Everybody knows that, if it is to win the next election, the Tories need to lose their image as the Nasty Party and capture the centre ground.
To that end, David Cameron has been hard at work rebranding his party as gay-friendly, open to ethnic minorities, and just about as warm and fluffy as can be.
Sadly, according to a Populus poll about the attitudes of Tory MPs, he hasn’t taken a sizeable chunk of his own party with him:
By contrast, on several key questions Tory MPs are deeply divided. For instance, against the view of Mr Cameron, just 46 per cent of Tory MPs agree that gay couples should have the same rights as heterosexual couples, with 54 per cent disagreeing. For comparison, 83 per cent of Labour MPs and 92 per cent of Lib Dems agree.
Similarly, there is a 52 to 48 per cent split among Tories on whether “the diverse mix of races, cultures and religions now found in our society has improved Britain”. By contrast, 92 per cent of Labour MPs agree, as do all Lib Dems surveyed. And while Labour MPs are virtually unanimous (94 per cent) in agreeing that “one of the things that would most improve life in Britain today is people being more tolerant of different ethnic groups and cultures”, that is the view of only 67 per cent of Tory MPs.
Most Tories I know are social liberals to the core. They are not, however, representative of the views of the base of the party. Instead, they reflect the attitudes of the floating voters, who the Tories must capture in order to win the next election.
The problem which Cameron therefore faces is a familiar one. Play to the swing voters: but not so much that your grass roots stay home on Election Day, and not so little that your target voters think you’re a phoney.