The overwhelming majority of members of Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party don’t want there to be a second referendum on Britain’s EU membership, according to a survey published Thursday. For the other main U.K. parties, the opposite is true.
Just 14 percent of Conservatives favor holding a second vote that might reverse Brexit, according to the YouGov survey of political party members for Queen Mary University of London. By contrast, the proportions for the opposition Labour, Scottish National and Liberal Democrat parties are 78 percent, 87 percent and 91 percent respectively.
The data illustrate that May is beholden to her party members, which make up just a fraction of the electorate, which was split — 52 percent to 48 percent — in favor of Brexit in the referendum in 2016. They also show how the country remains divided, with the Tories also poles apart from the three opposition groups when asked whether they wanted to stay in the single market, and whether austerity has gone too far.
“Britain’s party members are the lifeblood and the foot-soldiers of our democracy,” said Tim Bale, professor of politics at Queen Mary. “That doesn’t necessarily mean they look like or think like their parties’ voters — or, indeed, look or think like each other. The Tory grassroots in particular are something of a breed apart from their Labour, Lib Dem and SNP counterparts.”
A quarter of Tories favor staying in the EU’s single market, compared to 87 percent of Labour members, 95 percent of Scottish Nationalists and 96 percent of Liberal Democrats.
“Democracy doesn’t just stop on one day,” Tony Blair, former Labour leader and prime minister, said on the BBC Today Programme. “People are entitled to think again. In 2016 you knew you wanted to get out but we didn’t yet know the terms.”
Blair has been a strong proponent of giving Britons a choice to rethink their decision to leave the bloc. In an article he warned Jeremy Corbyn, the party’s current leader, that “if Labour continues to go along with Brexit and insists on leaving the Single Market, the handmaiden of Brexit will have been the timidity of Labour.”
Corbyn, a lifelong euroskeptic who has been deliberately vague on Brexit policy, has set his sights on becoming prime minister in another snap election. He’s raised his appeal with voters by focusing on social policy and attacking the government for years of cost-cutting on things like healthcare.
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