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Westlake Legal Group > Party Members and Organisation

Ed Hall: Enough is enough. I cannot bring myself to vote Conservative this May.

Management consultant Ed Hall is a former award-winning BBC broadcaster and political campaigner, and long-time Conservative activist. 

I am going to have to go on a brief electoral holiday as a Tory voter, as I simply cannot see how in all good conscience I can put a cross in the Conservative box this May.

This isn’t an easy decision. Since being one of just a couple of Tory-supporting pupils at a very pro-CND school in the 1980s,I have supported the Conservatives in every way I could. As a young man, I worked for members of both Houses of Parliament, I’ve sat on committees in two constituencies, I have been part of selection committees for MPs and councillors, including such different political voices as Michael Portillo and Charles Tannock MEP.

My first election campaigning was against Kate Hoey in the 1989 Vauxhall by-election, and my most recent activity was working hard on the ground to see the successful election of the excellent Jamie Greene MSP in 2016: nearly three decades of activism.

I have spent my hours outside Tube stations with leaflets, I have knocked up doors in constituencies up and down the country, I canvassed hard in North London estates for Boris Johnson for his second term as Mayor, just as I wore out shoe leather for Richard Benyon in Newbury in 2005. In 2015, I spent hours in a grubby constituency office making call after call to try and elect Simon Marcus to replace Glenda Jackson in Hampstead and Kilburn: we came within a thousand votes.

I’ve written publicly and privately on policy matters, contributed where I can to Conservative thinking, and was the runner up to be our parliamentary candidate in both Exeter and Hammersmith in 2015.

I’ve donated thousands of pounds to the party, and I have (more than once) been the fool who overpays for Thatcher memorabilia at our auctions and dinners. When people say, ‘He’s a Tory!’, they mean me.

Of course, I don’t always agree with many of our MPs on lots of things, and I was an activist who strongly supported the libertarian and common-sense adoption of gay marriage as a sound Conservative policy. I don’t agree with my friend Charles Tannock on Europe, and I don’t agree with Peter Bone on equality and discrimination. Being a Conservative has always meant being part of a broad church, where we argue and debate and agree a common platform; I’ve accepted that, and I think my moderate, liberal, libertarian wing has won more battles than it’s lost over the years.

And so why do I need a break? It’s obvious really, but I think the party has lost control of itself, and is wrapped up in a bizarre Emperor’s New Clothes fantasy that anyone anywhere is taking it seriously. We have to stop this insanity, and we have to stop now. Since the catastrophic 2017 election led by a tiny group of Number 10 advisors who listened to nobody, we have changed from being the party of common sense and sound judgement, to a parliament of fools, led by a Prime Minister who is as sensitive to outside advice and opinion now as she was when she introduced the Dementia Tax in our 2017 manifesto. Am I the only person who cringes when she quotes that document as gospel in the Brexit debate, as I recall it was the same manifesto that persuaded a million Conservative voters to desert us or stay at home?

James Cleverly, whom I rate very highly, tweeting with pride and loyalty about his appointment to the Department for the Exiting the European Union, is probably the piece of tragi-comedy that pushes me off the edge. Has he lost his mind? His very job title is dotty 1984 Newspeak: he is the emergency last-gasp choice to enter revolving door of the Department for Not Exiting the European Union. A more failed, farcical joke department you would be pushed to make up: it doesn’t even have a proper office building. It’s a pretend department with a mish-mash of officials borrowed from elsewhere, using borrowed desks and borrowed meeting rooms all over Whitehall. Like the whole Brexit process, the department is a sham, with no executive powers, no authoritative voice, and not even a direct route to the so-called talks.

In 2016 we voted to leave the EU. I was on the fence for a while during the referendum campaign, but ultimately, I voted to leave. As far as I’m concerned, that’s that. Despite the obvious incompetence and poor preparation for the 2017 election, I supported May. I thought triggering Article 50 without a plan for what we wanted afterwards was a mistake, and I thought agreeing to the EU’s refusal to agree to twin-track talks was also a mistake, but I voted Conservative as I have done my whole life because I took our Brexit commitment, and May, at her word. I stuck with it.

What I see before me now is a government without a majority carrying out actions without a manifesto mandate, pitting executive power against a parliament that does not reflect the public mood, and a shattering series of broken promises. I see a party in full, free-flowing meltdown, with ministers actually voting against each other, and bitter arguments in local associations that are tearing apart lifelong friendships.

I can’t support that. Despite the practical issues and potential consequences, I don’t see how we can continue without a general election, or at the very least a new leader. When we didn’t leave on 29th March it was time for an election, for good or bad. That’s basic democratic stuff. May doesn’t represent me, and she doesn’t represent almost anyone I know. I can’t stand on the doorsteps in May and tell people to vote for her party, despite the excellent work our councillors do up and down the country. I’d like to because I know and respect many of them, but I can’t put leaflets through doors with May or this government on them.

So, I’m taking an electoral holiday.

I’m flirting with the Brexit Party, albeit worried about the influence of the dotty or dangerous far right, or I might go Green, or frankly even Raving Loony. Where is the Pirate Party when you need it? The simple reality is, that with Brexit as a single-issue subject, and with a lifetime of Tory voting and activism behind me, I simply cannot pretend any longer that I have any plans whatsoever to tick the Tory box.
I suspect I’m not alone.

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What proportion of Tory members will vote for the Brexit Party?

Yesterday’s launch of the Brexit Party has inevitably left many observers wondering if Nigel Farage can repeat the breakthrough he managed with UKIP.

That requires us to look at a bit of recent history.

What actually happened in the heyday of the ‘People’s Army’ is more complex than the popular shorthand. Yes, there were fully fledged recruits to the UKIP cause – including ex-Tories, former Labour voters, and not inconsiderable numbers of people who were previously non-voters – but that was only part of the picture.

In practice, a lot of people split their votes between parties at different types of election. This has always happened, and is particularly visible in some areas when different types of election happen on the same day.

UKIP and the European elections were uniquely well-suited to delivering such vote-splitting. They had other messages and policies, of varying quality, but leaving the EU was obviously their most famous, and most fundamental. The European elections offered the perfect chance to give Brussels and the other parties a blunt rebuke – crucially as a free hit, without it affecting your council tax or the composition of the Government.

So that’s what people did: when UKIP won the 2014 European elections, their vote share in the local election on the same day was almost ten percentage points lower.

Plenty of otherwise lifelong Conservative voters backed UKIP at European elections. So, for that matter, did quite a lot of Conservative Party members. (That was one reason why David Cameron’s ”fruitcakes” attack went down so badly – plenty in his party had ex-Tory who were now in UKIP, and/or had voted UKIP themselves at the Euros.) I wouldn’t be surprised if some Conservative MPs had strayed into the purple column at a European election in the privacy of the voting booth.

So Farage and his colleagues won’t only be out to find fully-signed-up recruits to the Brexit Party; they know from experience that they must try to mine a vein of vote-splitters, too.

I gather several Conservative associations have been surveying their members lately to gauge the level of dissatisfaction with the Brexit postponement. I’ve seen one set of findings, from a safe Conservative seat in the Home Counties, which do not make pretty reading for the Party leadership.

Asked how they intend to vote at the European election, fewer than a quarter answered Conservative. Almost half opted for the Brexit Party, making it the single most popular option among that group of Conservative Party members. A rump replied UKIP, but I suspect that just as in national polls that represents a lingering sympathy with Farage-era UKIP, which the man himself hopes to cannibalise by publicising his new organisation.

It’s just one association, and it’s therefore a small sample, but if it’s anywhere even slightly near representative then it underscores the severe problem facing the Conservatives even as this campaign begins. And the scale of the opportunity for Farage and co.

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Nabil Najjar and Luke Springthorpe: How Conservative Progress aims to revive the Tory grassroots

Nabil Najjar and Luke Springthorpe are the founders and directors of Conservative Progress.

If the Conservative Party is going to win the next election, it desperately needs to re-energise its grassroots.

Part of this is, of course, about numbers. It’s no secret that Labour now outnumber the Conservatives heavily in terms of paid up members by about 4 to 1 (c. 540,000 vs c. 124,000).

But it’s also about the existing membership feeling empowered and a part of a vibrant movement that listens to them, provides them with a platform for debate, and actually values them enough to invest in developing their skills through training.

If members don’t feel like they are an active part of the Conservative movement by having a chance to actively participate in the debate, it stands to reason that their enthusiasm to go out and campaign to help the party win will wane. What’s more, if we don’t continually train our activists and share best practice from our best campaigners, how are we going to stay one step ahead of our opponents?

Some of this can be done centrally, but it’s also clear that a lot of this needs a certain degree of freedom and absence of a filter that only a third-party organisation can bring. It’s also true that a smaller third-party organisation can be nimble and react to demand for training, as well as current affairs, in a quick and timely fashion.

Which is why we set up Conservative Progress.

It all started with a simple idea back towards the end of 2016: bridge the gap between the grassroots and the Parliamentary party and provide an open platform for Conservative grassroots to hear from the brightest and the best, as well as sharing their own ideas. We recognised an underlying urge to bring some vibrancy back to the Conservative movement and to build capacity within the grassroots through providing training in the areas where we were being left behind – specifically, digital campaigning.

But more than that, in order for Conservatism to progress as a movement, we need to have a vibrancy that facilitates an open debate of meaningful policy ideas – the big ideas that will shape the direction of the country as well as the party. There also needs to be a platform for members to step forward and get noticed, as well as to gain the skills they need to be successful if they want to go on to bigger things.

It was from this basic concept from which Conservative Progress was born. As the name suggests, we believe that Conservatism has the true claim to ‘progress’, and we believe that Conservatives should shout about our achievements from the rooftops rather than conceding that space to left-wing self proclaimed ‘progressives’, who actually leave the country in ruins whenever they get anywhere near the levers of power.

True to our mantra, the organisation has been led and guided by the grassroots. The concept of our first major events were discussed and organised in a pub with no major financial backing from a wealthy benefactor, bankrolled entirely from our own pockets and (thankfully!) recouped by the generosity of attendees and the goodwill of speakers who took a chance that our new organisation would deliver something that was worthwhile.

Two years ago, we hosted our first conference. We unpacked over a tonne of food and wine ourselves from a delivery truck as we prepared to host over two hundred guests to hear from the likes of Lord Michael Howard, Peter Lilley, Andrew Mitchell, James Cleverly, Scott Mann and Dr Ruth Lea, who presented a positive post-Brexit vision.

But we knew that what the conservative movement needed wasn’t just another event with a parade of speakers and members sitting back as passive attendees. We didn’t just want members to sit and be lectured at – there was enough of that already. Every speaker agreed to take questions from the audience, and a lively but good-hearted debate ensued after each speech. We also hosted a members debate where attendees took to the stage and presented their own thoughts, actively shaping the debate of the day.

Two years on, and our annual conference has grown spectacularly. This June we will be hosting Jeremy Hunt (our keynote speaker), Andrea Leadsom, Sajid Javid, Brandon Lewis, Priti Patel, Damian Hinds, and James Cleverly, with over 400 guests expected.

But despite the growth, we’re staying true to our original objective. Members will still get their chance to put their questions to the speakers, and we will have a Members Motion that will be specifically selected by members and chaired by Chris Philp MP, the Vice Chair for Policy.

We’ve also delivered on our promise to help train and upskill our activists. Since 2016, we have trained over 800 Conservative activists, not just in London, but also in Exeter, Plymouth and Birmingham. The Friday before our annual conference, we will be holding an activist training day, where we hope to reach even more activists.

Our Party is on the cusp of a major change, but some facts will always remain. We need to beat Labour at the next general election, and to do that, we need a team of passionate, well-trained activists who can carry our message, and we need a platform of positive policies we can campaign on.

At Conservative Progress, we are doing our part to make that happen.

The 2019 Conservative Progress Conference will be held in London on June 21-22. Tickets available here.

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The list of Conservative Associations which passed the pro-Brexit AGM motion

Here is a list of the Conservative Associations which have passed the National Convention’s pro-Brexit motion at their Annual General Meetings:

Barking

Birmingham Hall Green

Canterbury

Chingford and Woodford Green

Clwyd South

Corby and East Northamptonshire

East Ham

Esher and Walton

Fylde

Guildford

Hertford and Stortford

Mid Bedfordshire

North East Somerset

North Tyneside

Nuneaton

Oxford

Peterborough

Rayleigh and Wickford

Rochester and Strood

South East Cornwall

Stratford-on-Avon

Torridge and West Devon

Wealden

In addition, tweaked versions of the motion have been passed in:

Gedling

Midlothian

Tunbridge Wells

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Priti Patel: It’s time to stand up for Britain and to trust our members

Priti Patel is MP for Witham, and a former Secretary of State for International Development.

Our Party is the greatest and most successful political Party in history. Nowhere in the world is there a political party with a better record of success at being democratically elected and running Government.

There’s a reason for that. It is because our values chime with those of the British people. Therefore, as someone who is first and foremost a Conservative activist, I like many others feel the anger and frustration of our members and supporters with what is now happening over Brexit.   Having come together to support the referendum that we promised in our 2015 Manifesto, we then outlined a clear vision for our future outside the EU while having a close and equal partnership. We took it to the people in 2017 and, while we suffered a difficult and bruising result as we lost our majority, we polled more votes and secured the highest vote share in a generation.

Even after that shock, we still pulled together and performed well for a governing party in last year’s local elections. We were buoyed by what we saw as the Government’s determination to fulfil its promise to the people and take us out of the EU on 29 March -with a deal agreed with the EU or without.

Like others, I believed from what the Government said that the national interest would be defended and the referendum result delivered. Acting in the national interest is fundamental to our DNA as a Party, and when a Conservative Government is standing up for the national interest it motivates and inspires all of us activists to knock on more doors, deliver more leaflets and raise more money.

However, since the deal with the EU was agreed, the attempts by the Government to impose it on our country have caused a level of anger that I have not seen in my 30 years as an activist. And the more Ministers become entrenched in their positions, the more our members are becoming dissatisfied and despondent. I believe that the capitulation to Brussels of the Government and the lack of faith in our democracy, freedom and country displayed by others has caused huge damage to our grassroots alongside the political games in Westminster which have sought to undermine the referendum result.

While Ministers get questioned by journalists in the comfort of TV and radio studios under a tight time limit, with a series of lines they can reel off, our volunteers and activists bear the brunt on the doorstep. On cold and wet mornings and evening they are out there knocking on doors relentlessly campaigning to get the Conservative message across and candidates elected in crucial council elections. And, on the doorsteps, wherever I have been, the state of Brexit has been just about the only subject voters want to speak about. Our activists want to persuade the public to vote in vital local elections to help us win councils and deliver good quality local services. But instead they are left to pick up the pieces of the great betrayal taking place in Westminster.

This week, the Government’s effort to do a deal with Jeremy Corbyn has made their mood even worse. Those of us who were angered by the feeble negotiation with the EU are now livid because the Government is trusting a man who sides with the terrorists who attack our national interest, has let anti-Semitism run rife in the Labour Party, allows Labour supporters to launch vile attacks on us and would wreck our economy. This does not serve the national interest, and it is a huge political error to give Corbyn a voice and credibility when he has consistently flip-flopped on the EU and on Brexit.

We should never forget that while our country suffered the horrors of terror caused by the IRA, including the attack on our Party Conference in 1984 and the brutal murders of Conservative MPs, Corbyn was a terrorist sympathiser.   Our members, volunteers and activists are doing all they can to keep this dangerous man and his vile allies out of power only to now see the Government start a love-in with him. The fact that the Government has fallen so out of touch with the mood of our own members is astonishing.  

Now is the time to fulfil our promise to the people and leave the EU. We can and should do this on Friday – no more excuses, no more tricks – just Brexit and the unlocking of our country’s freedom and our democracy. Leaving the EU on Friday would help us to bring the country together as well as galvanise our activists. We would deliver our promise on the biggest political issue we face. We can then the focus on the many other issues where Conservative policies are needed and which excite and animate our activists.

A renewed focus would also mean that the Party centrally ends the distain shown to our members. I have in previous articles on this site given my views on how the Party nationally should renew and trust the grassroots through genuine reform of the membership, electing the Party Chairman, hosting policy forums and holding a members day at Party conference.

Our members, like the British public, want to see a Conservative Government standing up for our country. They also want to see a it stand up for the values which we believe in – freedom, enterprise and opportunity. Those values are shared widely by the British people and resonate with them. We must enshrine them into the policies we pursue at a national and local level.   Over the last eight years, we have introduced many reforms to help people to succeed. Raising the tax-free threshold to cut tax bills for millions, cutting taxes on business, keeping fuel duty down and supporting investment in businesses has helped our country establish a record number of businesses, supporting record numbers of people in work.

That record has never been more important than in the current political climate, when our country faces the threat posed by militant left-wingers. Socialism would reverse everything this country has gained from the 1980s on. The Conservative achievements of the last eight years, including record levels of employment, and the number of business and enterprise created, would be driven away – our defences shredded, our pride diminished and our country bankrupted.

We would instead go back to an era of anti-capitalist slogans and placards which might grab headlines but do not transform lives, create jobs, provide better public services or raise Britain’s standing in the world.   The upcoming electoral cycle should provide a strong platform to remind people of the very real dangers of the alternatives and to champion the cause of freedom in deeds as well as in words.

With our great country facing the threat of hard-left socialism from Corbyn’s Labour Party, we need to give the public powerful and strong reasons to vote Conservative and support the Party that backs freedom, enterprise and opportunity.  We must believe in our activists and get behind our members and supporters. Let’s get Britain out of the EU on Friday, and energise our members with the Conservative values we share, to secure a better future for Britain.

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LISTEN: “There are pressing problems within the Conservative grassroots” – Wallace on the Week in Westminster

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Conservative Association schedules emergency motion of No Confidence in the Prime Minister

If you needed further signs of the extraordinary levels of discontent inside the Conservative Party at the moment, check out this tweet from the Chairman of Clwyd South Conservative Association:

Westlake Legal Group Clwyd-South Conservative Association schedules emergency motion of No Confidence in the Prime Minister Theresa May MP Party Members and Organisation Party Democracy and Membership MPs ETC Grassroots Clwyd South Campaigning

I can’t think of the last time something like this was proposed at grassroots level. Conservative Associations are not naturally rebellious, but unhappiness with the Prime Minister is provoking remarkable responses. This motion, publicly backed by an association chairman, is one such response.

And remember: Clwyd South is considered a target seat by CCHQ, with Labour majorities below 3,000 in 2010 and 2015. If this motion passes, it is a serious message from the very activists the Conservative Party needs on board in order to win a majority.

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Does the Conservative Party have enough money to fight a European election campaign?

As ever on a Sunday, Tim Shipman provides compelling reading. His write-through of the tragicomedy in Cabinet is replete with detail, right down to the Prime Minister rolling her eyes at Philip Hammond.

But there is one point in particular that leapt out at me – in the contents of a briefing delivered to the assembled ministers:

‘In No 10 there had been advocates of May shaking things up by calling a snap general election. Any notion that this was an attractive notion had been swiftly expunged earlier on Tuesday when cabinet ministers were given a presentation by the party chairman, Brandon Lewis, and the chief executive, Mick Davis.

Shellshocked cabinet ministers listened as party chiefs explained that their internal polling showed that “Labour leads on all domestic issues”, with the cost of living, the NHS and the environment topping voters’ lists of concerns. Davis explained that the party did not have enough money in the bank. He also argued for a different approach on Brexit, warning that business was “grotesquely unprepared for no deal”.’

In sum, misery upon misery. But here’s the bit that grabbed me: ‘Davis explained that the party did not have enough money in the bank.’

This confirms something we have been hearing whispers of – just as ordinary members have been quitting or withholding their voluntary efforts, many donors are reportedly unwilling to give any more, either because they are fed up with the personality and policy currently occupying the helm, or because they reason they may as well hold off until there is a new leader in place to work with. This has already started to bite in various ways, and is alleged to be getting worse.

It may be that Davis’s report persuaded the Cabinet that their Party can’t afford to fight a snap General Election. But I wonder: have they considered that the same might apply to a possible European election?

Fighting such a campaign would be a massive uphill struggle even with a full warchest, given the widespread anger over Theresa May’s Brexit retreats and dilutions. If the cupboard is bare, it will be even worse.

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Testing our survey against the latest polling of Party members

One reason we carry out the ConservativeHome survey of Party members each month is that there is generally a paucity of public information about the Tory grassroots think, believe and want.

For obvious reasons, a relatively narrow demographic is hard to reach, which makes it hard even for major pollsters to recruit panels, or to then judge how representative their demographics are for the purposes of weighting.

Our survey, of course, is not a weighted poll. It puts questions – some repeated each month, some topical – to a panel of over 3,000 Party member readers of this site, of whom normally over 1,000 take part each time.

Therefore its results are inherently imperfect, but still useful. For a start, one can at least track trends by seeing the change in responses from previous months. We also check our findings against the rare published results of scientific polling by YouGov and others, and make public those comparisons so that readers can judge for themselves how reliable or otherwise the survey findings are.

Today offers just such an opportunity for comparison. Professor Tim Bale, of Queen Mary University of London, has released the findings of the latest polling for the ESCR Party Members Projectt.

The research makes for interesting generally – and includes some alarming figures for the Conservative leadership about the proportion of members who have recently considered quitting the Party, in particular.

It also features some questions which can be compared, fairly directly, to those we ask in our survey. So here goes.

What proportion of Conservative members voted Leave?

Bale: “Some 72 per cent of grassroots Tory members...voted Leave in 2016″.

ConservativeHome’s final survey before the referendum found 70.6 per cent of respondents either firmly Leave or leaning to Leave.

How do grassroots Tories rate May’s deal?

Bale: “Among actual members of the Conservative Party, opposition to the deal negotiated by their own leader outweighs support for it by a margin of 59 per cent to 38 per cent.”

ConservativeHome’s most recent survey found 71 per cent of Party members do not support the Prime Minister’s deal, compared to 25.9 per cent who do. That’s a sizeable enough gap to be notable – our survey has support 12 points lower and dissatisfaction 12 points higher than Bale’s poll.

There are a number of factors that could explain the discrepancy (most likely a mixture is at play). Perhaps the ConHome panel is simply a bit more Eurosceptic (or less loyal) than the wider membership, or at least than Bale’s cohort. At the same time, it’s worth noting there is a slight but significant difference in the questions being asked: our 71 per cent were answering that they “do not support” which is a little easier Toby sign up to than Bale’s outright “oppose”.

Certainly such criteria can affect an answer. For example, when Bale asked a somewhat less restrictive question, he also found that “68 per cent of the Tory rank and file think the government is doing badly at negotiating the country’s exit from the EU.”

These discrepancies are worth being aware of, and studying, but it’s also the case that the headline finding is agreement on both measures that a strong majority of members do not support the Prime Minister’s position. ConservativeHome’s survey was strongly criticised in some quarters when we reported that to be the case, but Bale bears it out.

Support for No Deal?

Bale: “We asked ordinary members…what their first preference would be in a three-way referendum where the options were (a) remaining in the EU, (b) leaving with the proposed deal, or (c) leaving without a deal… 57 per cent of them say that leaving without a deal would be their first preference compared to just 23% whose first preference was to leave on the basis of the current deal and only 15% saying it was to remain.”

Bale: “…when we asked about a referendum in which the choice came down to her deal or No Deal. Only 29 per cent of Tory members would vote for Mrs May’s deal, compared to 64 per cent who would vote to leave without a deal.”

The latest ConservativeHome survey found support for No Deal to be members’ preferred outcome, with that position hardening at 44.3 per cent.

In this instance, far from overstating Tory Euroscepticism our No Deal finding is dramatically lower than Bale’s. The reasons seems likely to be that our question offered more options, including a Canada Plus response.

A second referendum?

Bale: “support among the membership for a new referendum is likewise minimal, at just 14 per cent compared to 82 per cent who oppose holding one.”

Our latest survey found 9.5 per cent of members supporting a second referendum, and 89 per cent opposed.

In summary, while there are certainly some differences between our survey’s findings and those of Bale’s poll – differences which should be born in mind when assessing our results – the headline positions are quite strikingly similar. A large majority of Tory members voted Leave and oppose May’s Deal. No Deal is now their single most preferred outcome. And an overwhelming proportion oppose a second referendum.

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Our survey. Precious little sign that the Prime Minister’s campaign to win Tories over to her deal is working

Westlake Legal Group 0C0BB3E4-2206-488F-BC67-427A90BA5853-1024x818 Our survey. Precious little sign that the Prime Minister’s campaign to win Tories over to her deal is working ToryDiary Theresa May MP Party Members and Organisation Highlights EU ConservativeHome Members' Panel Brexit

Our latest ConservativeHome survey – responded to by around 1,200 Party members – has found 71 per cent of members still do not support the Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement, with 25.9 per cent in agreement with her proposal. That result shows remarkable consistency from the November survey, which found 71.7 per cent against and 24.94 in favour. An optimist might see a very slight improvement there for Theresa May, with one per cent switching their view in her favour. But realistically that is such minimal movement that it would be reasonable to declare “nothing has changed” in members’ views on the principle of the matter.

Of course, disagreeing with the Prime Minister’s deal and wanting it voted down are not necessarily one and the same view. In November’s survey we asked a supplementary question – did respondents think MPs should vote for the deal or not – and doing so identified a gap between principle and practice. While around 25 per cent of members supported the deal, around 30 per cent thought MPs should vote for it.

That phenomenon offered Downing Street a slim hope, but a hope nonetheless, that if outright support was too much to ask then it might be possible to build at least some kind of reluctant acceptance among Eurosceptic Party members.

We’ve seen the Government press hard on exactly that angle since then. The deal is “not perfect”, ministers concede. Indeed, the Prime Minister openly seeks to secure additional reassurances about the limitations of its most glaring flaws. But it is “the best deal available”, and – what’s more – the alternatives would, we are told, be worse. “The choice would be between no Brexit at all and a no deal Brexit,” as Theresa May told the Conservative Friends of Israel. Whitehall has produced doomsday scenarios to raise alarm about No Deal, big Tory beasts have been wheeled out to denounce disloyalty and encourage unity, and even the spectre of a Corbyn government has been raised.

In short: having implicitly accepted that it is a tall order to encourage people to learn to love the deal, the Prime Minister and her advisers have put a lot of effort into the less demanding (but also less compelling) line of appealing to begrudging practicality. A bird in the hand, and so on. Particularly after the failed attempt by MPs to unseat May, Downing Street hoped a good number of critics would accept that she had asserted a right to fulfil her programme and duly come back into line.

Among our panel of Conservative Party members, however, that approach has produced only limited change. 30.8 per cent of Party member respondents are now of the view that MPs should approve the deal – a rise of 1.1 percentage point on last month, while the proportion who believe MPs should not approve it stands at 65.1 per cent, down 2.7 percentage points since November.

So the lead of opponents of the deal has narrowed slightly, to a still large 34.3 per cent, and ‘Don’t Know’ gained more ground than the idea of MPs approving the deal. The numbers still imply that only about five per cent of members occupy that interesting space of not supporting the deal but wanting MPs to vote for it.

Thus far, the Government’s campaign does not appear to be working very well among its own grassroots. What change there has been is nowhere near fast enough to reverse the situation by March.

 

Westlake Legal Group 5FCCC7F7-EF82-44D0-9536-86AF20A53340-1024x832 Our survey. Precious little sign that the Prime Minister’s campaign to win Tories over to her deal is working ToryDiary Theresa May MP Party Members and Organisation Highlights EU ConservativeHome Members' Panel Brexit   Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com