Over the weekend, we revealed some of the responses from party members to our special general election survey on potential manifesto policies.
In particular, we highlighted how strong support for housebuilding – and the low importance placed on the pensions triple lock – indicated that grassroots attitudes towards generational justice didn’t match the stereotype of the older, home-owning, self-interested Tory.
But we polled just under 1,500 members on a much larger range of policies than we mentioned there, inviting them to rank each on a scale of one to ten depending on how important they thought it was. Below are listed all the policies, grouped by score.
As well as strong support for NATO and Brexit, some of these results suggest that there may be strong support for Theresa May’s conservatism: for example, there is very strong support for taking the lowest earners out of income tax and raising the threshold for the 40p rate, but much less for reducing the top rate.
Party members are also not set against more state investment: there’s moderate support for £100 billion in new infrastructure spending but much higher levels for specific programmes such as expanding the UK’s nuclear power and shale gas capacity – particularly important areas given the very low support for a cap on energy bills.
There is also strong support for scrapping the Human Rights Act, should the Prime Minister ever choose to take up that policy again in the future.
Members also seem well-disposed towards both making changes to Parliament, both with the boundary review and House of Lords reform. The former addresses a long-standing Tory disadvantage in the electoral map (whether or not members really care about reducing the number of MPs, separate from boundaries, isn’t clear), whilst the latter may stem from suspicion that the upper house will be the biggest remaining barrier to Brexit after the election.
Elsewhere we find relatively high levels of support for expanding apprenticeships, opening new grammars, reducing immigration, and pursuing an industrial strategy.
But there are some clear signs of divergence too, most notably on money matters. The very low levels of support for an Ed Miliband-style energy price cap have been mentioned, but it’s also significant that balancing the public finances “as early as possible in the next Parliament” is the third-most popular policy in the list, behind only defence spending and Brexit.
Members may be prepared to see the back of the tax and pension locks, but that is in pursuit of fiscal discipline and not a more spendthrift Conservatism. Will it be possible to finance an expanded role for the state in industry, on top of Brexit, and balance the books?