Europe

Europe on Trial

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By Lord Ashcroft

The European Parliament elections are just weeks away. Depending on the result of the next general election, we are perhaps three years from an in-out EU referendum.

Yet despite the furious debate the subject generates among politicians, huge numbers of people do not know what to think about our relationship with Europe. (more…)

Miliband’s referendum non-pledge will win votes for Labour – if the Tories let it

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By Lord Ashcroft

On the face of it, Ed Miliband’s non-referendum pledge held a clear upside and a clear downside for Labour.

Matching David Cameron’s guarantee of an in-out referendum would mean that if he won, Miliband would have to spend a good deal of his premiership campaigning to keep Britain in the European Union – a battle he might lose. He would be the Prime Minister who took Britain out of the EU, and would probably have to resign. And all because of a promise he had never wanted to make in the first place. (more…)

The Europe speech has cheered Tories, not moved votes

By Lord Ashcroft

The policy contained in the Prime Minister’s speech of ten days ago was a good answer to the question “what should we do about Europe?” It was never, I hope, supposed to answer the question “what will ensure we win?” If anyone expected an immediate leap in the Conservative Party’s popularity, the evidence should by now have disabused them of the notion. Polling I completed earlier this week shows little change in the bigger political picture.

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So we’ve got a Europe policy – now all we need is a Tory government

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By Lord Ashcroft

Whatever David Cameron said today was going to displease somebody. For those who want to leave the EU tomorrow he could never go far enough; for those who want to stay at any cost, including his coalition partners, any suggestion that the British people might be allowed to decide for themselves would be a dangerous manoeuvre.

Given the constraints, I think the PM has hit on a pretty reasonable plan. A Conservative government will legislate immediately after the next election for a referendum. It will negotiate for a new settlement with the EU, and the people will give their verdict in the first half of the parliament.

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The UKIP threat is not about Europe

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By Lord Ashcroft

Last month the UK Independence Party came second in two parliamentary by-elections, in Rotherham and Middlesbrough. This prompted its leader, Nigel Farage, to claim his party was the new third force in British politics. UKIP now regularly pips the Liberal Democrats to third place in national voting intention polls. The rise of UKIP causes a good deal of angst among the bigger parties, particularly the Conservatives. It is not hard to see why: my research finds that 12% of those who voted Tory in 2010 now say they would vote UKIP in an election tomorrow. Half of all those who would consider voting UKIP supported the Conservatives at the last election.

Many have suggested antidotes to the rise of UKIP. These usually flow from assumptions about what the attraction of UKIP actually is. Yet these assumptions are often mistaken. (more…)

Lack of Tory direction is the real ‘UKIP threat’

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By Lord Ashcroft

The government is having its most difficult month so far, and the voters have noticed. After troubles over party funding, conflicting advice to the public on a potential fuel strike, and a series of controversies arising from last month’s Budget, recent polls show the Labour lead solidifying as confidence in the coalition declines. One notable feature of the shifting polls is that, according to the most recent YouGov/Sun surveys, the UK Independence Party is edging ahead of the Liberal Democrats.

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Turn down the volume on Europe or lose the next election

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By Lord Ashcroft

If there is one thing that unites Conservatives it is the desire to win the next general election outright. Certain things follow from this. The first is that we need more votes at the next election than we received at the last. This means attracting people who voted for a different party last year. This in turn imposes two requirements: to address the things they care about most, and to show that we are changing the things that put them off voting Conservative in the past.

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