It’s funny really. Just as I’d given up any expectation of lower taxation from the Conservatives, George Osborne hints at a trio of "funded" tax reliefs.
I’m clearly not the only Tory member who had come to believe that the scale of Labour’s borrowings meant that early hopes for tax relief were over. These are two stand-out results from the 22-28th December survey of more than 1,800 Tory members:
Everything must now be done to avoid higher taxation and the consequences for our economy. A whopping 89% of Tory members agreed that "The next Conservative government should cut public expenditure if necessary before contemplating increases in taxation."
We put a range of public expenditure measures to the ConHome Members’ Panel and all enjoyed majority support:
- 94% supported "An end to ID cards".
- 90% supported the "Scrapping of projects such as the New Deal and Regional Development Agencies".
- 88% supported "Real cuts in most budgets to force public sector management to reduce waste".
- 86% supported the "Negotiation of a rebate from the EU".
- 82% would welcome "An end to supercomputer projects as in the NHS".
- 81% agreed with "A recruitment freeze across the public sector".
- 70% agreed with "A reduction in the transfer of money from England to other parts of the UK".
At the moment there is not enough clear blue water between the Tories and Labour on public expenditure. Polling suggests voters are tired of Labour’s bloated state and will embrace a Conservative Party that restores balance between the public and private sectors. That is George Osborne’s number one challenge for 2009.