Labour politicians are to be questioned on their attitudes to Europe in a research project at Nottingham Trent University. Political scientists from the university have a Pounds 15,000 grant from the Economic and Social Research Council to survey Labour MPs and MEPs about crucial Euro issues such as sovereignty, the single currency working standards and human rights.
The study follows a similar one last year on Tory views of European integration - which revealed deep rifts in party thinking.
The Nottingham Trent research group, coordinated by David Baker, senior lecturer in politics, and research fellow David Seawright, will work in partnership with a team from Sheffield University, who led the earlier survey.
Dr Baker said he expected the latest project would prove that European issues were among the most important and divisive to emerge in British politics.
"The debate over Europe has clearly exposed an ideological fault-line within the Conservative Party which cuts right across traditional left/right and wet/dry divisions and has taken the Tories to the brink of another historic split similar to that which occurred over the corn laws repeal in the mid-19th century.
"Now, to complement the findings from our earlier research, we aim to examine the attitudes of Labour parliamentarians on a similar range of issues," he said.
Off-the-record interviews have already taken place with selected MPs to gain an insight into the type of questions likely to draw the most telling answers.
The university teams will work together to draw up a survey form with about 60 questions, to be issued to all Labour politicians this month. Some of the questions will be identical to those directed at the Tories.
Dr Seawright said: "We are stressing that this is an academic survey which guarantees complete anonymity and confidentiality to the politicians who reply. We have no political axe to grind."