David Cameron has failed to convince voters that his party are committed to raising living standardsby Peter Kellner / May 1, 2015 / Leave a comment
Seldom does a poll explain an election campaign as clearly as one YouGov conducted this week for The Times. It shows precisely why the Conservatives have failed to convert months of good news on growth and jobs into a sustained lead in voting intention—and what they need to do in the final few days if David Cameron is to remain Prime Minister.
We explored public views of the policies of Labour and the Conservatives take towards business. We asked people what they thought the impact would be of the two parties’ policies on, in turn, growth, fairness, jobs and taxes. Having got voters to think about these four issues, we then asked the crucial question – what the overall effect of the two parties’ policies would be on the “standard of living of people like you”.
Here are the results:
|Thinking about [Conservative/Labour] policies towards business…|
|Do you think they will lead to…|
|More economic growth||44||21|
|Less economic growth||15||42|
|Not make much difference either way||28||23|
|A fairer Britain||21||38|
|A less fair Britain||45||28|
|Not make much difference either way||24||21|
|Not make much difference either way||31||28|
|Not make much difference either way||38||26|
|A higher standard of living for people like you||19||23|
|A lower standard of living for people like you||42||32|
|Not make much difference either way||29||33|
The Tories massively outscore Labour on growth and enjoy a substantial, if not quite so overwhelming, lead on jobs. Labour is well ahead on fairness. Neither party scores well on taxes, but the Conservatives do less badly than Labour.
It’s the answers to the final question, on living standards, that make for such bad news for the Tories. By more than two-to-one, people expect the Tory stance on business to cut rather than raise their living standards. Labour’s figures are not great, but nothing like as dire as the Tories’.
The explanation is clear (and consistent with other YouGov research). Cameron has failed to achieve one of the ambitions he set himself when he became party leader ten years ago. He wanted to detoxify the Tory “brand”: kill off the notion that his party is run by out-of-touch toffs interested only in helping the rich.
Sadly for the Prime Minister, millions of voters still think that is what the Tories are like. As a result, voters notice that the economy is growing and unemployment is down—but think the benefits are going more to wealthy folk than people like them. With living standards barely, if at all, higher than five years ago, and the rows about zero-hours contracts talking much of the shine off the employment statistics, many voters are reluctant to convert their acknowledgement of national economic performance into support for the Conservatives.
Cameron, then, can claim to have won the argument that the economy has turned a corner. But he has not yet won the argument that life round that corner will get any better for the majority of voters if he stays in office. If he can’t make progress on that second argument between now and next Thursday, he is destined to appear in the record books as the youngest ex-Prime Minister since William Pitt.