Public will back euro in vote, think tank concludes

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Indy Politics

Labour can win a "yes" vote in a euro referendum in this Parliament if it runs a "short, sharp" campaign to woo voters, one of Tony Blair's favourite think-tanks has announced.

In the most comprehensive study of polling evidence on the issue to date, the Foreign Policy Centre will urge the Government to warn voters of the dangers to their personal prosperity if Britain stays out of the single currency. The FPC, which has Mr Blair as its patron, acknowledges that opposition to the euro runs high but claims that public opinion is "soft and easily persuadable".

The think-tank also concluded that newspaper stories on the euro are not influencing voters and urged ministers to "take on" the tabloids over the issue. The study comes in the wake of pro-euro remarks by Peter Hain, the Foreign Office minister, and will be seen as an attempt to soften up public opinion ahead of a poll.

With contributions from Lord Haskins, Mr Blair's adviser on rural issues, and Chris Powell, Labour's former advertising guru and brother of the Prime Minister's chief of staff, Jonathan, critics will claim it bears the approval of Downing Street. The research, entitled Winning the Euro Referendum, analysed polling figures and argues that a "yes"vote can be won by stressing the political and economic case for the currency. Crucially, it found that "significant shifts can occur in attitudes towards the euro in a short period of time if there is leadership by trusted politicians".

Professor Paul Whiteley drew on the British Election Survey to show that interventions by pro-European politicians, such as Tony Blair and Charles Kennedy, in the euro debate softened the electorate's Euroscepticism.

In the last three weeks of the election there was a 5.5 per cent swing from opposition to the single currency to the "wait-and-see" position in line with the Government's policy. The editorial slant of newspapers did not have a significant impact on the priorities of their readership, with a third of Daily Telegraph readers favouring the euro, for example.

The report stressed that the case should be made for cheaper mortgages under the euro, but added that economic arguments will not work unless they are backed up by a strong patriotic and political case. John Curtice noted that 29 per cent of people cite "loss of national identity" as the main reason to oppose theeuro. Correspondingly, only 30 per cent of those who feel European want to keep the pound.

The FPC calls for aninformation campaign to be led by "someone of unimpeachable integrity", such as the broadcaster Sir Trevor McDonald. The "yes" campaign should compare prices to back their case, it says. A can of Coca-Cola costs twice as much in the UK as in Spain and a Ford Focus costs 65 per cent more here than in Denmark. The euro would make such comparisons even starker.

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