Not their finest hour
by Andrew Hawkins, Chairman

Yesterday’s Savanta ComRes poll, published in the Sunday Telegraph, headlined the figure that 44% of the public now believe the UK should leave the EU without a deal if Brussels refuses to make any further concessions - an increase of six points since January.

The poll also revealed some misconceptions using a series of true/false statements, including that four in ten believe that, without a deal, the EU could impose stricter import tariffs on British exports than it does on other non-EU countries (which would be illegal under WTO rules).

Only a fool would predict what will happen over the coming few days, but we can say that the impact on domestic politics of the Brexit debacle, whatever the eventual outcome, will be profound.

Our latest poll only serves to increase concerns over the public’s disenchantment and reinforces the unique opportunity – or rather need – to reboot the UK’s entire political system:

1) The public are at their most disgruntled yet over the Brexit process – 66% say the Government’s handling of the negotiations so far has been ‘a total shambles’, up from 44% a year ago.

2) Despite claims that the TIGgers offer a new style of politics to replace the old broken system, a large majority of voters think that MPs who change parties between elections should stand down and fight a by-election. Three-quarters of voters concur, including two-thirds of Remainers.

Similarly, many voters believe that Remain MPs in Leave constituencies ‘should not try to stop Brexit’: 64% agree - including four in ten Remain voters.

Finally on the TIGgers, and while they are not (yet) a fully-fledged party, it is notable that 69% of the public, up from 64% in January 2019, say that ‘today’s mainstream parties do not offer me an appealing choice of who to vote for’.

3) No (current) party can escape the ire of voters who feel that the EU has treated the UK ‘unduly harshly’ because voters believe the divisions within Westminster have made it possible to exploit a weak negotiating position.  Two-thirds of voters concur, including 43% of Remain supporters.

4) Eight in ten people (81%) feel most politicians don’t take into account the views of ordinary people, which again includes the vast majority of both Remainers (77%) and Leavers (90%).

5) If voters think the Conservative Government is doing a poor job, Labour does not escape the public’s wrath.  Seven in ten voters think Jeremy Corbyn’s conversion to a second referendum is not genuine – which is unhelpful for a politician who has predicated his appeal on straight talking.

More concerning for Labour as a whole will be the finding that most people (55%) think the Labour Party is now a nastier party than the Conservative Party.The Conservatives have held that dubious honour for so long that it is quite an achievement to wrest it from them.

 

Whatever the outcome this week, next week or whenever, there is a major job facing the nation in restoring trust and confidence in our political institutions.  While politicians are often quick to point the finger at one side or another as the root cause of the problem of division, many have been watching the Westminster goldfish bowl with a combination of bewilderment and despair.

It is possible that the ultimate beneficiaries of the current farrago will be a party or individuals not yet in the full public spotlight.  Given the ugliness of the public mood, we had better hope that is not Tommy Robinson.

 

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