By Tim Montgomerie
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I recently asked you to help me draw up a list of 'stepping stones' to a Tory victory. Nearly 1,500 of you then took part in our readers' survey and rated those ideas on a minus five to plus five scale. A plus five idea was an idea that would be very helpful to winning the next election while a minus five idea was thought to be unhelpful. From the list below you can see that Euroscepticism, tax relief and a simpler message on compassionate conservatism are seen as the most potent.
- Opposition to further Eurozone bailouts: 3.64
- At the end of this parliament when the economy is, hopefully, mended a promise of lower inheritance and income tax: 3.63
- Fundamental renegotiation of Britain's relationship with the European Union: 3.41
- Replacement of the Human Rights Act with a British Bill of Rights: 3.18
- Deeper cuts in immigration into Britain: 3.07
- We should not spend money on expensive renewable energies when people are struggling to pay their gas and electricity bills: 2.97
- A referendum on whether Britain should remain a member of the EU: 2.90
- The replacement of the Big Society message with a message that emphasises jobs, education and family as the best way out of poverty: 2.89
- When there is scope for tax cuts, the lion's share should go to lower income Britons, not to the better off: 2.75
- More emphasis on looking after the local environment and less focus on tackling climate change: 2.71
- A more aggressive Conservative machine that attacks Ed Miliband and the Labour Party: 2.60
- We should stand up for England and reform the Barnett formula so that people in England get a fairer share of total UK-wide expenditure: 2.52
- A strong competitiveness agenda that forces banks, energy companies and other big businesses to raise their game: 2.52
- Better use of the internet so that we run the best websites and online campaigns: 2.25
- More candidates from northern, working class and local backgrounds: 1.90
- A new 'Made in Scotland' branch of the party north of the border with a new name and separate identity: 1.73
- More investment in roads, less investment in High Speed Rail: 1.63
- Higher defence spending: 1.49
- If there is no room to cut the overall tax burden we should rebalance the tax system by cutting taxes like National Insurance and increasing taxes on expensive properties: 0.41
- More women and ethnic minority candidates: -0.36
- A third of all ministers should be women: -2.74
A few other quick observations on the list:
- Number (9) suggests considerable sympathy for Robert Halfon and Iain Duncan Smith's recent arguments that lower income Britons must come first in the queue when there's scope for tax cuts.
- (10) confirms that Tory members are local greens rather than global greens. Perhaps, like the Chancellor, they action to reduce our country's carbon footprint is futile in the absence of meaningful global agreements.
- (12) shows support for playing 'the Barnett card' and restoring more fairness to the distribution of public expenditure across the UK. For example, Wales – poorer than Scotland – does worse from Barnett than Scotland. Up until now the Tory leadership has worried reviewing the formula will antagonise Scots and risk a 'Yes' vote in an independence referendum. The LibDems have added to the caution. Their eleven Scottish MPs are already in great danger and this danger level would increase greatly if they were seen to have taken money out of Scotland and distributed it to poorer parts of Britain.
- (16) shows overall support for Murdo Fraser's idea for a separate Scottish party.
- (19) suggests Tory members might buy my case for higher wealth taxes to fund lower income taxes but only very marginally.
- The different results for (15) and (20) are striking. Tory members are very positive about recruiting more northern and local candidates but sceptical about the benefits of more women and ethnic minority candidates. Their scepticism won backing from a poll reported on LibDemVoice: "Women preferred a local man (75 per cent) over a woman from outside the area (5 per cent), with 20 per cent don’t knows. In other words, women said that they would prefer to be represented by a man as long as he was local rather than a woman if she came from outside the area, by a factor of 15:1. These findings were consistent, no matter what sub-set of voters was considered. Whether broken down by party support, age, social class or region, in every subgroup voters preferred the local candidate, even if they were of a different sex, to an outsider of the same sex."