Tories urge Cameron to get tougher on tax cuts and Europe
Andrew Grice has been Political Editor of The Independent since 1998. He was previously Political Editor of The Sunday Times, where he worked for 10 years, and he has been a Westminster-based journalist since 1982. His column, Inside Politics, appears in The Independent each Saturday.
Monday 03 October 2011
A majority of Conservative Party members want David Cameron to overrule Nick Clegg to ensure a tougher line on immigration, Europe and tax cuts, according to a poll for The Independent.
The survey of almost 1,400 Tory members, conducted by the ConservativeHome website on the eve of the party conference, showed 61 per cent think the Liberal Democrats have too much influence and want the Prime Minister to fight harder for Tory policies on tax, Europe and immigration.
Only 11 per cent think the Tories have got the best deal from the Coalition. Another 28 per cent believe they have given much ground to Mr Clegg's party, but say this does not matter if the Government fixes the economy.
The findings show concern in the Conservative grassroots that Mr Cameron is making too many policy concessions. But Cameron allies fear the proposed shift to the right on issues like immigration and Europe would revive voters' fears that the Conservatives are the "nasty party".
According to the poll, there is strong hostility to extending the Coalition beyond the next election. Only 9 per cent of Tory members support a "continuing coalition" to deny Labour power for the foreseeable future. Ninety-one per cent want to govern without the Lib Dems after the next election and to enact more Tory policies on crime, immigration, human rights, Europe and tax.
The poll also reveals deep hostility among Tory activists to the Government's decision to boost spending on overseas aid to poor countries, despite imposing cuts in most other areas. Asked if the Chancellor, George Osborne, should cut spending on international development if the economy worsens, 82 per cent of Tory members agree and only 15 per cent disagree.
In these circumstances 68 per cent would also cut benefits such as the winter fuel allowance for richer pensioners, while 27 per cent oppose the idea. They also back deeper cuts to the welfare budget, by 68 to 23 per cent. But Tories do not want Mr Cameron to abandon his flagship pledge to raise the NHS budget each year. They oppose the idea by 59 to 33 per cent.
A majority wants cuts to be faster and deeper. While 41 per cent say Mr Osborne's deficit-reduction plan is exactly right, 42 per cent want more spending cuts so taxes can be reduced to boost growth and another 10 per cent want bigger cuts to avoid tax rises. ConHome also asked Conservative members to rate the performance of the Cabinet. Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, was the most highly rated. Some 90 per cent are satisfied with how he is doing his job.
Education Secretary Michael Gove, is second, up from seventh in the same poll a year ago, after a shaky start when the Government was formed.
Also moving up since last year's Tory conference are Mr Osborne, Jeremy Hunt, the Culture Secretary; Sir George Young, the veteran Leader of the Commons and Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office Minister.
Party chairman Baroness (Sayeeda) Warsi has 57 per cent of people dissatisfied with her performance. She may be moved to a different job in a Cabinet reshuffle expected next spring.
The most dramatic fall is that of Kenneth Clarke, whose liberal sentencing reforms as Justice Secretary have upset the grassroots. He slumps from 14th to 24th spot, with 61 per cent of Tory members dissatisfied.
Also dropping down the performance table are Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, who has endured a bruising year over his NHS reforms, and Home Secretary Theresa May. Danny Alexander, Liberal Democrat Treasury Secretary, has jumped from 23rd to sixth place but Nick Clegg has fallen from 12th to 19th.
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