29 May 2012

More than four fifths of Tory members want in/out vote pledge in manifesto

Is Euro-scepticism in the Tory Party hardening into Euro-rejectionism? And how will the leadership ride that wave? A poll of Tory members conducted by Conservative Home for Channel 4 News suggests that 70 per cent of them would vote to come out of the EU if there was an in/out referendum now.

Number 10 sources said that was pretty much where they had thought activist opinion was (The source added that he thought up to 100 Tory MPs would vote the same way if there was a referendum now).

The poll also suggests that the pressure to have an absolute non-negotiable commitment to a referendum on the EU in the next Tory manifesto may well be insurmountable now. The referendum pledge might take the form of an immediate in/out referendum or – the more popular version amongst senior cabinet ministers – could see a commitment to have a post-dated referendum to be preceded by a renegotiation of Britain’s membership terms.

The idea behind the latter suggesting would be that Brussels would buckle and concede repatriation of loads of pooled powers and trim down to a free trade area agreement under threat of a British walk-out. In the Conservative Home poll, 83% of Tory members want one or the other referendum in the next Tory manifesto. They’ll want it marked “non-negotiable” in any coalition talks as well I suspect.

On top of the internal pressures there are external ones. A Labour shadow cabinet meeting earlier this month discussed the possibility of backing a referendum on Europe. I hear that Andy Burnham was one of a handful of shadow ministers who sounded in favour of the idea.

And then there is the march of UKIP. One source close to David Cameron is convinced that UKIP will top the poll in the 2014 Euro Elections. They came second in share of the (low turnout) vote last time round. The source said No.10 was braced for full-scale panic in thepParty at that point.

The speculation around all this has been hotting up recently (see also this Spectator article) and one of the last remnants of the old Europhile tendency in the Tory Party, Ken Clarke, added his near unique voice to the debate on Radio 4 this morning. He said, on the idea of having a referendum commitment in the next Tory manifesto:

“It’s a complete non sequitur.. . a complete irrelevance…  I can’t think of anything sillier to do…  I’m not keen on referendums… It’s just the frenzied Eurosceptics who believe in the bogies under the bed… the demand for a referendum comes from a few right-wing journalists and extreme nationalist politicians.” 

His tolerance of what he sees as silliness could be severely tested before too long.

Here’s the poll:

We asked Conservative Home to survey Tory Party members over the last three days. They contacted 1,604 Tory members between 26 to 28 May and here are the poll responses:

1. Thinking of the next Conservative General Election manifesto, should it…?

Have a commitment to an in/out referendum to be held in the next Parliament: 42 per cent

Commit to a renegotiation of Britain’s terms of membership with no explicit referendum promise: 17 per cent

Commit to a renegotiation of Britain’s terms of membership to be followed by an in/out referendum: 41 per cent

2. If there was an In/Out referendum tomorrow would you vote?

In: 23 per cent

Out: 70 per cent

3. We also offered the Tory Party members a series of options (replicating a poll Conservative Home tried last Autumn results here):

The UK should remain full members of the EU and participate in further EU integration: 4 per cent

The UK should remain full members of the EU but reject future integration: 8 per cent

The UK should secure substantial renegotiation of its existing relationship with the EU but remain full members: 34 per cent

The UK should leave the EU altogether and negotiate a separate trade agreement: 54 per cent

4.  Thinking 10 years ahead, do you think Britain will still be in the EU?

Yes, Britain will still be in the EU and the EU won’t be much changed: 26 per cent

Yes, Britain will still be in the EU but the EU will be significantly reformed: 38 per cent

No, Britain will be outside of the EU: 36 per cent

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11 reader comments

  1. pottsy189 says:

    I’ff they dont call for a referendum at election time UKIP will walk the floor with the conservatives, the lybour party could then get in ! what a killer for the UK

  2. Philip Edwards says:


    “Extreme nationalist politicians”……well, there’s a slip of the tongue!

    Name them, Ken, name them!

  3. OultonBen says:

    Polls need to beware of “Leading Questions”, and even the Order of asking questions should be considered very carefully.
    Here by immediately being contentious with Q1, the whole poll is loaded !
    Not many GCSE-Maths/Stats marks to be awarded here !

  4. andie says:

    they should think themselves lucky they were asked

  5. ken ord. says:

    they still don’t get it we all want a vote in/or out simple.they wont give one because they know what the answer will be.

  6. Garlic Gob says:

    The “Bill of Rights” of 1668 (It sets out what the Monarch and Parliament can and cannot do)clearly states that noone can give British sovereingty to another country or person. That is why no monarch can be a Roman Catholic (He woild be subservient to the Pope). So how the Hell was the Maastrict treaty allowed to be enforced. I believe that Betty Boothroyd confirmed that the BOR still in force in 1992.

  7. Mudplugger says:

    So one fifth of Tory members think they have a chance of winning an election without a clear commitment to an IN/OUT EU Referendum ?

    They’ve been at the gin bottle again.

  8. hadhad says:

    A manifesto promise will not secure my vote. Why should I believe it? They’ve cried wolf too often and have lost credibility.

    It UKIP for me.

  9. Saltaire Sam says:

    My instincts are that a united Europe, including UK, is better than a set of individual countries vying just for self interest.

    But the EC doesn’t make it easy for people like me to defend it.

    It’s handling of the euro crisis – throwing all the punishment on ordinary Greeks while the wealthy few continue to stash their non-taxed money in offshore accounts, is criminal.

    But what to expect from an organisation that is a huge gravy train for everyone on board, that wastes millions every year shunting between Brussels and Strasbourg, and which undermines its position as an independent arbiter by intefering in things where it is not needed.

    Unless there is to be massive reform, I might well find myself voting against the EC even though the thought of its disapperance concerns me.

    1. Mudplugger says:

      Coming from an arch Europhile like you, Sam, that just emphasises the scale of the problem. You are to be applauded for your honesty.

      Even those who have wholeheartedly supported the European vision are now having to face up to the reality of what is being delivered, and it’s nothing like what it said on the tin. And the ‘reform’ you seek is never going to happen – the gravy-train institutions won’t let it.

      Writing as a long-term Eurosceptic, it’s tempting to say ‘I Told You So’, but that’s not helping anyone. It’s most important that all those who now can see a better future for Britain (and most other European states too) by re-establishing independent sovereignty outside the EU, can come together and make it happen.

      Forget party labels and old slogans – this issue trumps all that. We need a referendum, we need it now and we need it to get us out.

      Then normal politics can resume and we’ll go back to friendly disagreement about other, less important things.

  10. Open says:

    Never mind a referendum lock on FUTURE tnfesarrs of power , lets have a simple referendum on the EU itself,ie ,do we want to be a member of this corrupt organisation or , do we come out completely , saving billions of pounds stirling , and rule our own lives by our own means and have unrestricted world wide trade , which we are not allowed to do under the EU law.

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