Tories lose votes over tax and NHS: Free-market rhetoric upsets 'defectors'. Donald Macintyre and Colin Brown report

DEFECTING Tory voters are disillusioned with government free- market rhetoric on health and education as well as angry about crime and tax, according to confidential internal research ordered by John Major.

Conservative strategists have identified these elements as being among key reasons for the absence of a 'feel-good' factor.

Research ordered by the Prime Minister shows defecting Tory voters as fiercely right-wing on law and order. But the same electors feel fiercely protective of the NHS. That will be taken as a warning to Mr Major that a simple right-wing shift at next month's party conference could backfire.

The research, commissioned by Conservative Central Office partly to establish why former Tory voters are being slow to respond to the economic recovery, also suggests that while they are enthusiastic about the Government's aim of raising educational standards, they are much less interested in 'choice and diversity' in schooling. The findings are based on qualitative research through discussions with a dozen 'focus groups' of electors who voted Tory in the 1992 general election but now say they do not intend to do so. Not surprisingly, they show strong discontent at the length of the recession and the increase in taxes last April and next. A heartening inference of the research for Tory strategists that is that on public spending, education and law and order, the disaffected voters surveyed still share Conservative values and appear to show no sign of having yet converted to Labour policies - suggesting that the votes are 'recoverable'.

On law and order, the voters were strongly right-wing, advocating long jail terms.

But the disaffected voters are said to show a surprisingly collectivist attitude to the NHS, are highly enthusiastic about the clinical care provided by doctors and nurses, and are hostile and fearful about the NHS being run 'like a business'. The inference being drawn among ministers is that Virginia Bottomley and Gillian Shephard, the Secretaries of State for Health and Education, will need to use next month's party conference to show they expect to be judged by practical results in quality and quantity of patient care and examination results - rather than by, for example, the number of NHS trusts or self-managing schools, or even the cut in administrators.

The research suggests that while Mr Major is well-liked by voters, doubts remain about the strength of his leadership.

Leading article, page 13

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea