Can Dave win back the Tory doubters?
All seventeen polls published between the end of the Tory Party conference and Cameronâ€™s dropping of his pledge to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty had the Conservatives on at least 40%; of the eight published since then, only twice has the Tory share broken into the forties.
Two conversations Iâ€™ve had in the last week give anecdotal evidence that Cameron’s move has gone down badly in sections of the party. Both raised the issue unprompted and spoke disparagingly of Cameron and the new, vague, policy. Both were with people who appear typical of UKIPâ€™s membership and support (middle-class males aged 55+), both were lifelong Tories, both have been moderately senior within their local parties (former councillors, constituency officers etc.).
Europe has for years been low on the lists of priorities that get mentioned when people are asked for the issue/s of most concern to them. That, however, doesnâ€™t always reveal the full extent of an issueâ€™s political impact.
What gives Europe a booster factor is that for many people actively involved in politics, itâ€™s important to them. Cohesion or disharmony among local activists feeds through to the effectiveness of campaigns on the ground. The same is true of parties in parliament.
Another factor is that these disillusioned Tories do have alternatives. An Angus Reid Strategies poll earlier this month asked those who answered that they were less likely to vote Tory as a result of the policy change who theyâ€™d vote for instead.
This, of course, follows UKIP’s second place in the EU election in June and their continuing solid figures in several of the polls. Thereâ€™s form, availability and impetus. Beyond the switchers, just as Labourâ€™s MORI share has improved as their support firms up, so the Tory share may have dropped as previously firm supporters identify themselves as less likely to vote at all.
Furthermore, it doesnâ€™t matter if not all of those who are less favourable towards the Tories switch as a result, or if some werenâ€™t going to vote Tory anyway: if Labour is polling in the high twenties as most pollsters indicate, it only takes a loss of two or three percent more for the Conservatives to move from having a comfortable majority to being a minority government.
Both the logic and evidence suggests that if such a move was to take place, it should already have done so. The question is, has it (or was the timing of the change in poll numbers a coincidence and due to something else), and if it has, will it last?