Has Cameron's EU referendum gambit dissolved in voter mistrust?

The "game-changing" pledge may be seen as just another slippery politician's promise.

It now looks pretty clear that the Conservatives have not enjoyed a sustained "referendum" surge in opinion polls following David Cameron’s promise of an in/out vote on EU membership.

A new ICM poll for the Guardian has Labour on 41 per cent and the Tories on 29 per cent, respectively up threee points and down four on their January ratings. (The Lib Dems are down two to 13 per cent and Ukip are up three to 9 per cent). The daily YouGov tracker has been telling a similar story.

This will come as a bitter disappointment to those Conservative strategists who thought the referendum gambit would change the game at Westminster. On the day of the big speech there was some quite exuberant cherishing of the Prime Minister’s presumed master-stroke. (Some of us were, ahem, less sure about that.)

There are all sorts of reasons why the Tories might not have enjoyed a great revival on the back of a promise to hold a plebiscite in 2017 when, after all, they may no longer be in government. GDP figures showing the economy still lifeless took the rosy glow off that week’s news for Cameron. There has since been a carnival of Tory division, with mutterings about the leadership ambitions of obscure Conservative challengers and a parade of the dinosaur tendency in hostility to gay marriage.

Even so the Tories would have hoped to see Ukip floundering in the wake of the referendum offer and, perhaps, to have scooped up the support of some eurosceptic ex-Labour undecided voters. But for that to happen, there would have to be lots of people for whom Britain’s membership of the EU is a pressing issue. The evidence shows that isn’t the case, with the numbers citing it as a top concern in steady decline since the late 1990s. Interestingly, this latest ICM poll also shows a decline in the number of people citing eurozone turbulence as the likeliest cause of our economic travails. That makes sense since there have been far fewer Eurogeddon headlines this year as the debt crisis in the single currency area appears – for the time being at least – to have stabilised.

So the people who care passionately about the EU, or rather, who despise it with a passion and are minded to choose a party on that basis, are pretty much the same people who have always felt that way. There are enough of them to flatter Nigel Farage’s ego (and send shivers up the spines of Tory MPs), but not enough to turn the Tory poll deficit into a lead.

What is more, those who obsess about the EU and flirt with Ukip as a way of expressing that feeling are, as Lord Ashcroft’s detailed polling has shown, channelling a wider scorn for politics and mainstream parties in general. Their Europhobia is bundled up with anger about crime, immigration and an inchoate mix of dislocation and anxiety about British or English identity.

In that context, Cameron’s pledge to consult the country any time other than right now looks like just another sleight of hand. Anyone concerned enough about colonisation by Brussels to get really excited about a referendum will also remember the Tory leader’s "cast iron" pledge to hold a vote on the Lisbon Treaty, which melted away as soon as he moved into Downing Street.

Having been in Eastleigh, canvassing opinion ahead of the by-election for Chris Huhne’s old seat, I can report that no-one I spoke to thought a European referendum at all likely to make them vote Conservative. (Of course, journalists vox-popping random punters is no statistical measure of anything, so my experience doesn’t prove much.) I encountered some half-hearted Labour voters who wished Ed Miliband would come out and fight more vigorously in favour of our EU membership; I met a few Ukip voters – ex-Tories mainly – who said they didn’t care what Cameron said about referendums and whatnot because only Farage’s party was reliably dedicated to the anti-Brussels cause.

Senior Tories insist their referendum gambit was never meant to turn the party’s fortunes around overnight. (They also point, reasonably enough, to Cameron’s EU budget negotiation success last weekend as evidence to rebut the pro-European claim that his domestic manoeuvres guaranteed diplomatic isolation.) The view at Tory high command remains that, come a 2015 election, the broad swath of eurosceptic voters will face a choice between one plausible governing party that wants a referendum and one big challenger that doesn’t. The message is simple: if you want that referendum, vote Conservative. Even Ukip voters who might toy with Farage mid-term, when faced with the hazard of letting Ed Miliband into Downing Street, should then come home to the Tories in a general election.

That is quite possible. Yet I’m not entirely convinced it will work. For one thing, as I’ve argued before, if Miliband really needs a referendum in his manifesto he can hide behind belated support for the 2011 European Union act to smuggle one in. But more important, the problem of trust in Cameron on the right is not credibly addressed by a "jam tomorrow" referendum bid. Besides, the Prime Minister has said he passionately wants the UK to stay in the EU, albeit on renegotiated terms. For angry, disillusioned ex-Tories, that sentiment places him still on the wrong side of a cultural divide, lumped together with the other cosy Brussels-loving elitists. If the hardline Europhobic vote is indeed an expression of more profound, nationalistic alienation from the Westminster game, it seems doubtful that Cameron has the credentials to win it back for the Tories. He’ll have to find his poll surge elsewhere.

David Cameron speaks at a press conference at the EU headquarters on February 8, 2013 in Brussels. Photograph: Getty Images.

Rafael Behr is political columnist at the Guardian and former political editor of the New Statesman

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Are you ready to comply with the EU GDPR?

Alan Calder, the founder and executive chairman of IT Governance, discusses the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and how your organisation can achieve compliance.

The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will supersede the UK Data Protection Act 1998 on 25 May 2018, introducing new obligations for all organisations that process the personal data of EU residents.

The GDPR introduces significant changes in the areas of data subject and child consent, privacy by design, data breach notification, international data transfers and data protection officers, among others.

With the prospect of multi-million pound fines for non-compliance, and less than two years until the Regulation is enforced, organisations in the UK should urgently be considering what they need to do to comply.

The skills and resources required under the GDPR

The GDPR requires certain organisations to appoint a data protection officer (DPO). The role of a DPO includes informing and advising the controller and processor of their data protection obligations, monitoring the organisation’s compliance and performance, providing advice on data protection impact assessments, and giving due regard to risks associated with data processing operations. DPOs must have the legal and information security knowledge and skills necessary to help organisations achieve compliance with the Regulation.

As an expert in information security and data protection compliance, IT Governance has developed Europe’s first certified EU General Data Protection Regulation Foundation and Practitioner training courses to help individuals who are involved in data protection or who are looking to fulfil the role of data protection officer in order to achieve compliance with the Regulation. The certified training programme is designed to equip individuals with a comprehensive understanding of the GDPR requirements and a practical guide to planning, implementing and maintaining compliance with the GDPR.  

Inform GDPR transition planning through data flow mapping and gap analysis

An important first step in achieving compliance with the GDPR is to review your organisation’s data flows. A data flow audit will allow your organisation to map the locations of all personally identifiable information (PII), gain visibility over your data flows, develop effective strategies to protect PII, improve data lifecycle management and introduce efficiencies into your processes, and reduce privacy-related risks. 

Organisations that plan to comply with the GDPR but that lack visibility over their data flows are encouraged to conduct a data flow audit. The process involves mapping out the organisation’s data flows to get a comprehensive understanding of the sources from which the data flows. IT Governance can help organisations prepare for the GDPR with an extensive data flow audit that will enable you to identify the measures, policies and procedures needed to reduce the risk of a data breach.

Implement technical and organisational measures with ISO 27001

ISO 27001 is the international best-practice standard for information security management and encompasses three essentials aspects: people, processes and technology. The Standard is designed not only to defend your company against technology-based risks but also to prevent common security issues such as those caused by lack of staff awareness around current threats or ineffective information security procedures.  

Moreover, the GDPR clearly states that “the controller and the processor shall implement appropriate technical and organisational measures to ensure a level of security appropriate to the risk”. These measures relate to personal data encryption and pseudonymisation; access and availability of data; the confidentiality, integrity and availability of processing systems and services; and regular assessment and evaluation of technical and organisational measures to ensure the security of processing.

An ISO 27001-compliant information security management system (ISMS) is founded on an enterprise-wide a culture of information security, led by the board. It necessitates that your organisation’s information security strategy be constantly monitored, updated and reviewed, and this process is amenable to helping you implement the technical and organisational measures of the GDPR.   

ISO 27001 can help you meet parallel GDPR and NIS Directive requirements

The NIS Directive, which is set to come into force at the same time as the GDPR, is designed to help organisations within the EU achieve a common level of security across their networks and information systems. The Directive applies to organisations providing essential services in sectors such as finance, energy and transport, as well as digital service providers.

Similar to the GDPR, the NIS Directive requires a robust ISMS and encourages a security culture. As a result, more and more organisations preparing to comply with both the GDPR and the NIS Directive are also seeking certification to ISO 27001. The Standard contains information security requirements that, when met, can allow your organisation to centralise and simplify your compliance efforts for the NIS Directive and the GDPR.

IT Governance’s ISO 27001 packaged solutions can help you tackle your organisation’s GDPR and NIS Directive compliance requirements as well as implement a robust  ISMS. The ISO 27001 packaged solutions provide a unique blend of expertly developed tools and resources that complement your organisation’s skills and resources at a fixed price and in a timely manner.

To find out more about GDPR compliance or ISO 27001 packaged solutions please visit (www.itgovernance.co.uk/iso27001-solutions.aspx), email servicecentre@itgovernance.co.uk, or call us on +44 (0)845 070 1750.

Alan Calder is the founder and executive chairman of IT Governance.