New Tory intake may prevent coalition

The ippr has conducted an online poll of Prospective Parliamentary Candidates. Labour and Lib Dem newcomers have more in common than they do with the Conservatives.

Our guest writer is Rick Muir, Senior Research Fellow at the ippr

Although the next parliament will see an exceptionally large number of new MPs, we currently know relatively little about the ‘class of 2010’. To fill this gap ippr conducted an online poll of Prospective Parliamentary Candidates (PPCs)  in winnable seats from across the different parties. This excluded sitting MPs and only focused on those who had a serious chance of winning – either in safe seats for their party or in marginal contests.

The most significant set of findings concern the ideological position of the PPCs from the different parties. The survey found that Labour and Lib Dem PPCs have much more in common with each other than either set of candidates do with the Conservatives. This confirms that a left of centre coalition between Labour and the Lib Dems would be much easier to hold together politically than an arrangement between the Lib Dems and the Conservatives.

Our survey found that the overwhelming majority of Labour and Lib Dem PPCs agree that government should redistribute income from the rich to the poor. Labour PPCs are slightly to the left of Lib Dem PPCs on questions of redistribution and the welfare state: 67 per cent of Labour PPCs agree strongly that government should redistribute income, compared to 33 per cent of Lib Dem PPCs who agree strongly with that statement. Despite Conservative Shadow Ministers saying they now favour redistribution, only 30 per cent of Conservative PPCs in our survey supported income redistribution and 47 per cent opposed it.

Other findings include:

Whereas all Labour and Lib Dem PPCs agree that climate change is real and man made and requires major social changes – only 53 per cent of Tory PPCs believe this. 18 per cent of the Tory PPCs who responded disagreed that climate change is man made and requires major changes to the way we live, while another 12 per cent said they didn’t know and 18 per cent neither agreed nor disagreed with the statement.

• Lib Dem PPCs are to Labour’s left on the role of the City in the economy, with 91 per cent agreeing that we have been too reliant on it and should curb its role, compared to 44 per cent of Labour PPCs. Most Conservative PPCs opposed action to reduce the role of the City in the economy.

• Labour and Lib Dem PPCs are ‘less tough’ on sentencing than Conservative PPCs, with Lib Dem PPCs being the most liberal.

• 59 per cent of Conservative PPCs disagreed with the statement that too many people’s lives would be damaged by cutting benefits, compared to just 7 per cent of Labour PPCs and 17 per cent of Lib Dem candidates.

• 70 per cent of Conservatives agreed that the welfare state ‘crowds out’ civic endeavour and community self-help, while most Labour and Lib Dem PPCs disagreed.

• Lib Dem PPCs are the least interventionist on foreign policy, with 91 per cent wanting Britain to stop trying to be a major military force in the world, compared to just 27 per cent of Labour PPCs and 6 per cent of Tory PPCs.

• 59 per cent of Tory PPCs think that the EU is a threat to the UK’s national sovereignty, whereas Labour and Lib Dem PPCs overwhelmingly reject this.

One issue where Labour and the Conservatives stand apart from the Lib Dems is on electoral reform.   All of the Conservative PPCs polled favoured first-past-the-post, while only 10 per cent of Labour PPCs supported proportional representation (PR)  or a mixed system as used in Cardiff and Edinburgh. The remaining Labour PPCs were split between those supporting first-past-the-post and those supporting the Alternative Vote.  If PR is the deal breaker in a hung parliament, both David Cameron and Gordon Brown will find it difficult to persuade their backbenchers to accede to the Lib Dems’ main political demand.

A further set of findings concern how the candidates were selected.  Rather than finding lots of London-based candidates being ‘parachuted in’, most of the candidates either lived in or had a local connection with their constituency when they were selected.  What is more noticeable about the selection process is how few people are involved in it: 75 per cent of these PPCs were chosen by less than 200 party members and 28 per cent by less than 100.  The only party to have broken out of those small numbers were the Conservatives – many of whom had been selected in primary contests.

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