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Less Than A Third Of The Public Think The Tories Are A Low Tax Party

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid make their way to No 9 Downing Street for a press conference on their National Insurance tax rise. September 7. Credit: Alamy.

5 min read

Just one in three members of the public think the Conservatives are currently a party of low tax, revealing the potential scale of the battle ahead to regain their fiscal reputation.

Thirty per cent of people surveyed exclusively for The House magazine said the party stands for lower taxes, compared to an almost equal 29 per cent who disagreed. A further 40 per cent neither agreed or disagreed or did not know.

Questions around the Conservatives’ stance on tax are emerging as a fault line within Boris Johnson’s party; on his return to Parliament he announced a manifesto-breaking 1.25 per centage point rise to National Insurance to pay for health and social care and the NHS backlog. 

Our poll carried out by Redfield and Wilton Strategies on 1 and 2 September, before the tax rise was officially confirmed, will make for stark reading for the party, which for decades has enjoyed a reputation of cutting taxes and shying away from placing the burden of raising revenue on working people. 

Announcing the tax rise on 7 September Johnson was able to offer his party the only reassurance that he is “emotionally” still committed to low tax, but could not rule out further rises to cope with the cost of the pandemic. 

Those who voted Tory at the last election were more likely to think the party stands for low tax, with forty-four percent agreeing it is does, compared to 18 percent who disagreed.

The poll also found broad support for the government’s Afghanistan refugee programme following the Taliban take-over of the country. 

The announcement the country would take 20,000 refugees was met with support from 42 per cent compared to 27 per cent who opposed it – the remainder did not know.

Johnson also received a boost should he decide to call an early general election, with the poll finding support for from both Tory and Labour voters.

Were the Prime Minister to announce a vote before 2024, 42 per cent of the public said they would support it, compared to 16 per cent who opposed and 34 per cent who neither support nor oppose it. 

For Tory voters, 44 per cent would be happy to head to the polls before the traditional five year term comes to an end, rising to 50 percent for those who voted Labour at the 2019 general election.

The findings show Johnson continues to take a strong lead over Labour leader Keir Starmer with 43 per cent stating that he makes a better Prime Minister, compared to 29 per cent who believe the Labour leader would be superior. 

However, Johnson’s popularity is down from the Spring when the same question was put to the public. In March, 50 per cent thought he was the better Prime Minister, compared to 27 per cent who favoured Starmer. 

The enduring preference for Johnson over the Labour leader comes as he gained support for a number of high-profile policies. 

The vaccine programme got an 87 per cent satisfaction rate, up five percent since March. The government’s mooted plan to vaccinate healthy 12 to 15-year-olds is still awaiting a final decision from the chief medical officers of the four devolved nations, and our poll shows 64 per cent of Britons would support it, compared to 14 percent who oppose it. 

The controversial cut to foreign aid from 0.7 per cent of GDP to 0.5 per cent which led to a sizeable Tory backbench rebellion earlier this year has also proved popular with the public.
A majority (54 per cent) supported the cut which Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced in April while just 18 per cent opposed.

The most damning result for the Prime Minister long term could be his management of the Covid pandemic, which saw 41 per cent of those surveyed disapprove of his handling of it, compared to 36 per cent who approved. 

Disapproval over the handling of Covid was consistent among men and women and all age ranges except the 55 to 64 age group and the over 65s. For older people Johnson’s handling of the pandemic got an average approval of 43.5 percent, compared to 37 percent of those who disapproved.

During 2021 there has also been changes to people’s views on their finances and the economy’s potential to rebuild.

In the Spring poll there was considerable concern that the coronavirus crisis was worse than the 2008 financial crash, though people’s feelings around their personal finances appear to have levelled out.

Almost half of the public expect their financial situation at the end of 2021 to be the same as it was at the beginning of the year, with 45 per cent anticipating that their financial situation would stay the same in 12 months time, compared a quarter who think it will worsen.

More than half of people believe they will be in the same job in a year’s time.

The poll of 1500 eligible voters across all regions and nations of the UK was carried out on September 1 and 2. 

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