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Ordinary folks just don’t care about Europe

October 24th, 2011 Posted in EU Politics by

Given the bile spewed out almost daily by certain national newspapers over recent years, telling us why the European Union is at the heart of every problem facing Britain today, it is perhaps surprising that most people in the UK do not give a stuff about Europe. Indeed, people actually care more about drug abuse, morality or the environment than they do about Europe!

I say this with confidence. The monthly Ipsos MORI issues tracker ,which is probably one of the best trackers of the state of the nation’s collective mind, shows that only about 3% of the population think that Europe is an important issue whereas some 60% think that our economic situation is important, 30% think that unemployment is an important issue, and 20% think immigration is important.

I have always liked this survey. Ask people if Europe is important they will say yes. Ask people if they want a referendum they will say yes (who says no to a referendum I wonder? ). Read the papers and you would think it was the subject of every single chat at the office water cooler every day. Hmm right. But ask them to spontaneously indicate which things they think are important and now we are getting to what people are really thinking about – not what some push poll or newspaper wants us to believe.

And yet here I am watching the ludicrous parliamentary debate on the EU referendum. An hour or two ago they were honestly arguing about the difficulties of deciding whether any referendum should be under a FTP voting system or a preferential voting system. OH the irony!

Had David Cameron left this as a back bench debate he could have focused today on the good news coming out Libya, his scrap with Sarkozy, his trip to the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting etc. His ill-judged attempt to whip the Conservative MPs has backfired monumentally. MPs we have never heard of are threatening  to resign from  jobs we have never heard of over the issue. This story is not about Europe it is ” a test of Cameron’s authority”, or  “a test of whether the Conservative party trust their leader on Europe”…..

And there can only be one outcome from this…. On a matter that only a tiny minority of us ordinary folk think important, the nation will come out of this concluding that  David Cameron is leading a divided Conservative party. That’s not good news for him or his party.  Where has David Cameron’s political antennae gone?  It left with Andy Coulson. Further evidence that someone more in touch with the mood of the nation, the way stories gather momentum, twist and turn, is needed at NO10.

Nick Clegg has not come out of this without criticism (read Simon McGrath’s excellent article on “Why won’t Nick Clegg trust the people..”). We stand for democracy, claim to be in favour of parliamentary reform and at the first sniff of democracy in action (the EU referendum brigade’s so-called e-petition) whips his party into voting against it. Better, I suppose, than whipping the party to abstain.

10 Responses to “Ordinary folks just don’t care about Europe”

  1. a Says:

    You confuse the public’s priorities with lack of interest with the EU.
    A major oversight on your part.

  2. Angela Harbutt Says:

    I am simply saying that the EU is waaaaaayyyyy down the list of things that the huge part of this country would wish to see debated in parliament this afternoon.

  3. Angela Harbutt Says:

    And before anybody asks – yes I think that given the Government rules on getting debates into parliament of course this should be debated… I just think that Cameron was foolish to invest political capital in this the way he has – when he could have let this one come and go as a debate on Europe rather about him.

  4. a Says:

    It may be far down the list, but as you say, it should be put to the people.
    I doubt we’d leave anyway, people would be too unsure of the consequences and targetted by scaremongering Europhiles I think.
    I hope we get the referendum though, it should be asked.

  5. Ben Lodge Says:

    It’s high on my list and the same goes for many people I know, but maybe that’s just the circles I’m in …

  6. Leslie K. Clark Says:

    The Tory benches were pretty full last night, weren’t they? Is the only time they get impassioned is when Europe is on the agenda? Nothing like a bit of EU-bashing!

    Angela – you’ve hit the nail on the head. A referendum is not a top priority.

    I can’t imagine any sane individual who has been recently made redundant suddenly turning to their partner and saying, “You know what, luv? We’ve got to get out of this European Union.”

    It was just sheer self-indulgence on behalf of Tory Eurosceptics – with a few token Labour MPs thrown in.

    However, on the substance of the debate last night, I couldn’t recall any real articulate voices speaking up for the European Union (I must add that I wasn’t that sad to watch the entire five hours of debate).

  7. a Says:


    Yes, but the point is whilst it may not be top of the public’s priorities it is still a question worth asking and it bothers most people.
    Of course people are going to have more pressing concerns than the EU, but the EU is a concern of most people.

  8. Angela Harbutt Says:


    So….I assume therefore that you wholeheartdly agree with M Littlewoods analysis over on City A… He is basically suggesting a FOUR WAY referendum on the EU ..

    1.Complete withdrawal from all European institutions and go for independence.

    2.The Norwegian or Swiss route of EFTA/EEA membership (which would still involve some restrictions on our national sovereignty).

    3.Endorse whatever package of measures David Cameron is able to extract from any new treaty negotiations (presumably involving the UK staying in the EU but in some form of “outer core”).

    4. Throw ourselves headlong into a more integrated “inner Europe”

  9. a Says:

    I four way referendum would be good. Instead of people having to choose between leaving the EU, reducing it’s powers over Britain or staying in it at the current form we’d also be able to integrate further into it if people so wished.

    Personally I hate the idea of further integration but it’s not up to me, *it should be up to the nation as a whole to decide*. That’s my point.

  10. Charlie Says:

    Angela, many of the changes which people wish to happen are prevented from doing so due to EU regulations. The most common is the deportation of foreign born violent criminals.

    Immigrants having access to council and social housing is another hot topic. The problem is that most middle and upper middle class people who do not live in council or social housing, do not work in construction, fishing manufacturing, agriculture and hospitality sectors and therfore do not experience the problems caused by membership of the EU.

    When understanding political trends and perceptions, thought neeeds to be given to one’s experience and that of friends and workmates.