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Tory members reject bailout for Portugal and replacement taxes; they support second look at defence budget; and worry about rhetoric on cuts

Tim Montgomerie

In my final post on ConHome's end-March survey here are the results of the other questions asked.

BAILOUT FOR PORTUGAL REJECTED

Euro Last Friday 1st April, Martin Callanan, leader of Britain's Tory MEPs, told ConservativeHome that Britain should not join any bailout of Portugal. He was speaking to an already convinced audience because, on the previous two days, members had overwhelmingly voted to reject the bailout. By 70% to 19% they rejected the argument that "Britain must take part in any bailout of Portugal because we cannot afford for that country's economy to fall and trigger collapses in banks and other EU economies".

By 61% to 17% they agreed that "Portugal should leave the €uro as part of any bailout arrangement".

(My column in today's Sunday Telegraph considers how Conservatives feel about the bailout)

ALSO REJECTED: REPLACEMENT TAXES

50P By 51% to 37% members rejected the suggestion that "Britain should increase tax on bad things like pollution, alcohol and expensive properties and use the savings to reduce taxes on income, investment and families." I'm one of the 37% believing that we need a tax system that does more to incentivise job creation, parenting and charitable giving. My guess is that many members fear a restructuring of the tax system would be used to increase the overall tax burden. I raised the question because of Liberal Democrat suggestions that the 50p tax band be replaced by some kind of levy on high value properties.

STRONG SUPPORT FOR RE-OPENING DEFENCE SETTLEMENT

Ministry-of-defence-logo 82% agreed that "Given Libya and events in the Middle East the Government should take a second look at the defence settlement and check our armed forces have the right resources". 15% disagreed. David Davis recently told Daily Mail readers that such a second look was necessary. Throughout the opposition years the defence budget was Tory members' top budget priority.

74% of members agreed that "many lives have been saved in Libya because David Cameron and other world leaders put together the intervention". Just 11% disagreed.

CUTS, INFLATION AND ECONOMIC MISERY

Government-spending-cuts-300x300 I'd be very interested in an opinion poll which attempted to measure the public's understanding of the scale of the coming cuts in state spending. The cuts are 0.6% in 2011-12, 1.1% in 2012-13, 1.3% in 2013-14 and 0.8% in 2014-15. That's 3.7% in total (see Allister Heath's piece putting these numbers in historical context). I reckon the average person on the street would put the percentage much higher.

Unlike some of my friends on the Right I don't think these cuts will be painless. I explained why here. Tory members do agree, however, by 56% to 34% that "the Government has over-stated the scale of the cuts when, in reality, they are modest".

That doesn't stop them thinking that we are entering choppy economic waters. By 94% to 4% they agree that "the next two to three years are going to be very difficult for the economy and the average household". But by 54% to 34% they say that inflation, rather than cuts is going to be the big cause of pain.

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1,259 members voted on 30th and 31st March.

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