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Editorial EU opinion poll results spell big trouble for Theresa May

THERESA MAY is in big trouble. If she thought that a cosy Christmas with their families might mitigate Tory hostility to her Brexit-lite deal, her head must now be hurting with the mother of all hangovers. 

The latest poll shows Tory support for Britain’s continued membership of the EU at a puny 15 per cent while just 23 per cent favour her deal. 

Given three choices a whopping 57 per cent would leave without a deal.

In a two-choice referendum, the proportion of Tory Party members who would favour leaving without a deal rises to 64 per cent compared with the 29 per cent who would accept May’s deal.

More members (53 per cent) think her deal does not respect the referendum result than the 42 per cent who think it does. 

Confronted with the choice of leaving with no deal and remaining in the EU, 76 per cent want out.

Rank-and-file Tories are an ageing species that face extinction. Thus a representative poll will not illustrate much about the basic beliefs of the country as a whole. 

However, a fair proportion of Tory MPs find it expedient to conciliate their constituency membership while holding views that are much closer to those of the entirely unprincipled alliance fronted by Anna Soubry MP and Chuka Umunna MP.

Sentiment among Tory functionaries and in Parliament — a demographic which is much more sensitive to the preferences of the ruling nexus of banks, big business and bureaucrats — favours an accommodation with the EU in their corporate and collective class interests.

The various disjunctures between elite opinion and the vast range of working-class and middle-class people presents a real problem for our ruling class. 

In a political system that rarely gives working people a decisive say, the Brexit vote created new contradictions which the consensual politics of class compromise and liberal fudge cannot overcome.

A different dynamic drives the divisions between Labour’s mass base and the parliamentary party. 

Some of these are revealed by a poll conducted by the same Economic and Research Council academics as probed Tory opinion.

Predictably, liberal and media opinion has seized upon the survey result which shows that nearly three-quarters of individual party members — 72 per cent — want a final say referendum while 88 per cent would back Remain in such a vote. 

Although it is probable that if a survey sought the opinions of affiliated members — those who pay the political levy through their trade union — the result might be more in line with working-class opinion as a whole, this balance of opinion presents real problems.

Labour’s new credibility — which harvested a bumper crop of votes at the last election — is underpinned by the trust that Corbyn’s pledge to respect the Brexit vote engendered but no less by the powerful attraction that Labour’s election manifesto exercised for a newly energised working-class electorate.

An even more radical manifesto could reach even further into a fragmented working class and win new layers of the middle class but the prospects of a Labour majority would be undermined, perhaps fatally, by a betrayal of the trust that Corbyn and his team have so carefully constructed.

Labour’s priority, to create the conditions for a election, opening up new possibilities for a radical recasting of Britain’s politics, dismays the cross-party consensus of elements who place EU membership over the broader class interests of Britain’s working people.

Such opinion keeps very quiet on the key finding which shows that while 29 per cent of individual members polled oppose Corbyn’s position 47 per cent support it while one in 20 don’t know.


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