Conservative Leadership Hustings

Today Onward and the Northern Research Group are hosting a Levelling Up Hustings. This afternoon the remaining Conservative leadership contenders will take questions from their parliamentary colleagues on how they plan to fulfil the Government’s manifesto promise to boost opportunity and spread prosperity right across the UK.

In the media this week

As the Conservative Party leadership contest continues, Onward’s work has been referenced in the media coverage of the race. Highlights include the Financial Times, The Times, Sunday Times, Daily Express and the New Statesman

Director Will Tanner wrote for Conservative Home on what the Conservatives’ post-2019 electoral coalition wants from the new Prime MInister, and spoke to the Sky News and Bloomberg podcasts.

Team Activity

On Thursday Deputy Director Adam Hawksbee will be speaking at a Youth Futures Foundation event on helping marginalised young people into good jobs. More information here.

New podcast episode
Buidiling Belonging website 1 - Onward Newsletter, 19/07/22

In this episode of Building Belonging Will and Alex speak to Russ Jeffreys, Chief Executive of Parkrun, about the organisation’s growth, how it fared during the pandemic and the power of exercise in building social connections. 

Subscribe here.

Director’s Note

The Conservatives have a reputation for despatching unpopular leaders to maintain power. But removing Boris Johnson is just half of their challenge. The other is finding a replacement capable of reviving the party’s fortunes and securing an unprecedented fifth term in power.

Will Tanner

If they are to succeed, they need to understand the electorate they will be pitching to in eighteen months’ time. But it is far from clear that they do.

Today’s Conservative voters have markedly different values and priorities than they did in the past – and which are being presented in this contest.

The Conservatives emerged from the 2019 election as the party of less educated working-class voters and low-paid places. They won 51 per cent of skilled working-class voters and led Labour by 37 points among voters with no qualifications. Among seats the Conservatives gained in 2019, average earnings and house prices are five per cent and 33 per cent lower than in Labour seats, respectively.

In Onward’s eve-of-election 2019 poll, 59 per cent of 2019 Conservative voters agreed that the government should “prioritise spending for schools, hospitals and social care” over “cutting income tax”. And when asked to choose between “lower taxes, smaller government and less spending on public services”, and “increased taxation, bigger government and more spending”, only 56 per cent supported the former and 44 per cent supported the latter.

The popularity of furlough and government loans and the continued salience of NHS spending provide further evidence that voters, including Tory members, are more willing to contemplate higher taxes than worse services and greater insecurity. 

The contest has so far openly defied this reality. Candidates are offering greater tax cuts but saying little about public services. Some candidates have pledged swingeing cuts to departmental budgets, while others have pledged to abolish the Health and Social Care Levy – a policy which would be branded as “defunding the NHS” by Labour.

This is not to say that voters are locked into a big-state economic viewpoint. Voters’ views on tax and spend are cyclical. Politicians can and should persuade. And economic conditions play a role in shaping voters’ views. But for now, it is likely that the conveyor belt of tax cuts being offered so far will fall on voters’ deaf ears and backfire.

A longer version of this appeared in ConservativeHome on Friday 15 July.

Policy Bites

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has announced that applications for the second round of the Levelling Up Fund has opened for submission. Click here.

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