Cameron conference debt speech

Hannah ThompsonYouGovLabs and UK Public Opinion Website Editor
October 13, 2011, 2:51 PM GMT+0

Last week’s Conservative Party conference saw Prime Minister David Cameron’s final speech embroiled in debate after he had to drop advice for people to ‘pay off their credit card debts’ from the wording – but British public opinion is split over whether the PM was right to drop the advice from the speech, our poll can reveal.

  • 43% of Brits say Cameron was wrong to drop the advice that people should be paying off their credit card debts
  • While 42% think he was right, suggesting that the public is divided over whether dealing with debt is the solution to the country’s economic issues
  • Nearly half (49%) of Conservative voters think he was wrong to drop the advice, compared to 38% of Labour supporters
  • While more Labour voters (53%) say Cameron was right to have done what he did, compared to 40% of Conservative supporters

‘David Cameron wants us to repay our debt’

The results come in light of Cameron’s change to his keynote address at last week’s Tory Party Conference, after economists stressed that if people really were to take his advice to pay off credit card bills in one go, it would actually trigger a slump. Cameron’s original words in his conference speech were ‘the only way to deal with a debt crisis’ is for ‘all of us’ to ‘pay off the credit card and store card bills’. He then revised it to ‘everyone in the UK is working hard to pay off their credit’.

Either way, the changes to Cameron’s speech dominated media headlines last week. BBC Political Editor Nick Robinson commented that as paying off credit is ‘a sensitive topic’, it seems odd for the Prime Minister to urge people to stop spending ‘at a time of falling consumer confidence’, while the British Retail Consortium released a statement saying that ‘retrench’ was ‘at odds with promoting the growth that we need’.

‘Show the world some fight’

Some, however, suggest that the message was simply part of Cameron’s aim to urge Britons to ‘show the world some fight’ in the face of the recession today. In the final version of the speech, the PM told the conference to ‘turn this time of challenge into a time of opportunity’ and stressed that people should be ‘making things happen’ rather than ‘sitting around watching’.

The Money Advice Trust, which advises British consumers on debt, urges caution when repaying amounts owed. ‘If people are encouraged to [repay] quickly’, it advises, they may be ‘forced to take out more and more credit’, which could ‘ultimately land them in more debt’.

See the survey details and full results here