & neck with FPTP until people became aware of how it would actually work; then it was a landslide for FPTP.

    And that’s why politicians are splitting the vote by adding a watered down option which, quite frankly, it’s not in their power to deliver.

    The UK can leave the EU, if it wants to. It can’t renegotiate its terms without the other members agreeing. So renegotiation is something the politicians can’t deliver.

    Similarly with Scotland: International law does give people the right to self-determination so, in theory, independence is something that the SNP could deliver. Devo-max is dependent on the rest of the Uk agreeing; so it’s not something the SNP can deliver.

    Quite frankly, there should be a ‘ban’ on offering a referenda solution which isn’t in the gift of those holding the referendum – be it Europe, Scotland’s independence or anything else. It is manipulative; & I’d go so far as to say it is dishonest.

    If there’s a vote on Europe, it should be about a particular treaty which is actually being negotiated or it should be a straight in or out. I am pro-Europe (although I do have the odd moment when I wonder why).

    So, being for staying in, I simply trust that, as in 1975, the pro-EU campaigners would turn public opinion around or those who profess to want out don’t want it enough to actually show up & vote.
    8-)

  4. The Media Standards Trust published a report last year: Reporting of international news stories has fallen by 39% since 1979 in the newspaper trade… consequences?

    “… it reinforces insular attitudes – prejudices – and discourages understanding among British voters”

    The worry is that the “global architecture” is changing, but we remain in the dark.

    I wonder what proportion of international stories in certain papers are of the “craazy bloated/unelected Bruxelles bureaucrats… legislate for straight bananas” variety?

    Not only is international reporting declining in absolute terms, but also in prominence and depth.

    h
    ttp://mediastandardstrust.org/publications/shrinking-world-the-decline-of-international-reporting-in-the-british-press

    The EU commission has recently cautioned papers for referring to the European Court of Human Rights as “the EU judges”. Papers such as the Express (Star/Sun/Mail/Telegraph) use this type of ruse to run campaigns explaining “why we must rescue our country from EU dictators” (comparing them specifically to Napoleon and Hitler).

    Polling companies only follow essentially a conservative line by measuring the effects of this type of prejudicial reporting and do nothing to prompt any deeper thought on these matters.

  5. @AMBERSTAR

    I think the fundamental difference this time is that people have had experience of Europe, changes to metric weights, currency stuff, bureaucracy, regulation, and much of it silly.

    Ask anyone (even politicians) and they are hard pressed to give clear and specific examples of the benefits of EU membership to UK citizens. Trade is used as a catch all answer, but nothing specific on trade is ever stated. Would the UK really be nable to trade as effectively if we we outside of the EU?

    It doesn’t seem to bother the USA, with the exception of monopolistic issues (MIcrosoft for example).

  6. Amberstar
    Good point about renegotiation not being in the government’s gift. That’s probably why Cameron keeps banging on about it – he can always blame the EU if they won’t let him renegotiate anything.

    I agree with you – it should be straight in or out, or at least pro or anti the next treaty.

  7. @BILLY BOB
    James Ellis Tory MEP for part of south eastern England, reminded me at a meeting the other day, that the European Court of Human Rights, is nothing to do with the EU. It is an area that definitely does become very blurred. I think it is important to modify that position, as you say. Many people resent being preached to by “Europe” about human rights, particularly as Germany is the leading light of that continent. To separate the Court from the Union in the mind of the great British public, will not be easy.
    Whilst on this issue, it behoves me, a Tory, to say that the Human Rights Act is not the incessant “let off” for foreign criminals, that the British judiciary choose to make it. What is certain is, other European countries do not tolerate the sort of cases that the Daily Mail loves so much.

  8. @PETE B
    Sorry Pete don’t agree. As I said on the last thread, what us oldies voted for yonks ago was a common market.
    The federal thing is not a runner for the majority of Britain’s
    I would agree that “we don’t wanna be in fisheries, we don’t wanna be in global warming , we don’t wanna be in this that or the other”, is not on. But however daft and wrong it seems to you, most people reject being “ruled” by Brussels.

  9. Chou,

    I didn’t actually express my own position on the EU, because I try to keep my own opinions out of it.

    I don’t see why you disagree with me though. I favour an in or out referendum, and as it happens, would vote ‘Out’.

    The Common Market referendum of 1975 was the one time in my life I haven’t voted. My heart said to vote ‘No’, but in my youthful naivety I didn’t think all three main parties could be wrong in backing ‘Yes’.

  10. @chouenlai – “…other European countries do not tolerate the sort of cases that the Daily Mail loves so much.”

    You could be right. I’ve also heard it said that EU directives are enacted in a more prescriptive way by UK officials, when they may sometimes be interpreted more as guidelines, or with some latitude, by other member states. Whether that’s a good thing or not I don’t know.

  11. What I find interesting is the (as far as I can see – would love some polling to prove me wrong) public and politicians anti-EU are over different things.

    The public are concerned with human rights and employment (less jobs and lower wages).
    But Euroskeptic politicians tend to be those who’re *for* the free movement of labour (because it leads to lower wages) but anti-EU because of regulation.
    So there’s still a fundamental disconnect.

  12. @pete b
    I suppose at this moment in time, (an expression beloved by the 1970’s trade union official) I would not wish to leave altogether. And therefore would not favour a straight IN or OUT decision. On reflection I guess, the changes and back tracking I would want are impossible. So if it comes to IN / OUT, I am out.

  13. Socal Liberal & RiN

    Some replies for you on the old thread

    http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/blog/archives/4182/comment-page-2#comment-742303

    There are many parallels with another in-out referendum and the differences are dramatic

  14. @billy bob
    It is undoubtedly true that a rule, say hours worked by heavy goods drivers, are applied to the letter in this country applied quite strictly in Germany, a little less so in France, a bit less than that in Spain, down to the size of the police bribe in Italy and “what rule is that then in Greece”.
    Some try to sell our “difficulties” regarding the Human Rights Act on a similar basis. IMPO, however, it is a very liberal judiciary playing games with a perceived right wing government.

  15. I don’t think it’s as simple as us over interpretting EU decisions. Take data protection. Not only is the DPA 1998 far more watered down that any other European country’s version, but our information commissioner makes the PCC look like Judge Jeffries. And courts in the EU follow the relevant laws. Look at what happened to Google Street View in Germany…

  16. Here’s how an EU referendum ‘IN’ campaign looks…

    Vote OUT if you want higher gas prices!
    Vote OUT if you don’t like trips to Spain!
    Vote OUT if you want your grocery bill to double!
    Vote OUT if you want Human Rights to be a political football!
    Vote OUT if you want to be subservient to the US!
    Vote OUT if you want your Beer to cost twice as much!

    EU polling now is arguably even more misleading than Voting Reform polling was!

  17. Such twaddle is talked about membership or not of the EU and all that goes with it… rather like the debate on Scots independence or indeed Irish independence…

    In the final analysis the practical choices depend upon from where one starts….and like it or not we start from where we actually are….

    For example many of the ills of the EU are characterised as losses of choices and freedoms that our Parliament might properly exercise….

    Truth be told our parliament can hardly exercise the freedoms it still has control over let alone those it has willingly given up….in exchange for another gain…which is the legal basis of treaties between powers at least since 1648…..

    The markets respect none of our freedoms nor bestow upon us any choices…. as the people of Greece have found…and as we are repeatedly told…by everyone from the governor of the Bank of England down…

    The Irish fought to be politically free from the UK in order to determine their own destiny and promptly tied that same destiny both to the Catholic Church and then ….as they themselves wistfully say in the aftermath of this crisis to Germany. Iceland has the power to choose but what choices were actually available when push came to shove?

    The UN limits our national sovereignty at least as much as the EU….and I don’t doubt that those who ask for us to leave the EU will in due course want us to secede from the UN and then from the history of the planet since…1789…

    The really important decisions we could make would be to democratise the EU and take power from its national governments….that of course is a debate both national governments and the EU institution’s would prefer we didn’t have for that indeed might truly effect true change…

    The rest is the small change of empty rhetoric…which howls like Canute…against the tide of history…but will effect no change whatever…

    No wonder the Murdoch press is so in favour of us having that childish debate….and leaving the EU…

    They talk as if the history of the last forty years hasn’t been one of relative success… and relative progress….economically, politically and socially….but it often best to discount facts….

    Start, like those who believe the earth is flat or the world way made in 7 days….with an unproven and unprovable assertion…and go on from there…

    Give them a referendum…. and they’ll only want another and another…like the denizens of the EU institutions, the only referenda that will ever matter is the one they win… and if they win once they will want that win to count forever…

    Yet the same arguments that apply to our membership of the EU apply to all our international obligations and treaties… from Patents to War from Space Exploration to Nuclear proliferation….they all involving a secession of sovereignty…why not vote on these too on a recurrent basis? That indeed would make for a stable political environment in which life might thrive….

  18. I actually may well be understating the consequences… After all, the knee jerk response in a lot of EU countries to Britian leaving may well be ‘Hang the ****ers out to Dry!’.

    Remember, our Banking sector gets a huge portion of the blame for the global collapse, and leaving it now could be very easily spun as *us* taking advantage of the EU, then trying to duck the bill at the end of the meal. And there’s a fair argument that we have taken advantage of the EU much more than we’ve put into it. Retribution against the UK Bankers to pay off the European Debt would be a very easy political position to take with us out of the EU.

  19. John b

    Thanks for the “claim of right” link

  20. @JOHN MURPHY

    “The rest is the small change of empty rhetoric…which howls like Canute…against the tide of history…but will effect no change whatever…”

    The Dane Knut, was a very smart dude and a considerable soldier. His point in not making the waves stop on the sea shore, was to prove to his courtiers that though he was a king, he was only a fallible human being and not a god.

  21. @JOHN MURPHEY

    “The really important decisions we could make would be to democratise the EU and take power from its national governments”

    Never mind what I think, but if you read AW’s findings above, do you think the British people, including the Europe loving Scots, are going to buy that. I mean, really do you?

  22. @CHOUENLAI

    Thank you for defending one of the greatest fans of European integration (admittedly under himself) and one of our greatest kings…

  23. “We saw the same thing with AV; AV was neck & neck with FPTP until people became aware of how it would actually work; then it was a landslide for FPTP.”

    Not exactly. It was an issue that few people understood other than a vague connection with electoral reform which got hijacked by a combination of disinformation and a hate campaign of the chief proponent. (Oh, and given that the No campaign said that proponents of PR should vote no, even the claim that it’s a landslide for FPTP is ropey.)

    That won’t be possible to the same extend on an EU referendum, because this issue has been debated in a lot more depth already. There might be a large swing in a campaign, but the arguments would need a closer basis in reality and certain not the sweeping statements made last May – suffice to say, if Australia was really trying to get rid of AV, one would expect at least one story from the last three months to show up in Google News backing this claim up.

  24. AMBERSTAR

    ‘The UK can leave the EU, if it wants to. It can’t renegotiate its terms without the other members agreeing. So renegotiation is something the politicians can’t deliver.’

    There will probably be a new treaty in the next two or three years, which will affect our Constitution; this will now require a referendum. If the UK votes against the Treaty then the Treaty will not be ratified.

    It may well be that proposals will then be discussed to incorporate changes that will suit UK; therefore discussing what UK citizens would like to re-negotiate is not a pointless exercise and may well result in changes sometime in the future.

    If I am wrong about the above then it a truly depressing thought; to belong to a very flawed and I am afraid corrupt EU, or to leave the EU. I want to belong to a reformed EU; perhaps people in other countries (if asked) want the same thing.

  25. Great analysis – one of your best. Thanks.

  26. Chouenlai

    ‘ … I would not wish to leave altogether. And therefore would not favour a straight IN or OUT decision. On reflection I guess, the changes and back tracking I would want are impossible. So if it comes to IN / OUT, I am out’.

    I struggle to understand why those in other EU countries would not like to see it reformed. The trouble is that the matter is dealt with by the national govts, MEPs or worse left to our commissioners to mess up. I am sure the Germans, French, etc. would like to see a better organsation; naturally the politicians of those countries do not want to invlove the people in this matter. This is why so few countries held referendum on the last Treaty.

  27. The difficulty of insisting on a renegotiation of terms during a treaty change is that it’s quite likely that the treaty change will only change the terms of membership of the Eurozone rather than the EU as a whole. It will be hard for the UK to justify vetoing a treaty that has little or no effect on the UK, especially if the price of holding up a treaty is further financial instability.

    Having said that, if the treaty change is two or three years down the line, when hopefully the global financial situation will be stabilising a bit, that might will be easier than if the UK threatened to block a treaty now.

    I quite like the idea of an in-or-out referendum in five years’ time or so. That way, whether or not the EU becomes something acceptable to the British public is in the EU’s hands.

  28. The Sheep,Canute, one of our greatest kings.Well I guess
    it depends on your criteria of judgement and what you
    mean by “our”.Although I am sure he was one hell of a guy.What I do know was that my pupils used to be vastly
    amused by the name of his son.Mind you at that age they
    are very easily amused!

  29. @ann in cymru
    What’s funny about King Hardnut ?

  30. Pete B,
    ‘The Common Market referendum of 1975 was the one time in my life I haven’t voted. My heart said to vote ‘No’, but in my youthful naivety I didn’t think all three main parties could be wrong in backing ‘Yes’.’

    Actually in 1975 Labour advocated a ‘No’ vote – and was at variance with its own Government.

  31. Graham
    “Actually in 1975 Labour advocated a ‘No’ vote – and was at variance with its own Government.”

    To be fair, if the Labour government favoured a ‘Yes’ vote, I think the majority of voters (including me at the time) would think that ‘Labour’ supported it.

    I remember Peter Shore and Tony Benn sharing a platform with Enoch Powell on the ‘No’ platform, but I assumed that they were all mavericks varying from their party lines. Thank you for enlightening me, though as I say, it certainly wasn’t very clear at the time.

  32. @Henry
    The attitudes within France and Germany, not to mention the low countries, seems to have been very different to ours for years. The real “anti’s” have always said that Hitler and Napoleon finally got their own way. Perhaps there is a small grain of truth in that, to the extent that the Europeans have had this dream (nightmare) about a European state for a very long time. Furthermore, despite what our parents may have thought about it, we British got away very light during the last world war, by comparison to occupied nations and of course Germany. The love of the EU for people who had been born to expect a cataclysmic war every 30 years, cannot be over rated.

  33. @Chou

    I remember a German foreign minister a few years ago threatening to resort to ‘traditional methods’ if Britain didn’t toe the line over something or other.

    I have to admit that my immediate reaction was “Bring it on Fritz!”, but then I was raised on Victor comics :-)

  34. @PETE B
    Donner und Blitzen , der swinehund, Gott im Himmel, der Englander ist kaputt.

  35. Pete B,
    At the the time there was,of course , the famous Agreement to Differ which allowed Government members to campaign on different sides. The main Labour ‘No’ campaigners were – Michael Foot, Peter Shore. Tony Benn, Barbara Castle and Judith Hart. Neil Kinnock was also then a No advocate – albeit as a bankbencher..

  36. Chouenlai
    ‘The attitudes within France and Germany, not to mention the low countries, seems to have been very different to ours for years.’

    Do we know if that is the case? What do Germans, French, Italians (as opposed to their leaders) think? Have there been any polls? Certainly, most politicians seemed unwilling to ask the people what they thought about the various treaties, possibly because those that were asked, France and Ireland said ‘non’.

  37. Graham

    “At the the time there was,of course , the famous Agreement to Differ which allowed Government members to campaign on different sides.”

    Thanks. I’ve looked it up (only on Wikipedia though). Apparently the Labour Party had agreed that it would campaign for whichever side won a 2:1 majority at their conference. In the event, the vote was just short of 2:1 for No, so the Labour Party as such did not campaign, though as you say, ministers and others did so as individuals on both sides.

  38. richard in norway @ John b

    “Thanks for the “claim of right” link”

    Tomorrow Oldnat should be back from the conference. I haven’t seen any reference in reports of the SNP conference about the Claim of Right next month.

    The SNP have got off to a good start with their campaign and strategy. I guess the Claim of Right is to head off any proposal for a referendum by the Westminster government.

    Ukipers may like to reflect on that.

    I’m beginning to feel sorry for Cameron & Co. Apart from difficult economic issues, on the Scottish referendum they are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. They won’t be allowed to to deal with it in any way inconsistent with the EU referendum is dealt with.

    Labour continue to make fools of themselves by complaining that the 6 SNP MP’s did not vote against NHS changes in England. Scotland will be protected.

    The SNP are saying that every visit by a UK minister that comes North to campaign against independence will bring them 1,000 votes. I’m sure that’s right, because they will be sure to say something ignorant, foolish or offensive. There is one retired English politician who is probably not up for it now but could be worth ten times that.

    On an election campaign many years ago AS told me personally that the SNP would pay her expenses.

    They have just announced a legacy of nearly 1m specifically for the campaign. I would set up a front organisation to collect money from stupid NewLabour supporters (Is there any other kind left in Scotland?) and chip in whatever it extra it takes to hire Tony Blair.

    Another problem is that they can’t say to Scots that they will be worse off, without the English thinking that they would be well rid of Scotland. Nor can Conservatives be unhappy about losing the Scottish component in any Labour majority.

    The case against independence is weak, but not as weak as it is presented. I could do much better myself.

    Christians, pacifists and Greens will be influenced by the prospect of losing Trident.

    Perhaps the most important reason the Westminster elite want to hang on to Scotland is that, in addition to Trident, the place on the Security Council for America’s client state would be put at risk. I don’t imagine that there are ten voters in the whole of Scotland that would be persuaded to vote against independence on the grounds that Atlantic Bridge would be against it, and these folk won’t go to the polling station unless their carers take them.

    The Unionists dare not admit to that reason.

    Some of the other reasons depend on nostalgia. Not all that seems admirable to the English is seen quite as positively North of the border. Shared wartime experience is one aspect, but these memories are fading.

    Here too it is English nationalism that is illogical or inconsistent. One of the few manifestations of Britishess is the annual event at the Cenotaph. The Brenglish confusion sees it as primarily an English event (like the last night of the Proms) but how could Scotland be excluded when every other Commonwealth country is invited?

    I do not believe that the economic arguments will be or should be critical, nor that oil is paramount. There has been a lack of focus on the industries in that part of Scotland where the SNP has had its greatest success and it is also where there are opportunities for development in ways that meet the challenges of the future rather than the past.

    If I had to bet on the outcome, I would focus on the most important factor. Whether the people who now become MP’s are second rate, or become second rate because they are in that environment is immaterial. They have form. They will fail. The merits of the case are secondary.

  39. John B Dick

    I am indeed home now.

    I haven’t seen much of the media reports of Conference, but here is what Alex had to say on the Claim of Right

    The people of Scotland – the sovereign people of Scotland – are now in the driving seat.

    Twenty years ago when Scotland faced a previous Tory Government a cross party group drew up a Claim of Right for Scotland .This is what it said.

    “We do hereby acknowledge the sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine the form of government best suited to their needs, and do hereby declare and pledge that in all our actions and deliberations their interests shall be paramount.”

    Twenty years ago we demonstrated for that right in front of an open topped bus in the Meadows in Edinburgh.

    But we had no Parliament then. But we have now, and next month I will ask Scotland’s Parliament to endorse anew Scotland’s Claim of Right.

    The point is a simple one

    The days of Westminster politicians telling Scotland what to do, or what to think are over.The Scottish people will set the agenda for the future.”

    In 1998, every LD & Labour MP (except Tam Dalyell) signed the Claim of Right.

    What do they do now?

  40. chouenlai @ Henry

    “The love of the EU for people who had been born to expect a cataclysmic war every 30 years, cannot be over rated.”

    You could say that it is “the settled will of the German speaking people”.

    It may even be literally true that there has been a war involving Germany roughly every generation going a long way back since before it could be described using the concept of a nation state.

    They have got to like the other option.

  41. @HENRY
    Unfortunately I cannot give any exacting evidence regarding the average French or German feeling just dandy with the EU. However, the message (propaganda)
    we have always received via the BBC, has been Frogs and Huns in a warm embrace. We Brits, always the outsiders, dreaming of days of Empire, as we make our way to the workhouse.

  42. @john b dick
    You get a do in Edinburgh, if you like soldiers marching.
    The Cenotaph is for BRITISH war dead, that includes Scotland, why do you expect to be treated like Canada?

  43. Welcome back, Old Nat.

    Which side are the SNP MPs going to support in tomorrow’s vote on whether to hold a referendum on independence?

  44. Oldnat

    Thanks. I missed the key sentence skim reading. In the hall, I expect that would be impossible.

    I read a lot of other stuff, and of course the function of a party conference is to rouse the troops, but it looks to me as if you are on the home straight and the rest of the riders are far behind and many of them off the course altogether.

    I particularly liked the inivitation to those like myself outwith the party. Perhaps there will even be a separate cadre of people like me who don’t think independence is the best way to govern these islands but don’t see any other way of getting rid of these bankers at Westminster and their crap parliament. Well, not actually bankers, but you know what I mean.

    Did you see my MSP, the Education minister on Question Time? He didn’t get to say much, but he did say (re Werrity) that employing paid lobbyists was a criminal offence in Scotland.

    Was that the outcome of Beattie Media claiming to be able to deliver contacts with ministers?

  45. Pete B.

    Shirley Williams in an interview after Harold Wilson died said that Harold was very hurt by the way the Labour Party went for each other in that Referendum campaign.

    He said he had been walking in s*** so that party comrades could parade their consciences around.

    The European divisions marked the beginning of the major splits in the Labour Party. Anthony Wedgwood Benn read his father’s diaries in the summer of 1970 and became ‘Tony’ by the Autumn, immaturing, Harold said, unlike a good french red wine bottle.

  46. phil @ Old Nat.

    “Which side are the SNP MPs going to support in tomorrow’s vote on whether to hold a referendum on independence?”

    A very good question.

    I wonder if they will even be there, Does the overnight sleeper still run from Inverness? After that conference particularly they may see it as irrelevant, in that their referendum will lead to Scotland being independent in a shorter timescale. They could vote against on the grounds that they should have theirs first, or for a referendum to create a precedent.

    They could even table an amendment that could link the two together in some way.

    Expect to see some of the words I quoted or Oldnat quoted if they do.

  47. Chrislane

    “Anthony Wedgwood Benn read his father’s diaries in the summer of 1970 and became ‘Tony’ by the Autumn, immaturing, Harold said, unlike a good french red wine bottle.”

    I remember a cartoon at the time suggesting that by old age he would become a hermit and be known by the minimalist name “Ben”.

    Not so far from the truth.

  48. The problem with France and Germany’s relationship with the EU is that the policies of the main parties and what the people of France and Germany actually think are different. Throughout the height of Euro-enthusiasm in the late 90s and early 00s, it was just assumed that the French and Germans were behind their governments. We saw in the 2005 referendum, however, that the mood of the French has been seriously misjudged.

    Where most of continental Europe differs from the UK is that, so far, no serious opposition has emerged from within their national political parties, whilst in the UK there’s clear opposition from both the Conservatives and UKIP. But there again, the last time the people of Europe had the chance to vote on the EU (2009), the economic crisis was still being blamed on the UK and US. It’s only in the last year or two that the euro has been so thoroughly discredited.

    The crucial question now is whether parties like UKIP on the continent can organise themselves in time for the 2014 elections. Should Euroscpetic parties across the EU do as well as UKIP did in 2004 and 2009, the balance of power will be changed, possibly for good.

  49. Meanwhile, outside of the EU:

    “The far-right Swiss People’s party are expected to increase their vote share in parliamentary elections in Switzerland. The party, which is already the country’s largest with 29% of the vote in 2007 elections, has campaigned strongly on an anti-immigration platform. The party has campaigned for automatic deportation for foreigners who commit crimes and the banning of minarets.”

  50. chouenlai @ Henry

    ” …we British got away very light during the last world war, by comparison to occupied nations and of course Germany.”

    That is of course absolutely true, relatively.

    I have played in one of the bands at the Menin gate on Remembrance day and visited several of the cemeteries around Ieper. At the largest a tape plays a reading of all the names of the dead. It takes several days to get through them all. The voice is that of a very young girl without class or regional accent.

    I recall a Dimbleby saying once that that if all the dead of both wars were to march past the Cenotaph four abreast, when the first were passing the end of the column would just be leaving Edinburgh.

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