While much of the country looks on with a combination of bewilderment and dismay at Westminster’s Punch and Judy show, ComRes today has its latest poll published (for the Daily Express) which elucidates spectacularly well the rift dividing Britain.
Here are eight takeaways from the poll:
1. Theresa May’s deal is the least popular forward option; one in four (26%) support it but more prefer no-deal (34%), extending A50 (34%), a second in/out referendum (40%), not leaving at all (44%) or trying to renegotiate with the EU (45%)
2. Not leaving at all would be ‘humiliating’ for the UK according to 50% of voters, including 63% of those aged 55+ (ie those most likely to vote).
3. Although we did not ask a full-blown how-would-you-vote-in-a-referendum-today question, support for Remain was slightly lower than support for Leave, confirming what we already know – that ‘nothing has changed’ since 2016.
4. Forty percent think there should be a second in/out referendum, but 50% do not.
5. However much Theresa May is criticised over her handling of Brexit, only one in five (21%) think Jeremy Corbyn would have negotiated a better Brexit deal with the EU (and only 45% of those who voted Labour in 2017).
6. In light of their handling of Brexit, six in ten expect the Conservatives to lose the next election if Theresa May leads the Party, while 51% expect them to lose it whoever leads the Party.
7. There is widespread suspicion that both Remain and Leave campaigns misled voters in 2016 (46% think so), but more voters are inclined to believe that only the Leave campaign misled voters (31%) than say the same of the Remain campaign (16%). Only 12% think that neither misled the public.
8. If politicians want to find something around which public support will coalesce, it is the vision of a post-Brexit UK as ‘the lowest tax, business-friendliest country in Europe, focused on building strong international trade links’. This is the only forward option that crosses generation and political divides and it appeals most strongly to the working class (Jeremy Corbyn take note).
What is going on in Westminster right now looks and feels increasingly detached from the day to day concerns of people outside the Bubble. Politicians need to beware: staying in the EU, out of fear of the consequences, risks provoking those most likely to take to the ballot box to express their disgust. Leaving with what is widely regarded as a bad deal risks similarly provoking those who were keenest on keeping the status quo.
Last summer, Philip Hammond told Le Monde that he did not want the UK post-Brexit to become a low tax, low regulation nation off the coast of Europe. Yet making that the country’s goal is the only option we have tested which attracts majority support from every age group, from voters for every party, and for every social group - especially DEs.
The country needs to hear from whoever ends up in charge at the end of this that they have the optimism, confidence and determination to make the best of the hand we are dealt.