Author Archives: Matthew Sowemimo

Opinion: The high social price of A Fresh Start‘s ‘prudent’ decisions

The party’s pre-election manifesto – A Fresh Start for Britain – is based around strong themes and ones that have the potential to give Liberal Democrats the distinctive profile we need in 2010. The outline democracy, green economy and fair taxation agenda is something that will be welcomed across the party.

However the impression is being given that many of the spending commitments debated, and scrutinized within the party over a period of years are being indefinitely effectively set aside as ‘aspirational’. The language that has been reported in the media about key commitments, like widening access to university by abolishing tuition fees and expanding social housing, is also derogatory. If we appear to be dismissive of our own policies, how much easier will it be for our opponents to attack them as irresponsible?

There are two points at issue here for the party. If we present the pre-manifesto as a minimalist platform we will be misrepresenting what are actually a redistributive and radical set of proposals. The size of the green tax switch is greater than ever before.

Equally, the green economy investments contained in the document are also more ambitious than we have previously indicating. So why should we use ‘sound bites’ about the document that downplay policies that would help give us a real cutting edge at the election. At best we risk giving out mixed messages in key constituencies.

The wider question is whether relegating policies on fees and housing in the name of ‘austerity’ will actually help economic and social recovery in the medium term. So whilst we highlight the need to overcome inherited disadvantage through the pupil premium, are we going to put on ice our commitment to shut out people from working class communities from university by keeping tuition fees in place.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 19 Comments

Social Liberal Forum launched

A group of party activists has launched the Social Liberal Forum to help set out a bold Liberal Democrat vision to tackle inequality in Britain. The SLF is a new progressive voice in the party that will focus on how the mainstream social liberal traditions of the party should be applied to the huge challenges facing British society and the world.

The Conservative Party tries to disguise its indifference to poverty with empty words about a broken society. Labour rhetoric on equality has not been matched by actual achievements. The challenge for the Liberal Democrats, in the next election manifesto and …

Posted in News | 40 Comments
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