140316 Budget priorities

Last week, in our special pre-Budget survey, we asked Conservative members to prioritise various policies ahead of the Chancellor’s statement on Wednesday. The results are above; and they tell their own story, so I’ll only add a few brief observations:

  • Energy, still. We asked a similar question to this, with fewer policy options, ahead of last December’s Autumn Statement. Back then, “cut green energy taxes” and “engineer deals for more nuclear power stations” finished first and second, with average ratings of 7.98 and 7.55 respectively. They may have swapped around this time, but they’re still the top pair – which suggests that Party members think Osborne still hasn’t done enough to combat rising (always rising) energy prices.
  • Middle-class tax cuts above all. Well, not quite above all: the top three tax cuts are one to do with energy and two to do with business. But then, in a high seventh place overall, Party members would like to see Osborne “cut the 40p rate, raise the threshold, or both”. In fact, they’d much rather see this than have cuts made to either the 20p or 45p rates. This puts them in accordance with many Tory backbenchers, who are agitating on this front. It also marks a change in attitudes since the Autumn Statement.
  • Low priorities. Some of the lower-placed entries are worth noting. For instance, “bring forward or raise the marriage tax allowance” – which, despite all the sound and fury it attracts, may not mean that much to Tory members. Below that are policies such as “allocate more land for building” and “extend the Help to Buy scheme beyond 2016” – which suggests that Tory members don’t share the instincts of certain Cabinet members when it comes to house-building.