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Analysis

Backing People’s Vote can help Tories in marginal seats

by Luke Lythgoe | 09.11.2018

All 67 Tory seats with majorities of under 5,000 show a preference for a People’s Vote, a massive polling study by YouGov has revealed. And in each case the number of Conservative voters who support a People’s Vote far outweighs the slim majorities for the sitting Tory.

Over the next few weeks, MPs will have opportunities to back a public vote on Brexit. For the Conservatives occupying these vulnerable seats, the decisions they make in Parliament now could have a big impact on their success at any future election – especially if Tory-leaning voters in their constituency feel particularly strongly about having a final say on Brexit.

A whole range of MPs find themselves in this precarious situation. Some are diehard Brexiters who you would expect to put Brexit ideology ahead of electoral security. Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford and Woodford Green) and Theresa Villiers (Chipping Barnet) were both former Cabinet ministers and spokespeople for the Leave campaign. Andrea Jenkyns (Morley & Outwood) and Ben Bradley (Mansfield) both quit their posts this summer to fight for Brexit on the backbenches. Other vulnerable Brexiters include former London mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith (Richmond Park), Tom Pursglove (Corby) and farming minister George Eustice (Camborne & Redruth).

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There are also pro-People’s Vote Tories on this list. Among them are Anna Soubry (Broxtowe), Justine Greening (Putney) and Guto Bebb (Aberconwy), who will feel emboldened to continue loudly supporting a public say on Brexit, knowing this chimes with their constituents’ views.

Then there are those Conservatives who were vocal pro-Europeans in 2016 and probably have sympathy for a People’s Vote, but haven’t thrown their full weight behind the campaign yet. That includes former Cabinet ministers Nicky Morgan (Loughborough), Stephen Crabb (Preseli Pembrokeshire) and Amber Rudd (Hastings & Rye). Rudd has come closest to backing a People’s Vote publicly, saying it “could be the result of an impasse” in Parliament. Might her wafer-thin 346 majority, in a constituency where 55% support a People’s Vote, convince her to shift further?

Vulnerable Tories also include nine of the 13 Scottish Conservatives who were elected last year. Until now many have found reasons to back Brexit, for example due to the concerns of fishing communities in their seats. But their constituents’ support for a People’s Vote could change some minds. In particular, Stephen Kerr (Stirling) has a majority of just 148 and Luke Graham (Ochil & South Perthshire), who worked for Britain Stronger In during the referendum: neither is in a coastal seat.

As Brexit looks like more and more of a mess, many Tories will be looking for a way to end the whole debacle and thus minimise the damage to their party from the inevitable fallout. A People’s Vote is a logical way of doing this. Polling now shows it is also a democratic one.

Edited by Quentin Peel

One Response to “Backing People’s Vote can help Tories in marginal seats”

  • “Some are diehard Brexiters who you would expect to put Brexit ideology ahead of electoral security”

    Put something ahead of electoral security? You are talking about MPs!

    One MP has told me that they are a remainer (in a slightly leave constituency) and that they see their role as to “mitigate the worst effects of Brexit”

    Amazing the extent of ambition there.

    As was said on Channel 4 on Monday – the only profession (?) that will deliberately do harm to its people.