Coffee House

Is David Cameron struggling to keep up with public opinion on Europe?

5 November 2012

Over the past two weeks, the government has been desperately trying to harden its position on the European Union to match public opinion. David Cameron has been rather bullish with his plans to opt out for 130 EU law-and-order measures and the veto threat over the budget, despite being outfoxed by both Labour and his backbenchers on the latter. Has it been successful? As Isabel reported yesterday, the voters of Corby, Witney and Doncaster North are not entirely happy with the Conservatives’ current position and new national polling reflects a similar attitude.

This weekend’s YouGov poll compares public attitudes today towards the EU to this time last year. As the chart below shows, trust in David Cameron’s ability to look after our interests at a European level has dropped 13 percentage points:

Most concerning for all the party leaders, 40 per cent believe none of them are suitable for fighting our corner in Brussels. A quarter of those polled think Cameron is the most trusted leader on dealing with Europe, followed by 18 per cent for Ed Miliband and just 6 per cent for Nick Clegg.

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This tougher stance is reflected in the public’s desires from the Prime Minister. Half now think Cameron should be tougher in dealing with European countries and just 13 per cent state he is getting the balance right at the moment:

The 53 Tory rebels who said they were listening to their constituents by voting for a real terms cut appear to have been vindicated, with only 18 per cent of voters believing it should be increased and 66 per cent thinking it should kept at its current level or be cut.

Last week, Kate Hoey warned Parliament that ‘we are beginning to look really, really out of touch” during the debate on the EU budget. Just 11 per cent of those polled believe Cameron is in touch with ordinary people, compared to 25 per cent for his rebellious backbenchers. 45 per cent believe neither are in particularly in touch.

These figures confirm what Hoey was warning about — Cameron needs to act swiftly to ensure he is not left behind on what the public expects of him on Europe. If he does not, the Prime Minister may open the door to his UKIP foes who are continuing to grow in strength.

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Show comments
  • Austin Barry

    He may be struggling to keep up with public opinion on Europe, but he, and our elites, are so far behind public opinion on immigration it’s laughable – oh, sorry, we’re not allowed to mention that are we?

  • David Julian Price

    [1] have in/out referendum
    [2] result is out
    [3] repeal 1975 European Act
    [4] negotiate free trade deal with Europe (as stipulated in Lisbon Treaty)
    [5] negotiate free trade deal with NAFTA
    [6] negotiate favourable trade deals with China, Brazil, India
    [7] watch Britain fly again
    [8] EU, who they?

    • HooksLaw

      NAFTA? Good luck with that. Have you read the agreement? Chapter 11 or Chapter 19?
      North American Free Trade Agreement. That means joining in with the USA, Mexico and Canada.
      What do you think that would involve in reality? Exchanging conforming with EU regulations for conforming with USA / Canada/ Mexican ones? You prefer Mexican immigrants to Polish ones?

      NAFTA of course is not about ‘free’ trade. It offers many restrictions.

      A free trade agreement with ‘Europe’ would involve membership of the EU single market and agreeing with all its rules.
      How is that compatible with being ‘out’ of Europe (and also ‘in’ NAFTA?)

      Sadly I doubt that people like you will ever wake up to what the real world is actually like. Hope you are happy in your private fantasy world.

      • ArchiePonsonby

        Canada is very good at controlling its border – all 4,000 miles of it – unlike us, an island, which ought to be easier.

  • ButcombeMan

    The simple answer is yes, he is absolutely out of touch but then so are Red Ed and Clegg. Even Sebastian Payne is out of touch, his last line gives him away with the word “may”..

    The Euro elections in 2014 will be treated by very many voters, from all parties, as a vote of confidence in the EU.

    Sensible folk do not have any confidence, they have been tricked, they have been deceived. They will fall for it no longer.

    UKIP will likely soar in those 2014 elections, -only then, will Cameron make an effort to catch up.

    It will be too late.

  • John Maloney

    The public expects him to lead us out of Europe. Full Stop.

  • Barbara

    This is the biggist issue for the UK, yet, this government as repeatedly ignored the wishes of the people. We will see significant changes to our government’s ablity to to govern it’s self come 2014, when new laws come into being from over the channel. Laws not mentioned by anyone here. Cameron, knows full well he cannot have repatriation of powers without other members approval overall, so what will he do then? He is not telling us the truth really, if we are gullible to believe everything they tell us.

    They will not concede anything back so using the veto will be his only option; then they will just go along as they are now and impose whatever they wish later. In fact we may be liable to pay even more. So, we can see what’s going to or, may happen, he will use his veto, and all hell will break out. He should walk away and tell them it’s all over, trade yes anything else NO. Tell is as it is and what we want once and for all. Its time we were listened to for once after all the years we’ve been asking to be listened to.

    • 2trueblue

      We have had significant changes that have affected our ability to govern ourselves when Liebore were in power but the media are primarily pro he EU, so we do/did not get it presented as it is, just as they wish us to see it. These laws did not just get added since the last election. We did not get the truth from Liebore during their tenure, so why lay it all on what has happened in the past 2yrs.

      I agree with you totally in your second paragraph. There is no negotiating with the EU. We are one of the main contributors but have very little power that enables us to change what might be good for the UK.

  • @PhilKean1

    No, Cameron is NOT struggling to keep up with public opinion

    – because as far as Britain’s relationship of the EU is concerned, the only opinion that matters to him, IS HIS OWN !

  • Deepsnoozer

    David Cameron is struggling FULLSTOP!!

  • Mirtha Tidville

    Sadly Dave is struggling to keep up with public opinion on anything

    • HooksLaw

      Cameron has for many months been pointing to a eurosceptic approach,
      pointing out in an article in the Telegraph and a speech at the same
      time that when the eurozone reach some ever closer union then the UK will be well placed to agree a different relationship with the EU.

      The Guardian reports thus
      ‘Cameron argues in the article that Europe is encroaching ever more into
      British life. “The fact is the British people are not happy with what
      they have – and frankly neither am I.’
      Indeed the Guardian points out Camerons stance is putting pressure on ed Miliband.
      ‘Cameron’s shift in tone will place further pressure on Ed Miliband’
      So the whole anti Cameron propaganda exercise is hogwash.

      • Boudicca_Icenii

        The ‘different relationship’ WE want with the EU is one where we are independent and self-governing and simply trade with the EU.
        Cameron wants some kind of ‘EU-lite where we stay within the union, which even Clegg admits is impossible.

        • HooksLaw

          You are naive beyond belief. I for one am not interested in using Clegg to justify an argument. I look at the real world, which is Norway and I look at Canada which is trying to agree a free trade agreement.

          ‘simply trade’ involves membership of the free market.

      • Dimoto

        As a Cameron insider, could you please explain to me why, every time Labour start a clamour for yet another “public inquiry” (usually about some imagined outrage or long-forgotten incident), Cameron grants their request ?
        Aren’t we supposed to be saving scarce resources ?

    • an ex-tory voter

      I beg to differ, he is well ahead of public opinion in the contempt stakes. Either he for them, or they for him, he is leading both.

  • Curnonsky

    Clearly Cameron has vast confidence in his ability to pull the wool over the eyes of the British public. His confidence is misplaced.

  • Martin Cole

    But it isn’t just Europe, he has just tweeted he will appoint a Senior Figure to investigate the allegations re North Wales where a Junior Figure would clearly be preferable!

  • 2trueblue

    How on earth anyone can seriously state that Milllpiede and Liebore are in touch with the public on the EU issue baffles me. They were in power for 13yrs., promised us a referendum, had a huge majority in parliament, and still did not deliver our referendum. The EU contributions from the UK escalated continually, and in their last days Darling scuttled off and gave away another £11b to the EU. CLever clogs Blair and Brown changed the currency we paid the EU in and this also backfired totally on us. They did not get any aspect right and the UK has less power to govern itself than it did before Liebore were in parliament. Let us for goodness keep the facts up there and not get distracted because it suits the media.

    Cameron is unclear about his intention, is not in touch with the electorate, but that does not elevate weasel words from Liebore no matter how loud they wish to chatter now about what they would do. They could have and they did not deliver.

    • Boudicca_Icenii

      Just to remind everyone, here’s what Labour said about the Lisbon Treachery, before they reneged on a Referendum. Why anyone would trust Labour every again is beyond me:

      “The electorate should be asked for their opinion when all our questions have been answered, when all the details are known, when the legislation has been finally tempered and scrutinised.” — Rt Hon. Tony Blair MP, speech to the House of Commons, 20th April 2004

      “This constitutional treaty can only come into force once it has been ratified in
      accordance with the constitutional arrangements of each member state. In the
      UK, this will require primary legislation amending the European Communities Act
      1972 and then endorsement in a referendum.” — Rt Hon. Jack Straw MP,
      Foreign Secretary, speech to the House of Commons, 26th January 2005

      “The Government have made it clear that the constitutional treaty will be ratified
      in the UK only after a referendum.” — Geoff Hoon MP, Europe Minister, speech to the House of Commons, 23rd May 2006

      “There is no question of any constitutional treaty going through without the express consent of the British people . . . Regardless of how other members vote, we will have a referendum on the subject.” — Rt Hon. Tony Blair MP, Prime Minister, speech to the House of Commons, 21st June 2004

      “The Government have consistently made it clear that the mechanism in the United Kingdom whereby the European draft constitutional treaty could be implemented is approval by the House of Commons followed by a referendum of the people of Britain. There is no question of implementing it by the back door.” —Douglas Alexander, Europe Minister, speech to the House of Commons, 31st
      January 2006

      “”The referendum should go ahead in any event. Of course it should.” — Rt Hon.
      Tony Blair MP, Prime Minister, speech to the House of Commons, 20th April 2004

      “It is absolutely clear that there should be a referendum on the European
      constitutional treaty, and that remains the Government’s position.” — Geoff Hoon MP, Europe Minister, speech to the House of Commons, 16th January

      “We will put it to the British people in a referendum.” — Gordon Brown,
      General Election Manifesto, 2005

      • HooksLaw

        This is the party that UKIPers want to deliver into power.

        • Boudicca_Icenii

          Shall we remind ourselves of a few things Cameron has said and done:

          There was the cast iron guarantee that he would hold a Referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. (It wasn’t qualified by anything when he made it).

          Then whilst travelling in the Middle East, preaching democracy and selling arms, he announced that there would be no EU Referendum because he, Cameron didn’t want one.

          He then 3-line whipped his MPs to vote down a 300,000 signature petition calling for a Referendum.

          • HooksLaw

            You continue to misrepresent about ‘cast iron guarantees’

            The promise in the 2009 Euro elections was clear. It involved the treaty not being ratified by the next general election. It was. At that time the ratification process was unclear as was the date of the general election.

            There was no such promise in the 2010 general election.
            So the whole basis of your character assasination is based on an ignorant false premise.

            Now is not the time for any referendum, but the EU is marching towards a new treaty and closer fiscal union between the eurozone countries. Then is the time for a referendum on whatever deal comes out of that.
            You lose all credibility by refusing to accept that being out of the EU still requires us to deal with the EU and negotiate a relationship with it. That relationship will still involve many of the rules we currently have to abide by.
            All so called ‘free trade agreements’ involve loss of sovereignty.

            There may be advantages of being ‘out’ in this way, but they are balanced by the advantages of being ‘in’ and having a say in those rules.
            Either way the difference is not worth handing power to a labour europhile govt.

            • Boudicca_Icenii

              Being out of the EU may require a deal to be done and UKIP isn’t again that. There is no reason why a Free Trade Treaty shouldn’t be negotiated. One that doesn’t involve any political control whatsoever.
              But Cameron isn’t talking about OUT of the EU and a Free Trade Treaty, He is talking about ‘EU-lite’ with a few powers returned to the UK Government. Not good enough for me.
              I want my country back.

    • Dimoto

      You are spot on.

      Such a shame that there is not one single Conservative Minister or MP prepared to stand up and shout this to the public, until they get the message. Not one !

  • foxoles
    • M. Wenzl

      Who cares? A politician who’s a hypocrite: shock, horror. The Express having a go at the EU: shock, horror.

      • foxoles

        It’s not just about one politician: the whole EU edifice is riddled with waste and fraud. My point is, the public is way ahead of him on this one. Cameron is not trusted: he cannot ‘reframe’ or ‘renegotiate’ or talk away the waste and fraud out of it, however hard he tries.

        • M. Wenzl

          It’s in the interest of the other member states for such waste and fraud to be addressed at the structural level. The Council of Ministers is incredibly powerful: if the UK wasn’t deliberately marginalising itself, it could lever its considerable influence to effect the necessary change. But then of course, that’s probably not going to happen anymore so Eurosceptics can sleep tight.

          • 2trueblue

            The basic fact is the 17 out of the 27 are ‘receiving’ so how do you suggest we reverse that? i.e. they are on ‘benefits’ and will consistently vote against the UK when it comes to reducing budgets.

            How is the UK deliberately marginalising itself apart form wanting to decrease the budget?

            • M. Wenzl

              Sorry, I meant overall. And I didn’t mean the budget so much as I did addressing waste and corruption all-round.

          • Dimoto

            You might think it’s in their interests, but they clearly don’t. Their political elites are all thoroughly corrupted by the gravy train (and so are much of our’s).
            You heard the Polish PM: (paraphrase) “To hell with principle, scruple, and economic responsibility, we want a big budget increase (with you lot paying), so that we can fill our troughs from the gravy train, ‘cos that was the deal we made !”

  • MaxSceptic

    I will definitely vote UKIP unless the Conservative candidate in my constituency promises – without caveat – to pressure and vote for an in/out referendum on our continued membership of the EU.

    • HooksLaw

      Welcome to a Europhile labour govt in 2015 then.

      But sadly you do not even realize that an in out referendum would be largely pointless.

      • Daveyyyy12

        Who cares.

        Fed up voting for liars.

        Rather have Miliband than a lying bunch of Tories. We have two ways to leave Europe, one is by a vote the other by letting the left Bankrupt Europe. Just pile into gold and silver all that paper is worthless.

      • Andrew Paul Shakespeare

        Public opinion has gone too far for any party to be truly Europhile any more. Even labour acknowledged this much with their support of the amendment last week — yes, it’s popular to claim that this was opportunistic, and maybe it was, but can you imagine Tony Blair whipping his MP’s to vote with Eurosceptics? When even Labour voters resent the EU, Miliband can’t be seen kow-towing to Brussels, even if he’d like to.

        Even the LibDems realise that being Europe’s biggest fan is a vast vote loser, which is why we’ve heard so little from them despite all the speculation in the last few weeks. Where were the LibDems in Parliament last week, standing up insisting that we should give Brussels whatever it demands?

        There will be an in/out referendum after the next election. The Tories have let speculation go far enough that they’ll be accused of bottling it if they don’t, and it will be in/out because anything else will make them a laughing stock and validate the public perception that they really are out of touch. Labour will then offer one also to prevent its Eurosceptic followers jumping ship, and to avoid alienating Eurosceptic Tory waverers flirting with the idea of a Labour vote. Finally, the LibDems will offer one because they’re the biggest bandwagoners in Britain.

        And yes, I know all three parties reneged on commitments to hold referendums before the last election. But the public are alert to that trick now, and they won’t get away with it again.


    That’ll be more accurately called the You Gov / Ashton High Representative Poll I think.

  • Vulture

    Cameron , Clegg and Miliband are all from the same party: the we-love-the-EU-no matter how-deeply-it-shafts Britain party. They are all equally untrustworthy.
    They take no notice of what the British public thinks or wants on the issue.
    Their latest trick to confuse a gullible but increasingly Euro-hostile public is to promise some sort of re-negotiation ( depite the fact that a meaningful return of lost powers is forbidden by the EU) to be followed by some sort of confusing referendum, which is unlikely to include the option most us want: In or Out..
    It won’t wash. The paths of the EU and Britain are divergent for many reasons, – historical, economic, legal – and they will diverge yet further until the final rupture.
    And the more people see of the EU and its high-handed dictatorial ways, the more they detest it and the political lackeys who serve it.

    • EJ

      Brilliant post – sums it up perfectly.

    • M. Wenzl

      Why are you treating the EU as a single organism?

      • Bluesman

        Ever Closer Union.

    • dalai guevara

      The net British contribution to the EU is £60 per capita per annum.
      The net British QE round 2011-2012 was £2,800 per capita per annum. Once the bonds mature, excrement will hit the fan.

      Now, go and wash.

      • Andrew Paul Shakespeare

        I find your £60 figure a little hard to believe. That would work out at about £4 billion annually, which is not what others sources say. Where are your figures coming from?

  • JL

    “The 53 Tory rebels who said they were listening to their constituents by
    voting for a real terms cut appear to have been vindicated…”

    So can we please stop calling them rebels? It’s inaccurate and misleading. MPs are in Parliament to represent their constituents, not the executive.


      Would love to know who voted this comment down implying that MPs are NOT there to represent us.

      • Sebastian Payne

        Agree JL MPs are indeed there to represent their constituents but they are also members of political parties. These parties helped to get them elected, hence why they are whipped as members of their party.

        • Coffeehousewall

          Political parties are inherently anti-democratic and the behaviour of whips is criminal since it of necessity involves bribing and threatening MPs in the exercise of their representation.

        • Dimoto

          I feel the poll is a trifle irrellevent.

          If it said simply : “Do you think Cameron should be tougher”, I think the majority in favour would be even higher. Cameron (surrounded by his coterie of dithering, feeble, consiglieri), is afraid of his own shadow, and terrified of appearing “masterful”.

    • HooksLaw

      Not me, but any tory who votes in the same lobby of Ed Balls is lucky only to be called a rebel.
      (Should be to Non-seq)

      • dalai guevara

        hahaha – your logic has clarified everything. We now have further proof that the world is not black and white.

  • Boudicca_Icenii

    And noticeable by his/its absence from this polling is Nigel Farage and UKIP;

    Now I wonder why that would be ……….
    Nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that UKIP is the one Party that has had a consistent policy towards the EU which a majority of the British people support – LEAVE!
    YouGov is a pathetic Pollster. Biased in its questioning, and therefore the results it produces are irrelevant.

    • EJ

      I only hope that UKIP will shock the pants off all these smug, complacent, we-know-better-than-you, pro-EU, metropolitan bubble-dwellers so hell-bent on giving the country away against our will. (From the Cameroonians to their wide-eyed lackeys at the Spectator).

  • In2minds

    No, Cameron always ignores public opinion so struggling to keep up falling behind it does not matter!

  • William Haworth

    If he does what the people want, that makes him ‘populist’, which is a thought crime. If he doesn’t, that makes him ‘sacked’, which is a mortgage crime. Tricky..

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