Douglas Carswell

27 JAN 2013

Referendum poll boost

So there it is. David Cameron's pledge to hold an In / Out EU referendum has translated into an immediate five point jump in the opinion polls.

Since last week's speech, I have noticed that a number of pundits in SW1 have been keen to have a pop at Cameron's promise to trust the people.

It'll backfire, they warn. Such populism won't mean people are any more inclined to vote Conservative, they imply. Such a "leap in the dark" could "prove fatal", Andrew Rawnsley informs us in today's Observer.

Oh really? Perhaps this tells us more about the prejudices and preconceptions of political pundits than it does about anything else.

A certain kind of pundit has spent years telling us that Europe does not matter as an issue for the voter. Many Westminster pundits – rather like many MPs - have never themselves won an election in a marginal seat. Yet they presume to know an awful lot about what voters really want. Perhaps they don't know quite as much as they think?

Cameron's offer of an In / Out vote has increased the Conservative's poll ratings. Just like after David Cameron wielded the veto a year or so ago, the empirical evidence is undeniable.

Many pundits have only ever analysed the Europe question as a "Tory splits" story. They are unable to see the wider significance of David Cameron's decision to trust the people.

Of course Europe will continue to animate those on the Conservative benches. Given the enormity of what is happening in the Eurozone, and the extent to which our future prosperity depends on getting our trade relations right, so it should.

But the poison has been drawn. It is no longer a question of what various Tory MPs think about Europe that matters, but what the country thinks in 2015 and then 2017.

According to ComRes, the Conservatives are now a mere 3 points behind where they were at the last election. Given the state of the economy, that is remarkable.

There will be good weeks and bad weeks ahead, but Ed Miliband's opinion poll lead no longer looks so great. Didn't Neil Kinnock enjoy similar poll leads?

Getting it right on Europe is not enough to ensure we win in 2015. But because we are now offering voters a chance to vote to quit the EU, we are in a much better position to do so.

Ignore the Guardianista commentariat.  The people who will decide the outcome of the next election have given a big thumbs up to an In / Out referendum.

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