The Budget: Balancing Business, Bolsover & Beaconsfield

The Budget: Balancing Business, Bolsover & Beaconsfield

Since the General Election in December, much ink has been spilled by commentators on the different types of Conservative voter that Boris Johnson must hold onto.

The argument supposedly goes that voters in Leave supporting seats like Bolsover – that went Tory for the first time last year – want a more muscular and interventionist government.

Meanwhile voters in Remain supporting seats like Beaconsfield – that the Tories clung onto because of fear of the alternative – want a more ‘traditional’ Tory government that backs business and prioritises laissez-faire economics.

It’s a neat enough theory but bears little resemblance with how most voters today view politics.

New polling by Portland, released today on the eve of the 2020 Spring Budget, shows there is far more unanimity amongst both sets of Conservative voters than commonly supposed.

The real chasm, the polling suggests, is between Business on the one hand and Conservative Voters on the other. While Business wants government to get out of the way – a majority of Conservative Voters across the board want the Government to tax more, spend more and intervene more.

Beyond the slogans and soundbites, next week’s Budget will offer the first set of real clues on which side of the argument Boris Johnson’s Government chooses to fall down on. But looking to a five year horizon, the tide of public opinion towards a more interventionist Government is one that business leaders cannot afford to ignore. Business can exert influence in many ways but voters hold the ultimate sanction for a politician at the ballot box.

The strategic dilemma that every business will have to grapple with is whether to contest this argument, concede it – or find some level of compromise.

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