It’s less than a month to go until Election Day in England, and for the Parliamentary elections in Scotland and Wales. Many of you have been out on the doorstep, talking to people and showing them what we are achieving both nationally and locally.
You should already have your big messages in place, and number one has got to be your local record of service – all year round, not just at election time.
But what about the coalition? I’ve been making visits to Lib Dem council groups up and down the country (Stoke, Warrington, Newcastle and Redcar in just the last few days), and when I’m out meeting people, and talking to our activists I remind them of the eight key things to tell voters when you’re asked questions on the doorstep.
- Every day this year we have had to borrow £400m. That’s because for every £300 coming in we are spending £400. Around £150bn extra will be borrowed and added to the national debt this year. Labour got rid of the boom and left us bust.
As any debt counsellor can tell you that means we’ve got to cut down our spending and increase our income, concentrate on the essentials and stop spending money on tat. We need to remind people how we got into the mess we’re in, and why we’re having to make the cuts in spending that are essential to help get Britain back on track.
- We are protecting the most vulnerable in society, promoting green growth and sticking to our core values – more money for the NHS each year in real terms and keeping on course to deliver on Britain’s foreign aid targets, for instance.
- We’ve restored the earnings link to the state pension, giving pensioners an extra £234 this year, guaranteeing an end to the 75p rises under Labour and ensuring an increase of at least 2.5% each year. Plus Steve Webb’s announced plans for a flat-rate pension of £140 per week as well, which would see pensions rise by almost a third.
- Remind people that we’re delivering the first step on increasing the personal tax allowance, going up by £1,000 this year to £7,475, and rising to £10,000 by the end of this Parliament. That’s real money back in the pockets of real people and 900,000 people lifted out of income tax completely.
- Remind people that we’re introducing a pupil premium that will target extra money and support at the most disadvantaged children, ensuring that they can have a fair start in life as well. Remember, if we don’t tell people, no one else will.
- And on top of all this (and despite the internal grief within the party), we shouldn’t forget that 500,000 students will now receive bigger maintenance grants; 200,000 part-time students will be freed from paying up front tuition fees for the first time; and every graduate will face lower monthly repayment figures from now on. The system is better than the current one, and there are positives to sell, and if we don’t tell people these things, no one else will.
- And we’ve been hitting the bankers hard too with a £2.5bn a year bankers’ levy, the continuation of the 50p tax rate and the first steps on the road to bringing capital gains tax in line with income tax.
- On top of that, there’s also £900m invested in the battle against tax evasion that should see £7bn more recouped by the Treasury by 2014-15 from the fat cats and city slickers.
So, everything’s all right then?
No, everything is not perfect, and there’s real pain out there, but even so, by 2015, we shall still be employing the same number of people in the public sector as in 2006 (that’s 2006 not 1906!), and we will have a greener, freer and fairer country than when we started. It is going to be tough for everyone, but it is necessary, and it is going to be worth it. Now go and tell them on the blogs, on the leaflets and on the doorsteps.
Andrew Stunell MP is Minister for Communities and Local Government and Chair of the Liberal Democrats Local Election Campaign Team. A version of this article was originally published in the all-member edition of Lib Dem News in February.