What do the next generation of MPs think with regards to public services, government spending and taxes? Coffee House has got its hands on new research by Ipsos MORI on the opinions of prospective parliamentary candidates from the main parties. The pollsters interviewed almost one hundred PPCs – 26 Conservative, 29 Labour, 20 Liberal Democrat and 11 SNP – who are all standing in marginal or safe seats, and therefore stand a good chance of making it to the green benches after the general election. Here are the points that stand out:
1: Defence cuts on the front line
Defence cuts lead the way for both Labour and Liberal Democrat candidates who agreed that reductions to public spending need to be made. Over two thirds (69 per cent) of Lib Dems named it as a priority, as did 40 per cent from Labour. Meanwhile, Tories overwhelmingly favour cuts to benefits and social security (72 per cent), with only 8 per cent suggesting the defence budget should be reduced. Philip Hammond may have said there are ‘no votes in defence’, but candidates in his party would still prefer to see overseas aid cut first.
2: The NHS is sacrosanct for Labour
Nigel Lawson once said the NHS is ‘the closest thing the English have to a religion’, and that’s certainly the case for prospective Labour MPs – all of whom named the health service as a priority to be protected from spending cuts. It was also the most popular Conservative response, although 44 per cent of Tory responders either forgot to mention it or believe it should be subject to cutbacks like other departments. Liberal Democrat candidates (85 per cent) had a noticeable interest in protecting the education budget.
3: Nationalists have their cake and eat it
Almost half (45 per cent) of SNP candidates believe the deficit can be reduced without reducing public spending or increasing taxes – or at least they’re not willing to agree to either in order to balance the books.
4: Tories alone in putting cuts first
Tory candidates overwhelmingly favour deficit reduction based mostly on spending cuts (77 per cent), and they were alone in this regard. The majority of Lib Dem candidates (65 per cent) supported an equal balance between cuts and tax rises, which matches their party’s pitch to the electorate as occupiers of the centre ground between the ‘heartless’ Tories and ‘irresponsible’ Labour.
5: Not all Labour candidates are hostile to the filthy rich
Ed Miliband’s Labour is far removed from days of Peter Mandelson saying he was ‘intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich’. But not all Labour candidates are hostile towards people earning big money. Almost a quarter (24 per cent) agreed that ‘in an ideal society people should be allowed to make and keep as much money as they can’.