Living and breathing in the Westminster bubble, it’s tempting to over-analyse every small announcement and event for implications on the election’s result. As think tanks, parties and pundits tore into the details of the parties’ manifestos, many voters only took away the headline policies which led the media coverage. So how did the two main parties do?
Labour’s strategy of presenting a face of fiscal responsibility was well received, with 76% of voters favouring Ed Miliband’s aim of reducing the deficit. This was the most popular of Miliband’s announcements, which is interesting as fiscal discipline is not a policy area for which Labour is well-known for its approach.
The next two most popular policies in the Labour manifesto both focus on Labour’s theme of ‘making the economy work for you, with 71% of people agreeing with raising the minimum wage to £8, and 65% supporting a freeze on gas and electricity prices until 2017. The latter policy was announced almost two years ago in Miliband’s conference speech in 2013, and was followed by a strong bounce in Labour polling, so it’s interesting to see that this policy’s popularity has gone the distance.
The Conservative manifesto contained the most popular policy of either party, with a huge 80% coming out in favour of increasing the personal allowance so that people earning the minimum wage don’t have to pay income. This is a variation on Labour’s ‘making work pay’ theme and the Conservatives has done well to steal a march on Miliband, and this sets the Tories apart from the ‘increasing personal allowance to £12,500’ policy that was originally a Liberal Democrat idea.
Similar to Labour’s pledge to tackle the rising cost of living, the Conservatives are also taking action by stopping above inflation rail fare increases until 2020. 67% of voters agree with this policy, even though barely a fraction of that number will actually use trains in their commute.
It’s also interesting to see that voters still have a hard side, as 65% think it’s a good idea to reduce the maximum household benefits to £23,000 per year. The tories will be encouraged by these figures but will be disappointed that their other headline announcement, of giving tenants of housing associations the right to buy their home at a discount, was only endorsed by 28% of people.
So both parties delivered manifestos that contained popular policies which centred around the themes of making work pay, tackling the cost of living but each scored points with their own brand of policies as well: Labour garnering support with a state-interventionist freeze on utility bills and the Conservatives scoring points with a hard line on benefits. But will either policy be the rabbit out the hat that’s needed to make a difference in the polls?