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Friday 1st February 2013 | 07:00
Lord Ashcroft press release
David Cameron’s Europe speech has not shifted attitudes to the Conservative Party or changed the proportion of people who want to see a Tory government after the next election, according to new polling from Lord Ashcroft.
His survey, published today on ConservativeHome, showed a narrower Labour lead than most polls before the speech (Lab 38%, Con 33%, Lib Dems 11%, UKIP 9%). However, the change largely resulted from 2010 Conservative voters becoming more likely to say they would vote Tory again tomorrow, and some existing supporters saying they were more likely to turn out. As Lord Ashcroft says in his commentary:
“The Speech, and more importantly the policy it articulated, has made Tories feel better about being Tories. This is not to be sneezed at - but let's not confuse it with having changed anybody's mind.”
The poll found a small improvement in David Cameron’s leadership ratings, in which he retains a clear advantage over Labour leader Ed Miliband. However, the Conservative Party was no more likely to be seen as united, or to have clear plans to deal with Britain’s problems, than it was last autumn.
Though the coalition remained more trusted to run the economy overall than Labour, Conservative leads on the traditionally strong policy areas of welfare reform and immigration had narrowed.
“Not surprisingly, given all this, the promise of an EU referendum has not unleashed a desire for an overall Conservative majority. Just under a third (32%) of voters told us last weekend that this would be their preferred outcome of the next election - a proportion unchanged since last November. A Labour government remains the most popular choice, with 38%; 17% would rather have a Labour-Lib Dem coalition. Another round of what we have now is the least popular choice, with 13%.”
Lord Ashcroft says the Europe speech was a positive development that showed David Cameron taking the initiative on an issue that needed to be dealt with. However, the Conservatives should not allow the issue to dominate political debate in the run-up to the next election but instead concentrate on things that matter more to most voters:
“In debating the question in the coming years we must remember that there is only so much oxygen in the room. Most people do not pay much attention to politics at all; when they do, let's make sure they hear something that changes their view of the Conservative Party, not just of Europe.”