Lib Dem manifesto to be launched later today – spurning Brexit, no pledge to scrap tuition fees and ‘Tim is pro-choice’ (!)

The Liberal Democrat manifesto will be launched this evening. But there are plenty of clues as to what is, and isn’t, going to featured within its text.

The Guardian offers this summary:

It’s the turn of the Lib Dems to take a twirl in the glare of the headline writers, as they launch their manifesto. We know their main pitch, of course – Brexit means let’s have another think about Brexit – but the fresh push today will be to hook younger voters. There’s a “rent-to-buy” scheme for first-time homeowners, along with votes at 16, the return of housing benefit for 18- to 21-year-olds, and discounted bus travel. Plus there’s £7bn for schools and colleges; a tripling of the pupil premium for early years; and free primary school meals. On the costings side – because surely it’s not only Labour that has to show its workings? – they’ll put a penny on income tax to fund the NHS and social care.

An interview with Ed Davey this morning on Today also let’s us know that the party is pro-choice on abortion (!) and that we will not pledge to abolish tuition fees:

We don’t think that is affordable. We want to restore maintenance grants.

The reference to pro-choice has been necessary because someone has been poking about in the bowels of the Bodleian Library and found an interview with Tim Farron in a 2007 copy of “War Cry” which refers to abortion. You can read the details here.

The thing about this which astounds me is that Tim is quoted as saying:

The quote on abortion is not a publication I’ve ever heard of or read or seen!

What? Does this actually mean he’s never been in a pub on a Friday evening and seen the uniformed boys and girls from the Sally Army cheerfully coming round with their publication? I am astounded!

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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  • Looks like this manifesto will be a big improvement on the 2015 version – we’ll see what holes are picked in it. But it feels there is far more to sell on the doorsteps here so credit to those who’ve worked on it.

    Of course I would have wanted differences – more on the environment and electoral reform, and prioritising welfare changes and tuition fee reductions instead of the pension triple lock, but there’s enough here to unite around.

    Let’s hope it gets a hearing – that feels our biggest challenge at the minute.

  • And a strong export-oriented economic strategy, a firm support for EU anti-dumping tariffs, a commitment to raise R&D spending to 3% of GDP and non-residential investment spending to over 20% of GDP, as well as a pledge to tighten takeover laws (as well as endorsing Macron’s similar pledge in EU).

  • Oh, Labour hi-jacked our ideas of Home Rule and devolution.

    Finally, a commitment to increase workers’ representative and industrial democracy will be a breakthrough policy.

  • At the moment the party is fighting for its very existence, it is as serious as that. I have never known it so worrying.

  • Theakes keeps tossing these little grenades into the debate on various threads, could s/he give us 3 or 4 concrete reasons why we are The Party facing extiction this Summer.
    This is a very depressing Election admittedly but after it Labour will resume their slow but steady decline & at some point we will all find out what Brexit actually means.
    My only adice on The Manifesto is “Keep it short”. If in doubt, leave it out.

  • Paul:
    1. We are fighting to even hold our seats, we could lose 6/7 even 8
    2. all this dangerous and demoralising talk about a new party after the election
    3. cannot see where we can make gains except an odd one in Scotland
    4. we would cease to be recognised as “a party in itself”, more a joke

    I joined in 1962, never known it so potentially bad. This week is critical. The Manifesto launch and the leader in tomorrows debate, will we move forward after these events?
    At present we are seemingly in a box with the lid locked.

    Someone yesterday referred to 1983 and the Ettrick conference when the campaign leader was changed from Jenkins to Steel – an immediate major boost. Is there something here we could emulate, Farron is not resonating and I have a fear the Tories have something else up their sleeve about us, probably Farron in the pocket of Corbyn. A new charismatic face to front the campaign for the last three weeks, preferably a woman might be helpful. It would throw Lyndon Crosby into confusion.
    For myself I am just hoping, I fear it is a pretty forlorn one, is that the 32% identified in polling as not having made up their minds might generate a last minute boost as in 1979 .
    On a brighter note good to see the Free Democrats making a comeback in Germany after the wipe out following the end of the coalition. The Westphalia result at the weekend, really rewarding. Taken sometime to get any sort of turnaround but it seems to be materialising.

  • So Tim has apparently changed his mind on abortion. The media should acknowledge this and not attempt to hang him out to dry over something he said 10 years ago which does not reflect what he thinks now. Especially when it’s about abortion, an issue that in this country is always decided by free votes in Parliament so he it would never have been a question of him whipping our MPs into voting to ban abortion, even if he had ever wanted to.
    If you want to hang a party leader out to dry over what he said or did long ago, do it with Jeremy Corbyn, who has never repudiated his support for terrorists or the hard left.

  • theakes: Are you actually aware of the local polls on the ground in our seats? Or are you just going by projected national swing?

  • Can you please stop using the repulsive expression, ‘pro-choice’? I broadly support the current abortion laws, but the decision on when time limit is one we collectively make as a society on the basis of ethical considerations, not on a notion of an individual’s right to decide.

    I was very seriously considering voting Lib Dem, but the decision to do nothing about Clegg’s disastrous tuition fee system and Farron’s support for Trump’s illegal military action in Syria will almost certainly mean that I now won’t.

  • @Paul Barker
    During the coalition years, I always found your predictions about the collapse of the Labour party quite comical, but I’ve been taking your predictions more seriously since Corbyn was elected. However, the nature of our democratic system and current polling trends suggest that the Lib Dems are likely to make little headway and that Labour will still have enough seats to be by far the largest of the other parties in the Commons. They’ve still got a large enough base to rebuild and if a leadership challenger comes forward who is acceptable to most non-Corbynites and Corbynites, e.g. Jon Ashworth, then the Labour party will mostly unite (maybe not the more extreme elements of Corbyn’s support base) and get on with things.

  • @ theakes You might be right, but I’m afraid you’re not the sort of chap I would have liked to stand next to in the trenches in 1917. You might also be right in suggesting we shouldn’t be where we are in the first place (and I would certainly assent to that).

    The fact is we are where we are. You need to get a grip, man, instead of spreading panic in the ranks. If you can’t, then go have a lie down in a quiet room (more than you would have been allowed in 1917).

  • Lorenzo Cherin 17th May '17 - 1:53pm


    Your comments are , here,what we need.

    I go further, Tim is entitled to think abortion wrong, as long as he accepts it must remain legal within agreed limits, for those who think it right for them.

    The notion that Liberalism and Democracy is about liking what you accept others do, is nonsense.

    I have never like alcohol, and do not drink. I do not want it to be illegal. I have never smoked and loathe it , never supported it being illegal.

    I have never tried cannabis and support its legalisation.

    I have always condemned the IRA, unlike Corbyn, and support his right to not , and my right to say he is a disgrace for nit doing so !

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 17th May '17 - 1:56pm

    Even if Tim Farron’s views on abortion were still identical to those quoted in the Salvation Army magazine ten years ago, this would not, in my view, be in any way incompatible with liberalism. After all, Charles Kennedy was opposed to abortion, and voted in accordance with his principles. Shirley Williams has also always been strongly anti abortion. Charles Kennedy’s and Shirley Williams’ beliefs seemed to be respected even by those who disagreed with them, in a way that Tim Farron’s are not.
    Support for abortion is not necessarily liberal. For example, the assumption that abortion is justified if the baby will be disabled, is based on a horrifyingly illiberal attitude to disabled people. I think most people are horrified at the idea of abortion because the baby is the “wrong” gender, but presumably even this could be justified by the “choice” argument, carried to its logical conclusion.

  • I agree with Catherine Jane Crosland.

    I also think that the media reports of Tim’s view of abortion from ten years ago, strangely emerging today of all days, is simply more black arts from our opponents.

    Amazed frankly, that LDV respond defensively to it. No need, surely.

    It has been a long-standing official policy of the party to support legalised abortion, even if some our of own members and leading politicians are personally opposed.

    In a liberal party, people are allowed to have personal views which dissent from the official policy. This is a strength of our party, not something we should be defensive about, despite the best efforts of the media and political opponents to derail us.

  • Alex: we know about local polls on the ground in 2015, totally misleading: what determines our future is how we anticipate and deal with the last week campaign against us, when we have no time to respond back.

  • Alex Macfie 17th May '17 - 2:26pm

    But we’re not doing those sort of polls. You’re stuck in 2015, assuming everything now is exactly as it was then.

  • Philip Rolle 17th May '17 - 2:45pm

    I agree this week is critical: the BBC has just put up a headline about the party’s plans for a second referendum, including “the right to stay in the EU”. I rather feel this will be viewed as a blatant attempt to harvest the 48% and darn the rest. I believe this tactic may have significant impact over only a few constituencies and broadly negative impact everywhere else, broadly because many people think “let’s just do it and get it over with”. This may be wrong but that is what instinct and opinion polls hint at. We will see – possibly sooner than is appreciated by many.

  • paul barker 17th May '17 - 3:56pm

    I am sticking to a prediction/guess of 14% & around 15 MPs but I dont know & neither does anyone else. The Polls got our Vote share right 2 Years ago but they have all made major changes since then, changed aimed at sorting their problem with Labour. We are not important to them.
    Its hard to make the Polling fit with our results in the Locals even if we have fallen back since then but we just have to wait & see.

  • Matthew Huntbach 17th May '17 - 4:12pm


    In a liberal party, people are allowed to have personal views which dissent from the official policy.

    Indeed. Suppose we had a Muslim leader. Would it be considered acceptable to go on and on and on and on at him or her asking for his or her precise position on issues where traditional Muslim belief would be contrary to modern liberal orthodoxy? Even if his or her personal position was more towards liberal orthodoxy, I think we need to respect the fact that people from that sort of background might find it a little uncomfortable to be forced to come out with it. Would it be considered acceptable to go on and on and on at a Jewish politician, insisting he or she spell out his or her precise position on whether they would eat pork?

    What is happening here suggests that no-one from a Christian background should ever be elected as leader because that means this sort of thing will happen to them and stop them from being able to concentrate on other issues.

    If we had a leader who was a vegetarian, would we be supposing that he or she would ban meat-eating across the country if he or she became the PM?

    We are a democratic party, not one where the leader is a dictator. The leader should not be able and should not want to impose his or her personal views on the party. We are a liberal party, and that always used to mean acceptance that people’s views may differ, and particularly on some issues where it is known there are strong personal positions we would respect people’s rights to differ from the majority.

  • Richard Underhill 17th May '17 - 5:25pm

    Ed Davey was asked about Tim Farron’s personal views. It was wrong to imply that Tim Farron can or would impose his personal views on the party and journalists implying that should be ashamed. They might remember that Vince Cable compared Gordon Brown with Stalin, so that even Labour are claiming to be a democratic party.

  • David Raw, in 1917, with the Americans entering and reinforcing our trenches I would have been optimistic. Perhaps if we had been more realistic in 1916 we could have avoided the monthly slaughter on the Somme!!
    Alex: I was probably as near as anyone in 2015 forecasting 10 -12 seats. I really hope I am wrong but sadly I fear it is beginning to look like less than 5. It is the wrong election at the wrong time for us – skilful planning by the Tories?
    I would not worry about Abortion, just ask the questioner or commentator are your views on all things the same as 10 years ago, tit for tat. I reckon hand on heart we all have changed views on something, even Mrs May. The public understand that. Mind you there could well be worse to come, Lyndon’s about.

  • Good Lord I’m in full agreement with Lorenzo

    * faints *

  • @ theakes Nice Try, theakes, but you’d have had to be French to see any of them as early as 1917.

    However, I’m glad to see you’re feeling a bit more pukka in yourself now – and to tell you a secret – you might even be right in your forecast…….. and for the next six months post June every opposition party might have a few ruffled feathers.

    Dan Jarvis might be a surprise package.

  • Jennie – don’t be sarcastic, he’s a bit sensitive at the moment. He wasn’t brung up in Hebden Bridge.

  • If the flagship policy of telling the people…sorry, giving the people an opportunity to vote again proves to be very unpopular with the voters, many of whom do not want another referendum and are impatient to leave the EU, will Mr Farron be invited to resign?

  • Farron speech tonight: thats my boy

  • Lorenzo Cherin 17th May '17 - 7:44pm


    I am surprised you are so , we do sometimes agree , even openly on here , I suspect if you read all my postings you would be surprised how often ! I am good in someone elses crisis , so can assist with any aftershock or help needed, in your fainting stste !


    Too right, Souf London, me !

  • David: I have only breathed the rarefied air of Hebden in recent years, and even then only on visits, I’m a Brighouse lass, me.

    Lorenzo xx I didn’t mean to prick a nerve, OfC we agree more often than not (Love your comment on Les Holloway’s post too)

  • Briggus & Rastrick. Dad never got tired of the Floral Dance.

    Off to watch the Terriers in extra time. x

  • Katharine Pindar 18th May '17 - 12:32am

    Some cheerful thoughts, Theakes, from another veteran, to end the night. Tim made another of his excellent, passionate speeches to launch the Manifesto, and for once he would have an audience not just of Lib Dem members able to go to our conferences. Full coverage on the BBC News Channel (making up a bit for the crass Today pre-coverage, about which I have complained to them), and interesting analysis on Sky, showing we are offering to spend much more on welfare than Labour, and would borrow less than them.

    Finally, nice to see all that emphasis on helping the young, which is much needed, and in the same few hours of hearing that, listening to our oldest would-be MP, the once-and-future Sir Vince Cable, ably explaining and defending the policies and never once causing any tremors. Vivant, old, young, LGTB and (especially of course) Yorkshire folk!

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 18th May '17 - 6:42am

    Matthew Huntbach, I agree with your comments at 4.12pm yesterday. But you say “If we had a leader who was a vegetarian…” It should be pointed out that we do have a leader who is a vegetarian.

  • @ Katharine Yes, vivant Yorkshire Folk. The Town are going to Wemberleeeeeeeeeeee, Halifax Town are promoted and Bradford City might be too. Priorities, eh, what ?

  • Matthew Huntbach 18th May '17 - 2:03pm

    Catherine Jane Crosland

    you say “If we had a leader who was a vegetarian…” It should be pointed out that we do have a leader who is a vegetarian.

    Well, the fact that I did not even know that proves my point: we are seeing some very serious discrimination here. If you are a vegetarian and a political leader, no big fuss is made about it, no suggestions that somehow you will inflict your personal beliefs on others, work to close down the meat industry and so on. If you are a Christian, however, you might as well not bother trying for political leadership, because it will continually be brought up, so that it dominates discussion about you and diverts attention from the main political issues you are trying to push.

  • David Raw.
    I wouldn’t want anyone to stand next to me in the trenches. It’s all a bit to close to “over the top lads and advance slowly towards the guns” as a metaphor.
    Personally, I thing there will be moderate gains and hopefully the collapse of UKIP will only add to the size of the Conservative vote in already Conservative seats. In previous elections they barely figured.

  • Diane Reddell 20th May '17 - 4:45pm

    I don’t have any issues with the manifesto really, it seems fair with the exception of the rights section.
    “Extend the Equality Act to all large companies with over 250 employees, requiring them to monitor and publish data on gender, BAME, and LGBT+ employment levels and pay gaps.”
    – “Require diversity in Public Appointments. We will introduce a presumption that every shortlist should include at least one BAME candidate.”
    I would like both statements to include people with disabilities and carers.

  • Mike MacSween 21st May '17 - 10:28am

    And also no mention of ending religious selection in state schools. I would have thought that recent policy decisions would be the most prominent parts of a manifesto.

  • Peter Watson 22nd May '17 - 1:44pm

    @Mike MacSween “I would have thought that recent policy decisions would be the most prominent parts of a manifesto.”
    I have asked about this in a parallel thread ( but nobody has yet explained the link between a conference vote and the manifesto. Are the conference votes on existing selection by ability and all selection by faith now redundant and overridden by the subsequent manifesto?

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