By the end of July the UK will have a new prime minister.
They will be chosen not by the electorate but by a group of around 160,000 members of the Conservative Party. This selectorate gets to choose between the two candidates who finish first and second in a series of votes held among Conservative MPs.
There has, perhaps not surprisingly, been a degree of disquiet expressed about this situation. Members of political parties are, generally speaking, more zealous than members of the public. Some argue that it might be better to leave the choice of the countrys PM up to MPs. They, at least, have a direct mandate from voters. And, since governments in parliamentary systems must retain the confidence of the legislature in order to stay in office, allowing MPs to choose would at least guarantee a chain of democratic accountability from executive to electorate. That is bypassed completely when party members alone make the decision.
Such concerns are surely all the more pressing because, as our research has already shown, grassroots Conservatives can hardly be said to be representative of the country as a whole, either demographically or ideologically. There are far more men among them than there are women; most of them live in the southern half of the country; they are generally pretty well-off; they are relatively old (although not quite as ancient as often suggested); they are very, very white; and they are also significantly more right wing than the average voter — whether were talking about their economic or social attitudes.
Our new analysis, however, using data from a recent survey of Conservative Party members that was kindly provided to us by Chris Curtis of YouGov, reveals something that is possibly even more worrying for critics of the process. The party members who support the clear front runner, Boris Johnson, are even more ideologically unrepresentative of British voters than are the bulk of their counterparts.
Indeed, compared to the kind of members drawn to the two contenders who, currently seem to stand the best chance of grabbing the crucial runner up spot — the environment secretary, Michael Gove, and the foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt — Johnsons supporters look anything but moderate.
While only around a quarter of the wider British public support leaving the EU without a Brexit deal, an amazing 85 per cent of Johnson's supporters within the party are keen on a no-deal departure.
Some two thirds (66 per cent) of the nearly 900 Conservative rank-and-file members who responded to the survey said the UK should leave without a deal, so Johnson supporters are extreme even by that standard. "Only" 37 per cent of Hunt supporters would be happy with a no-deal Brexit.
Even Gove supporters are less enthusiastic about no-deal than Johnson supporters. Their man was a leading figure in the Leave campaign but only 52 per cent of them want to leave without a deal.
Its clear that, when it comes to the 39 per cent of the Conservative grassroots who are in Johnsons camp, what the partys critics would no doubt label their extremism isnt just confined to Brexit.
Asked to locate themselves ideologically, some 42 per cent of members overall said they were on the right — not just of British politics, but of the Conservative Party itself, making Goves supporters (39 per cent of whom said the same) about average. Just 15 per cent of Hunts grassroots supporters (who make up just 8 per cent of the membership overall) located themselves in that space.
Johnsons supporters had no such problem: well over half of them (56 per cent) said they belonged on the right wing of their party, with about the same proportion (58 per cent) of them styling themselves as "fairly or very right wing". The impression that Johnsons supporters are very much a sub-set of a sub-set is only reinforced when we dig into the specifics.
For instance, Tory members in general are more inclined than the general public to want to cut tax and spending, so it comes as no surprise that 34 per cent of them supported that option — one that only around a fifth of voters right now would go for. But those members backing Johnson, 40 per cent of whom supported cuts, were twice as enthusiastic about them as those backing Gove (20.5 per cent) and Hunt (22 per cent). This may well solve the mystery of why Johnsons only big domestic policy so far has been his promise to cut taxes — the front runner is mobilising his base.
Johnsons base is also relatively socially-conservative. A majority (although, at 59 per cent, hardly an overwhelming majority) of Tory members think that David Cameron's government was right to allow same sex marriage. Those supporting Gove — who has always been seen as socially-liberal and will be seen as even more so after recent revelations about his cocaine use –– are slightly more likely (at 63 per cent) than most members to agree. Supporters of Johnson and Hunt are slightly less likely (at 54 per cent and 55 per cent) to do so.
However, its probably climate change where we see the most striking attitudinal differences between those Read More – Source