If the London Mayor and his potential successor opt for 'Out' it could damage the Prime Ministerby Peter Kellner / October 5, 2015 / Leave a comment
Who would have guessed. According to Lord Aschroft’s new book, David Cameron has always favoured Britain remaining in the European Union. I can offer some equally astonishing disclosures. Jeremy Corbyn is left-wing. Boris Johnson wants to be Prime Minister. Nicola Sturgeon would like to lead an independent Scotland. If those dramatic insights don’t win me a blogger of the year award, I don’t know what will.
The question, of course, is not whether the Prime Minister wants to keep Britain in the EU, but whether he can win the coming referendum. For most of this year, YouGov polls have found a steady, if modest, lead for staying in. However, our latest surveys show the two sides neck-and-neck. In the months ahead, we shall see how Cameron goes about renegotiating Britain’s relations with the rest of the EU—and what effect this has on public attitudes.
Meanwhile, as the Conservatives gather in Manchester for their autumn conference, I suspect Cameron will be nervously watching how two particular members of his party behave. One is Boris Johnson; the other is his putative successor as mayor of London, Zac Goldsmith. Both are charismatic politicians able to reach beyond the Tory tribe. Both have past form as eurosceptics. Both now say they are waiting to see what concessions the Prime Minister manages to extract from Angela Merkel, Francois Hollande and the other continental leaders.
In a close referendum, the result could turn on which way Zac and Boris eventually jump (it’s a mark of their charisma that both are routinely referred to be their first name). This is because many of the swing voters in the referendum will be Tory voters. YouGov surveys have found consistently that most currently say they would vote to leave the EU; but when we ask them what they would do if Cameron said he had protected Britain’s vital interests and recommended a vote to stay in, a large number say they would switch sides and back their party leader.
If both Zac and Boris end up backing the Prime Minister’s campaign to stay in the EU, this would underpin…