From 22nd to 28th December 1,816 Tory members told us their highest and lowest priorities for twelve calls on public spending identified by ConservativeHome. The two graphics below summarise the findings
(click on either to enlarge):





We asked the two relevant shadow cabinet members – Liam Fox for Defence (members’ highest spending priority – not for the first time) and Jeremy Hunt for Culture, Media and Sport (members’ lowest priority) for their reactions:

Dr Liam Fox:

"ConservativeHome readers clearly understand what Gordon Brown’s government fails to- namely that national security is the first duty of any British government. It is worth noting that while President Sarkozy was announcing a 2 billion euro boost to defence spending as part of his economic stimulus, Britain’s Labour government were announcing delays to major programmes such as the carriers. Not only has Labour failed to live up to its part of the Military Covenant and failed to fully fund our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan but they will leave behind a huge unfunded liability in defence procurement for future taxpayers. No one knows how catastrophic Brown’s economic legacy will be but picking up the pieces in defence will be one of the most difficult challenges for the next government."

Jeremy Hunt:

"Spending at the disposal of the department of culture, media and sport amounts to less than half of one percent of all government spending. That means the potential to make a large impact on government spending as a whole is limited. That said, all government departments – big and small – need to tighten their belts in the current climate and that of course includes DCMS."

ConservativeHome comment: "The public spending priorities of Tory members are largely very sensible.  The first duty of any government is defence of the Realm and law and order at home.  There is no ambition amongst grassroots members for cuts in education and health and there is also a concern to invest in infrastructure spending.  Where members are wrong is, I think, in the low priority they attach to international development.  Maintaining international development spending is not just the morally correct course – in an age when so many are dying of treatable and preventable diseases – it is also an essential part of any national security agenda.  While trade liberalisation and private investment are more important to prevent failed states George W Bush has shown in sub-Saharan Africa, in particular, that well targeted aid can save hundreds of thousands of lives.  Britain’s aid budget could be better spent – and Andrew Mitchell is right to promise a diversion of aid from nations like China towards the poorest nations – but we should not trim a budget that is already worth £334m less because of the sharp decline in the pound.   

Tim Montgomerie

> Five days ago we published the views of Tory members on appropriate public sector economies.
> Stephen Crabb MP’s case for maintaining development spending.