Poll puts Labour ahead on Europe

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The Independent Online
LABOUR IS the party most trusted to look after Britain's interests in Europe, according to an opinion poll for The Independent, which comes as the party launches its campaign today for the European elections on 10 June.

The poll puts Labour on 34 per cent, well ahead of the Conservatives on 19 per cent - but the fact that 28 per cent do not trust any party suggests that the Prime Minister has failed to overcome voter cynicism and apathy.

The poll, carried out last weekend by Sample Surveys, suggests that William Hague will reap few electoral dividends from his policy of staying out of the single European currency. An overwhelming 83 per cent think Britain is "likely" or "certain" to join in the next five years. This finding contrasts with consistent opinion- poll evidence that a majority would vote "No" in the referendum promised by Tony Blair. The Prime Minister has been attacked by Eurosceptic Conservatives for trying to overcome suspicion of the euro by presenting the abolition of the pound as inevitable - the poll findings suggest that he has succeeded.

The Independent's poll brings mixed news for Mr Blair on other fronts, suggesting that public opinion is solidly behind him over the war in Yugoslavia, but people are unimpressed by his handling of genetically modified foods.

It found that 78 per cent of those interviewed thought the Government had not done enough to inform the public about GM foods. Almost as many, 73 per cent, said the supermarkets - most of which have banned own-brand GM products from their shelves - had not done enough to inform people. While 69 per cent said they would try to avoid buying GM products, 26 per cent said they were "happy to buy" them.

But, despite the call from the British Medical Association this week for a moratorium on the growing of GM crops for research purposes, the Government's position was backed by 69 per cent, who said this research should be "allowed to continue in the UK". Only 27 per cent said it should be stopped.

The poll confirms that public opinion in Britain remains the most hawkish in Nato. Two-thirds of those interviewed, 65 per cent, said they agreed with Britain taking part in the Nato bombing of Yugoslavia. Only 22 per cent disagreed.

British opinion is also still solidly behind the use of land forces, despite the divisions in Nato which emerged at the weekend: 58 per cent of those interviewed said they believed "Britain should send ground troops into the conflict" in Yugoslavia. Only 31 per cent disagreed. This finding contrasts sharply with a MORI poll conducted at the start of the war in March, when the use of ground troops was opposed by 62 per cent to 26 per cent.

While most people do not expect a peace deal within weeks, most of those who expressed an opinion thought the war would be "over by Christmas". While one-quarter of those interviewed, 26 per cent, said they did not know how long the conflict would last, 46 per cent expected it to last six months or less. Only 8 per cent thought it would last longer than two years, despite a prediction from Downing Street early on in the conflict that it could last four years; 14 per cent thought it would last seven months to one year, and 6 per cent between one and two years.

The Poll Findings

Independent/Sample Surveys Opinion Poll May 1999


Which party do you most trust to look after Britain's interests in Europe?

Labour 34%

Conservative 19%

Lib Dems 4%

Other 2%

None of them 28%

Don't know 13%

How likely do you think it is that Britain will join the single European currency in the next five years?

Certain 29%

Likely 54%

Unlikely 10%

Impossible 2%

Don't know 5%


Assuming that you could tell from the packaging whether foods contained GM foods, would you be happy to buy such products or would you tend to avoid them?

Happy to buy 26%

Tend to avoid 69%

Don't know 5%

Some GM crops are grown in the UK for research purposes. Should this research be allowed to continue in the UK?

Yes 69%

No 27%

Don't know 4%


Do you agree or disagree with Britain taking part in the Nato bombing of Yugoslavia?

Agree 65%

Disagree 22%

Don't know 13%

Do you believe that Britain should send ground troops into the conflict?

Yes 58%

No 31%

Don't know 10%

Sample Surveys interviewed 505 adults by telephone on 15 and 16 May. The results were weighted to match the GB population.