Do we trust our politicians to deal with Britain’s ties with Europe? The polar opposites on the matter, Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage, will be making their case for reconfiguring Britain’s relationship this Wednesday, but it appears we have little faith in either of them.
Ahead of the debate, YouGov and LBC have commissioned some polling on how each of the party leaders are trusted on Europe. The results aren’t particularly encouraging for any party leader — 31 per cent trust no-one on this matter, and all of the other party leaders rank below that:
In 2008, an infamous Lib Dem leaflet was printed (right) saying ‘It’s time for a REAL referendum on Europe’, suggesting Clegg was in favour of a referendum. But in 2013, he was quoted saying the Tories' plan for a referendum was ‘deeply flawed and bound to unravel’. The technical details back him up: he wanted a referendum in the event of a further transfer of powers, but as with the Tory debacle over the Lisbon Treaty, the overall impression is of a flip-flop.
How do Brits feel about our EU membership generally? Lord Ashcroft commissioned a 20,000-sample megapoll, published in this weekend's press, to find out and it appears Europe is the sixth most important issue for voters. As many people support leaving as those who back staying in the EU, despite 62 per cent thinking other countries get more out of the EU than Britain does.
On the matter of renegotiation, 72 per cent have ‘not a great deal, little or no confidence’ that David Cameron will be able to negotiate a better deal for Britain in the EU. This isn’t necessarily the Prime Minister's fault — just over half think other EU countries will be unwilling to make any concessions to Britain ‘however well David Cameron makes the case’. Despite this confidence in Cameron, Labour is seen as the best party to manage Britain’s EU interests:
Many are also unsure of where MPs stand. According to Ashcroft’s polling, around half think most Labour and Liberal Democrat politicians want to stay in the EU, but 40 per cent think the same for the Conservatives.
With so much uncertainty about reforming our relationship with the EU, it will be interesting to see if/how the upcoming debates affect how people feel about the the party leaders. Both Clegg and Farage have poor trust ratings on the Europe issue so, as James said yesterday, this is their opportunity to score a killer blow.