‘Red lines’ v ‘a long shopping list': Clegg sets out plan for slimline 2015 manifesto

Nick Clegg will be speaking today at the party’s local government conference in Manchester (Nick Thornsby will be covering it throughout the day here on LDV) and The Independent is one of the newspapers which trails what he’ll say.

Here’s my quick take on the top lines on which they’ve been pre-briefed…

The Deputy Prime Minister will take on his internal party critics by demanding a slimline manifesto at the 2015 election setting out the Lib Dems’ non-negotiable “red lines” in another coalition rather than a long shopping list of policies.

There’s been much discussion recently about ‘red lines’ in parties’ 2015 manifestos — ie, the bits that come what may in coalition discussions won’t be up-for-grabs. It’s an inevitability of the fall-out from this Coalition’s experience: the tuition fees U-turn for we Lib Dems; or the Tories’ obsession with an in/out referendum.

Like ring-fencing specific areas of public spending, I’m not a fan of ‘red lines’. It boxes you in, stifles negotiations. I bet David Cameron regrets making such a firm pledge on pensioner benefits now he’s starting down the barrel of a yet-still-greater cuts in public spending: but he had no choice at the time.

And of course any policy that doesn’t have a thickly crayoned red line around it will be taken as evidence you’ll ditch it if you can, which means activists/campaigners will double-down on their efforts to get that red line re-drawn. Personally I’d rather judge a coalition agreement in the round, rather than on the basis of it containing my own pet project.

The one consolation is this: at least all parties will be asked for their ‘red lines’ in 2015, not just the Lib Dems. Unlike in previous elections when journalists have been obsessed by what the Lib Dems would do in the event of a hung parliament, ignoring the fact that such a situation would impact just as much on the Tories or Labour.

… the Lib Dems need to decide whether they are “a firm party of government” or consign themselves to being “the third party” forever. “The truth is this: the Lib Dems can do more good in a single day in local and national government than in an eternity in opposition,” he will say.

True enough. That fact, after all, is why the party voted so overwhelmingly to go into coalition in 2010, and why remaining in coalition has been the choice of c.80% of party members ever since.

Yes, opposition can have its days of glory — think of the Ghurkas, or defeating Labour on detention without trial for 90 days — but these are few and far between.

Note, too, how much easier it is to make the political weather in government than in opposition. Just as Labour won the argument for increased public spending in the 2000s, the Tories are winning the argument now for reducing it. Meanwhile it is the Lib Dems who’ve made the running on putting tax cuts for the low-paid at the centre of the taxation debate.

“Hankering for the comfort blanket of national opposition, seeking to airbrush out the difficult decisions we have had to take [would] condemn our party to the worst possible fate – irrelevance, impotence, slow decline.”

The party’s decision to go into coalition with the Tories defined our 5-year strategy. Though there is a vocal minority which would like to see the party get out now while the going’s bad, no-one has yet mapped out how that will help the Lib Dems one iota in 2015. Most voters will take it simply as confirmation that those flaky Lib Dems just haven’t got the guts to stick with the difficult task of governing. And I wouldn’t count on those 2010 Lib Dem voters who have returned to Labour suddenly re-re-ratting out of gratitude.

No, the die was cast in May 2010. For better or worse — and opinion in the party on which it has been is probably about evens — we have to see this thing through. To show the voters we can surf the waves of unpopularity just as Labour and the Tories have had to. More importantly, we need to show how we’ve learned from the experience and why that means we’re better equipped to be entrusted with their vote in 2015.

Before 2010, the only way the Lib Dems could get a foothold against the two biggest parties was through targeted, street-by-street campaigns. But he will argue this will not be an option at the 2015 election now that his party has been in government and demand a disciplined central message about a “stronger economy and fairer society”. He will say: “The idea that in a general election we can be under a national spotlight and yet run the campaign as a series of loosely linked by-elections just isn’t possible.”

I’m not too sure what this means (perhaps the full speech will offer context). The party’s message must be about how we would govern as Liberal Democrats. The party’s campaigning must be ferociously targeted, however, if we’re to focus our resources where they’re needed most. As Tim Farron put it to me a few months ago: “The reality is we have to survive. Our electoral system defaults to the Lib Dems winning a dozen seats. It’s vital we defend our position so we don’t go down the plughole.”

* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.

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70 Comments

  • “Though there is a vocal minority which would like to see the party get out now while the going’s bad, no-one has yet mapped out how that will help the Lib Dems one iota in 2015. Most voters will take it simply as confirmation that those flaky Lib Dems just haven’t got the guts to stick with the difficult task of governing.” – you cannot be serious. The fact that we are stick like glue to the Coalition of Doom is what is pushing our poll ratings lower and ever lower. This party has done more harm to British society in the last 3 years than any summation of poor decisions undertaken locally since the party’s inception in 1988. Anyone with a modicum of political nous would understand that immediately, to be frank.

  • There are two sorts of ‘red lines’, those beyond which you will not go and those that insist on retaining or adopting as policy. Although I can see why Steven is nervous that today’s ‘red line’ can be tomorrow’s mill stone, both sorts are needed to clarify Party identity. I should have thought that experience of government would make it easier to decide what these should be. Some might only be needed to spike mythologies from opposing groups: NHS free at the point of use (and not privatised); no up front charges for university education (and pay back only according to ability to pay – i.e. free for the poorest).

    Other ‘red lines’ might deliberately tip the balance between factions in opposing parties (Labour authoritarianism, Tory Europhobia or attacks on a welfare state). I can see that Trident and the environment could become touchstone issues.

  • Talks about ‘fairer society’. Pushes 300,000 more children into poverty.

  • Implementing “red line” policies when in coalition with another party that may be less than enthusiastic about them is not going to be at all simple.

    To take an example, we may make PR in local government elections a “red line”, and we may find a prospective coalition partner grudgingly prepared to accept that this is a “red line” for us, and willing to do something to accommodate us on that front. If however this prospective partner, although willing to legislate for local government PR, were to insist on inserting a clause in the PR bill making a referendum necessary before PR in local government actually came into force, would we be at all wise, bearing in mind the debacle on AV, to go down this track ?

  • Paul Griffiths 22nd Jun '13 - 11:44am

    Simon Titley asks who is calling for the Lib Dems to renounce government and go back to opposition. Four comments above his, Mike Cobley seems to be recommending just that.

  • Paul Griffiths

    Does he really?

    Is power for power’s sake the LD position?

    I think what Mike Cobley is saying that this Coalition and how it has been run is a disaster for the party – in my view he is right.

    It all goes back to that love-in in Downing Street all that time ago and the rush to put in place a Coalition Agreement under pressure from the media

    A more measured and mature response from the leadership may have led things to turn out differently

  • @Simon Titley :

    “Precisely which party members want to be a “the third party forever”? ”

    Possibly the same ‘advisors’, ‘senior(sic) Lib Dems’ etc who brief the national newspapers for our Leader and who may also be largely responsible for our present dire straights by three years of making a mess out of a perfectly reasonable opportunity (the Coalition).

  • Red lines, what like a promise to stick to something if elected… Kind of like a pledge really?

    I would suggest that the public will feel less inclined to believe him next time around, and if they don’t the other parties will go to town to change their minds with nice big posters of Nick and a certain promise made last time.

    I guess a nice video promising a different kind of politics with no more broken promises would help!!

  • Cllr Colin Strong 22nd Jun '13 - 12:59pm

    Thanks to Lib Dem Press Office the full speech is here:
    http://bit.ly/16X3nuz

    I quote this from the speech:

    “Despite that, however, we still made a pledge that, in the end, we could not deliver: tuition fees.
    Partly because of the compromises of Coalition…
    Partly because of the worsening fiscal crisis…
    But, either way, something we should not have done – and a mistake I will not repeat.

    So, as we go into 2015, we are going to work harder than ever to produce a manifesto that is practical, responsible and deliverable.
    With coalitions increasingly likely in British politics, every line in our manifesto will be a potential government policy
    And this manifesto will be scrutinised like never before. ”

    I take this to mean that although abolishing tuition fees is Lib Dem party policy it will not be in the manifesto.
    Treated in the same way as Secret Courts then.

    Cllr Colin Strong

  • Simon Shaw

    Why?

    Most other countries that use tuition fees have set them much lower than ours

    http://www.studyineurope.eu/tuition-fees

    Abolishing or reducing tuition fees as part of a restructuring of HE is a defendable policy and to me would show the value that we, as a society, puts on education.

    Does being taken seriously as a political party mean succumbing to the right-wing dogma that has invaded economic policy sin 1979?

    I suppose you could always go and join the Tories if you are unhappy with the policy – similar to what you tell people when they oppose Coalition policies – as you seem to agree with them on virtually every subject

  • Stephen Donnelly 22nd Jun '13 - 4:19pm

    The key point that Stephen Tall makes is ‘ no-one has yet mapped out how that {withdrawal] will help the Lib Dems one iota in 2015′. Sorry to use the phrase, but there is no alternative, now. Those who advocate withdrawal from the coalition, with out mapping out strategy are condemning us to be a ‘third party for ever’, or at least for the foreseeable future.

  • Fernando North 22nd Jun '13 - 4:21pm

    While red lines can be dangerous,lack of focus can be even worse. It has been my belief that we need to have a dual position vis a vis labour and Tories.
    To Labour our red lines could be-give up Trident and use money to educate our higher education students for free,thus fulfilling both past policy requirements. A nuclear divi if you will.
    For the Tories, the red lines could be different:-backing for European referendum post reform for greater capital spending and skills.
    We need to think smart about how to get what we need depending on who we go into coalitions with.
    Soundings in private with both parties could determine the likelihood of negotiation success well before 2015.
    Our opponents will after our weakness but we can wrong foot them by consulting the public at large first about our intentions. Perhaps by the use of primaries or focus groups in Labour and Tory areas.I t is all to play for.

  • Simon Shaw

    I want to see lower or abolished tuition fees and I think the party should say that a mistake was made by the leadership in not drawing a line under this after making a pledge-again a mistake by the leadership. How many mistakes that have damaged the party come from the current leadership before someone does something?

    As to credibility – I think no matter what policy you put in the manifesto that goes against what the MPs supported in the Coalition will be difficult to sell on the doorstep. I see the likelihood being a Tory-lite manifesto with a few scraps thrown to the party faithful. Seeing that the expenses cheat Laws is in charge of the team writing it (like to see you explaining that on the doorstep to be honest) I have an expectation that is what we will see

  • Tony Dawson 22nd Jun '13 - 4:56pm

    It has been well-established that the Lib Dem Tuition fees policy was properly-costed and achievable in 2010. You might nave supported it, you might not have. It was easily as fundable as several other things the Coalition ended up with. It is just clear that the Prime Minister and his deputy both didn’t want the policy. I suppose you could call that ‘unachievable’. An alternative would have been an honest graduate tax system, preferably, in my book, if combined with the close scrutiny of a number of degrees which achieved little or nothing for either those who took them or the economy as a whole – and removal of a swathe of them. The wasteful obsession of increasing the percentage of UK 22-year-olds who are ‘graduates’, regardless of what they are graduates in, needs stopping.

  • Simon Bamonte 22nd Jun '13 - 4:58pm

    @Simon Shaw: “We would be a laughing stock. Or maybe that is what you want.”

    Would be a laughing stock? Would? The LibDems already ARE a laughing stock in many parts of the country. Not only are we polling worse than the stop-the-world inhabitants of 1955 in UKIP, but UKIP are getting more press attention than us.

    Probably because they actually believe in something, however distasteful it may be.

  • David Evans 22nd Jun '13 - 5:17pm

    @Stephen Donnelly

    “The key point that Stephen Tall makes is ‘ no-one has yet mapped out how that {withdrawal] will help the Lib Dems one iota in 2015′. Sorry to use the phrase, but there is no alternative, now. Those who advocate withdrawal from the coalition, with out mapping out strategy are condemning us to be a ‘third party for ever’, or at least for the foreseeable future.”

    And equally those who insist we have no alternative but to stay in coalition (whatever the damage it does to the party) without a clear exit strategy will ensure we will be lucky to be the fourth party in the future and possibly even the fifth or sixth. Indeed as many pointed out in 2010, Nick needed an exit strategy then – we now know he didn’t have a clue what was going on.

    We need to get real. We have been right royally stuffed, first by the Conservatives as you would expect); and secondly, and most deplorably, by our leader and his fellow travelers. He has no idea what to do now other than to repeatedly bounce the party into yet another mess.

  • Eddie Sammon 22nd Jun '13 - 5:41pm

    I know some voters who used to think we were a laughing stock but are now beginning to listen to us for the first time because we are in government and getting on with the job of tackling the deficit.

    So let us not switch off just as others are beginning to switch on.

  • Simon Shaw

    I am finding it difficult to understand you on this tuition fees question. We now have some of the highest fees in the world, never mind Europe, and you are implying that it is ridiculous to want to change that

    A party you claim to support opposed fees when in Opposition, put it in their manifesto, it still seems to be party policy but you rubbish it like that. I find this amazing.

    Clearly it will be a difficult sell to go back what you have been seen to have done in coalition with the Tories, but whose fault is that? As I said before you seem to be heading for a Tory-lite manifesto dreamt up by one of the people who helped so undermine politicians’ credibility. Anything else will surely be laughed at seeing what you have voted for since 2010, using your argument

    Eddie Saumon,

    Are those voters Tory-leaning by any chance. I have always thought there might be a possibility of wooing people from the soft right but then that would confirm my fears about your slow reinvention as ‘nice’ Tories. We don’t need another right-wing party – we already have three!!!

  • “Hankering for the comfort blanket of national opposition, seeking to airbrush out the difficult decisions we have had to take (would) condemn our party to the worst possible fate – irrelevance, impotence, slow decline”.

    There are so many things wrong with this that I hardly know how to begin, but I am reminded of (I think) General Curtis LeMay who said famously during the Vietnam war, “In order to save the town it was necessary to destroy it”. Like many of the people commenting above I was (am) not opposed to coalition per se, but Nick Clegg’s tactical and strategic incompetence does make me hanker for opposition because it is almost certain to condemn our party to precisely the fate he outlines.

    The logic of what he says in that quotation is that the Liberal Democrats were irrelevant, impotent and in slow decline before we went into government, and that is an unbelievably ignorant travesty of the truth. Liberal Democrats have been running councils, having influence in government in Wales and Scotland, been achieving things in the European Parliament, and at Westminster been representing their constituents, influencing opinion, promoting Private Member’s Bills and arguing the case for liberalism for decades. All that has been put in jeopardy by the leadership’s management of coalition strategy: we have lost control of most of the councils we ran; have lost a high proportion of our councillors; have been reduced to near irrelevance in the Scottish Parliament; will lose seats at the European election next year; and have been reduced to the status of fourth party in England, Wales and Scotland.

    “The truth is this: the Lib Dems can do more good in a single day in local and national government than in an eternity in opposition.” Not if we are wiped out as a national political force we can’t.

  • bcrombie: I agree that it is something of a mess and your comparisons with other EU countries has a point, but you also have to accept that the current arrangement is not exactly fees in the normal sense; in fact there will be some students (would be vicars on theology courses for example) who end up never paying a penny. It is a hybrid graduate tax that will not be easily disentangled and is likely to be a minefield for future governments.

    I too wish funding of HE were different, but it does not make sense to add fuel to the fire. To start with we should be adamant that there will be no selling off of the system and no change to make graduates to pay more than they expected. However the issue does not stand alone: the whole funding of HE is involved. Basically the tuition costs mess is a product of a political imperative of lower and lower taxes. Clearly if it were a vote winner to raise tax by 5p for everyone, there is a lot more that could be funded, without being reduced to these financial wheezes.

  • Simon Shaw

    I didn’t think the 2010 one was Tory-lite to be honest but then again I suppose we didn’t know that Clegg had changed his views on the economy

    I cannot see anything by Laws being anything but right-wing economically and I am absolutely disgusted that he is any position of responsibility after been found guilty by the authorities of expenses malpractice. I have found no example of a MP being found guilty of such an offence and being allowed back in Government without at least going back in front of the electorate. That alone is enough to put me off voting for you again

    I would like to see the Augean Stables being cleaned after this example of ‘how not to do Coalition’ and then the LD can perhaps start again to be, what they used to be, a radical party encompassing the best of left/right philosophies. At the moment they are only looking in one direction

  • Martin

    Thanks for the considered approach

    I happen to think that we, as a nation, undervalues education and the value of knowledge. The fees is a typical example of this and has been poorly thought through. As we have seen recently the risk of the loans being sold to the highest bidder or that the whole system ends up collapsing on itself is real.

    I agree we should see the whole HE funding as one things and come up with a better model than be currently pursued

    One thing I will not accept is this argument of not being fair on those who don’t go to HE. I don’t drive but I accept paying for roads, I don’t use the train much but understand the need for subsidies and I don’t have kids but would never dream of not paying my share for the next generation. I, in fact, would allow everyone one-time access to free or low-cost tertiary education at any time of their life .

    I am disappointed that the LD seems to have abandoned any radical approach to this – seeming to accept some of the highest tuition fees in the world as being unchallengeable

  • paul barker 22nd Jun '13 - 7:26pm

    I just read the whole speech & agree with every word, Nick has what I would have wanted to say, only better.
    The division between people who are in politics to change the world & those who just want to make themselves feel better is a universal one, that divide runs through all Parties. There are plenty of Labour & Tory activists who only want power if they can get everything they want but there are plenty more we can work with. We can become the leading force in British politics if we have the confidence & stop apologising.

  • Eddie Sammon 22nd Jun '13 - 7:27pm

    bcrombie, yes he is tory leaning but I thought I’d mention him because he used to laugh at the Lib Dems but he isn’t laughing anymore. And no I don’t think we should merge with the Tories or become right wing alternatives.

  • Simon Shaw

    As I said not easy but surely you should carry through what you believe in. Anyway you said that wanting to abolish, or at least severely reduce, tuition fees was like ‘wanting sunshine everyday’ so you clearly are happy with the policy as it stands

    As Matthew Huntbatch has said many times on this site, the issue has been that your leadership has been selling the Coalition as a 50/50 partnership when it clearly isn’t. The tuition fees policy was a Tory one that your leadership gave up without a fight and made themselves look silly.

    By defining your future policies by what has happened from 2010-2015 is a sad indictment of how badly the leadership has managed the Coalition.

    I think Simon Titley and others touched on this above – you seem to believe the leadership has done well. I beg to differ strongly

  • I was actually in the hall and heard Nick’s speech. Since he didn’t say what the Independent alleged all the above has been so much hot air.

    He actually called for the party’s help in drawing up a radical Liberal manifesto that doesn’t pull its punches. He did say it would have to be costed and achievable, but if it isn’t then it will be pulled to pieces by the press and our opponents.

    It’s time some of the Lib Dem Voice correspondents lifted their eyes from Labour propaganda and actually looked at what we have achieved in government. Perhaps we could then have a sensible debate about what we should offer in 2015, rather than the rather turgid claptrap that some of them are still spouting.

  • Simon Shaw

    In previous elections you have been taking votes from Labour, and whether you like it or not, in my area the candidates were quite open about that and how you were a radical alternative to Labour who were prepared to take a more ‘left’ position on tax, tuition fees, nuclear defence etc. etc. You always decry this but I am not alone in having seen this

    That has been the reality for many ex-voters and it is true we should have paid more attention to your direction of travel since Clegg and the Orange Book. Your own candidates though seem to have been similarly confused.

    Of course your party has the right to look for votes across the spectrum but I would say that those people who move to you after the 97 election are not necessarily the voters that Eddie is talking about.

    My ,amateur, analysis of this is that actually looking more to ex-Tories will lead to a change in policy to focus on the things that Tories like (reminds me of the Edmund Blackadder Archbishop of Canterbury sketch) – less stringent regulation, immigration focus, tuition fees left as they are, education etc.

    And as I said twice before the fact that David Laws is in charge of putting together the manifesto suggests this will be the direction of travel. God knows how you will manage to sell it in the urban areas but there you go!

  • Simon Shaw

    So if it wasn’t a Tory policy or a Lib Dem policy then why did the Coalition implement it? I don’t think the Labour Party can be blamed for that although they should be blamed for introducing them in the first place.

    Why do you feel the need to be an apologist for the Tories? It was as much as their policy as Labour’s

    I don’t support a Graduate Tax – education should be paid for out of general taxation with a probable nominal fee just as in most other European countries – why tax those who want to educate themselves for the rest of their life? Perhaps not cutting the top rate tax could have been used for this

    I would also like to see people having access to the same at later stages in their life as well and in that case a Graduate Tax would not work.

  • Simon Shaw

    So?

    They lost a lot of votes over that time period- mainly because they were perceived as being too right wing. Tuition fees, Iraq, privatisation etc. Luckily for Blair the Tories were rubbish and we still had FPTP to help them.

    The LD went from 17 to 18 to 22 to 23 over the 4 ‘Labour’ elections. The biggest jump came from 2001 to 2004 (Iraq anyone – also supported by the Tories as you may remember) and at the same time the Tories were rising as well – albeit pathetically. Where do you think those votes came from – Blairites and soft Tories or from those to the left of Blair?

    Remember you will not win elections without voters and I think this is where you have a party. The complacency I see from most of the members on here is outstanding. You have been stripping votes of Labour for the last 10+ years and suddenly you have decided that there is no impact from being so enthusiastically in Coalition with the Tories.

    If I am wrong can you tell me where those 6% of votes came from?

  • Frankly, the idea that a graudate tax equated to “abolishing tuition fees” was always a nonsense, and an excuse for our progressive (should I say, regressive) ditching of payment for higher education out of “general taxation” as a policy.

  • “The division between people who are in politics to change the world & those who just want to make themselves feel better is a universal one”

    The coalition has done very little to change the world. There is a very strong case to be made that Lib Dem influence over the 97-01 government delivered more constitutional change than being in government in 05-10.

    We also – as Stephen identifies above did some significant things in opposition – and there are a couple of significant pieces of legislation driven through by Lib Dem MPs as private members bills (and more which went on to significantly influence government legislation.

    So for Nick to say this, “The Liberal Democrats can do more good in a single day in local and national Government than in an eternity in opposition. ” Is not actually true.

    Though it is more true that this: “An approach tried and tested in the Eastleigh by-election – where we saw how well it works. “. Yes, it was the 3rd biggest vote drop we’ve ever had at a Parliamentary by-election and another couple of days and/or UKIP knowing what they were doing and we’d have lost. Eastleigh was organisationally of the highest quality and THAT was what won us. It wasn’t our messages.

    Really – Nick there is polling on this which Lord Ashcroft has published. VIrtually no-one cared about tax. MOre importantly we hardly talked about it. It was very dialled down in literature and some literature had no national messages on at all.

    We now have a leader who is a net drag on the party – and has a tactical vision for addressing the party’s problems is a bad plan based on suspect reasoning. The interesting question is whether we do anything about it.

  • Paul In Twickenham 22nd Jun '13 - 11:49pm

    The tuition fee pledge was this : “I pledge to vote against any increase in fees in the next parliament and to pressure the government to introduce a fairer alternative.”

    That is a simple, explicit and irreducibly clear commitment. All elected Liberal Democrats made this pledge. Once in government, the party broke it.

    There is no way back for the Liberal Democrats. It makes no difference what Nick Clegg might say in 2015. All that the other parties have to say is “tuition fees” and immediately Clegg’s words are rendered worthless. Clegg made this bed of nails. You – the party rank-and-file – will have to lie in it.

    The Liberal Democrats are flatlining on about 10% in the polls. They have been in this position for three years. The constant media attention due to participation in the coalition means that there will be no “bounce” in the election in 2015. And Clegg’s “manifesto” pledges and “red-lines” will be regarded as a joke.

  • This is what Nick said (Party website source)

    “In 2010, while Labour was still in denial about the black hole in the economy…
    We were the only party to fully cost our manifesto.
    We set out how the savings we had identified in government spending would be reallocated to fund our policy proposals and contribute to deficit reduction.
    And, uniquely, we listed, on the front cover, the four priorities that we would seek to deliver, come hell or high water.
    Which we have done – cutting income tax, the Pupil Premium, beginning the process of rebalancing the economy and pursuing political reform.

    Despite that, however, we still made a pledge that, in the end, we could not deliver: tuition fees.
    Partly because of the compromises of Coalition…
    Partly because of the worsening fiscal crisis…
    But, either way, something we should not have done – and a mistake I will not repeat.

    So, as we go into 2015, we are going to work harder than ever to produce a manifesto that is practical, responsible and deliverable.
    With coalitions increasingly likely in British politics, every line in our manifesto will be a potential government policy
    And this manifesto will be scrutinised like never before. ”

    So how will our 2015 manifesto be “practical responsible and deliverable” in ways that the 2010 one wasn’t.

    2010 was costed, the costings were robust and signed off by Vince, the Shadow Cabinet and FPC (the latter two bodies both include Nick.). OUr proposals were scrutinsed by various bodies like IFS who didn’t as far as I’m aware pick any substantial holes in the costings produced.

    In what way then wasn’t our 2010 manifesto “practical, responsible and deliverable”? If it wasn’t should we remove the person responsible for it (Danny Alexander) and the person who signed off on the costings (Vince) from positions of leadership in the party?

  • David Wilkinson 23rd Jun '13 - 9:35am

    I listened to Clegg at Manchester yesterday and was very disappointed with his lack of vision, and drive for a Liberal future he came across as uninspiring and some boring establishment hack this is why the public has no time for him.
    He mentioned tutiton fees again and the misused line from Hamlet comes to mind “He doth protest too much” he was doomed as a party leaderfrom that day on when he ratted on the pledge.
    The funny bits were when he said”we are going to fight a national campaign” with what? and in the question sessions when he said “I think Job Centre Plus works” I nearly fell off my chair, he ‘s a bit of a wag is our Nick.
    An example of the Westminister bubble at work, sadly which affects all when get to the place.

  • David Pollard 23rd Jun '13 - 12:59pm

    Its nonsense to have a public red line in negotiations, but private red lines are compulsory if you do not want to be blown off course while you are negotiating. Oh and by the way – the economy is picking up a bit. If it continues on this path LibDems may yet get a bounce in the opinion polls.

  • David Evans 23rd Jun '13 - 2:46pm

    @David Pollard

    On the contrary, it’s only nonsense to have public red lines if you don’t mean to keep them. David Cameron had them for Winter Fuel Payments, Free TV Licences and stuck to them. Hence those people know he can be trusted to deliver what he promised them. As the advert says, “It does what it says on the tin.”

    We had one for tuition fees (or at least the party persuaded the public it was a pledge/red line) and we all know what our leader did with that. Hence none of them will ever trust him again. Just as I won’t.

  • Paul Scriven 23rd Jun '13 - 3:27pm

    I think Nick gets to the central questions in his speech about what kind of party do we want to be in the future. I can see that for us to really win and move forward in the future that means building an electoral base around what we are for and who we are for. Not as present a party that tends to work seat by seat on a not the others basis! This means our approach has to be different for the future and a party that is clear about what we CAN and WILL deliver. Not what we can say to get as many people as possible, who do not support our core values and drive to vote for us. That is the road to short term wins but not to long term success. I find those who generally don’t like what we have done in Government a reflection of it is easier in opposition prospective that Nick talks about. The approach Nick now sets out seems to me as a way of avoiding that in the future. We have a clear set of values and principles yes, but our policy is built around a solid and clear framework that says if it can’t be implemented in Government then we shouldn’t be saying it in the Manifesto. After all some argue that what has caused some of the problems we are in now!

  • paul barker 23rd Jun '13 - 3:32pm

    I am enormously proud of The Libdem record in Government, for example –
    keeping Unemployment down
    allowing the creation of hundreds of thousands of new jobs
    ending child detention
    lowering taxes for millions of the low-paid
    the green investment bank
    stopping the “snoopers charter”

    And all that in the face of a Conservative Party increasingly hijacked by extremists.

  • John Broggio 23rd Jun '13 - 4:03pm

    @ Simon Shaw 22nd Jun ’13 – 9:50pm
    “what’s to complain about?”

    How about that it not only goes against a specific & public pledge but also is so regressive that the people who pay least in this arrangement (apart from those beneath the earnings threshold) are those who earn most?

  • David Allen 23rd Jun '13 - 6:15pm

    Clegg says coalition deals are the way to go.

    Clegg says it was terrible to declare a big public red line on tuition fees last time, and then break the pledge.

    Clegg says it is very important that we should declare more big red lines for the next election, Irrespective, we presume, of whether we can actually be sure that either Labour or the Tories would bow to our new demands.

    How long before a good journalist whips out a Big Solemn Pledge Card, which spells out our new big public red lines, and asks Clegg if he will sign a Pledge again?

    Who is this master strategist?

  • Simon Banks 23rd Jun '13 - 6:44pm

    I think it’s reasonable to have “red lines”, but they need to be few and carefully chosen. Otherwise, we would just repeat the student fees debacle.

    It’s a strange idea that if we set out some red lines, we shouldn’t have other policy commitments. If we anticipate no overall control, we should be saying, “These are the main things we want to do and if we hold the balance, we’ll get as much of this as we can”. As long as the proposals are costed and practicable, there’s no reason why there shouldn’t be a lot of them. The manifesto is not an election focus. There can always be a boiled-down version. People with a particular concern which may well influence how they vote do look in manifestos for relevant commitments and candidates can make good use of bullet points with people and groups for whom these are the big issues. Because of the financial situation, the manifesto will be less of a wish-list than sometimes, but we still need to offer people something we will do if we can and the others won’t (but might be persuaded in coalition).

    A list purely of red lines would also lack coherence. It would be much harder to demonstrate some kind of theme.

    It sounds like Nick wanting to be as little influenced by policy commitments as possible.

  • John Broggio 23rd Jun '13 - 11:59pm

    @Simon Shaw 23rd Jun ’13 – 4:45pm

    The graduate tax system we’re shafting our young with is essentially:
    pay x% if one earns a “normal” income
    pay y% (where y>x) if one earns a “high” income
    is it not?

    Relatively simple maths says that even though the high earner will pay more in each repayment, the total cost for them will be far less than for those on a normal income.

  • Peter Watson 24th Jun '13 - 12:20am

    @Simon Shaw “A good Graduate Tax only taxes relatively high earners – what’s to complain about?”
    For a start, the fact that we do not have a graduate tax, let alone a “good” one.
    As Martin Lewis points out (http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/students/should-i-get-student-loan), “for many on low to even relatively high salaries, it’d be a waste of money to pay upfront. But for those on very high salaries, it’d be a big mistake not to.” So the new system will cost less for those with the wealthiest parents and best prospects for high salaries; hardly sounds fair or progressive.

  • A Social Liberal 24th Jun '13 - 1:43pm

    Whilst I despise UKIP and that which they aspire to, when Simon Shaw says

    “Not if you read their their Local Election manifesto. They actully don’t have any policies, on the basis that they boast about not having a whip.”

    it begs the question, how many less seats did the Lib Dems have after the election, how many more did UKIP have.

  • Peter Watson 24th Jun '13 - 1:44pm

    @Simon Shaw “As to the current system, I am sure that improvements could be made. What do you suggest?”
    That’s the $64000 question :-)
    I think the basis needs to be a principle which can guide how we change the current system.
    That principle might be free tertiary education, seen as a public good and funded through general taxation; that is the system from which I benefited in the 1980s (along with a student grant), and if my income is higher because of my qualification then I have paid more tax as a consequence. I feel that it would be hypocritical of me to refuse subsequent generations the same opportunity, though I have to accept that if as a society we want to expand access to further education then perhaps we need other funding models. But is that financial case proven? And is the expansion of further education for its own sake really a desirable thing?
    An alternative principle is that the recipient of tertiary education should meet the cost of it, though it strikes me as a little odd that the state might charge an 18 year old to go to university but pay him to stay idly at home. Payment could be through a graduate tax or by repayment of loans for fees. But even a system under which graduates pay for their education needs a guiding principle. Should the price tag reflect the cost of the education or the income of the graduate (which might not even be related to their studies)? Perhaps it should reflect the usefulness of the qualification to society: nice but non-essential subjects like PPE and history could be full-price, and vocational subjects like medicine, science, engineering, media studies and golf course management could be subsidised.
    The current system seems to be complex and messy, more mongrel than hybrid. The wealthiest graduates are able to pay less than others, whether by gambling on up-front payment or early repayment. The objective of the changes, the details of its implementation, the costs and the implications do not seem to be fully understood or communicated. I don’t even believe that its architects really understood it. Why would they believe that universities would charge low fees to attract students, or compete in a market based upon value-for-money, if the true cost to the graduate is not related to the fee charged by the institution? Will we see an explosion in 4 year degrees (or longer) since it won’t cost the graduate more than a short course? Will we see a brain drain as the brightest graduates move overseas to evade repayment?
    But setting all this aside, on the subject of funding university studies, Lib Dems still have to overcome the political challenge of having promised one thing and done another.

  • Simon Shaw

    But isn’t that due to our appalling electoral system? At the elections in May UKIP received significantly more votes than the LD, and could possibly do so at the next GE without winning any seats.

    I think this is a weak argument seeing the direction of travel of your vote since 2010 and how the LD have spent a lot of time complaining about their under-representation over the years due to FPTP.

    I know local elections are different but even so….

  • Peter Davies 25th Jun '13 - 12:47pm

    @Martin Todd
    The cost of keeping the previous system would have been to educational standards. University fees were already failing to cover costs and those costs were rising above inflation. The big winners that we never seem to mention are universities themselves.

  • Peter Watson 25th Jun '13 - 3:24pm

    @Peter Davies “The big winners that we never seem to mention are universities themselves.”
    I thought that the universities saw large cuts to their teaching budgets as tuition fees replaced central funding rather than supplementing it. Certainly they don’t all look like winners: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/up-to-30-universities-could-close-or-face-merger-because-of-government-reforms-and-dwindling-student-numbers-8672109.html

  • John Broggio
    “Relatively simple maths says that even though the high earner will pay more in each repayment, the total cost for them will be far less than for those on a normal income.”

    Well I don’t know who taught you maths. Your own argument states that those on higher incomes will pay a higher percentage. but then you state they’ll pay less overall.

    A simple example

    Student A owes £10,000. Because he has a higher income he pays 15%.. It takes him 6 2/3 years to pay back £10,000.

    Student B also owes £10,000. He has a normal income so he pays 10%. It takes him 10 years to pay back £10,000.

    They both repay £10,000.

    You also forgot to mention that repayments stop after 30 years, so the ‘normal’ income earner may not actually repay the full amount anyway. Also very low earners (currently less than £21k?) don’t pay anything.

    Now if what you meant to say was that student B pays more interest than student A you should have said so. Although actually I suspect that Martin Lewis’s comment suggests otherwise, because if it were not the case that higher earners pay a higher interest rate on their student loan then it wouldn’t be sensible to pay up front, as he apparently suggests.

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