Federal Policy Committee discusses the General Election Manifesto

This report relates to the meeting of the Federal Policy Committee which took place on 2nd May 2017, some 20 years to the day since the Labour landslide General Election victory in 1997.

This meeting commenced at 2pm and went on well past 10pm. The reason for the length of that meeting was that the only item on its agenda was to agree our manifesto for the 2017 General Election.

I am afraid that there is very little that I can say about the contents of the manifesto or the work that underpinned it for reasons that I am sure people will understand.

Comments from the Leader

Tim Farron MP made some introductory remarks about the importance of our manifesto, and the vigour with which we are fighting this campaign.

He stated that we are going to need a very distinctive manifesto in order to differentiate ourselves from the other parties. He said that the message that will come through in the introduction will be different from that in previous manifestos but it is one that has solid evidence behind it. You will see what I mean when you read it.

Campaign Update

Shaun Roberts, the Director of Campaigns, went through the campaign as it stands.

He indicated that we are facing a number of battlegrounds and set out in detail the challenges that we are facing in each one. He said that our present election message is working where it is heard. The challenge is to ensure that it is heard as widely as it can be. The message from us has to be that we are a strong opposition.

Shaun went though some of the groups of voters that we would want to get back. We used to get significant numbers of voters from public sector workers because our policies, underpinned by our strong beliefs, were to stand up for our public services. Our policies as they stand should go a long way towards attracting that group of voters back.


Dick Newby went through and explained a confidential sheet of paper that was distributed to the meeting setting out what our overall manifesto costings were. There were some queries and comments about the figures.

The costing exercise has been, however, a comprehensive and robust job of work and has generated figures that will stand up to scrutiny.

General Election Manifesto

Regular readers of this report will recall that the committee prepared a full version of the General Election Manifesto in preparation for a snap General Election that we thought might take place in the Autumn of 2016.

That document formed the basis for this new manifesto but it was substantially updated given recent events. Vast work was undertaken by the staff in the Policy Unit, the various Party Advisors and the officers of the FPC.

The manifesto was then distributed to members of the committee. It was accompanied by a grid on which members were to add comments and suggestions for omissions and additions. A very lengthy grid was the result!

In the course of the meeting, we went through the grid, line by line and took a view on each of the suggestions. This took several hours in all.

As I have said, I am afraid that I cannot go into what the manifesto says. It will, however, be published very shortly.

* Geoff Payne is the Chair of Federal Conference Committee.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Richard Whelan 3rd May '17 - 10:50am


    Do we have an exact date and time as to when the manifesto will be published yet? If not, when is one likely to be fixed?

  • “The message from us has to be that we are a strong opposition.”

    Vote for the Lib Dems so that they can be a strong opposition. That might be realistic, but do you really have to keep pointing out that you can’t win? By refusing to go into a coalition and admitting you can’t win on your own doesn’t really inspire confidence – or a reason to vote for you. I know it’s difficult, but I’m not sure you’ve got this right.

  • Richard Underhill 3rd May '17 - 11:08am

    In the past we have tended to say that we do not choose the leader/s of other parties. It is for them to elect their leader/s. Tim Farron has not said we would not go into a coalition with another party, nor has he ruled out local arrangements, nor has he denied our history, hence the talk of “early Blair”, but the high turnover of ministers in the early years of the Blair-Brown governments implies a lack of confidence by their leader in the calibre of his subordinates. In the context of yesterday’s “car crash” by Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary having difficulty answering a predictable question about costs, I recall a minister going on the Today Programme and telling the nation that she had visited a hospital and been advised how to run a bath. John Humphreys tried to prevent the flood of letters he was expecting (such as Do you have a mixer tap?)

  • Michael Conroy 3rd May '17 - 11:24am

    Will we have a policy on renewable energy and fracking? Also what is our stance now on the pay for public services, university fees, training of young people, and elderly care ?

  • ROGER HEAPE 3rd May '17 - 11:34am

    Agree that there is a benefit in getting our Manfesto out as soon as possible ( but avoiding a clash with the day of other parties manifestos.)
    We can the highlight a policy a day to help build our message.
    I am somewhat concerned about too much emphasis on us being the strong opposition-not very believable with 9 MP’s.We desperately need to get more media coverage to raise our static opinion poll ratings.The best ground war cannot offset the current Tory lead in the polls.And make no mistake the Tories are out to wipe us out in totality.We are in desperate fight for survival.

  • repeat the phrase ‘ a strong opposition’ at all times – it is a defining phrase

  • I do not have high expectations for this manifesto, while it can’t be much worse than the 2010 one I don’t expect it to include an economic policy I can support. I expect it will still talk of balancing the budget rather than having policies to provide full employment. I would like to see a taxation policy to move towards taxing capital more than labour. I don’t expect it to include replacing the Income Tax Personal Allowance with a very Basic Citizens Income. I don’t expect it to promise to abolish sanctions on the ill or the unemployed. I would like it to include having the pension “triple lock” applied to unemployment benefits and everything linked to it. I am not even sure it will promise to restore the amount under universal credit a person can earn before they start to lose benefit or that it will restore the national Council Tax benefit scheme to ensure that those not working and receiving benefit do not have to pay any Council Tax.

  • If it has an export-oriented strategy, which would involve more investment, it will receive my full support (but unlikely). Time to break away from this current unsustainable economic model. Britain consumes too much and invest too little.

  • Looking back at Farron’s speech in 2015, I think Libdem economic policy would shift more to the left compared to 2010-2015 (fixing the roof when the sun is shining).

  • Neil Sandison 3rd May '17 - 5:30pm

    A coherent policy on affordable housing please not too technical but with an emphasis on how we will help those who need to both rent and and buy and how we can enpower councils to provide more homes for local communities.

  • Geoff Payne 3rd May '17 - 8:31pm

    Thanks for all of the comments about what people would like to see. I hope that we will not disappoint you. My namesake gives the reason why I am going to restrain myself from giving a date for the launch. Well said, John Bennett, if I may say so, on the imperative for us to defend those who are treated unjustly in society.

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