A startling graph published by PoliticalBetting.com shows that public opinion on Europe is not where most politicians imagine it to be.
Voting intentions in a referendum on whether the UK should stay in the EU are changing. Successive opinion polls show that the proportion of people who would vote to stay is increasing, while the proportion who would vote to leave is decreasing.
That’s not all. A poll on voting intentions in the next European parliamentary elections shows that support for UKIP has fallen to fourth place behind the Liberal Democrats. And this is a poll by YouGov, which usually gives the lowest ratings for the Liberal Democrats.
We need to be cautious and see whether these trends continue. In any event, there is no cause for complacency – a referendum and the European elections still require a campaign. The point is that – for all the bullying by the eurosceptic press and for all the cowardice of pro-Europeans – euroscepticism is not as popular as we are led to believe.
And that means there is no excuse for the Liberal Democrats to run another defeatist European election campaign in 2014, as they did in 2004 and 2009. Both those campaigns were run on the assumption that it was more important to mollify Eurosceptic opinion than to enthuse the party’s more cosmopolitan base. Both campaigns were a failure, securing fourth place behind UKIP.
Say what you like about UKIP, but at least it campaigns for what it believes in. The Liberal Democrats should do the same – if they don’t, pro-European voters have nowhere else to turn.