58% of Lib Dem members against pledging in/out EU referendum in 2015 manifesto

Lib Dem Voice polled our members-only forum recently to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Some 650 party members have responded, and we’re publishing the full results.

nick clegg euDavid Cameron has said the next Conservative election manifesto will include a pledge to hold an in/out referendum on the UK’s continuing membership of the European Union. Do you think the next Liberal Democrat manifesto should include the same pledge?

    34% – Yes, it should

    58% – No, it should not

    7% – Don’t know

David Cameron’s speech two months ago promising a future Conservative government would hold a referendum on British membership of the EU was expected by some to be a game-changer: in reality, there was the merest flicker of interest in the polls, quickly extinguished. The pressure I half-expected to build on the Lib Dems (and Labour) to respond in kind has not arrived, at least yet.

And, according to our survey, a majority (58%) of Lib Dem members remain opposed to the party matching the Tory leader’s pledge. That’s down slightly on last December when we previously asked the question — 63% then said the Lib Dems shouldn’t commit to a referendum — but still a near 2-to-1 majority.

Here’s a sample of your comments:

As the only real pro Europe party, we should concentrate on telling the true story of our involvement in the EU.

We have more important things to be getting on with at the moment; when the EU is back on track, then we can think about it.

I agree with an in/out referendum, but would like the eurozone to have an opportunity to mend itself beforehand. I support membership of the European Union, but would like to see substantial reforms including non-interference in social policy.

Show some leadership! Explain the benefits of Europe to the people. The argument is being lost to the extremists because of fear.

There is no sense in the Lib Dems chasing anti-EU votes. Polls consistently show more people in favour of the EU than vote Lib Dem. That is where we should look for voters.

This is a representative democracy and we should also oppose referendums on principle.

Our union membership is the only part of the constitution confirmed by popular referendum. Our citizenship and rights are too important to risk with the far right media’s lies. Another referendum would only poison things further, even if we did stay in.

I had thought that we were the one party which was committed to the European project.

Though I strongly think we have already made the decision we need to go with the mood, but make absolutely certain that we legislate to ensure full information is given to all voters, and that lies and misinformation are outlawed, with heavy penalties. Newspapers to be required from the outset to be balanced and to give full page spreads to explaining things. LD policy should be clearly stated that we are European and that we will continue to be, but we must set out the things we want to change.

Representative parliamentary government is far preferable to government by referendum which tends to be less well informed and very irregular.

We are reaping the reward of decades of treating Europe as a convenient bogeyman for all our own failures.

The one hope I have is that the threat of a referendum will mean big business will swing its money behind staying in and lead to an effective YES campaign.

We need to be more proactive spelling out the consequences of leaving Europe. A collapse in our balance of payments, a huge rise in unemployment, and economic meltdown.

Waste of money

The clue’s in the name: Liberal DEMOCRAT. We shouldn’t shy away from a referendum. its coming one way or another so lets get on with it and make the case for the EU!

Because of lies and distortions promoted by advocates both for and against the EU,the public at large are being denied a balanced view of the issues involved: best left as it is

We need to win the argument about the EU being good for Britain. We also need to demonstrate our commitment to EU reform and repeat this message over and over again.

I’ve been of the belief for a long time that Euromyths in the press would make an informed debate difficult and negatively affect how free and fair any referendum would be.

we are the ONLY party not divided on this – it will in all probability totally destroy the Tories they are so divided

  • 1,500 Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with LibDemVoice.org. 647 responded to the latest survey, which was conducted between 14th and 17th March.
  • Please note: we make no claims that the survey is fully representative of the Lib Dem membership as a whole. However, LibDemVoice.org’s surveys are the largest independent samples of the views of Lib Dem members across the country, and have in the past offered accurate guides to what party members think.
  • For further information on the reliability/credibility of our surveys, please refer to FAQs: Are the Liberal Democrat Voice surveys of party members accurate? and polling expert Anthony Wells’ verdict, On that poll of Lib Dem members.
  • The full archive of our members’ surveys can be viewed at www.libdemvoice.org/category/ldv-members-poll
  • * Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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    • Cameron’s pledge to hold a referendum in a definite year will come back to haunt the Tory party whether or not they are in government after 2015 as they would face strong pressure to include a similar proposal in 2020. Unforeseeable events will always plague pledges to carry something out at a specific date some years in the future.

      If the Tories are again the largest party but lack an overall majority in 2015, what then? I think this merits more open discussion. This is but one of a number of issues that would be a huge problem. Personally I think the advantages of forming a coalition next time would be rather less than they were in 2010. Perhaps there could be more discussion of how a minority government might work.

    • I am seriously confused by comments such as:

      “I had thought that we were the one party which was committed to the European project.”

      used as a basis for asking for continued consent. If the public mood is that the body politic is withholding the right to decide then the support will erode further.

      Being capable of winning, by making careful arguments that clearly explain the benefits are how to be committed not by sounding scared of putting the case to the public and allowing your selves to be painted as Euro Fanatics by the press.

      Pro Europeans should be very careful about sounding like they think they know best and don’t need to explain the reason why being part of the EU is best for the country.

      The anti-Scottish Independence arguments and the pro-EU arguments sound quite similar. A caricatured case of leaving the EU/breaking up the UK being the end of the world. It wouldn’t be but it would be worse than not doing either. Making over exaggerated claims damages your credibility.

    • “Waste of money”

      is a much better argument.

    • Martin Lowe 1st Apr '13 - 7:59pm


      I absolutely demand government seeks my explicit assent when it is threatening to give away the authority to govern

      Except our government hasn’t and isn’t ‘giving away authority’, in precisely the same way that British treaties with non-EU nations and bodies don’t ‘give away authority to govern’.

    • Stephen Hesketh 1st Apr '13 - 9:11pm

      I’d rather see a referendum on the closing of all known tax loop holes and preventing future chancellors intentionally creating new ones!

      @Stephen Tall – perhaps a question for a future members survey?

    • I am totally opposed to all referenda on anything for whatever reason. We elect MPs, MEPs, MSPs AMs and councillors to take decisions on our behalf. We should let them get on with it. They can be thrown out at the next election if we don’t like it. Our system makes them representative, not delegates.

      I want to see lots of radical ideas for change in our next manifesto and I don’t want them hedged about with promises of referenda. If we win, we intend to legislate, not delay radical progress by having referenda.

    • Here’s a radical idea – why not trust the people & give them a vote? Looks like the answer is no… because they will (?) come to the wrong answer?
      Is the EU an important issue to most people – yes I think so.
      Would life end if we ‘left ‘ the EU ? No – I don’t think so – most likely a further decline in living standards etc (?)
      A yes vote would shut up the antis for the next decade & give confidence for the Govt on EU matters.
      (a yes vote is what I believe would be the outcome………..although I’m not a betting man).
      Would give the Pro EU groups/parties a chance to put forward their vision for the future – Status quo …. or perhaps a fully Democratic EU under a Federal system……..oh too radical….. what we need is a Liberal Party to put this forward….. anyone interested in setting one up?

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