My polling has found that Tory voters are twice as likely as Labour voters, and UKIP voters three times as likely, to say that defending Britain’s interests in Europe is one of the most important issues facing the country. Among the reservations that potential Labour voters have about the party – economic competence, opposition to welfare reform, the leader himself – opposition to an EU referendum does not rank very high.
In other words, the theory goes, Miliband has concluded that in declining to offer a referendum he has little to lose. But what Conservatives need to think about is how much he has to gain.
I suspect Miliband has calculated that giving the Conservatives a clear run on Europe is not a downside of his decision, but a potentially enormous upside. If the Tories are able to say that only they will offer an EU referendum, he will reason, they will not be able to stop themselves going on about it. And on. And on and on.