We won’t get any actual polling numbers until tonight or tomorrow, and certainly won’t get a clear handle on any impact upon voting intention until at least tomorrow, but here’s a few initial thoughts on the European referendum.

Referendums are popular, but most people don’t care much about Europe. Polls consistently show that people support the idea of a referendum on Europe, but they also show people would like a referendum on almost any subject you care to ask about. This is because a poll question asking “Should there be a referendum on X” is the equivalent of asking “should you be allowed a say on this, or should politicans decide it for you.” Hence polls showing people approve of the referendum don’t necessarily show that people think it is an important issue and are crying out for a referendum on the subject. Asked about what the most issues facing the country are, Europe comes low down the list. Asked what the important issues facing people themselves and their families, it is even lower down.

More important will be the impact on perceptions of Cameron. That isn’t to say the announcement won’t have some impact on the polls. If we go back to Cameron’s European “veto” in December 2011 it produced a significant boost in Conservative fortunes. However looking at the underlying figures, this mainly seemed to be on the back of improved perceptions of Cameron: people thought he was more decisive, a stronger leader and so on. Keep an eye his personal ratings this time – will it make people see Cameron as a strong and effective leader, will it make it look as if he has more purpose and drive, is more in control of events?

…and on the Conservative Party. The same applies to the Conservative party, which at time in past months has seemed riven by internal dissent and splits. If the announcement can make the party more united and loyal to its leadership it will probably improve perceptions of the government’s competence and capability, one of the key problems that has been facing it since last year. On the other hand, they need to be careful not to bang on about Europe too much…remember it is not a particularly salient issue, the general public care more about the economy, pensions, crime, health and so on, so if the Conservatives now proceed to obsess about the issue it will only make them look out of touch.

It may bring back some UKIP support. As we’ve discussed before, despite its genesis as a anti-EU party, support for UKIP is not actually driven by opposition to the EU. Counterintuitive it may be, but most people who vote UKIP do not think that Europe is an important issue facing the country. Their vote is driven more by concerns over immigration, disillusionment with the government and general unhappiness with modernity. Nevertheless, some are driven by Europe, and the referendum may well chime with the worldview of some others.

356 Responses to “Some thoughts on Europe”

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  1. I take Rin N’s point. We should always remember when foreign leaders are expecting elections. We didn’t hear much from Italy, did we?

  2. Good Evening All.

    Very cold here on Bournemouth beach road.

    I think many employers like wage immigrants for something called the free labour market.

    In 2001 the vast majority of voters opposed the Euro and William Hague lost his seven days to save the £ campaign. Hence the Tories may not necessarily benefit from a ‘low salience’ issue when all the fuss dies down.

  3. TOH

    Go on then

  4. Not anticipating any change in Lab VI as a result of Referendum stuff.

    The interesting point is movement from UKIP to Cons-or not , as the case may be.

    Base line is the YouGov POll before last-ie:-

    2010 Vote.
    Cons to UKIP 18% pts

    This was 13% this morning.

  5. CHRISLANE1945

    Welsh FM thinks Irish will benefit from British PM announcement.


    If the Empire was still in place, there would be none of this damned nonsense!

  6. Regarding statistics.If they becme detached from what people feel is reality,do
    They not become worthless.Just thnkng of the latest crime figures which have been challenged,and also the employment figures which do not seem to fit with
    All the business collapses.Just asking.

  7. @ Colin
    “Not anticipating any change in Lab VI as a result of Referendum stuff.

    The interesting point is movement from UKIP to Cons-or not , as the case may be.

    Base line is the YouGov POll before last-ie:-

    2010 Vote.
    Cons to UKIP 18% pts

    This was 13% this morning.”

    Im not so sure we will see any significant rush back to the Tories yet Colin, at least not for a while anyway.

    I think the movement will occur later in this parliament.

  8. Sun tweet( from PB)

    Sun Politics [email protected]_Politics

    Sun/YouGov poll tonight: Labour lead down to single figures – CON 33%, LAB 42%, LD 10%, UKIP 10%. Cameron is closing the gap a bit.

  9. @SMukesh

    That’s from 21st January. Since then the Labour lead has gone back to 12%.

  10. I meant gone up to 12%.

  11. Oh i forgot to ask in my last post about that young lad who was a regular poster on here a few months back.

    His name escapes me but he changed parties like the wind, he also went full meltdown at Anthony.

    Has he been back since as i did enjoy reading his posts ? :)

  12. @ Blue Bob

    Are you hinting that you are that “young lad” & are smugly drawing attention to having got around Anthony’s ban?

  13. OLD NAT.
    Good Evening to you.

    Thanks for the link. Ireland unfree… said Emmett.

  14. Mike Smithson has looked at the timing of the veto bounce compared to yesterday’s YG poll.

    “Correctly there has been a lot of discussion over the timing of the fieldwork for today’s YouGov and I thought it useful to look at what happened on the night of the Cameron EU veto Dec 8/9 2011.

    “Fieldwork for the poll began on the evening before as per usual and continued the following day. It happened at 0400 on the morning of the 9th and got widely reported in the breakfast bulletins and thereafter.

    “As can be seen from the chart there was an immediate impact. The CON share went up from 35% to 38% growing over the next few days to 41%.

    “So that news relating directly to the EU saw an uplift of 6% over a week with a fair bit happening in the poll that was in the field overnight.

    “Cameron’s big EU referendum statement was made at 0800 yesterday and was being widely covered in the morning bulletins. Yet there was no change in the CON share on the day before.”

    Thanks for your interesting post.

    Labour can take the risky position of being unambiguously pro Europe, arguing for reform from within. Maybe that will help to draw in some Lib Dems and progressive tory voters.

  16. @Amber Star

    And nothing from the Sun as yet so even if there is some change today it will be within the margins of error.

  17. Liz H – I note the tumbleweed as predicted has been rolling across the sun politics twitterfeed over the last few day……wonder why?

    Wouldn’t be the double figure lead would it?

    Who’d a thowt it :-)

  18. bluebob

    Was he stark staring bonkers and called Max? I think he imploded with an excessive sense of self-importance.

    I don’t remember him changing parties a lot though.



    Not expecting anything-that way not disappointed.

  20. @ Liz H

    Yes, I noticed the Mike Smithson article which I copied to here, when I was checking PB for Sun tweets – MS usually reproduces them on PB very soon after they’ve been tweeted.

    I think that the Sun has the YG poll by 9pm, which is why YG used to release it at 10pm. If there’s no Sun tweet in the next hour then today’s YG is probably okay for Labour. Fingers x’d. :-)

  21. @Red Rag

    EdM has managed to silence the Sun. That would make a great headline.

  22. Liz

    Not for the Sun

  23. The fascinating economic & geo-political effects of shale gas :-


  24. @Amber Star

    IMO today’s VI might stay the same but the lead will go up tomorrow. The DC speech has done nothing to silence the Eurosceptics. The DT is reporting that BJ and some MPs are not ruling out voting no to Europe. The Sun is tweeting that Nick Clegg is admitting that capital spending was cut too much. Osborne has been asked to change plan A by the IMF. And Andy Burnham has given a fantastic speech today to the King’s Fund on integrating the physical, mental and social care for patients.

  25. LIZ H.
    Good Evening to you. I agree about Andy Burnham, a man who is growing in stature and whose speech and idea on Health provision were wonderful to hear.

  26. Hello. I meant to say this before, but haven’t had the time.

    Cameron’s speech was so heavily trailed and leaked, I’m convinced that any bounce he was going to get happened before the actual speech happened. To us political geeks, the speech itself contained no fireworks and perhaps was a bit wishy washy in that it contained nothing extra to what had been trailed except for Cameron’s reiteration that he really doesn’t want us out of Europe.

    For the man-in-the-street or the man-in-the-not-yet-closed-down-pub, the headlines about the speech must have appeared confusing – Cameron’s big initiative is that he is going to hold a referendum in five year’s time on something he’s not sure about himself. The MITS may not follow all the latest developments in politics, but he does know that the Tories aren’t guaranteed to be in power in five years time, and so I think that the headlines will have read like the biggest fudge ever.

    So, I think that the polls will actually decrease for the tories in the wake of the speech, on the premise that any bounce they were going to have actually happened before the speech was made.

  27. House Of Twits [email protected]

    RT @MSmithsonPB CORRECTION Tonight’s YouGov shares are CON 33%: LAB 42%: LD 10%: Ukip 10%

    Mike Smithson [email protected]

    CORRECTION: LAB leads in YouGov polls this week: SUN 9%: TUES 9%: WED 10%: THURS 12%: FR 9% – so hard to identify a referendum effect

  28. @CHRISLANE1945 – Good evening to you too.

    The Labour Party are very lucky to have such a forward thinking team who are not chained to the past but are trying to find new ways of doing things for the benefit of all and not just one section of the community.

  29. > I think the movement will occur later in this parliament.

    Movement from UKIP back to the Tories was going to happen *anyway* as the election neared, unless Farrage had managed to convince everyone that UKIP had an epoch changing headwind behind them, and that’s not going to happen with the big business still paying the Tories to make things favourable for them, and media largely falling into line behind big business. UKIP is being used as a threat, a stick to beat Davey with, and it’s unlikely that it’ll start having the numbers to make them a realistically electable threat (around 20%).

  30. @Katie – this from Mike Smithson:

    Mike Smithson @MSmithsonPB
    SECOND CORRECTION. Ignore Tweets on tonight’s YouGov poll. The figures that were published earliet were from earlier in the week.

  31. There was a report out recently saying that 50% of firms ( this was retail I think ) expect to make redundancies shortly. That normally puts share prices up. As Alec keeps mentioning productivity is quite low at the moment. I’ve just been reading an article from the dailyjobcuts site in the US saying that firms in the US are using software and automation to cut workforces and increase output. Begbie Traynor the accountants have recently said that local authorities and NHS trusts are among the five industries most likely to go bankrupt ( implying their management is
    among tthe worst in the UK). Care homes were also in the top five.

  32. Katie – Smithson has just done a third correction and said ignore tonights poll on his tweets. No Sun tweet is generally good for Labour

  33. @chrislane1945 – “In 2001… William Hague lost his seven days to save the £ campaign.”

    You mustn’t forget that Hague did increase Tory representation in the HoC from 165 to 166 MPs (9 gains and 8 losses).

    With only a score of Tory MPs retiring there had been intense competition for any available safe seat, and there was a concerted campaign to select only eurosceptic candidates. One “euro-moderate” candidate, Andrew Mitchell (the very same) complained about the tactics deployed against him in five constituencies (including Westminster, Wealden, Faversham and Witney) before he secured a berth at Sutton Coalfield.

    Of the new intake MPs in 2001, all except one voted for an avowed eurosceptic in the leadership election… and no it wasn’t Cameron or Osborne who voted for Clarke, but one Boris Johnson.

    Fast forward, where is William Hague now? For that matter who persuaded Cameron to demand that the EU renounces “ever closer union”, and would still be defence secretary but for an “error of judgment”?

    The Tories managed to keep reasonably quiet about Europe in their 2005 and 2010 campaigns – but it will be back with a bang in 2015. Did I hear someone say “we’ve got our Party back”?

  34. People clearly never learn from history, it’s clearly evident on here. Just continue to dismiss people’s concerns and then just wait for the next country to turn fascist and act all shocked.

    Will it be Greece, will it be Germany or France, Italy maybe, who knows maybe a completely different one?

    When concerns about issues are just dismissed as “oh its a cultural thing” or “oh your just mistaken” then you get incidents like Breivik in Norway.

    It’s ironic that the without the dismissive left you’d starve the far right.

    Also it’s plain BS about “only areas with low migrants” take it you didn’t watch the episode of Question time from Boston, Lincoln.

  35. My money is on Greece.

  36. Never mind Labour & the Conservatives, what are Eden Hazard’s approval ratings tonight?

  37. Has anyone tweeted in the last few minutes? Seems to gave gone quiet.

  38. @ Barnaby

    Who he?

    BTW, Congrats to your son; I hope he enjoys his new job!

  39. @PaulCroft

    Looks like we will have to wait until tomorrow morning. I think/am hoping that means Labour’s lead hasn’t gone down.

    Ben Stewart, Greenpeace Head of Media has just tweeted something from Davos that might upset BJ.

  40. @Amber Star

    Hazard – a Chelsea player who kicked a ball boy in a match at Swansea I think.

  41. The ball boy was asking for it..

    And I can’t stand Chelsea…

  42. @ MitM

    Angela Merkel & David Cameron are beginning to be seen as the brakes of the EU. They are determined to pursue austerity without giving enough thought to the potential social & political consequences.

    One must hope that they are the luckiest politicians ever & the global economy improves on their watch thanks to the efforts of others – most notably President Obama. He’s had the good sense to make employment his benchmark economic indicator. If only the EU would follow his lead.

  43. @ Neil A

    The ball boy was asking for it..
    Did he attack the Chelsea player?

  44. @Amber,

    Worse… he deliberately obstructed play….

    For what its worth, I think Hazard was trying to dislodge the ball which the ballboy was seeking to hide under his ample frame. Still a “reckless” assault, but its not as if he was trying to hurt him (and in fact didn’t).

  45. Mike Smithson has also been tweeting about a Populus poll… on balance Cameron’s speech seems not to have gone down so well with the UKIP audience:

    “Just 8 per cent of UKIP supporters in Populus poll said Dave’s speech had made them more likely to vote Tory. 17% said less likely.”

    But: “CAM tops Populus list with 36% saying he’s most trusted to negotiate with EU. EdM got 18%, Farage 10% & Clegg 5%.”

  46. I don’t think Angela Merkel and David Cameron are advocating the same position, after all the UK can only dream of a recovery like Germany’s.

    But what I think is evident is now that Sarkozy has gone, Merkel sees Cameron as her main ally. Of the big 5, France is socialist, Italy is under a technocrat, and Spain while Conservative, is far too weak politically and economically to be Merkel’s ally.

  47. I think BJ must have read that tweet. He is gunning for Cameron. The DT is reporting that Boris will demand that the Government ‘junks the rhetoric of austerity’ and invests in housing and trasport.

  48. or even transport.

  49. @ Neil A

    Thank you. If the ball boy wasn’t hurt then, IMO, it’s not a big deal.

  50. @R Huckle

    “In regard to polling/election, actually Labour may benefit from being pro-EU, as voters who fear leaving the EU may vote Labour to stop the Tories.”

    I think Cameron has tried to convince people he’s pro-EU, but also pro-UK. Miliband with his ‘no referendum’ moment if anything has said he’s anti-democracy, or that’s what the media will say.

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