The message on the doorsteps has been the same for the whole of the local election campaign so far. People feel robbed. They want some respite from high fuel tax, high Council tax, high income tax and high public sector fees and charges. They would like better value for all their money spent on public services. They want some break from the endless surveillance into their daily lives, and from the ceaseless demands on the law abiding to register, comply, declare and remember all the tricky rules. Itâ€™s as if the government has designed ever more difficult rules with the intention of ensnaring the law abiding into mistakes from sheer exhaustion. There will come a form you forget, an answer you get wrong because you did not check it, a rule whose significance you had missed.
The doorstep message is poor for politics and worse for Labour. Some will not vote because they do not believe any political party can get a grip on it. Others will vote, and want to send a message to the Labour government. Some will even vote on local issues! My canvassing has been in Wokingham, never a source of much support for Labour, but the anti government mood is stronger than I have known it for the last eleven years.
People would like some honesty in government, some statement of what government can do to make their lives better, and some recognition that there are and should be limits to government power and intervention. Family budgets are being squeezed badly, and there is that gnawing fear that the government, unable to control its own spending properly, will be back for yet more tax increases at exactly the point when families canâ€™t afford the taxes they are already having to pay.
Most commentators reckon the government is too optimistic in its forecast for UK growth this year. Letâ€™s pray the government is right, because every shortfall in growth will be a bigger black hole in government finances. There are then two choices â€“ borrow more, which is deferred taxation, or raise taxes â€“ immediate taxation. Most of us want neither of those.
I have had one surprise. In the March edition of my local newsletter â€“ paid for by the taxpayer â€“ I offered to cut it out to save some public money if that was what people wanted. So far more have written in favour of keeping it. It will be interesting to see what the final score is. I was concerned that people are paying for too many glossies through the tax bill, but some do seem to like some of those publications.
Click here to see John Redwood’s presentation on the main priorities for Conservative controlled Councils.