Interest rate rise 'may boost PM'


David Cameron

More people believe they would be helped than harmed by a rise in interest rates, according to a new survey.

A leading pollster said the finding suggested that a pre-election rate hike could actually improve David Cameron's chances of staying in Downing Street, rather than damaging them, as is widely thought.

Some 31% of those questioned by YouGov for The Times said that a rise in interest rates would leave them personally better-off, against 23% who said they would be better-off with lower rates and 32% who thought it would make little difference either way.

Faster than expected recovery has prompted speculation that the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee may increase the base rate from its historic low of 0.5% before the general election in May 2015.

The Bank's Governor Mark Carney has previously said that he does not expect a rise until unemployment drops to 7%, probably in 2016. But with official jobless figures now standing at 7.4%, many observers believe the crucial figure may be hit as early as next year.

A rise in interest rates would hit mortgage-holders, making it more difficult for home-owners to pay back loans. But it would be good for savers, particularly pensioners who have suffered from poor rates of return on their nest-eggs over the period since the crash of 2008.

Crucially, over-60s are believed to be the age-group most likely to vote in large numbers in 2015, meaning that a feelgood factor for pensioners could deliver dividends at the polls.

The survey found that more people in every part of the UK felt that they would be better-off with a rate rise, but the effect was most marked in the South of England and least noticeable in the West Midlands and Wales.

Some 45% of those questioned expected interest rates to rise in 2014. A large majority (72%) expect house prices to go up, and 16% said they would be better-off if they do rise, against 13% who said they would be worse-off.

YouGov president Peter Kellner told The Times: "For the moment, when inflation looks set to stay low, a modest rise in interest rates is actually likely to please far more people than it troubles.

"In electoral terms, that effect is likely to be heightened as the very people who plainly benefit most from rising rates - the over-60s - are those most likely to vote.

"If David Cameron and George Osborne can preside over low consumer-price inflation but higher rises in the price of homes and other assets such as shares, then some rise in interest rates is likely to win them more votes than it loses."