UK Voters See Tax Hikes Likely Whoever Wins Election, Poll Shows

(Bloomberg) -- Britons see just about the same risk of a Labour government raising their taxes as a Conservative one, according to a new poll, casting doubt on an oft-used Tory attack line ahead the UK election.

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Some 43% of respondents expected their tax bill would rise under Labour, the survey of 2,308 adults conducted by polling firm More in Common found. That’s compared with 40% who said they anticipated more tax hikes if Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Tories remain in power.

While few Britons believed that either party would actually lower their taxes, answers to that question slightly favored Labour. Some 12% said they expected Keir Starmer’s opposition to decrease the tax burden, while 10% thought the Conservatives would, according to the poll, which was conducted from Friday to Sunday and shared exclusively with Bloomberg.

The poll raises questions about how effective a favorite Tory argument against the left-leaning opposition may be in the general election, which Sunak has said he will call in the “second half” of the year. On Friday, Chancellor of the Exchequer Chancellor Jeremy Hunt warned of “Labour tax rises” in a speech, signaling plans to cut payroll levies further if the Conservatives overcome a 20-point gap in the polls and return to power.

The strategy appeared to be an attempt to repeat former Conservative Prime Minister John Major’s upset victory in 1992, when he campaigned against what he called “Labour’s tax bombshell.” Problem is, government efforts to soften the twin blows of Covid-19 and the energy price shock by offering huge subsidies to individuals have led it to push the tax burden to a post-war high.

Moreover, some recent surveys have shown that voters favor investment in Britain’s strained public services over tax cuts. Starmer notably didn’t include cutting taxes on the “six first steps” pledge card he released last week.

“Neither party has an advantage on the ‘no-tax-rises’ test,” said Luke Tryl, executive director for More in Common UK. “People think both parties are equally likely to put up taxes — this is likely to be most dangerous for the Conservatives.”

While the More in Common poll showed that 53% believed Starmer was unlikely to achieve all of the steps in his first term, it found more than six-in-10 respondents agreed each of them was a good idea. The survey also showed that 40% don’t believe that Labour’s plans to expand workers’ rights would harm British businesses, compared with 29% who say they would.

Still, both Sunak and Starmer are facing a skeptical electorate. The top three terms people used to describe Sunak were out-of touch, incompetent and weak. For Starmer, it was intelligent, professional and, like Sunak, weak.

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