One of the few areas where Nick Clegg can claim to have shown genuine and passionate distance from David Cameron is in his attitude towards Europe.
Following the prime minister’s non-veto on the eurozone crisis measures before Christmas, it was obvious from interviews that the Lib Dem leader was not happy with how his coalition partner had carried out negotiations.
However, on this ‘yellow line’ his own voters appear to be closer to the Tories than his party, according to new research from YouGov:
Survey results for individual political parties suggest that Nick Clegg is out of step with a majority of his own party, as well as both Labour and Conservative voters, on attitudes to European integration and sharing sovereignty.
Meanwhile, Labour and Lib Dem voters largely share a consensus on regulation and economic recovery.
Liberal Democrat voters sit in conflict with their party leadership on the question of Europe – a significant majority of Lib Dems prefer national control of many policy areas, including:
• Immigration, say 70% of Lib Dems;
• Trade links with other countries, say 51% of Lib Dems;
• Weights and measures, say 58% of Lib Dems;
• Rights for workers, say 50% of Lib Dems;
• Tax rates and national budgets, say 91% of Lib Dems;
• Crime and justice, say 81% of Lib Dems;
• Agriculture, say 77% of Lib Dems;
• Deciding laws on trade unions and strikes, say 74% of Lib Dems.
The research does not go on to say how highly Lib Dem voters rate European issues as an important political topic. That is where Eurosceptics – like railway nationalisation enthusiasts on the left – take false comfort from polls showing public majorities in their favour.