Danny Alexander writes … Campaigning on Our Manifesto

On Friday, Nick emailed all members to outline our position on the abolition of tuition fees. It was great to see our position, agreed by both the Federal Policy Committee and the Parliamentary Party, broadly welcomed on LDV and elsewhere.

Saddling students with huge debts as they leave universities, particularly at a time when many are failing to find jobs through no fault of their own, is clearly wrong. And the prospect of such debts putting talented young people off going to university is equally wrong. That is why our plan to scrap tuition fees over 6 years from the election will be one of a very small number of core commitments in our manifesto.

By demonstrating that we remain the only mainstream party committed to scrapping tuition fees and doing so in a financially responsible way, we have given our campaigners on the ground a strong message – particularly in university seats; whilst maintaining our reputation for economic competence which has been so hard won by Vince Cable and his team.

Nick’s announcement on Friday is part of a series of announcements that we are planning over the coming weeks and months outlining the priorities which will be in our manifesto. We will be drawing attention to what will be our key priorities and commitments in government that, like scrapping tuition fees, will be aimed at building a fairer country.

We were keen to announce our position of the abolition of tuition fees as soon as it had been finally agreed and costed as we know what an important issue it is for many members of the party. And I hope campaigners and candidates in constituencies across the country will use this policy to take the fight to the other two parties, both of whom have no serious answers to the problems of student finance.

We have, of course, already outlined our tax pledges for the manifesto – promising to lift the income tax threshold to £10k, meaning four million people will pay no income tax at all and an average earner will get a £700 tax cut. Paid for by closing tax loopholes and ensuring the very wealthiest play their fair share. The difference could not be clearer between us and a Labour government that has announced plans to increase National Insurance for everyone earning over £20k and a Tory party who are planning tax cuts for millionaires.

These announcements are the first steps to a manifesto that I am confident will be the only one at the next election to offer the real change our country needs to tackle the crises in our economy, our political system, and the environment. We will show that we are able to make the hard choices necessary to fix our economy and make our society fairer.

* Danny Alexander is Chair of the Manifesto Group and Nick Clegg’s chief of staff.

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  • ” That is why our plan to scrap tuition fees over 6 years from the election will be one of a very small number of core commitments in our manifesto. ”

    This is fantasy politics at it’s very worse. Who on earth wants to know this level of detail ? There was nothing wrong with the old policy. There was nothing wrong with suporting a graduate tax. But the absurd fantasy that the LIb Dems have to have costed spending proposals for the next six years because Nick Clegg might be PM in May
    is almost too silly for words.

  • Martin Land 22nd Dec '09 - 5:58pm

    The policies seem fine, Danny. It’s how we present them that counts. Now we have a new style guide are we going to receive pre-prepared artwork as PDF’s that we can slot in to FOCI? Otherwise the potential duplication of work and waste of resources could be incredible!

  • Antony Hook 23rd Dec '09 - 5:50am

    What is a “/core/ commitment” and why are there only a “very small number” of them?

    Surely, something is a commitment or it is not a commitment? Just as you can’t be half pregnant, there is surely no in-between as to whether we are commited or not to doing something. I would hope that everything in our manifesto is a commitment and that we have many of them rather than a very small number.

    This is not just linguistic nit-picking. People know, or at least suspect, when they hear politicans (or civil servants) use phrases like “core commitment” they are being fobbed off with stock phrases.

    Language is a much a part of the crisis as politicians abusing funds or saying things (“I totally support the Prime Minister…”) that they don’t really believe in, which the public can spot at far distance.

    When people hear politicians daily saying what’s convenient it’s not a surprise that very many borrowers (or their brokers on commission) made mortgage/loan applications that were dishonest and to a certain extent caused the economic crisis.

    I don’t think politicians have woken up to the fact that every minister who says “I can be very clear about” and then being clear about nothing undermined social values like integrity, good faith, and honour, and caused the recession.

    None of this is intended as criticism of Danny’s press release. But I just know that the Liberal Democrats can set a higher standard than all the others.

  • Philip – I said it was fantasy politics – I didn’t use the phrase wish list. I would have been happier if it was a wish list! The point is, not a single vote will be won because of this absurd announcement.

    As for getting the sums right – another absudity – you can’t get the sums right six years in advance. You can get the commitments right and work your sums around them.

    If you want a clear message that will have any resonace with people at the generale election, then this is not the way to go about it.

    Every general election the Lib Dems have a properly costed manifetso verified by somone or other and it wins no votes and no credibility what soever.

    Nick Clegg current position is that he is abdicating responsibility in a hung parliament to whoever has the biggest mandate – whatever that means. Waht he could be saying is he would use whatevr influence he has in a hung parliament to get tuition fees abolished as soon as possible – a clear simple message. The message from Danny is that in the event of the Lib Dems being swept to power on the biggest upset in British political history which no-one exepects and no-one is predicting, he’s done a few sums that no one beleive sand no-one is interested in – what a winner.

  • Bill le Breton 23rd Dec '09 - 10:42am

    This is a fudge and I wish the Policy Committee had been firmer with the Leadership.

    We had a powerful policy that differentiated us from Labour and the Conservatives and which was a blessing for recruitment among the young and their parents and grand parents.

    Alexander and Clegg threw that position away when taking the train down to Bournemouth. Now they are standing on their head asking people to believe them when they declare belatedly, “Saddling students with huge debts as they leave universities, particularly at a time when many are failing to find jobs through no fault of their own, is clearly wrong.”

    But, by the way, you’ll be saddled with debt for the next six years.

    If it is wrong now, it was wrong in September. If it is wrong now, then, there is no excuse for taking six years to remove it.

    Now we have neither a powerful campaigning stance nor an example of firm leadership. It is another example of what Stephen Tall described as a failure to think before opening the mouth.

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