Magazine poll rejects Maastricht

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AN UNSEEMLY row has broken out over an opinion poll on Maastricht, conducted by a magazine owned by Michael Heseltine's family publishing company, that produced a resounding 'no' vote.

According to the poll, by Haymarket Publishing's Management Today, 68 per cent of businessmen would vote against the treaty in a referendum. Mr Heseltine, one of the Cabinet's most prominent pro-Europeans, owns 50.4 per cent of Haymarket through his family and family trusts.

The poll has, however, caused feathers to fly in the sedate world of management. It was accompanied by a summary of the treaty written by Patrick Robertson, founder and secretary of the Bruges Group and noted anti-federalist. It was Mr Robertson and his Bruges Group (honorary president Baroness Thatcher) that first exposed the Tory split over Europe so publicly and embarrassingly. At the same time, the manner in which the questions were framed has led to suggestions that the poll tended to solicit responses from those opposed to Maastricht.

Management Today circulates free to the British Institute of Management's 65,000 members. However, the BIM has disassociated itself from the poll and its findings, which will appear in next month's issue.

Roger Young, the BIM's director-general, said: 'We were disturbed by the survey because of the way it was weighted. We were concerned that it would not give a true or fair reflection of the membership's views.'

Mr Robertson's summary describes Maastricht as 'a politically-inspired treaty negotiated in the context of widespread calls by many European countries, most notably France and Germany, for a 'United States of Europe'.'

The BIM was also concerned that the response to the poll was too low to make its findings statistically valid. Of 95,000 forms sent out by the magazine, only 3,000 were returned.

William Pecover, publishing director of Management Today, said: 'It is one of the classic media-inspired fallacies that the Bruges Group is anti-European. What they are opposed to is unnecessary bureaucracy.

'We knew we might incur some criticism in selecting Mr Robertson to write the summary. But he is an expert and it is not easy to find people who have read the treaty and understand it. We twice sent the summary back to him for changes because we felt he had overstepped the mark. By the time we published it, we were happy it was a fair reflection of the treaty.'

Mr Pecover, who personally favours a referendum, also rejected charges that the poll had been slanted. 'We were amazed at the result,' he said.