In our latest survey, we presented party members with a list of possible Conservative policies and asked them to tell us, on a scale of 1-10, what priority they would give them should the party be returned to office in June.
Some of the results are unsurprising. Topping the list, and the only item to receive an average score of eight or over, was meeting the NATO requirement for spending two per cent of GDP on defence.
Other popular policies (scoring between seven and eight) included balancing the budget in the next Parliament, delivering Parliament on deadline in 2019, and repealing and replacing the Human Rights Act, as well as raising the tax-free personal allowance.
Yet the last policy in this high-priority bracket was more at odds with the caricature of the comfortable Home Counties Conservative: “building more homes”.
There’s no doubt that this is one of the most pressing issues facing British governments of any colour: we’re not building nearly enough new houses, which means demand greatly outstrips supply and prices stay sky-high. But it’s a particular challenge for the Tories, who are supposed to be the party of home-ownership – a long-term drift back towards a society of renters would bode ill for the party’s electoral prospects.
Each wing of the party will have its own solutions, whether it’s a Macmillan-style state-led housebuilding drive or a targeted loosening of planning restrictions. But whichever path May chooses – and with a comfortable majority she really must choose one – there is clear grassroots support for meeting the issue head one.
The same can’t be said for another of the policies we’ve recently seen floated by Number Ten: capping energy prices. The party derided this when Ed Miliband proposed it and members don’ seem any keener on it now: it ranks in the very bottom priority bracket, with an average score between three and four.
Other policies at this nadir of grassroots support are predictable enough, such as the 0.7 per cent aid spending floor and completin HS2. But the last one is a possible surprise: the pensions triple lock.
The picture this paints overall is a complex one. Whilst the membership in our survey are certainly cool on some of the signal policies of the party’s liberal wing, that housebuilding ranks so highly and pensions so low suggests a keener sense of inter-generational justice than the stereotype would suggest.
Combine that with strong support for Brexit, defence, and the Prime Minister’s scepticism of the Human Rights Act, and you have the building blocks of a strong foundation for Mayite Conservatism. Whether and how she’ll try to build on that remains to be seen.
We will publish a full table of the results tomorrow. The number of Party member survey responses is now up to 1,469 – a record.