UK Politics

Labour election candidates 'back tax rises' after 2015

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Media captionLabour's link with the trade unions is "absolutely where it should be" says the shadow business secretary

Labour general election candidates support tax rises to reduce the deficit and are in favour of scrapping Trident, new research for the BBC suggests.

An exclusive survey of 73 candidates for BBC1's Sunday Politics found that 42% backed raising taxes after 2015 as the "main" way to balance the books.

More than half polled also said the nuclear deterrent should be scrapped.

Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna rejected claims of a drift to the left, saying Labour was a "centrist" party.

The parliamentary hopefuls were asked by ComRes what they think about immigration, public spending and taxation as well as the party's relationship with the trade unions.

On immigration, only 15% said they believed current levels were too high while 89% said they believed immigration from inside the EU is a good thing for Britain and only 7% said they thought Britain was too generous to immigrants.

When it came to public spending under the last Labour government, 85% of the candidates in the survey said the level of spending was "about right", 10% said it was "too low" with just 4% saying it was "too high".

'Popular choice'

Asked how a future Labour Government should reduce the deficit, 42% said it should be done mainly through raising taxes, 18% by cutting spending, 7% by increasing borrowing and 4% said there was no need to reduce the deficit. 29% said they didn't know.

More than half of the candidates surveyed wanted to scrap the UK's nuclear deterrent, Trident, with 37% opposed to scrapping it.

Not one Labour candidate spoken to by ComRes over the past seven weeks thought Labour was too close to the trade unions. 29% said the party's relationship with the trade unions in not close enough with 71% saying it is about right.

According to the survey, Ed Miliband is the senior figure Labour candidates want to have with them on the doorstep but if they are after a change of leader, Yvette Cooper was their preferred choice, with shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna in fourth.

'Centrist'

Tom Mludzinski, head of political polling at ComRes, says that while the public "find it hard to warm" to Ed Miliband, Labour candidates appeared keen to support their leader.

"He's the most popular choice as the politician they want with them knocking on doors in their constituencies and there is very strong backing for his prime ministerial credentials," he says.

"While this doesn't chime with Mr Miliband's poor public image, the candidates appear unwilling to criticise the man who could lead them to victory in 2015".

Mr Umunna told the Sunday Politics that the survey should be "treated with caution" as Labour would be putting up 400 candidates at the next election who are not currently MPs and the research was not "necessarily representative".

While he acknowledged it was not party policy to scrap Trident, he rejected claims that the party was lurching to the left, suggesting many of the positions adopted by candidates on issues such as the benefits of immigration and raising the top rate of tax to 50p were "centrist".

"I don't think I accept your characterisation of our candidates as being left-wing," he told the programme's presenter Andrew Neil. "I don't think your viewers see politics in terms of what is left and right but in terms of what is right and wrong."

Labour candidates, he added, were campaigning on issues such as raising levels of pay and improving opportunities for future generations.

You can watch the Sunday Politics again on the BBC's iPlayer.

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