Wednesday, 10 April 2013

ICM Thatcher poll: voters believe that privatising the utilities and cutting taxes for the rich were wrong

One of the big myths about the triumph of Conservatism is that its key tenets have been accepted wholesale by the majority of the British people.

So, as the Tory press will suggest, people support the neo-liberal consensus: deregulation, competition, a minimal state and low taxes. At the same time, 'old' social democratic values are now rejected.

Except, as polling demonstrates, this isn't quite true. The fact is, evidence points to what Blair always thought - the British people are middle of the road. The population, taken as a whole, hold a set of beliefs, that over time may adjust, but broadly can be described as centrist - although admittedly sometimes contradictory.  

So, on the one hand, voters of all hues tend to oppose immigration - Labour, Tory and Lib Dem alike. And there is no doubt that attitudes to welfare (arguably due in a large part to the 'drip drip' effect of right-leaning tabloid horror stories) aren't exactly supportive.

However, let's take the latest ICM poll on Margaret Thatcher. It polled a representative sample of voters on whether they thought, on balance, some of her key policies were good or bad in hindsight. On the one hand, taking on the unions and (despite the massive housing problems London in particular now faces) right-to-buy, are both seen in hindsight as positive.

However, key aspects of Conservatism are rejected - and by large margins. So, for example, privatisation of the utilities are seen as negative. This, of course, is unsurprising: energy companies, like their rail counterparts, haven't exactly endeared themselves to the British public.

At the same time, voters now overwhelmingly reject cutting taxes for the richest. Only 28% in the ICM poll agreed that the reductions in the top rate was a positive policy. No doubt the banking crisis has contributed to this, but equally two decades since Thatcher left office have demonstrated that 'trickle-down' economics doesn't work: average real wages haven't increased in the USA since the 1970's.    

Interestingly, a YouGov survey released today found a similar pattern, with voters seeing privatisation of utilities in negative terms.

Tory voters aren't really as conservative as you think 

We shouldn't be surprised about the ICM results. Previous surveys from some of the leading polling firms have segmented voters by party preference, and found that Tory voters support - in some cases by large margins - the following:

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