The Conservatives are no longer seen as a party of low taxation following Philip Hammond’s tax raid on the self-employed, a new poll for The Telegraph shows.
Just one in four voters now regards the Tories as a low-tax party, while almost half of those polled say they trust the Conservatives less as a result of Mr Hammond’s Budget. More than half of voters – 55 per cent – say Theresa May should have honoured the party’s manifesto pledge not to raise taxes.
Figures on voting intentions are equally worrying for the Prime Minister, with almost half of those questioned saying they are less likely to vote Tory because of the Budget, including one in seven Conservative voters.
The Prime Minister and her Chancellor have faced a rebellion from their own MPs following the decision to increase National Insurance Contributions for self-employed people.
Lord Lamont of Lerwick, the former chancellor, today advises Mr Hammond to adopt “Thatcher radicalism” by giving workers incentives to fund their own welfare if he is to avoid future tax rises. Lord Lamont urges Mr Hammond to scrap the NI increase, saying the policy “goes against the entire grain of Conservative policy since 1979”.
Writing for The Telegraph, he argues wholesale reform, not “bureaucratic tidiness” is the only way to tackle the “unsustainable” rise of the cost of welfare.
Mr Hammond must first survive a plot to oust him which has been concocted by hard-line Brexiteers.
The perception of a manifesto commitment breach has alienated many voters to whom Theresa May appealed because she had more of the common touch than her predecessor did
Andrew Hawkins, ComRes
A former minister said Mr Hammond’s opponents were “hunting as a pack” and using the row as an excuse to try to force him out, because they do not trust him to pursue a hard Brexit.
The extent to which the Budget has damaged trust in the Conservative brand is detailed in a ComRes poll of 1,021 adults carried out on Friday.
Asked whether they agreed that “the Conservative Party is no longer a low-tax party”, 49.5 per cent of voters agreed, with just 26 per cent disagreeing. On the question of whether the Budget made them trust the Conservatives less, 47 per cent said it did, while 40 per cent said they trusted Mrs May less as a result.
Fewer than half of those questioned – 44 per cent – thought Mr Hammond should carry on as Chancellor, with 55 per cent saying Mrs May should have honoured the manifesto pledge not to raise National Insurance.
Some 46 per cent of people said they had become less likely to vote for the Conservatives. Among those who voted Tory at the last election, 15 per cent were less likely to do so.
With the Tories holding a working majority of just 17, the poll is likely to reinforce Mrs May’s reluctance to call a general election before 2020.
Andrew Hawkins, the chairman of ComRes, said: “The perception of a manifesto commitment breach has tarnished the reputations of both the Chancellor and Prime Minister, and undermined voter trust in the Conservative Party.
“More seriously, perhaps, it has alienated many voters to whom Theresa May appealed because she had more of the common touch than her predecessor did.”
The poll does contain some better news for Mrs May. Only 35 per cent of voters believe it was wrong to decrease the tax threshold on dividend payments, with 38 per cent saying it was the right thing to do.
Mrs May tried to buy time on Thursday by announcing a package of welfare benefits for the self-employed, including improved pension, maternity and parental rights. She also hinted that the National Insurance rise would not be put to a vote until the autumn.
Lord Lamont, however, describes the sweeteners for the self-employed as a “sop” that should also be dropped. He argues the Chancellor should instead provide tax incentives “to encourage people off tax-funded benefits into funded private pensions”.
He also urged Mr Hammond to consider “imaginative tax reform” that includes radical changes to property taxation to provide a long-term foundation for spending on welfare.