Just over half (54%) of the British public think that Home Secretary Theresa May has badly handled the issue of the deportation to his native Jordan of Abu Qatada al-Filistini, the radical Muslim cleric given asylum in Britain in 1994 but who has since been implicated in Islamist terrorism. 28% gave a positive assessment of May’s performance in the affair, and 18% expressed no opinion.
The findings come from a YouGov survey for The Sunday Times, conducted online on 19 and 20 April 2012 following last week’s revelations that the Government may have miscalculated the date by which Qatada had to file any appeal against deportation to the European Court of Human Rights (which he did at the eleventh hour). Tables for the poll, in which 1,715 adults were interviewed, have been posted at:
May is a Conservative minister in a Coalition administration with Liberal Democrats, so it is not perhaps surprising that there were a below average number of critics of her handling of the Qatada case among Conservative (39%) and Liberal Democrat (48%) voters. Labour supporters were very condemnatory (65%). The over-60s were almost twice as critical of May as the 18-24s (63% versus 35% respectively).
An overwhelming majority of Britons (81%) wanted Qatada to be deported now, regardless of his appeal, the figure peaking at 91% among Conservative voters, 87% of the over-60s and 85% of Scots. 14% considered Qatada should be allowed to stay in Britain while his appeal is heard and then deported if he loses; Liberal Democrats (23%) particularly favoured this course of action.
These results represent a hardening of public opinion since it was last tested by YouGov on 9 and 10 February 2012. Then 70% of respondents opted for Qatada’s deportation, irrespective of whether he would be guaranteed a fair trial in Jordan (the stumbling-block at that time being whether Jordan would use evidence obtained by torture against Qatada). For BRIN’s coverage of this earlier survey, see: