The Tories like to present themselves as a party that believes in “small state” values – but can that really be said to be true now? Rishi’s administration is looking like one more focussed on interventionist ideas in the field of public health than a libertarian one. Inflationary “sin taxes” on booze and bans on nicotine feel distinctly unconservative.
In contrast to Downing Street’s policy priorities, when ConservativeHome surveyed 696 readers the results suggested that the party leadership are at risk of not understanding their own members. Only 3% of Conservative Party members believe the party should focus more on social policies (such as lifestyle interventions) rather than on economic policies (such as reducing taxes). Moreover, 61% of Conservative Party members oppose the Prime Minister’s plans to gradually increase the age at which people can buy tobacco. If we are at the point of a Rishi reset towards the Blue Wall then a return to true blue stances in the Autumn Statement would be welcome.
A staggering 98% of Conservative Party members surveyed agreed that an 18 year old – a legal adult – should be able to buy and consume vapes/e-cigarettes. Rishi’s proposed generation ban will be incredibly difficult to enforce and is unlikely to be observed. It would mean that, by 2037, a 27-year-old would need to be supervised by someone older in order to be sold a packet of cigarettes. Some 61% of Conservative members oppose Sunak’s plan to gradually increase the age at which people can buy tobacco.
The blanket alcohol duty freeze ended 1 August, meaning levies have already risen by 10% in line with inflation. Back then, the Wine and Spirits Trade Association Chief Executive Miles Beale warned that the “crippling” rises in the price of most drinks would further fuel inflation. In the Autumn Statement, Jeremy Hunt seems poised to hit wine drinkers with a second rise in duty. This will take the average cost of a bottle of wine to above £8. Do Tory members really expect to see such sharp tax rises that would often be associated with the type of public health agenda Labour pursues?