Students Staff

02 September 2014

Rumours of Coalition divide over tough anti-terror laws backed by Essex research

Colchester Campus

Professor Thomas Scotto

Professor Thomas Scotto

Claims that Prime Minister David Cameron was purposely vague in the specifics of proposed anti-terror legislation due to a Coalition divide are backed by research by the University of Essex.

A recent study showed that rank-and-file Liberal Democrats and Conservatives have very different views on the issue.

University of Essex Professor of Government Thomas Scotto, who carried out the Economic and Social Research Council-funded study with colleagues, said: “The core supporters of each party have different views on the issue.

“Threatening the passports and citizenship status of those going to fight in Syria will appeal to the Conservative base, but it runs the risk of putting off a large number of Liberal Democrats. In short, it’s a vote getter for Cameron and a potential hazard for Clegg. Further, the Prime Minister’s tough stance on foreign fighters may also help slow some of UKIP’s momentum.”

As part of the survey carried out in May 2014, the 4,027 Britons who took part were asked:
When British citizens decide to leave the UK to fight in the Syrian civil war, which of the
following do you think the British government should do?
1) Take away citizenship from these fighters and prevent them from ever returning to the UK.
2) Allow these fighters to return to the UK but register them with British law enforcement when they return.
3) Do nothing. People should be allowed to do what they want.
4) Don’t Know

For this question, overall, 42% of the British public wanted to see citizenship taken away, 21% said that the fighters should be able to return but have to register and only 17% said the Government should do nothing (20% responded “Don’t know”).

Just 33% of those identifying with the Liberal Democrats wanted to denaturalise and ban UK citizens who travelled to the Middle East to fight. An equal percentage (33%) of Liberal Democrats said that the combatants should be able to return but have to register, and 24% said the Government should do nothing in response to what many see as a threat to national security.

In stark contrast, 57% of respondents reporting a bond with the Conservative Party wanted to see citizenship taken away from the fighters, 19% wanted to see the fighters have to register, and only 12% (half the level of Liberal Democrats) said the Government should do nothing.


Note to editors

To interview Professor Thomas Scotto, please contact the University of Essex Communications Office on 01206 872400 or email

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