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. @Oldnat

    “…. it is probably unwise to demonstrate your ignorance quite so publicly”
    “….I an mot personally abusing you btw! Simply that your posts seem to me to betray a remarkably archaic way of thinking about states and their interdependent relationships.”

    Pull the other one. I don’t agree, even though you’ve asserted the right to sovereignty over the interpretation of your comments. You are engaging in wishful thinking, and throwing all sorts of labels around that might as well be aimed at someone else for all that they are relevant to the (relatively brief) points that I actually made or views that I hold. It’s very easy to take the p**s out of any poster on this site once you invent opinions for them.

  2. BBC has some riot stats.

    “The most comprehensive statistics published so far on the August riots in England show that those who took part were poorer, younger and of lower educational achievement than average.

    Some 90% of those brought before the courts were male, and only 5% were over the age of 40.

    The government figures show a quarter were juveniles – aged 10-17 – and a similar proportion were aged 18-20.

    Of those arrested, 13% were identified as gang members.

    Even in London, where gang membership among those arrested was highest, the figure was less than one in five.

    Some 35% of adults brought before courts were claiming out-of-work benefits, which compares to a national average of 12%.

    Of the young people involved, 42% were in receipt of free school meals compared to an average of 16%.”

  3. If Unionists actually understood the issue they’d go for a Federal UK, like many other countries such has Australia, Germany, USA, Sth Africa etc. All it would take is a group of English MPS, and give each parliament similar powers. It’s bit silly in this day and age to say Westminster or County Councils, but then again for NI, Wales and and Scotland its different. Once you allow these differences you are de facto admitting that it should break up.

    Why do it? Takes the wind out of SNP sails (devolution max given to them), takes the wind of the English Democarats etc as well. Gives meaning to tories ‘local democracy’. Sets Tories up as amodernising party. Maskes UK a logical place politically.

    And, as it would really reduce SNP, it would keep the Uion going for a bit longer.

    Much more important than the Tories splitting over the EU. How silly to have this even hit parliament. Withdrawing from the EU is a disastrous idea; why would the EU let us export to them if we spent a decade mucking the EU up by withdrawing from it? This EU issue- as is said in the opening article is an issue the vast majority don’t care about as important. The impression given is simply that of Tories divided.

  4. @John P Dick
    “That’s exacty how we feel about Westminster.”

    What aspect, exactly? To go back to my point, are you saying that you feel that 1. Westminster political institutions are “dysfunctional and largely unaccountable” in my words regarding Brussels
    or is your concern with
    2.”powers increasingly exercised (often badly or insensitively, with the general aim of uniformity)”

    If 1, then I am surprised. In terms of efficiency of decision making and ultimate accountability to the electorate for those decisions, the processes at Westminster seem pretty clear cut. They certainly compare favourably with the opaque processes in Brussels that you seem quite comfortable with.

    If 2, then it is I rather than you who should be concerned. Over the past three decades, the increasing centralisation of decision making powers in England is a concern, with a lack of concern to regional or local sensitivities quite apparent to a resident of the West Midlands. But I am surprised that Scots should still harbour the same criticisms, given how much of those powers have already been transferred to Edinburgh. In the case of Scotland, powers have been decreasingly, not increasingly exercised with the aim of uniformity across the UK.

  5. Jack – I agree. I have long supported a Federal UK, in which not only the four ‘home nations’ would have a place, but also, if they wished, the Overseas Territories and perhaps Crown Dependencies.

    I would also offer sub-regions the chance of some autonomy within the individual states… so Shetland and Orkney could become an autonomous region of Scotland, within a Federal UK etc.. etc..

  6. Going back to the removal of nuclear subs from Faslane.
    This has been on the cards for years and will occur come Scottish independents.
    Dave should consider the amount of money an alternative facility in England will cost to build. Indeed work should be starting quite soon on this project and can be financed from the aborting of his silly HS2 train.

  7. There are a couple of problems with federalisation…

    First is that if we simply divide up between NI, Wales, Scotland and England two problems occur… If each is given equal eight in the Federal government, then this hugely disenfranchises the bulk of the population in England. If they are give proportional weight, then Wales and Scotland would have little say at all to national matters.

    So you’re faced with having to break England up into regional government for fairness. And that’s something that most people in England don’t really want. Additionally, it could result in even more fractionation of what are currently national bodies.

  8. Anyone notice that Labour are spinning things as “Ed having to step in to save DC from his own party” this morning? If that takes hold, it would be a nasty double whammy, of making Ed look statesmanlike, and DC look a lot lot less so.

  9. @Chouen Lai

    Or we could accept that spending on an “Independent Nuclear Deterrent” has been an pricey white elephant. While HS2 will create many more jobs, and introduce more transport capacity in freight that will benefit the general economy greatly.

  10. Jack

    “If Unionists actually understood the issue they’d go for a Federal UK”

    Yes, but they don’t understand, they havn’t done it, and they wouldn’t be believed if they said they would do it, and it’s too late now.

  11. phil @ John B Dick

    Both, but mainly 2.

    Partly the problem is not the fault of Parliament, but the “national” press. We get English issues presented as British.

    There are issues in Health and Education in England where both this government and the last promote doctrinaire solutions that are bizarrely inappropriate to most of Scotland. We are protected by devolution, but there can be consequences.

    Consider the debates about schools: faith, grammar, private, academies, free, etc.

    Over much of Scotland the only issue is “How far away is the primary school?” A recent campaign to save a school from closure produced a video showing that the consequence would be that five-year olds would have a 50 minute commute over single track roads.

    Elsewhere a school was reopened for a single pupil. The population of the Island of Barra has a mostly Catholic population. How many and what type of school should they have?

    There are similar issues in Health. Choice is not what people want, it is access.

    You are right to say that the problem should be much less since devolution and it is, but that draws attention to the matters that remain reserved and raises the question about whether another thin slice off the proscuitto should be cut off and if that is done often enough, at some point ther is nothing left.

    Take Post Offices and Royal Mail. The post office in a remote rural or island area is very different from what it is in London and the SE. Of course the English taxpayer is happy to subsidise uneconomic post offices in the North, because it is a national service at a fixed price. We’re all in it together. It’s a Union.

    No?

    It must be Scotland’s Oil after all, then.

  12. Jayblanc

    If the matter is truly “national” then proportional would be appropriate but not as a voting bloc. If you had consttuency and regional list members as in Scotland then FPTP federal MP’s could be elected on the same regions.

  13. AW
    Brilliant piece of commentary/analysis. Thanks

  14. @jayblanc
    Bless you Jay, you always remind us of the left wing of the LD’s at their most naive. The horrid bomb is indeed an expensive white elephant, until some guy with a name similar to mine, threatens to live in Buckingham Palace.

    Whilst I am on the line to you, you continue to see the decline of Conservatism in every facet of political life. Miliband, putting himself in statesman like positions and Cameron looking like a right plonker. On the basis of these appreciations, why does every relevant poll which deals with party leader popularity, show Miliband falling into oblivion ?

  15. chouenlai

    “Going back to the removal of nuclear subs from Faslane.
    …..work should be starting quite soon on this project ..”

    Yes. quite so, but it won’t, will it?

    So we have the situation debated above.

  16. I’m not really convinced that Miliband and Labour have made the right decision on this one. Abstaining with lofty declarations about not intruding into private griefs would probably work. A free vote with a call to the Conservatives to do the same would probably work. Both would make Tory rebels feel reasonably relaxed about voting against the whip, though with some uncertainty.

    Voting for a referendum, with an announcement that Labour would campaign for the UK to stay in the EU, but also setting out the changes it wanted, might actually be the best decision. It would appeal to the public and look principled. It would really embarrass the Lib Dems because it is their manifesto position – especially as the policy was one that Clegg came up with off the top of his head and everyone else then had to justify. The possibility of changes in the EU could be justified with the likelihood of a swing left in other EU big players (France, Germany, Italy).

    What it might not do is maximise Conservative rebellion. But it would increase Tory MPs’ resentment against their leadership and resentment from the activists against MPs. If the motion actually got passed it would create endless problems for the coalition; if it doesn’t it still keeps the topic festering away in the Conservative Party.

    I’m not sure that the public is looking for ‘statesmanlike’ from the opposition at the moment, especially when it consists of backing the government on something that’s unpopular and alienating. People might prefer opposition based on principle and a willingness to debate the issues.

    It might be cunning to allow Tory rebellion to show, but longer-term strategy would not allow then this safety valve and let the pressure build up. Sometimes clever is better than cunning

  17. John B Dick

    Yes. I agree entirely with you that Unionists have missed the bus on federalism.

    They should have gone that way. But, in the old phrase, it is too little too late.

    In 1885 and 1893 Gladstone offered this a solution to Ireland’s english problem.

    But Unionism said No. Gladstone warned them that it would lead to total separation. They did not heed the warning.

    Now it is happening in Scotland.

    I do not envisage a return to the English heptarchy though.

  18. @jay blanc
    BTW, forgot to mention, a new nuclear sub facility “somewhere in England” would not be the work of 3 Sappers and an RN engineer. The numbers of navvies, semi skilled, skilled and very highly skilled persons involved to construct such a place would be considerable.
    So its not just Dave’s silly train that can create loads of jobs.

  19. @john b dick
    “So we have the situation debated above.”

    No sweat, the subs will be based in Norfolk Virginia, or even L’Orient, until a suitable birth in England is constructed. BTW, please don’t bitch about the loss of “Scottish Jobs”.

  20. @JayBlanc

    “Anyone notice that Labour are spinning things as “Ed having to step in to save DC from his own party” this morning? If that takes hold, it would be a nasty double whammy, of making Ed look statesmanlike, and DC look a lot lot less so.”

    Miliband and his team have got this tasty recipe straight out of the Cameron Cook Book and it’s one that he often employed, to good effect, against Blair on issues like Academies and Foundation Hospitals.”Look”, said Dave, “how I’m rescuing you from your lunatic fringe and divided party. If it wasn’t for us high minded Tories, putting national interest before party (don’t all laugh at the back there, please), one of your flagship policies wouldn’t have survived. You see, I rise above party politics when you do something I can agree with and I won’t oppose for opposing sake (please stop laughing at back, or I’ll get really, really cross!)”

    Dave could get his comeuppance tonight unless his Whips thumbscrews are particualrly effective over the next 8 hours!

  21. John B Dick – Always happy to subsidise rural post offices, and farming, schools and hospitals. Just so long as the country folk don’t tell me to butt-out of their business when it comes issues of wildlife and access. It is indeed a two-way street. :)

  22. “So its not just Dave’s silly train that can create loads of jobs.”

    Out of interest, are all the HS trains in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Russia, Poland and (soon) Switzerland all silly, or do different rules apply in the UK?

  23. @Chouen Lai

    While it would create temporary construction employment to move the trident basing… It’s would just be moving around the jobs, and not creating any additional lasting economic benefit. And the continuing support to Trident could be much better reallocated to the different parts of the services.

    While building HS2 will have a lasting boost to infrastructure, and improved freight capacity that will have a direct nation-wide improvement to the economy.

    (Incidentally, it’s somewhat galling to me that I find that my local council have spent £50 thousand of Council Tax funds towards a campaign and lobby fund against HS2… I do not recall being given an ‘opt out’ from *that* political funding!)

  24. chouenlai @ jayblanc

    “Whilst I am on the line to you, you continue to see the decline of Conservatism in every facet of political life. Miliband, putting himself in statesman like positions and Cameron looking like a right plonker.

    On the basis of these appreciations, why does every relevant poll which deals with party leader popularity, show Miliband falling into oblivion?”

    The obvious explanation is that Milliband is a right plonker too, and so is Clegg. All three are “Heir to Blair”. “putting himself in statesman-like positions” is not the same as actually being a statesman which you can never be if you are “a right plonker” and if that is what you are, the pretence will be obvious to people answering polls.

    That explanation fits all the facts you adduce, and is the only explanation that does.

    The profoundly flawed system they operate in is fine for right plonkers to play silly games designed for right plonkers to play at private schools and university debating societies. It isn’t any good for grown ups to govern a country.

    Scotland has a proper parliament. There are some plonkers who are remote-controlled by plonker Milliband, but not so many as there were, and the non-plonkers, Murdo Fraser for example, are of the opinion that they could hardly fare worse if they broke free and did their own plonking.

    At Westminster, one team has to make a show of being in charge of the government, and they get to indulge their pet ideas, which is sometimes a distracton from playing plonker games.

  25. @JOHN B DICK

    “Should we encourage prostitution on the grounds that it creates carbon-neutral employment?”

    Some sort of turbine to harness the bed spring movement might be an idea. Tax free too! :)

  26. chouenlai @ john b dick

    “BTW, please don’t bitch about the loss of “Scottish Jobs”.

    The Labour MSP for Dumbarton, their obese Health spokesman will do enough of that so nobody else need bother. Of all Labour’s 15 surviving FPTP MSP’s in 2011, her share of the poll was, I think, the least affected.

    A community can accept higher risks for the greater good. Diverted WW2 unmanned bombers were diverted to the SE of London where there would be fewer casualties, and people accepted this.

    Cancer clusters as a sacrifice in the cause of wider defence is one thing, for WMD offensive weapons is another and for jobs is a third.

    The money spent on Trident could turn the workforce into lottery winners

  27. @CHRIS NEVILLE SMITH
    The silliness of European trains is a matter for the Europeans. Dave’s silly train is totally unessential.

  28. THESHEEP

    “What would happen (and I appreciate this is both unlikely and possibly inflammatory given the reasoned debate above) if the UK left the EU prior to Scotland becoming independent?
    I assume that Scotland would no longer have successor state standing, and so membership would not be automatic…”

    I assume that you are right. Though, in reality, re-establishing independence from a political union, takes dome time.

    While the decision on principle can be taken quickly, there would be a period of time during which EU members would be free to be “flexible” in deciding whether a component part of the UK had actually left!

  29. @john b dick
    Turning the workforce into lottery winners is not a great priority for me. Defending the realm is. As you and Jay have pointed out, it costs a bomb, (pun intended). But then so does the NHS. When people cease to get sick, we can do away with the later. When the world ceases to throw up monstrous regimes led by psychopaths, we can do away with the former.

  30. @THEMUSHYPEA

    “Perhaps the saddest thing for me about this whole debate though is that is polarises people. We are being forced to chose an even more narrow ethnic/national identity. We must be either Scottish or English or Welsh etc.. and then fight out which system is best for our tribe, Union or not. The idea that we may not be one or the other is being driven out as the only way to survive is to play the nationalist card for both sides. Siggghhhh.”

    I’m waiting for the clans to get back to arguing. Nothing like a bit of sheep stealing and midnight pillaging to keep the nation alert. :)

  31. THEMUSHYPEA

    “Perhaps the saddest thing for me about this whole debate though is that is polarises people. We are being forced to chose an even more narrow ethnic/national identity. We must be either Scottish or English or Welsh etc.. and then fight out which system is best for our tribe, Union or not.”

    You are conflating the concepts of identity, national identity and citizenship of a demos.

    The former SNP MSP Dr. Ian McKee, had no problem with describing his national identity as English (on 6 December 2007 he intervened in a debate in the Scottish Parliament to declare “I am an Englishman” ) while also identifying with the people of Scotland, where he has lived for many years and wishing to be a citizen of an independent Scotland.

  32. TheMushyPea @ John B Dick

    “Always happy to subsidise rural post offices, and farming, schools and hospitals. Just so long as the country folk don’t tell me to butt-out of their business when it comes issues of wildlife and access. It is indeed a two-way street.”

    Access was sorted by the first Labour coalition dusting off legislation that had been around in Westminster for decades. I think you would be surprised.

    Wildlife issues are receiving attention and there are dozens of them. The Rural Affairs minister and his environmental colleagues are working through all kinds of things that I know little about using words I cannot spell. If you know more about these thigs than I do, I am certain you would be impressed.

  33. “The silliness of European trains is a matter for the Europeans.”

    So can you please advise me what’s so silly about European trains. Bear in my mind I have actually travelled on them and don’t see what the problem is.

    “Dave’s silly train is totally unessential.”

    So what is your proposed solution to the imminent lack of capacity between Rugby and London?

  34. @chris neville smith
    I have no view whatever about European trains.
    I hear very different stories about , necessity, lack of capacity and all the rest of the pro argument where I live.
    This thing really is DC’s baby, it is costing the Conservative party dear already. I would go so far as to say it could cost the Tories the next GE. That comment will give many posters a bigger boost than to nights poll showing Labour with a 12 point lead. This matter is no different to the EU or any other political issue. You will give 26.5 good reasons why the HS2 should go ahead, every Tory politician in Ox & Bucks will give 27 reasons why it should not.

  35. Given that all three of the main parties are behind HS2 (indeed it was Labour who proposed it in the first place), how is this going to throw the election?

  36. @CHOUENLAI

    I find it ironic that the Conservatives suffered at the polls through a lack of infrastructure improvements in their last tenure, and they supposedly stand to lose at the next one for doing the opposite.

    HS trains is one of a few ways that the government can directly improve the national economy, without fiddling with fiscal or economic policies. HS broadband to 90%+ of the country being another.

  37. @ CHRIS NEVILLE SMITH & STATGEEK

    Because 4 or more rock solid Tory seats will very possibly go UKIP or something equally daft if Cameron persists in this matter. He has been warned at the highest level, but seems unwilling to budge. If things are as tight as currently supposed, the Tories most certainly afford to loose these seats.

  38. FROM ABOVE
    The Tories cannot afford to loose these seats.

  39. @John B Dick

    As someone who often talks about “Heir to Blair”, and I don’t disagree with you about how he’s influenced the style of all 3 current party leaders, particularly Cameron and Clegg, I thought you’d be amused by a Private Eye Cover that appeared at the time that Cameron won the Tory Leadership in September 2005. I hadn’t seen it when it was first published (I’d ceased to subscribe to the magazine since my student days in the 70s), but I saw it in this weekend’s press when they reprinted some old vintage front covers to celebrate the magazine’s 50th anniversary.

    Anyway, this cover had a picture of Blair on one side and a fresh faced Cameron on the other. Under Blair’s picture it said “Before” and under Cameron’s it said “After”. Above the photographs was a headline that read: “World’s First Face Transplant a Success!”

    A prescient and amusing piece of satire, and just watch Cameron’s mannerisms and verbal inflexions in an interview now, or at a Press Conference, and tell me that he isn’t morphing into Blair before our very eyes. It’s scary, folks!

  40. The Tories certainly can afford to lose these seats if UKIP’s the threat. If we have a hung parliament that comes down to 4 UKIP seats, they will almost certainly back a Tory-led government over a Labour-led one.

  41. @CHRIS NEVILLE SMITH
    My personal preference will be Tory MP’s plus the poison dwarf in these seats and no reliance on UKIP support.
    They are the BNP with a crease in their trousers.
    I am certainly not convinced of the need for HS2 at a cost of Farage as my MP.

  42. I find it utterly astonishing that any debate on Europe has been allowed to take place at this time – what on earth are government business managers for? It may be democracy in action and an opening up of the process to uiblic concerns but it’s also a wholly unnecesssary and spectacular airing of grievances in public by the Tories, where their rank and file will feel steam rollered and angry at DC , and where DC cannot win. If he appears eurosceptic at all – then it weakens any leverage he has in the EU ( he has virtually none anyway) and puts more strains on the coalition, if he does not then he is seen to be hopelessly out of touch with Tory grassroots on this issue ( Tory members hate the EU – they tolerate it at best) . What a hideous spot to find himself in. He could and possibly should have taken a coward’s way out and had the debate while he was overseas – I think I would have in his position.

    Miliband can look statesmanlike and consensual and centrist on this ( all of the areas where he has appeared weakest and most vulnerable to date)

  43. If the best reason the government can come up with for a U-turn in for a major project, HS2 or otherwise, is to pander the the Tory Right in a few constituencies facing competition from UKIP, I think it would cost them a lot more than four seats elsewhere in the country.

  44. ICEMAN
    “Miliband can look statesmanlike and consensual and centrist on this ( all of the areas where he has appeared weakest and most vulnerable to date)”

    Jay has already made the point which I have cut and pasted. I am more than happy to have a sportsmans bet with you, that Miliband gains diddly sqwat from this.

  45. @chris neville smith
    If I thought for one moment that the Tories would pick up 2/3rds of the West Midlands & Brum due to HS2, I would agree with you. To hell with the Chiltern heartlands on this occasion, but unless the economy gets better very quickly,
    (unlikely), the vaunted marginals could well be gonna’s.

  46. It’s not just the West Midlands and Brum you have to consider, it’s the confidence of the rest of the country to have the ability to make to decisions and stick to them without pandering to marginals. U-turns on major projects due to electoral calculations in a few seats looks bad. U-turns to appease nimbies in margins (and yes, that is how it would come across if it;s done the way you suggest) is political masochism.

  47. @Jayblanc ( and anyone else )

    HS2 is a passenger not freight line.

  48. … which will free up badly-needed capacity on a line that is struggling to cope with freight and intermediate-distance services.

  49. @CHRIS NEVILLE SMITH
    My initial point about Ox & Bucks is because they are far from marginal, they are the Tory heartland. Any way, only time will tell.

  50. Okay then. Replace “pandering to nimbies in marginals” with “pandering to nimbies in constituencies you’re worried you’ll lose to UKIP”. I don’t think it’s going to be any more credible.

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