David Laws on Times manifesto article: “Nothing could be further from the truth”

I wrote this morning about an article in the Times which suggested that our manifesto would ditch policies that both the Conservatives and Labour disagreed with.

Manifesto Working Group Chair David Laws has responded to the Times article with an unequivocal posting on the party’s new website.

He says:

Nothing could be further from the truth.

As Chair of the Manifesto Group, I see it as our role to set out a clear Liberal Democrat vision of where we would like to take Britain in the next Parliament – this is why our Manifesto themes paper at the Glasgow conference has a chapter on the Liberal Democrat Vision for 2020. I certainly do not envisage us ‘pre-negotiating’ a possible future coalition agreement by watering down the idealism of our own manifesto.

He quotes Nick Clegg as saying that we must be realistic “but without stifling our liberalism, our creativity or our boldness.”

You can read David Laws’ full piece here. And while you’re at it, you might like to take a wee wander round the swanky new party website. It’ s definitely a lot brighter and easier to navigate than the old one.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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15 Comments

  • Bill le Breton 18th Feb '14 - 7:24pm

    Reassuring from David. The only hurdle outside of the party is the necessity that the whole package gets through a review by the OBR.

    But it is evidence that the DPM’s communications operation is incompetent.

    The head of coms has recently resigned, but an internal promotion wd demonstrate that the right lessons have not been learnt.

  • I approve of David’s principled stand but I worry that the public will not excuse us for breaking promises we made in 2010. No matter what our 2015 manifesto says, I wonder how many will trust us while Nick remains leader. People tend to have quite long memories and I fear they still haven’t forgotten our Ratner moment – “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m so so sorry…There’s no easy way to say it: I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” I am convinced that if we want to do well in 2015 we will first need a fundamental change at the top.

  • It looks as though we have more or less burned our bridges regarding a possible future coalition with the Conservatives.

    Therefore if we wish to remain in (partial) power after 2015 it more or less implies a coalition with Labour, that is if they want us, and if we manage to have elected more than two dozen MPs.

    With these factors in mind, it makes sense if our new manifesto is geared more towards being compatible with Labour. This is the pragmatic view. Too much idealism and otherworldliness will get us nowhere at all.

    Having said this, there is the possibility that UKIP will gain more MPs than us. If they go into coalition with the Tories, and we with Labour, we could end up with a stalemate situation.

    By the way, I have doubts about the Political Calculus website. It shows UKIP having zero MPs even if you tap in a ‘what if’ set of polling percentages, with values for UKIP well above our percentage of votes. UKIP have been punching above their weight, it seems unlikely that they would end up with zero MPs in 2015. Does anybody have access to a more realistic algorithm for how UKIP will perform for x% of votes? It is very important for our policy makers to be properly informed regarding this, for the reasons stated in my first few sentences. We do not want to be faced with unexpected difficult choices on the morning after the election. Forewarned is forearmed!

  • @ Theresa 1

    ” I am convinced that if we want to do well in 2015 we will first need a fundamental change at the top.”

    So who do you want to see replace Nick Clegg and what makes you think s/he would have been any better at delivering undeliverable commitments like the tuition fees policy?

    So Nick Clegg couldn’t achieve the impossible. Yet should we be accepting everyone else’s efforts to trash him because of that? I don’t think so.

  • @ Joe King

    The likelihood of the majority of people voting for a right-wing party in any one area is very slim indeed. They simply cannot reach across the divide like we can in certain areas.

    So the idea that UKIP will have zero MPs in 2015 is very realistic indeed. They just can’t appeal to a wide enough audience.

  • The protestations of David Laws on the manifesto are about as reassuring as those of the scorpion promising not to sting the frog who it was urging to carry it across the river.

    Unless there are changes, the chances of a David Laws manifesto being a Coalition one, almost devoid of Liberalism, are about the same as those of the scorpion stinging the frog. Like the scorpion, David Laws can’t escape his nature.

  • RC 19th Feb ’14 – 9:32am
    @ Theresa 1. ” I am convinced that if we want to do well in 2015 we will first need a fundamental change at the top.”
    “So who do you want to see replace Nick Clegg and what makes you think s/he would have been any better … … ”

    RC — It is the classic defence of dictators to say “Après Moi, le deluge”. Look around you RC we have had the deluge already.

  • Times letter on Lib Dem manifesto pledges, 19/02/14
    Posted on February 19, 2014 by prateekbuch — No Comments ↓
    Members of the Liberal Democrat Federal Policy Committee – together with Social Liberal Form Council members – have written to the Times reasserting the party’s democratic and independent manifesto process. This letter is reproduced here in full (the letter and an shorter list of signatories appeared in the Times):

    Sir,
    At a time when political leadership and vision are in short supply, to present a manifesto devoid of either, as you report some Liberal Democrats as planning [‘Lib Dems axe pledges for coalition deal’, 18 Feb] would be an act of folly.

    Thankfully, the democratic nature of the Liberal Democrats means that our elected Federal Policy Committee has the final say over what goes in the manifesto.

    It is in the event of a balanced Parliament that compromises shall be made – not before. While commitments made in a manifesto must be affordable – like ours were in 2010 – the central message is what ultimately matters. For Liberal Democrats, who seek a fairer, more sustainable future, what we want is to fundamentally change the way British politics works – not to become a pale imitation of the two old parties.

    Prateek Buch, Gareth Epps, Helen Flynn, Evan Harris, Lucy Care, Mark Pack, Tony Greaves, Kelly-Marie Blundell, Stan Collins, Louise Bloom, Geoffrey Payne; Liberal Democrat Federal Policy Committee

    Naomi Smith, Mary Reid, Mathew Hulbert, Paula Keaveney, Michael Steed, Linda Jack, Gordon Lishman, Mark Blackburn; Social Liberal Forum

    The letter was covered in a story on page two of the Times, headlined: Clegg’s middle-ground tactic sparks Lib Dem infighting:

    Senior policymakers and grassroots members are furious about the Lib Dem leader’s plan to stake out a middle ground “equidistant” from Labour and the Tories to boost the chances of another coalition government…

    “We will be scrutinising the proposals more closely this year, to watch out for what has been dropped. We won’t just be dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s,” he [Mr Buch] said. “If we don’t remain an independent party, no one will vote for us.”

    He said there was growing alarm that key policies concerning drugs, land taxes, electoral and constitutional reform could all be ditched because they were opposed by both Labour and the Tories.

  • RC What motivates to keep asking “Who will be the replacement leader?” You well know that it would be profoundly damaging to any candidate to declare (or be declared ) now. Your motivation can only be as a loyalist, to exact that damage. It is all too obvious, which is why at least one poster has in the past suggested you may be some sort of leadership aide. Are you?

  • @RC – “what makes you think s/he would have been any better at delivering undeliverable commitments like the tuition fees policy? “

    That’s not really relevant. The public don’t see things like that. We need to separate the person from the problem. The problem is history but the person is in the present. All I know is Nick is spoilt goods in the public eye. We need to start afresh if we want a future.

  • Anyway, what did the damage on tuition fees wasn’t the failure to abolish them. It was promising to vote against any increase, and then voting to treble them. A number of MPs did manage to ‘deliver’ on that promise.

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