The Sunday Telegraph and ConservativeHome published this week-end an important ConservativeHome survey of Conservative members’ opinions. There were 1348 replies to the survey, which included MPs and MEPs as well as Association members and volunteers. (There is a link to the ConservativeHome website on this blog’s links for those interested – http://t.co/pxGZBgm)
The survey showed that there is very strong support for making getting the deficit down the main task of the government. Cutting welfare bills by boosting employment is seen as one of the prime ways of doing this, and these two aims are close to controlling the deficit in people’s minds.
Members want the government to go further and faster in cutting the rate of growth in public spending. They recommend by a margin of 4 to 1 freezing overseas aid instead of putting through large increases. This is despite the obvious big push recently to explain some of the purpose of overseas aid and to highlight the best examples of its work. It looks as if the more Mr Mitchell highlights it, the more it reminds Conservative members that this is spending which could be better controlled with increases delayed. The survey is also against spending money on HS2, the new railway.
59% do not want to send UK troops to Libya, partly for political and partly for financial reasons. 72% are strongly against dearer energy. This probably reflects the prime concern many voters have about their own surging energy bills, and a realisation that more manufacturing jobs whcih we need will be made more difficult by a dear energy policy. I expect many think we could make more rapid progress in cutting welfare bills, with getting more people into jobs the best way of doing this. Conservatives want more action to create jobs, and more action to ensure people living here in benefits get those jobs. The survey did not ask about the course and conduct of immigration policy.
The strongest support of all came for two policies which the goverment is not following. 93% want powers back from the EU, instead of seeing more and more power drift to the EU as we have done under this government as well as under its predecessor. A similar 93% want the UK to abolish the Human Rights legislation, and presumably our entanglement with the European Court of Human Rights in its current form and guise, replacing them with domestic arrangements to uphold our human rights.
I am also publishing today a copy of a letter I am sending to George Eustice, who has announced he is forming a new group of Eurosceptic MPs, with an emphasis on those elected for the first time in 2010. They will be most welcome allies in getting powers back and establishing a more suitable relationship for the UK with emerging Euroland. This letter explores what we should be asking of the government as it negotiates over the future construction of the EU and Euroland.