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Tuesday 30th August 2011 | 12:14
As ConservativeHome's Tim Montgomerie pointed out over the weekend, a new YouGov poll has shown that most Conservative voters, as well as the vast majority of the public overall, favour the introduction of an annual ‘mansion tax’ on homes worth over £1million. This should encourage Messrs Cable and Clegg in their wish to see such new wealth taxes high up on the Coalition agenda.
What is interesting from the poll, however, is the extent to which many changes to the current tax system met with considerable support. Cable’s mansion tax, Ed Balls’ VAT cut, the socially conservative Right’s holy grail of a tax break for married couples, as well as cutting fuel duty, all found majority support among the public as a whole.
And even, by varying degrees, amongst Conservative voters.
The only idea suggested that voters poured a considerable amount of cold water on was scrapping the 50% rate on income over £150,000. Even Conservatives opposed the idea, supported in the medium term by George Osborne, by 50% to 37%. Comments last month by Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander that those wanting to scrap the tax were “living in cloud cuckoo land” seem to chime with public attitudes.
Of course, fiscal policy set by polling data isn’t necessarily good policy, but if the government is looking for a revenue raiser, the mansion tax clearly suggests a fairly popular one. And if it’s looking for a tax cut, scrapping the 50% rate looks like a rather unpopular one. Of course, one hurts the ‘super-rich’ and the other hits them; in a political climate where the public blame ‘bankers’ for our economic woes, the Conservative party should be careful not to paint themselves further into the stereotype as being a party looking out for the interests of the richest few.
No-one on the Government benches appears to be seriously talking about a fuel tax cut or u-turning so soon on the VAT increase, but both are understandably very popular. We explored how energy stood out at the top of voters’ practical worries a month ago.
The voices are, however, louder in support of a married couples' tax allowance. Interestingly, though somewhat unsurprisingly, the key political strength this idea lies in its support among older voters – who remember a time when love and marriage went together like a horse and carriage. Although it receives support among younger voters, the overwhelming backing of high-turnout retirees is clear.
Perhaps, if Conservatives want to pick a fight with their Coalition colleagues on a tax cut, this would be a better strategic move than the 50% rate.