New evidence for the potency of tax and crime as political issues comes from a major new ICM poll for The Taxpayers’ Alliance. Conservative Home is publishing it now to coincide with the first editions of The Sunday Times hitting London’s streets (in which the poll findings are due to appear).
The poll finds strong public support for lower taxation and the poll’s main findings are summarised on the right >>>
The poll represents a challenge to the current Tory leadership’s belief that Britain’s voters won’t ‘buy’ tax cuts. That may have been true in 1997 and 2001 when voters were hungry for investment in public services but it is probably no longer true. Voters have seen their taxes rise but have seen little improvement in their public services. They may be ready to support a party that offers a serious package of tax relief and public service reform. It is vital that the Conservative leadership doesn’t just look backwards but anticipates the issues likely to matter at the next General Election. These issues may include a taxpayers’ revolt as well as a demand for seismic action on crime and protection from terrorism.
Just before the last election opinion research by ICM for the Reform think tank pointed to public disappointment at public spending. 85% of voters told ICM that “taxes have gone up but services haven’t improved much and there is a lot of waste”. 81% agreed that “if the government reformed public services and cut waste it could make services better and reduce tax at the same time”.
Many of the Conservative Party’s most zealous modernisers blame the party’s "obsession" with tax cuts for the scale of recent election defeats. The postscript below offers an alternative explanation for our 2005 defeat but we should certainly not blame 2005’s eleventh hour promise of timid tax cuts for our defeat.
At the time The Sun’s Trevor Kavanagh called Oliver Letwin’s £4bn tax cut “a drop in the ocean”. Simon Carr of The Independent, studying the modesty of the Tory prospectus, wrote: “no wonder people can’t be bothered.” The Economist called the Tories cowardly. It accused the Tories of failing to do the job of offering voters an alternative vision of the size and role of the state. An FT editorial declared: “The challenge for the Tories is to draw a clear line between the tax-and-spend, big-government Labour party, and a lower-tax, smaller-state Conservative administration.” The newspaper concluded that Conservatives had fallen well short of achieving that distinction.
IN CONSERVATIVEHOME’S CONTINUING ANALYSIS OF THE TPA/ICM POLL WE WILL…
- At midnight publish the arguments most likely to persuade voters to vote for lower taxation and highlight the scale of the TPA’s own ambitions;
- At 10am tomorrow list the taxes that voters most want relief from;
- At 3pm tomorrow we’ll publish the major challenges that face Britain and which could form the backdrop for the 2009/ 2010 General Election.
Defensive postscript: People still gave Tony Blair the benefit of the doubt in 2001 and it
was an election we couldn’t have won. 2005 was different. A better
campaign could have probably deprived him of his majority. ConservativeHome has always believed – and argued and argued
at the time – that the problem in 2005 was a lack of balance. Michael
Howard talked too much about immigration and gypsies but had nothing to
say about the inner cities or global poverty. Conservatives talked about school
discipline and dirty hospitals but had nothing to say about the wider
problems facing our unreformed public services. Some of the party’s
most potent policies were never promoted. The ‘no tuition
fees’ pledge and the promise to relink the basic state pension with
earnings were among the most neglected. At the eleventh hour we unveiled some tax cuts but they
were pretty timid. But, as Lynton Crosby famously observed, ‘you can’t
fatten a pig on market day.’