The Conservative Party is seen by the public as more divided than even the last Labour government after the eruption of infighting over Europe, according to a survey for The Independent.
The divisions that opened up in last week's rebellion by 81 Tory MPs appear to be damaging the party's standing with voters: according to ComRes, Labour has doubled its lead to four points since the last survey two weeks ago. The Tories have slipped three points to 34 per cent, while Labour is down one to 38 per cent and the Liberal Democrats are up four to 14 per cent. Other parties are unchanged on 14 per cent. A month ago, the Tories enjoyed a one-point lead over Labour.
Some 56 per cent of the public – including four in 10 Tory supporters – believe the Conservatives are more divided than the previous government, while 32 per cent of people disagree.
The finding will alarm but not surprise allies of David Cameron, who is determined to avoid rows like those between the Blair and Brown camps that destabilised Labour. Worryingly for the Prime Minister, the public sympathise with his rebel MPs' calls for a referendum on Europe, which he opposes. Three out of four people (75 per cent) would like the opportunity to vote on Britain's relationship with the EU – a view shared by 83 per cent of Tory supporters.
A majority (55 per cent) regard Mr Cameron as out of touch with public opinion on Europe, while 33 per cent of the public disagree. Only 27 per cent of people think the UK gets a good deal from being a member of the EU, while 60 per cent disagree. People in the top two social groups (AB and C1) are much more likely to believe Britain gets a good deal (31 per cent) than those in the C2 (22 per cent) and DE (19 per cent) groups. Two out of three Tory voters do not think the UK gets a good deal.
ComRes surveyed 1,001 GB adults by telephone between October 28-30. Data was weighted to be demographically representative of the population and by past vote recall. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Full tables at www.comres.co.uk.