Not a vote winner: Only one in eight would support 'Margaret Thatcher' bank holiday

Proposal was among raft of parliamentary Bills tabled by Tory backbenchers' group in 'Alternative Queen's Speech'

Only one voter in eight would support renaming a bank holiday "Margaret Thatcher Day" after the former prime minister, who died earlier this year, according to a poll published today.

The proposal was one of the most eye-catching ideas in a raft of parliamentary Bills tabled by a group of Conservative backbenchers in their "Alternative Queen's Speech". But it also proved to be the least popular, winning the backing of just 13 per cent of those questioned in the poll for major Tory donor Lord Ashcroft.

Also failing to win public support were proposals to allow employees to opt out of the minimum wage (backed by 23 per cent), abolish the Department of Energy and Climate Change (25 per cent), privatise the BBC (28 per cent) and scrap the office of the Deputy Prime Minister (29 per cent).

But the Tory MPs, led by Wellingborough MP Peter Bone, appear to have struck a nerve with some of their other ideas, winning 90 per cent backing for a law to ensure that offenders on second or third convictions for the same crime serve longer sentences. Other popular proposals were for laws to deport foreign nationals found guilty of crimes (87 per cent), make it a criminal offence to enter the UK illegally (86 per cent) and ensure prisoners serve the full sentence handed down in court (82 per cent).

Mr Bone said last month that the private members' bills would give voters an idea of how a Tory Prime Minister could govern if he did not have "one hand tied behind his back" by coalition with Liberal Democrats.

But Lord Ashcroft warned that many of the Alternative Queen's Speech proposals suffered from what he called a "meh factor", with as many as 48 per cent of those questioned saying they had no opinion one way or the other on issues which their backers insisted would galvanise popular support.

The former Tory treasurer said: "Winning in 2015 will mean more than devising the most eye-catching ways of clamping down on criminals and foreigners. We certainly need to deliver on immigration, crime and welfare reform, but it is at least as important for the Tories to be a competent and united party of government that can be trusted on the economy and public services (which, incidentally, merited scarcely a mention in the Alternative Queen's Speech).

"Rather than play fantasy politics we need to respond to the country's anxieties and aspirations, not least those of people who may never have voted Conservative before."

* Some 2,013 adults were interviewed online between June 28 and 30 for Lord Ashcroft's poll.

PA

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