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Polling data: hard-Brexit ERG MPs plotting against Theresa May have safe seats



Jacob Rees-Mogg
Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg at a Brexit rally during the
Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, Britain, September
30, 2018.


  • Conservative MPs do not have a majority in parliament
    so it is surprising to see them quoted saying vicious things
    like “she’ll be dead soon” about Theresa May, their own prime
  • New polling data compiled by Pantheon Macroeconomics
    shows that the MPs who are most-opposed to May’s Brexit
    negotiations — those in the so-called “European Research Group”
    — have fairly safe seats.
  • A majority of ERG MPs would keep their jobs even if the
    Conservatives lost the next general election. 

LONDON — One of the central mysteries in British politics right
now is this: Why are Prime Minister Theresa May’s own
Conservative members of parliament speaking out against her so

They know, obviously, that they do not have a technical majority
in parliament, and if May loses a major vote in the House of
Commons it could bring down their government and trigger a
general election.

So it is surprising to see Conservative MPs allowing
themselves to be quoted in the Sunday Times saying things
like, “the
moment is coming when the knife gets heated, stuck in her front
and twisted. She’ll be dead soon

Some new data from Pantheon Macroeconomics analyst Samuel Tombs
shows why hard-Brexit “no deal” Tories might be feeling so bold.
Their jobs aren’t at stake, it turns out.

And even if the voters moved against them at an election, only a
handful of MPs within the hardcore anti-EU “European Research
Group” would lose their seats, Tombs’ data shows. Labour’s Jeremy
Corbyn could become the new prime minister and most of them would
keep their jobs as MPs.

The ERG — whose best-known representative is Jacob Rees-Mogg — is
made up of about 70 MPs. This chart shows the number of ERG seats
that would be lost for each percentage point swing away from the
Conservatives. Even in a 5-point swing away from the government,
fewer than 20 of the 70 ERG MPs would lose their seats:

brexitPantheon Macroeconomics

For contrast, three of the most marginal Conservative seats are
held by Remainer Tories Justine Greening, Anna Soubry and Amber
Rudd, who won their seats by only 1,554 votes, 863 votes, and 346
votes, respectively.

Of course, the risk of bringing down your own prime minister is
that you might trigger a general election that you would go on to
lose. The ERG has influence over May’s negotiating position with
the EU, holding her feet to the fire. They would lose that
influence if they lost No.10 Downing Street.

But polling data shows that is currently unlikely. The
Conservatives are still ahead of Labour in the polls, despite
May’s inability to get a Brexit deal from Europe or even to unite
her own party behind her.

More comforting still for the ERG are the running average of
opinion polls for the two major parties. May is having a tough
time, but Labour has failed to capitalise. If an election were
held tomorrow, the Conservatives would probably win, again. The
latest voter intention poll, from
, puts the Tories in the lead:

  • Con: 41%
  • Lab: 37%
  • Lib: 8%
  • UKIP: 6%

That trend has been sustained if you plot a running average of
the last five polls:

brexitPantheon Macroeconomics

None of this is obvious if you read the British media. A huge
pro-EU protest march was held in London at the weekend,
attracting up to 700,000 people. And the most consistent trend in
UK politics right now is the public’s increasing regret at their
decision to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum:

brexitPantheon Macroeconomics

Yet when voters are asked whether they would favour a second
referendum to approve/reject the terms of the exit deal, or
remain in the EU, they are evenly split:

brexitPantheon Macroeconomics

Bottom line: Tory MPs can topple their own prime minister and
still win a new election — or at least hold on to their own jobs
— regardless of the outcome.

Our Brexit Insider Facebook group is the best place for up-to-date news and analysis about Britain’s departure from the EU, direct from Business Insider’s political reporters. Join here.

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