388.5 - The Party of Tax and Spend | Scoins.net | DJS

388.5 - The Party of Tax and Spend

Wondering about the imminent political demise of Boris at our PM (a good thing short term but for a change of government then the longer he stays in, the better for everyone that doesn't vote conservative). My mental ears pricked up on comments that disagreed with my long-lasting perceptions of the Tories and who votes for them, or doesn't.

1) Older voters move to the right as they age.

Apparently so, says [126]. By taking the average of seven different groups of several thousand people each over time – covering most periods between general elections since the 1960s – we found that the maximum possible ageing effect averages out at a 0.38% increase in Conservative voters per year. The minimum possible ageing effect was only somewhat lower, at 0.32% per year.

Those small differences mount up. Across a 60-year gap that makes a 21% (±2%, and 3s.f. is not appropriate) move to the right. The increased tendency to vote (below) as one ages goes a long way towards keeping the Conservatives in power. But, if having more education (point 3, below) makes one more likely to start from the left that moves the stereotypical left-leaning graduate into floating voter territory by the time they retire.


Older people are more likely to vote [122] – almost 90% of over 65s will vote. Those with more education are more likely to vote; of those under 30 that vote, about half have reached or exceeded level 3 education (still fewer people than you'd like to be included). Based on the 2010 election, 74% of those with Level 3 (A-level equivalence) voted and 81% with degree equivalence. The UK is unusual in there being a 38% difference between voting at 55+ and voting at 16-35, 13% different from the next nearest nation. [all 122] Of those under 35 with A-level or more, 64% voted and only 44% of those with GCSE or less.


You might see that there is a very strong argument for the Tories to protect pensions just as much as they can, since this directly benefits those most likely, in general, to vote for them. Reversing that thought, there's not much else would cause older folk to agree that Christmas is a good idea if you're a turkey; if your pension was hit, you might well vote for not-Con. Matters of principle, behaviour (non-economy reasons) may also intrude sufficiently to cause change in that vote.

2) The Tories are the party of small government, lower taxation and spending. 

[124] almost supports this, saying that there is a correlation with the electorate's mood; If the people want (say) lower taxes or more NHS spending, sooner or later they will elect a government that gives them that. Paraphrasing: Eventually. There are long swings left and right. The economic crisis of the 1970s moved opinion to the right, but then moved steadily left through the Thatcher and Major years and then moving central or left in the Blair time. More, public mood reacts to gov't spending. High tax moves opinion to the right (wanting lower taxes), but spending  less than the public wants means public services are seen as underperforming and so opinion moves left. Unwisely (say I), gov'ts do not react to pubic opinion while in power. This I do not understand, since, if genuinely established public opinion determines how the next election will go, the party of government could, you would think, provide themselves with advantage. Thus we learn that public opinion serves to replace unpopular governments; if all we're doing is electing not-them, that is remarkably negative. It also means that we have cycles of what could be called over-correction. The right-hand party reduced the state (too much), the incoming left-hand party over-compensates; when this has gone too far, the right is re-elected. I do not see this as healthy, but it assumes that most voting is to do with the perception of the economy.  Do read [124]. 

Fact Check [128] inspects a claim made by Theresa May (published May 2017) that the Tories are the low-tax party. It concludes: It is, in the end, broadly fair for Theresa May to say that the Conservative party, both historically, and in recent times, has been inclined to somewhat lower spending, and so levels of tax than Labour, and to a lesser extent the Liberal Democrats. But it is also fair to say the Conservatives tend to overplay the extent of this difference. The exclusive focus on tax is also a bit like looking at only one dimension in isolation of a three-dimensional, interconnected policy challenge. The other dimensions are the need for well-funded public services, which excessive tax cuts can undermine, and economic growth, without which tax receipts fall, and which is arguably left less certain in the context of Brexit. 

Tax Research UK [129] test the suggestion  that Labour is profligate and the Tories are the naturally ‘safe pair of hands’ when it comes to running the economy. The Tories, it is presumed, do not borrow as much as Labour. The table to the right show that this is not true. I made the spreadsheet from [128] myself.

The Conservatives are the party of high UK borrowing and low debt repayment, contrary to all popular belief.

More than that, though, since 1945, no government has successfully made any progress on debt reduction – 3.5% on original prices is nothing wonderful, any more than the 12.5% that results from moving all values to 2021 prices. This means that (as I concluded in §326) that any political declarations about the national debt, that it is important to reduce this, fails to recognise the enormity of the issue. Perhaps we would be altogether wiser to recognise that this is never going to be paid off, that there is significant harm in trying to do so (the years of austerity). 

In which case we have to wonder what the sensible upper limit is to national debt. I came across the suggestion that, rather like measuring mortgage in terms of multiples of earnings, national debt should be expressed in terms of multiples of gross domestic product. UK national debt is in the region of 80% of GDP. the blue bar-chart expresses this and rather implies an opposite conclusion, where this ratio reduced to below 50%. It also suggests that having borrowing in excess of the GDP is considered to be bad. That would be because what is given value is the perceived ability to pay back debt. Or, more precisely its ability to pay interest on that debt; the higher that ratio goes, the more likely some sort of default is to occur. The world bank has produced a study  that says that countries whose debt-to-GDP ratios exceed 77% for prolonged periods experience significant slowdowns in economic growth. Pointedly, every percentage point of debt above this level costs countries 0.017 percentage points in economic growth. Source via 130. One would therefore expect the Bank of England to pressure every Chancellor to keep borrowing below 77% and to flag every move towards such a critical value. Today I see the 'UK debt ratio', as it is called, was around 100% at the end of 2021 and 95% at the last measure. The grey-blue bar-chart is Fig 4 of the May 2022 public sector finances report. That link should take you to the latest release. Fig 8 is much the same as the bright blue bar-chart.


3)   The Tories are who the elite vote for (the rich, landowners, the educated)

This is refuted by [120 and 126]. The proportion voting Conservative goes down with increased education. The social grade table [126] seems to me remarkably uniform.


Discoveries: we move to the right as we age, by around 0.35% per year. More education correlates with leaning more left. Most of the assumptions centre on voting decisions being made on economic grounds. The Conservatives have always borrowed more and repaid less, which might mean that they use borrowing to support the claim to be the party of  low taxation.





120]  https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/17457289.2021.2013247  Also see https://ukandeu.ac.uk/educational-attainment-referendum-voting/.   

[121]   https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/educational-attainment-brexit/     

[122] http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/57531/1/democraticaudit.com-Highly_educated_young_people_are_less_likely_to_vote_than_older_people_with_much_lower_levels_of_atta.pdf Several tables worth staring at. Many of these were taken from http://www.bes2009-10.org/ the British Election Study.

[123] https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/453842/1/Explaining_the_educational_divide_in_electoral_behaviour_testing_direct_and_indirect_effects_from_British_elections_and_referendums_2016_2019.pdf  I found this paper quoted almost verbatim in several places without attribution, even using the same words. Copying without accreditation is plagiarism. Direct link to the article:   https://doi.org/10.1080/17457289.2021.2013247 which is the same as [120].

[124]  https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/do-public-opinion-and-elections-affect-government-policy/

[125]   https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/nov/03/do-we-become-more-conservative-with-age-young-old-politics

[126]   https://yougov.co.uk/topics/politics/articles-reports/2019/12/17/how-britain-voted-2019-general-election offers much, based on the 2019 election.  Also leads you to the YouGov political analysis pages. You might view the 'what gov't will result from the next election?', which allows you to look at the age-share of opinion. Think of this as a check on what you thought you understood of what I wrote earlier. 'Small Con majority' fits with the minds of a large proportion of the 50+ groups as the most likely result, even mid-June 2022.

[127]   https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/apr/17/partygate-tories-tory-party-boris-johnson-politics

  ... almost half of Tory voters are now over 65, and 83% are over 45. For younger people, the economic model created by Thatcher and her heirs has entailed the impossibility of home ownership, and there is fading interest in what the Tories have to offer, surely accelerated by Brexity nostalgia and nastiness: in 1983, the Conservatives won the support of 42% of those aged 18 to 24, but by 2019, that figure had halved.

[128https://theconversation.com/fact-check-have-the-conservatives-always-been-the-low-tax-party-77742

[129]  https://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2021/06/24/the-tories-have-always-borrowed-more-than-labour-and-always-repaid-less-they-are-the-party-of-big-deficit-spending/

[130]   https://www.investopedia.com/terms/d/debtgdpratio.asp   leading to https://elibrary.worldbank.org/doi/abs/10.1596/1813-9450-5391

"Finding The Tipping Point -- When Sovereign Debt Turns Bad" and other well-written papers. I cannot access these, only the abstracts. Why is material from the World Bank denied to individuals?

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