This blog has often found adversely on the succession of dubiously argued “reports” issued by the non-job holders at the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA), so the news that they had engaged the services of YouGov to canvass public attitudes on a range of issues initially brought a little optimism to my day.
Sadly, though, on discovering the way the questions had been constructed and worded, the realisation set in that this was just another piece of TPA knocking copy dressed up in the cloak of legitimacy. And this was at its clearest on the subject of the proposed new HS2 high speed rail link. No blame, however, can be ascribed to YouGov: they are merely carrying out the analysis.
Let’s start with the overarching question put by the TPA, which is as follows: “Would you support or oppose the following cuts to public spending?”
Note the use of “support” [positive term] first, followed by “oppose” [negative term]. Note also that the issues canvassed are described as “the following cuts to public spending”, as if they are happening now, so the choice appears to be over some kind of done deal, or at least something under serious consideration.
Then comes the question specific to HS2: “Cancelling plans to fund a new high speed rail line between London and Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester”.
This ties in with the TPA’s characterisation of HS2 in terms only of cost, and not of benefit. Note use of the word “fund”: it’s only about paying out, and not getting anything back. Had the question mentioned that the scheme would bring a return in benefits more than twice its cost – and maybe well over three times – then the answer would have been different.
Even so, less than half those canvassed went with the TPA’s preferred answer, which was described as “saving £30 billion”. But the TPA is supporting enhancements to existing rail routes, and that cost is not given. Nor is any analysis of what would happen in the event that nothing was done to alleviate the looming capacity problems on both road and rail networks.Which merely underlines the flagrant dishonesty of the TPA approach. There is no simple solution on offer that gives a saving of £30 billion. It’s yet another false prospectus from an Astroturf lobby group in pursuit of demonising Government.