Sunday, January 27, 2008

Looking on the bright side

But for Conservative Home, we would have missed it completely (they nearly did) – but yesterday there was an ICM poll published in The Guardian which explored the electorate's views on the European Union.

The strap gives you a taste of the findings, it declaring: "Poll finds support rising for EU membership." And, by the way, it also reports Labour polling up a point to 35 percent, with the Tories down two to 37 percent, giving Cameron a minuscule two percent lead – albeit in a poll that tends to favour Labour.

As to the substance of the Guardian's report, it claims that the poll shows that support for Britain's EU membership is rising, not falling. The majority, at 58 percent say it is good, against only 35 percent who say it is bad for Britain, an 11-point rise in support since 2001, when ICM last asked the same question. Opposition has also risen, though, suggesting views have hardened on both sides.

The paper concedes there are doubts about the constitutional Lisbon treaty, which has "few friends". Only 10 percent of voters think it will make things better for Britain, including 16 percent of Labour supporters. The trouble is, only 28 percent of all voters think it will make things worse.

Of greater concern, the largest group, 50 percent, think it will make no difference one way or the other, allowing the paper to suggests that public opinion is largely indifferent to the current debate at Westminster and Tory attempts to force the issue will not get far.

Predictably, Labour supporters remain the most strongly in favour of the EU, with 76 percent backing EU membership. Lib Dims come in at 66 percent in favour, while the Tories are all over the place. There, a majority of 54 percent of those who voted Tory at the last election oppose membership. By contrast, 52 percent of current supporters back the EU.

Yet, despite all this, 67 percent of voters now think that Britain's identity is being lost, against 58 percent in 2001. A majority of 52 percent now also agree that the EU makes decisions in an undemocratic way, against 44 percent previously and only 45 agree that the EU increases Britain's global influence as opposed to 50 percent who disagree.

That is offset by the 73 percent who now think that the EU makes it easier to live and work abroad and the 58 percent who think the EU helps create a cleaner environment, against 39 percent in 2001. Some 54 percent agree it is good for British jobs and trade, against 41 percent who think otherwise.

So much for the ICM poll – and what really stands out is that the predominant response is one of indifference. Here, we can allow ourselves a little preening. Only yesterday morning, we noted in respect of the treaty that, "There simply is not the public outrage out there which will sustain a popular movement."

One of Conservative Home’s commenters has got it right, hazarding the view that, "The BBC's relentless pro-EU propaganda may explain this a little, but lack of leadership by those who want our country to be a free sovereign nation again may be more to blame."

Developing that sentiment, we have seen and reported consistently, the failure of the media to engage with EU issues. More to the point, when the EU does mess up, its failures are neither recognised nor reported by the media, insulating it from adverse reaction from the population.

In terms of lack of leadership, this is clearly evident in the attitude of the Conservative Party, but also evident in the Eurosceptic movement as a whole which has never shown any coherence or agreement on a "line to take", as one sees with the Europhiliacs.

Looking on the bright side though, the process of integration has mainly concentrated on measures – the Single Market and all that - which have affected the business community but largely left the broader population untouched. With the constitutional Lisbon treaty though, as Booker shows today, the EU is getting more and more involved in our daily lives, and the effects of its dire, incompetent rule will be harder to conceal.

For sure, the inadequates in the media and the political groupies will continue to ignore the "elephant in the room" but, as comments on the Telegraph website showed yesterday, there are a lot of people out there who are brighter and more aware than the prattling classes.

With greater intervention from the EU, their awareness can only increase and the numbers opposing the EU will swell. Let the Guardian indulge in its own brief preening. Our time has yet to come - but it surely will.


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