Why the Chequers plan will deliver a Corbyn government

Why the Chequers plan will deliver a Corbyn government

by Ewen Stewart
article from Tuesday 4, September, 2018

GLOBAL BRITAIN has commissioned polling to determine what the Chequers Agreement will mean for the Tory MPs who will ultimately face the electorate. Across the forty-four most marginal Conservative Party constituencies – including Ayr, Gordon and Stirling – the message we got back is unequivocal. Chequers will not deliver Brexit, Chequers will deliver Corbyn.

There are many economic arguments for and against the Prime Minister’s Chequers agreement, but there is one political argument for it to be withdrawn that is unassailable – it will remove the Conservative Party from power for at least a generation.

Both in the general reaction across all those surveyed and in the individual constituencies there is no good news for the Prime Minister or those that back the Chequers negotiation position. Our polling delivers a damning verdict on the Chequers proposal and a stark warning to any Conservative MP in all but the safest of seats.  You can read the 44 individual reports here.

Even MPs that oppose Chequers but have slim majorities will suffer too, some losing their seats as collateral damage that will sweep the party out of power. 

How a deeply divided party regroups from a defeat to the worst leader of the Labour Party in living memory, caused by its own leadership’s actions, is unfathomable. Such an outcome has the strong possibility of replicating John Major’s defeat in 1997 by keeping the Conservative Party out of power for more than a decade.

The survey, the first since Chequers was announced, is a large one with some 500 weighted voters questioned across 44 British mainland constituencies, giving a total sample of circa 22,000.

The polling established that 45% of voters believe Brexit is the most important issue facing the country with the NHS coming way behind at 17% – but 73% are unhappy with the Government’s handling of the negotiations.

Voters believe the Chequers deal will have a negative effect on them (45%), their families and the country (51%).

Excluding don't knows, the majority (48%) of voters are opposed to the Chequers deal – and (46%) do not believe it is reflective of a true Brexit. 

Brexit will undoubtedly not mean Brexit and that is seen as a breach of trust that will damage all MPs, whether they voted Leave or Remain or support Chequers or not.

A significant proportion (29%) of voters in these Conservative Party marginal seats would be less likely to support their local Conservative Member at the next election if that member supported the Chequers deal. 

Supporters of the Chequers deal, including Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns in Vale of Glamorgan; Anna Soubry in Broxtowe; and Colin Clark in Gordon all face losing their seats at a future general election.

Alun Cairns is defending a majority of 2,190 (4.1%) so he should be concerned to learn that while voters in Vale of Glamorgan think Brexit is the most important issue facing the country (42%) they are hugely unhappy with the Government’s handling of the negotiations (75%).  Most are aware of the Chequers Brexit Deal (81%) but almost half of voters in his constituency oppose it (48%) with only 28% supporting it. Some 49% of voters expect it will have a negative effect on both the country and 47% on them and their families. 

Nearly half (49%) of voters don’t think Chequers respects the EU Referendum results or is reflective of a true Brexit (50%). Consequently, a staggering 33% of swingable and 15% of all voters said that if their local Conservative MP supported the Chequers Deal, they would be less likely to support the party at the next election. 

Anna Soubry is defending a majority of 863 (1.5%) in Broxtowe where voters think Brexit is the most important issue facing the country (47%) they are overwhelmingly unhappy with the Government’s handling of the negotiations (79%). Most are aware of the Chequers Brexit Deal (86%) but almost half of voters in Broxtowe oppose it (45%) with 30% supporting it. Some 55% of voters expect it will have a negative effect on the country and 47% on them and their families. 

Nearly half (48%) of voters don’t think Chequers respects the EU Referendum results or is reflective of a true Brexit (52%). Again, a staggering 33% of swingable and 28% of all voters said they would be less likely to support the party if their local Conservative MP supported the Chequers Deal at the next election. Measured against the 23% who said they would be more likely to vote Conservative because of Chequers would face a potential net loss of 6% of Conservative votes, handing the seat to Labour.

Colin Clark – who defeated Alex Salmond last year – is defending a majority of 2,607 (4.8%) in Gordon where 57% think Brexit is the most important issue facing the country but 73%are unhappy with the Government’s handling of the negotiations.  They are overwhelmingly aware of the Chequers Brexit Deal (89%) but almost half oppose it (47%) with only 28% supporting it. Over half (52%) of voters expect it will have a negative effect on the country and 48% on them and their families. 

Some 43% of voters don’t believe Chequers respects the EU Referendum results or is reflective of a true Brexit (45%). Consequently, almost a third of swingable (30%) and 28% of all voters said if their local Conservative MP supported the Chequers Deal, they would be less likely to support the party at the next election.  Set against those that would be more likely to vote Conservative because of Chequers (16%) there would be a potential net loss of 12% of Conservative votes, giving the seat to the SNP.

The survey is not isolated example of the significant public disappointment with Chequers as it follows a more limited study by Professor Matthew Goodwin published in The Sun that suggested a 4.2% gain by UKIP and 4.4% fall by Conservatives in all polls since the proposal was announced would hand Corbyn’s Labour Party twenty-five seats and put him in Downing Street. 

Being more detailed, the message from the Global Britain polling is starker. Whatever one thinks of the economics of Chequers; whatever one thinks of the way it was landed on cabinet ministers as an accept it or resign fait accompli; whatever one thinks of measuring its proposals against the promises made at Lancaster House, Florence, Mansion House and in the party manifesto – the breach of trust is so great that it is imperative the Prime Minister takes it off the table.

There is no need to change prime minister, just a need to recognise Chequers will not work and is deeply unpopular. Theresa May still has the opportunity to do this, save face and rebuild the trust of the British people. She can legitimately argue she has repeated sought compromise only to be rebuffed and ridiculed by EU negotiators, and individual heads of state. Instead of offering compromise they have demanded yet more from her. She should say enough is enough and put her faith in WTO rules until such time as a Canada-style trade deal for the whole UK can be agreed.

She can then argue she is then delivering the Brexit people voted for and be seen to be standing up for the country rather than dancing to everyone else’s tunes.

Ewen Stewart is director of Global Britain. A summary of the polls can be found here.

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