Liberal Democrats publish their election manifesto front page

Manifesto_Covers_2015The Liberal Democrats are today launching the front page of their General Election manifesto. The front-page will set out the five Liberal Democrat priorities for forming a government after May 7th. The Scottish and Welsh Liberal Democrats will also today unveil their manifesto priorities, including greater devolution of power to Scotland and Wales. Nick Clegg will launch the campaign on a visit to a primary school in the Conservative-held constituency of Oxford West and Abingdon.

The front page of the manifesto is available here:

The five priorities are:

  1. Prosperity for all

    Balance the budget fairly and invest to build a high skill, low carbon economy

  2. Fair taxes

    Cut your taxes by an additional £400 by raising the tax-free allowance to £12,500

  3. Opportunity for every child

    Guarantee education funding from nursery to 19 and qualified teachers in every class

  4. Quality health care for all

    Invest £8bn to improve our NHS and guarantee equal care for mental health

  5. Our environment protected

    Protect nature and fight climate change with five green laws

    At the launch today, Nick Clegg will say:

    Five priorities

    Today we are setting out five priorities for five years. Five steps on the path to a stronger economy and a fairer society.

    A stronger economy means finishing the job of balancing the books, in full and on time, but doing so fairly, with the wealthiest in our society paying their fair share.

    Because it is only on the strong foundation of sound finances that we can build a fairer society.

    Get that right and everything else can follow.

    But a stronger economy also means more than just clearing the deficit. We do not want to simply return to business as usual.

    To build the strong, green, innovative economy that Britain needs to flourish in the 21st century we need to invest in upgrading our national infrastructure and producing the clean renewable energy that will power our prosperity in future.

    And it also means protecting our environment, because making sure our children and grandchildren are not left paying for the mistakes of the generations before them means protecting the air they breathe as much as the economy they inherit.

    A fairer society starts with fairer taxes. We will continue to cut income tax for millions of working people by a further £400 a year by raising the tax-free allowance to £12,500.

    A fairer society means properly funding our world class public services – investing in them as the economy grows and making sure the NHS has the extra £8bn a year it needs by 2020.

    But world class public services are about more than just numbers, they are about people’s lives. That’s why we are determined to end the stigma against mental health and guarantee it is given the same status in the NHS as physical health.

    Education

    The priority I want to focus on today is education – because nothing is more central to creating both a stronger economy and a fairer society, where everyone has the opportunity to fulfil their potential.

    Education has the power to liberate people from the circumstances of their birth.

    I want every child in Britain today, no matter what their background, to have the opportunity to be what they want to be.

    Because Liberals treat people as individuals to be encouraged and enabled to flourish, not like numbers to be ranked and filed.

    And we want everyone to be able to flourish, not just the lucky few.

    That’s why the Liberal Democrats are the party of education. The liberal mission is, and always has been, to tear down the barriers that stop people from being able to reach their potential.

    But the first barriers appear right at the start of a child’s life. If you fall behind in those crucial early years, the chances are you stay behind forever.

    We know that, on average, a child who goes to a high quality pre-school will be better at reading or maths by the age of six than a classmate who does not.

    We know that, as a teenager, that child’s concentration will be better in class and they will go on to do better in their GCSEs.

    And we know they will earn thousands of pounds more throughout their working lives.

    If you remove those barriers, if you stop children falling behind, you can change their lives forever.

    That’s why education is my top priority and always has been. Nothing motivates me more.

    More than 13 years ago, I visited a number of schools in Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands and it was on those trips that the idea of the Pupil Premium first came to me.

    It was an idea designed to target resources at the most disadvantaged pupils in schools, to stop them from falling behind their classmates.

    That idea became Liberal Democrat policy.

    That policy became a front page manifesto priority at the last election.

    And that priority became the centrepiece of a liberal agenda for education that we have pursued in Government.

    Today the Pupil Premium is worth £2.5bn a year. It funds breakfast clubs, homework clubs, one-to-one tuition and much more. It helps schools to reach out to parents who would otherwise be disengaged.

    And it is working. The latest figures found that primary school children from the poorest backgrounds achieved their best ever results and that the gap between them and their classmates had narrowed.

    And while the challenge is harder in secondary schools, this year we have seen the attainment gap in Maths and English narrow too.

    When we joined the coalition in 2010, education was at the top of our agenda and it has stayed there ever since.

    While we haven’t always seen eye to eye with our coalition partners, we have been relentless in making sure the life chances of our children have been at the heart of the coalition’s programme.

    We made sure the schools budget was protected in real terms every year.

    We made sure the Pupil Premium was given the priority and resources it needed to change lives, not just funded by cutting the schools budget elsewhere.

    We prioritised extra childcare funding for parents of two, three and four-year-olds, extended the Pupil Premium to support the poorest children before they start school and introduced healthy free lunches for all infants to help them learn.

    In Government in the next five years, we will once again put the life chances of our children at the heart of the government’s agenda.

    We will protect not only the schools budget in real terms, but funding for early years and colleges too.

    We will make sure that every child is taught by a qualified teacher.

    We will triple the extra funding that goes to children from the poorest backgrounds in nursery.

    And we will give every primary school child a hot, healthy lunch to help them learn.

    Priorities matter

    The last few years have been tough for a lot of people, who have had to work hard and make real sacrifices to get by.

    Politicians have had to make difficult choices with less money at our disposal. And there are more difficult choices to come.

    That’s why priorities matter.

    The Liberal Democrats will prioritise education, just as we have done over the last five years.

    Because nothing is more central to what we believe. Nothing is more important to creating a fairer society where everyone has the opportunity to reach their potential.

    Other parties will have their own priorities. And for that reason we know we cannot take the progress we have made in education for granted.

    The Conservatives are proposing much deeper cuts than necessary in the next parliament, which means a real terms squeeze on the schools budget and cuts to early years and colleges to the tune of a combined £3bn a year.

    In the final year of the next parliament, the Conservatives would cut £38bn more than under our plans.

    These cuts would have real consequences for the lives of children, parents and teachers.

    It could mean a dramatic squeeze on nursery places; the free childcare entitlement scrapped or scaled back drastically; hundreds of thousands of young people denied a place at college or sixth form every year; and thousands of staff fearing for their jobs.

    But our progress will not be assured if Labour wins a majority either.

    If you want a world class education system, you need a strong economy.

    Labour’s plan means borrowing £70bn more than we will by 2020 and wasting around £4bn more on paying the interest on our debt – money that could be spent on schools and hospitals instead.

    You simply can’t invest in strong public services if the money isn’t there.

    Political parties are not the same. Priorities matter.

    In tough times, Liberal Democrats will prioritise education.

    We will prioritise finishing the job of deficit reduction fairly and responsibly.

    We will prioritise fairer taxes.

    We will prioritise equality for mental health treatment in a world class NHS.

    And we will prioritise protecting our environment.

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61 Comments

  • Paul Pettinger 12th Feb '15 - 12:19am

    Ignoring that the design itself is lacking in balance and form, and that the overall message is rather bland and insipid, compounding our problems around struggling for relevance in many quarters, the hand prints are from a man. All of them!

    1830: ‘Peace, Retrenchment and Reform’. 1974: ‘Take Power; Vote Liberal’. 2015 ‘In favour of good things: against bad things’.

  • Joseph Toovey 12th Feb '15 - 12:25am

    The dotted line under ‘Manifesto 2015’ makes me think of a word processor underlining errors – it’s subtly off-putting.

  • Eddie Sammon 12th Feb '15 - 12:32am

    The front page is better than I thought it would be, but significant improvements could be made.

    I see liberals as having the best answers to the problems the world faces, but at the current pace an economic and possible security crisis will hit during the next parliament with potentially an environmental one down the line and I see inadequate action to deflect these dangers. I don’t like focusing on the negative, but it is what I see.

    I will be voting Lib Dem (John Pugh), but please let’s up our game and I ask that for people from other parties too.

  • A lot of talk about how much money they are going to spend and balancing the books. Not much detail on where the money for this is coming from. Pie in the sky as always, just surprised there isn’t a a pledge to scrap tuition fees!

  • Nothing for Scotland here just confirming that the Lib Dems are focused on Engalnd.

  • The colours chosen seem to suggest that the current manifesto is composed of policies culled from other parties: one from the Tories, one from the Greens, one from Labour, one from UKIP, and one from the Orange Book. Well, the last isn’t another party. . . maybe. . .

  • Alex Sabine 12th Feb '15 - 3:21am

    “In the final year of the next parliament, the Conservatives would cut £38 billion more than under our plans.”

    This looks a highly suspect claim to me. As far as I know the Conservatives haven’t set out their spending plans in detail yet, but if Nick Clegg is referring to the fiscal projections set out in last December’s Autumn Statement, the assumption is ‘flat real’ spending in 2019-20, ie no overall cut or increase on the previous year.

    The implication, then, is that the Lib Dems plan to spend £38 billion in the final year of the parliament. If so, that would be a pretty blatant pre-election splurge that would undo much of the preceding hard work in whittling the deficit down.

    I assume this is just sloppy wording and that what Clegg meant to say was by the final year of the next parliament…” the Tories would have spent a cumulative £38 billion less and Labour would have borrowed a cumulative £70 billion more.

    More sloppy wording (at least I hope it is this rather than economic illiteracy) is the Gordon Brown-style use of ‘invest’ when the real meaning is ‘spend’, as in “invest £8 billion to improve our NHS”. I presume this £8 billion to close the NHS ‘funding gap’ identified by Simon Stevens isn’t all going to be scored as capital spending; if it is, then the commitment to balance the structural current budget begins to look very flaky…

  • Paul in Wokingham 12th Feb '15 - 7:40am

    Those diamonds aren’t anchored to the centre: they are definitely leaning right. ☺

    But what is our USP? The messages seem innocuous, trite and instantly forgettable. Does anyone looking at that picture see a party that is marching toward the sound of gunfire? It feels vaguely like the output of an off site by a bunch of middle managers brainstorming manifesto ideas at a Premier Inn in Tunbridge Wells.

  • “The Liberal Democrats are today launching the front page of their General Election manifesto”

    How long do we have to wait for page 2 ?

    I assume there will be no page 3.

  • ” …….a bunch of middle managers brainstorming manifesto ideas at a Premier Inn in Tunbridge Wells.”

    Paul in Wokingham — this is very unfair of you.

    I have had many happy hours in Tunbridge Wells and the occasional pleasant stay in a Premier Inn.

    I am sure that a random collection of middle managers gathered in such surroundings would have produced Something much better than this “front page”. My goodness — if this is the front page just imagine how dull page 17 will be !

  • How do you propose to pay for extra investment in the NHS and education if you’re cutting taxes?

  • Paul Walter

    Hireton:
    “Nothing for Scotland here just confirming that the Lib Dems are focused on Engalnd”

    Perhaps re-read the piece carefully, especially where it says:

    “The Scottish and Welsh Liberal Democrats will also today unveil their manifesto priorities, including greater devolution of power to Scotland and Wales.”

    Given that SNP, obviously, and Labour are all in favour of more powers for Scotland, and the Tories have hinted at it, what is the Scottish Liberal Democrat’s unique selling point, and is it different from anything in the manifesto today?

  • So we have the regressive plan to further shift the tax system in favour of high to middle earners. Is it expected that no-one will notice that rises in the personal allowance mostly go to the mid-to-upper deciles of household earning and do precious little for the lowest two deciles – the same deciles that have been most hurt by coalition policy?

    How do you expect people to buy into a slogan of “stronger economy, fairer society” when you’ve spent five years cheerfully delivering the exact opposite?

    If the LDs are to be credible in this election there is a strong need to accept the record of coalition as your own.

  • Here is the edited version of Clegg’s speech for those who could not face reading the lengthier but no more informative and no more inspiring version —

    At the launch today, Nick Clegg will say:

    “…..Five priorities

    …….. not like numbers to be ranked and filed.

    That idea became Liberal Democrat policy.

    That policy became a front page manifesto priority at the last election.

    Priorities matter

    The last few years have been tough for a lot of people, who have had to work hard and make real sacrifices to get by.

    Politicians have had to make difficult choices with less money at our disposal. And there are more difficult choices to come.

    That’s why priorities matter.

    Because nothing is more central to what we believe

    Other parties will have their own priorities
    Political parties are not the same. Priorities matter.”

  • stuart moran 12th Feb '15 - 9:21am

    Good Morning

    I heard reported on the news that the party FPC had not signed off this communication

    Is this true?

    For interest how does the process of putting together the manifesto work in the party and who sees it before it goes out to the public?

  • jedibeeftrix 12th Feb '15 - 9:36am

    “So we have the regressive plan to further shift the tax system in favour of high to middle earners. Is it expected that no-one will notice that rises in the personal allowance mostly go to the mid-to-upper deciles”

    Jack, according to the ONS when both taxes and benefits are factored in all deciles lose roughly one third of their income to the exchequer.

    Do you think this is going to change greatly with what has been announced?
    Does this seem unjust to you somehow?
    How much would you like to high to middle income earners of?

  • Stephen Hesketh 12th Feb '15 - 9:44am

    Anyone been on the Political Compass website recently?

    Out of interest just take a look at their GE link: http://www.politicalcompass.org/uk2015

    Pretty damning and shows just how far we are seen as having been moved.

    This manifesto shows precious little sign of changing things.

  • Denis Mollison 12th Feb '15 - 9:46am

    Jack – criticism of raising the tax threshold as regressive

    Raising the income tax threshold to roughly the minimum wage level seems very sensible to me. The answer to its regressive effect is to increase income tax progressively above this threshold. For example, raising the basic rate to 24% would mean that everyone earning between 10 and 25 K pays less and everyone above pays more.

    A bolder option would be to amalgamate income tax and NI at the same time. The problem there is that politicians seem to think that working taxpayers haven’t noticed that they’re effectively paying 32% income tax already on modest incomes. And yes, I’ve noticed that amalgamating income tax and NI – if kept simple – would hit well-off pensioners like me; perhaps the answer to that is to offer a better deal in end-of-life costs which are one of the biggest worries for better-off pensioners.

  • Stephen Hesketh 12th Feb '15 - 9:48am

    Ooops missed the second link … where we where even in 2010:

    http://www.politicalcompass.org/ukparties2010

  • Nothing on the front page on electoral reform. The AV defeat may have put reform of voting for MPs on the back burner, but what of Lords’ Reform?

    This government’s tepid proposals with 15 year fixed terms etc were really quite dreadful. They represented a mechanism for producing a result that would have been barely different to the status quo. We need radical democratic proposals, such as renewable 6 year terms with one third of the upper chamber elected every two years. I assume the proposals were deliberately tepid in a vain effort to find a lowest common denominator concensus: this certainly does not have to be official Party Policy.

    I would also favour the inclusion of seconded non-voting members whose brief is to speak and take part on committees in areas of policy covered by their expertise; these non-voting members could also include bishops.

  • BORING, SO VERY BORING!!!!!!!!!!
    We used to be radical, what’s happened to us?
    I’ve got to say as an activist if these are our red lines, a spell in opposition is probably the best thing for us as I don’t see why our Councillor base should continue to take a hit so we can introduce some not very inspiring policies in Government.

  • Martin – “Nothing on the front page on electoral reform. The AV defeat may have put reform of voting for MPs on the back burner, but what of Lords’ Reform”

    According to our own party political broadcast from a couple of weeks ago – “the British political system is the finest in the world” so it doesn’t require any change then would seem to be the message coming down from our masters.

  • Denis Mollison 12th Feb '15 - 10:38am

    STV for local elections in England and Wales was supposed to be one of our red lines.

    But then perhaps we now don’t have any – even thin – red lines.

  • Neil Sandison 12th Feb '15 - 11:02am

    Dennis Mollison raising tax threasholds
    I agree with Dennis people on minimuim or living wage should not lose out through the tax system and be forced to claim tax credits which are unreliable often over paid and recovered once the clerical errors have been rectified leaving many families in serious debt .National Insurance does need to be put under the microscope because it no longer does the job it was designed for.

  • Agree with those who say that this is not going to be inspirational for anyone, but really, who was expecting it to be? We’ve had four and a half years of constant gunfire from all sides including our own, is anyone surprised that the leadership are shellshocked & timid? They’ve all got PTSD.

  • Bill le Breton 12th Feb '15 - 11:39am

    People are being a bit tough on those responsible for this ‘front page’.

    If there has to be a manifesto and if it is thought wise to express it at this stage as a five point pledge card which can then be repeated, then perhaps this is as good as it can get. People will always disagree over a 5 point choice.

    David Laws did a valiant job this morning, but in the necessarily ‘waffley’ form engendered by this format, it is a hard job to gain attention and keep people ‘tuned in’.

    What the pledges are not is SMART. ( Specific, Measurable, Attainable etc.) And that misses a lot in the current climate.
    So, to be daring, why have a manifesto?

    There is a probability that there will be negotiations after May 7th from which a government of some kind evolves. So why not publish today our opening negotiations in the form of SMART campaign objectives.

    A hundred should do. (I bet there ends up being a hundred points in any manifesto.) All of them SMART and expressed in SMART form.

    In this election, Liberal Democrats are campaigning for these 100 specific goals. They are measurable so you can see how effective we are at getting support for them and delivering them in Parliament, over the next five years.

    We have knocked on doors and telephoned thousands of people like you and established that they are what people want. They are attainable – not the normal political wish list. We have checked with world class experts in their fields who have told us tells us they can be done, that they would deliver better for people and properly costed.

    We are publishing them here, but your local Liberal Democrat MP and the local team have been talking to you and your neighbours and have published a list of things that we support and are campaigning for in your neighbourhood.

    But we have to warn you that, for us, there are no red lines. We shall campaign as hard as we can to achieve support in Parliament for as many of these as possible and we shall keep you informed of our progress. But there has to be give and take. So what we don’t achieve in the next five years we shall keep developing and keep campaigning for.

  • @jedibeeftrix: “Jack, according to the ONS when both taxes and benefits are factored in all deciles lose roughly one third of their income to the exchequer.

    Do you think this is going to change greatly with what has been announced?
    Does this seem unjust to you somehow?
    How much would you like to high to middle income earners of?”

    You seem to have missed a couple of words out there which is making it difficult for me to tell exactly what you’re trying to say. Yes, it strikes me as hugely unjust: those on higher incomes should be paying a higher % of income than those on lower incomes. I object to the packaging of this policy as tending towards that goal when – in fact – the majority of the money goes to households with mid to upper incomes. Assuming the last question is asking how much income I’d like see received in taxation; I believe we should be aiming to raise overall taxation from our current level (~36% of GDP) to that of more successful countries like Denmark (~48% of GDP) and be doing so in a progressive fashion.

  • “We’ve had four and a half years of constant gunfire from all sides including our own,”

    Yeah right Jennie. Blame the poor bloody infantry.

  • jedibeeftrix 12th Feb '15 - 1:21pm

    “Yes, it strikes me as hugely unjust: those on higher incomes should be paying a higher % of income than those on lower incomes.”

    philosophically; why? The primary purpose of taxation in this country at least is to pay for public services, not enforce wealth redistribution. Yes, in conducting public service we aim to alleviate suffering and extreme need, and so wealth is redistributed, but that is a secondary effect arising from carrying out public services. If rich people pay x times as much to the exchequer then they pay for x times as much public service. Have they not done there bit?

    “believe we should be aiming to raise overall taxation from our current level (~36% of GDP) to that of more successful countries like Denmark (~48% of GDP) and be doing so in a progressive fashion.”

    Aha, this might be your problem right here:
    Is there any evidence that the British electorate accept the same degree of social solidarity as is the case on the continent?
    Is there any evidence that the British electorate are interested in paying 50% more tax to achieve more social good?
    Are you wishing that Britain was Denmark, rather than designing a manifesto that Britain might elect a party upon?

  • Alex Sabine 12th Feb '15 - 1:36pm

    Today’s Lib Dem guest on the Daily Politics, Tom Brake MP, was careful not to characterise these front-page priorities as ‘red lines’. His answers to Andrew Neil indicated that, other than the overarching commitment to ‘finishing the job’ on deficit reduction, the rest was negotiable.

    I suspect that the £12,500 personal allowance will acquire something close to totemic status. The Lib Dems believe they have started to get some credit for the rise to £10k in this parliament and intend it to become a defining issue with which they are directly associated in voters’ minds. Therefore they will be very keen to deliver £12,500 in any coalition.

    In this they are both helped and hindered by the fact the Tories have the same policy goal. Helped because any coalition negotiations between the current coalition partners can presumably tick this one off straight away, resolve the minor question of how they are going to pay for it (!), and move on to more contentious issues.

    The problem is that it will be very hard for the LDs to claim (though I dare say they will try) that they had to overcome staunch Tory resistance to get it into the government programme. As I noted in another thread, David Laws’s account ’22 Days in May’ suggests that, even last time round, such Tory resistance as there was had melted away before the negotiating teams even sat around the table. This time the £12,500 PA is set to be a Tory manifesto commitment, so the LDs will not be able to claim sole authorship of the policy; they will have to satisfy themselves with joint ownership of a policy that is very popular with Tory MPs and voters in a situation where the numerical influence of the LDs in a hung parliament is likely to be much reduced.

    The opportunity to claim this policy as their own is likely to be greater in negotiations with Labour, since Labour do not share the £12,500 commitment. But there is a different problem here. Insofar as the Lib Dems propose to finance this tax cut partly through “asking fir a greater contribution” from the wealthy, Labour already have similar proposals (mansion tax, restricting pensions tax relief, withdrawing pensioner benefits from the highest-income pensioners). While reaching agreement on these revenue-raising measures may not prove too difficult, Labour have already earmarked the revenue for their own policy priorities. If they stick to these, then implementing the £12,500 PA will be likely to require a sizeable increase in one of the broad-based taxes (income tax, NI or VAT) which both parties have insisted their own plans do not involve.

    So the personal allowance policy would raise ownership/differentiation problems for the Lib Dems in any coalition with the Tories. And it would raise substantive problems in any coalition with Labour, namely how to finance it while accommodating Labour’s policy priorities and simultaneously avoiding the higher headline tax rates that both parties have disavowed.

    Meanwhile a Lib-Lab coalition would seem to raise bigger ownership/differentiation problems for the LDs regarding the other 4 front-page priorities. It is hard to see that they would sharpen the LD identity; indeed, I think this might well be a taller order in a coalition with Labour than one with the Tories and more difficult than it has proved during this parliament.

  • Alex Sabine 12th Feb '15 - 2:39pm

    I suppose the line that the LDs would ‘cut less than the Tories and borrow less than Labour’ does provide some opportunity to claim a distinctive Lib Dem influence in a coalition with Labour that might otherwise see the party swamped and struggling to define itself. It implies you will be the guardians of fiscal probity in a Labour-led administration and will fight to secure a tougher fiscal policy than Labour would pursue on their own.

    Yet somehow I can’t picture Lib Dem MPs and activists going around declaring that they have dragged Labour kicking and screaming into making cuts that they were intent on ducking. Can we expect such claims to make their way onto Focus leaflets I wonder? Will we get budget leaks purporting to show the Lib Dems pressuring a reluctant Labour-led Treasury into cutting public spending, lowering the withdrawal threshold for pensioner benefits or child benefit, putting up VAT or income tax rates?

    I have a nagging feeling that is not the kind of differentiation that Lib Dems would find congenial. If my suspicion is right, then the supposed moderating influence of the LDs on a spendthrift, high-borrowing Labour party will not carry conviction.

    The carefully orchestrated positioning in the middle of the road on fiscal policy will be liable to get you run over. In the eyes of left-wing voters who you might hope to win back, you will be tainted by the ‘austerity’ that a Labour-led administration (like any other plausible government that is currently in prospect) would preside over, however falteringly and half-heartedly; while centrist swing voters will see no evidence of the Lib Dems exerting a moderating influence on a Labour party still wedded to its old borrowing and spending instincts.

  • Is it me or does “Guarantee education funding….” not mean anything in isolation. Surely it should say guarantee a certain level of funding, – what it says is that we guarantee there will be some funding!

  • Michael 12th Feb ’15 – 4:09pm
    Is it me or does “Guarantee education funding….” not mean anything in isolation.

    No Michael, it is not you. It means NOTHING.
    It is what used to be called AN EMPTY PROMISE.

    In the same category is — “…protecting our environment”. It means NOTHING.

    See Bill Le Breton’s comment about the complete lack of SMART objectives. Bill provides a very positive and practical suggestion as to what could really be done instead of empty promises.

  • Alex Sabine 12th Feb '15 - 5:00pm

    Stephen Hesketh: I wouldn’t place much reliance on that ‘Political Compass’ test. The accompanying text makes some valid points (eg it being simplistic to regard the BNP simply as far-right given their economic policies), but it also indulges in general political commentary full of value judgements that rather diminish its value as a piece of neutral ‘political science’.

    I’m not sure to what extent this colours the quiz questions and interpretation of the answers; but, to take one example, it looks very strange that in the 2010 version UKIP and the Tories are placed in virtually identical positions along both the left-right and libertarian-authoritarian scales.

    Likewise in the ‘how the parties have shifted’ chart they show Labour in 1982 (under Michael Foot, and one year before the ‘longest suicide note in history’ manifesto) being to the right of Labour in 1972 (under the more pragmatic Harold Wilson). And the Liberals of 1972 are shown on the centre-right of the spectrum, and Libs/Lib Dems are slightly right of centre in every year cited.

    The 2015 scale shows the Tories to the right of UKIP and Labour more or less exactly where they were in 2010, despite the conscious leftward shift under Ed Miliband… And it places the Lib Dems on the authoritarian side of the scale, while the Greens are apparently radically libertarian (presumably because of things like drugs policy, but overlooking the manifold ways in which they propose to restrict individual freedom). On this basis a non-affiliated swing voter would probably be placed deep in the authoritarian right quadrant, while a Labour supporter who thinks Ed Miliband is far too right-wing would sit bang in the centre of this scale. The whole thing looks pretty bizarre and has little apparent connection with political realities…

  • Astonishing that it never occurred to anyone who saw this before publication that there is a massive difference between “taxes” and income tax.

    Should your party somehow scrape into coalition again, I look forward to endless future threads where Lib Dems try to claim that this “front-page pledge” was kept, despite the quite obvious fact that it can’t be – not unless the Lib Dems are planning to turn into a Syriza-style anti-austerity party.

  • It would be hard to believe many people did not want a fair and just society, it would be good to have a stronger message.
    Not allowing consultants to flit between NHS and lucrative private practice would be a start. My father was able to receive his cancer diagnosis six weeks earlier than with NHS from the same NHS consultant at a private clinic . Potentially buying his life. Many suffer without this option, NOT FAIR.

    I was one of many tempted to the Greens as a result of the Uturn on tuition fees. I have returned as a result of the Green shift to the far left, RMT leader soon to be Green Leader? I hope many more Lib Dems will see the the true colour of the Green Party

  • I do wish we could be more pragmatic in the face of the fact we as a country are still in a financial black hole. There is still a good chance that the LibDems will have some influence on the eventual outcome of the election and the government that is formed post the vote in May. Having had our “fingers burned” many times in the past 5 years I still trust Nick, Vince, Danny and Co to approach the this election with their brain engaged in a way the LibDems never had to be concerned about since their formation, hence the reason we really didn’t expect to be part of a coalition government back in 2010. This time there’s nothing wrong in being more cautious as we don’t want another disastrous “pledge” that was never deliverable without serious cuts in public service elsewhere. Boring maybe, but steady as she goes is what we need more of in the face of all the “pie in the sky” promises/pledges from our opponents.

  • @jedibeeftrix: “philosophically; why? The primary purpose of taxation in this country at least is to pay for public services, not enforce wealth redistribution.”

    Firstly, that doesn’t mean they can’t serve a secondary purpose which is also good. Secondly and much more importantly, because the wealthy benefit by far the most from society (that’s how they’re wealthy!) and should return most and thirdly because they’re more able to pay.

    “Are you wishing that Britain was Denmark, rather than designing a manifesto that Britain might elect a party upon?”

    I think the primary purpose of parties is to stand for something not chase wherever they think voters might leave. A party that simply wants power will never achieve anything of any value. None-the-less it’s clearly the case that you can only do good if you can appeal to enough of the electorate to garner some measure of power. In the case of taxation the UK is clearly never going to swing all the way to a more sensible level of taxation in a single parliament but that doesn’t mean that a party can’t either make the case for more taxation or start the process of moving in that direction.

    The Lib Dems I used to support argued for a penny on income tax; now they’re offering to transfer yet more money to the middle-to-upper part of the income scale while pretending that the cut is targeted at the very low earners that the party in government has done most to hit with cuts and freezes in in-work benefits.

  • @ Jack
    “The Lib Dems I used to support argued for a penny on income tax…”

    Indeed, and they carried on arguing for it even after the extra funding for education it was intended to finance had been delivered many times over by the Labour government. Gordon Brown as Chancellor spent far more than the Lib Dems had ever called for, yet still the Lib Dem appetite for higher spending was not sated. The policy had calcified into dogma: stubbornly resistant to the facts on the ground, the commitment to higher state spending survived long after it had been overtaken by events. That notorious right-winger Chris Huhne made this very argument in the ‘Make It Happen’ debate at the 2008 Lib Dem party conference. The ‘penny on income tax’ policy could be presented as candid and imaginative in 1997; by 2005 it was plain daft.

  • Sorry, on further reflection I remember that the ‘penny on income tax’ policy itself had been written out of the script by 2005 – but the commitment to higher overall taxation and spending remained. The policy at the 2001 and 2005 elections seemed to be to take whatever level of public expenditure Gordon Brown had set out and then outbid him by adding another few billion.

  • Michael B-G 13th Feb '15 - 1:45am

    It is as bad as I thought it would be and not distinctively liberal. I remember being enthused by our 1992 and 1997 manifestos. I hope it can be changed before the end of March and the beginning of the short campaign. I disagree with balancing the budget but accept that it is party policy. As Michael has said the education commitment is meaningless. I suggest it could be changed to guarantee that funding per child will be raised in line with inflation. Can we change our fair tax objective to include removing people from paying National Insurance contribution if they earn less than £10,500? Can we add to our NHS objective that the £8bn is above inflation?

    I believe that in the pre-manifest we said we would protect education and NHS spending in line with inflation.

    The five Green laws are:
    Nature Act to set targets on clean air, clean water and green space
    Heating & Energy Efficiency Act to set new energy efficiency targets and improve action on fuel poverty
    Zero Waste Act to set new targets and new plan to reduce waste and landfill and move towards a “circular economy”
    Zero Carbon Act to set new decarbonisation targets for the electricity sector
    Green Transport Act to establish a full network of charging points for electric cars, made conventional travel more expensive than greener travel and ensure new developments are designed round walking, cycling and public transport.

    I don’t think there is anything in these five objective to get those disheartened Liberal Democratic supporters of the past to come out and help the party keep our MPs.

  • @Alex Sabine: “Gordon Brown as Chancellor spent far more than the Lib Dems had ever called for, yet still the Lib Dem appetite for higher spending was not sated.”

    In ’97-’98 tax as a % of GDP in the UK was 34.8%, in ‘2009-2010 it was 34.5%, in between it fluctuated between 34.1% and 36.2% (source: http://bit.ly/1AhISe9 via The Guardian). Hardly a massive increase in taxation, is it? Meanwhile our more successful European neighbours continue to spend considerably more than that. I always viewed a penny on income tax as a stepping stone – an opening bit in the argument for higher taxation and a better state – rather than an end in itself.

  • Phil Rimmer 13th Feb '15 - 8:30am

    @ Bill Le Bretton – I can see where you are coming from with this but there is a huge problem with our party of all parties offering the electorate a pledge card. Rightly or wrongly, our party is now seen by a substantial proportion of the electorate as having lied on key policy issues. The leadership’s efforts to overcome this have, so far, failed. In my view, this makes the choice of the pledge card approach a huge campaigning error.

    Put this together with the fact that the design is awful and the “pledges” simply a statement that we are in favour of the good and against the bad whilst stand midway between Labour and Conservative, and you have a recipe for a manifesto which, whilst it may not harm our election performance, certainly wont help it any.

  • Bill le Breton 13th Feb '15 - 8:52am

    Phil, I appreciate that weakness – but I am not sure that the Trust issue affects the whole Party so much as its figure head. That is a misfortune (to write the least). But our MPs and local campaigners have their reputations largely intact. And certain MPs still have their national reputations intact.

    The format I outlined above gives these MPs and local campaigners a central role in communicating the targets for the Party in the next Parliament.

    It is a way of going with the grain of why we used to succeed and not against the grain of continuing to focus on a leader whose credibility is utterly ruined.

    On another thread there is a debate about the so-called professionalisation of the party’s central resources. And the highly talented and experienced Hywel points to the evidence that we are simply not delivering literally and metaphorically at ground level (as compared with our opponents). THat would have been unthinkable even five years ago.

    So, something has to be done to raise the support given to our grassroot campaigners and activists by giving them more responsibility for delivering the campaign. Ditto some of our MPs who still have reputations intact.

    Agreed about #pledges’ but use the word targets.

    At the moment we are plodding along using outdated methods. Because they are based on the perceived need to professionalise our approach. We win where we are a disruptive force. Campaigners who are disruptive are anything but professional. That is something that the present leadership simply does not have the imagination to grasp. Because they are the Establishment that needs disrupting.

    What we are doing now is not working. So it must be changed – even at this late hour.

    Jennie says that the present team are worn down but the fire (even friendly fire). So do what Clinton did – bring in fresh troops and fresh ideas. He used to have a ‘last week team’. We need a Last 80 days team …. and a last week team for the first 7 days of May as well.

    It is unbelivable how poor our campaign is at present.

  • If there are no ‘red lines’ how are we the voters to know what principles the Party would fight to the death for?

  • Jayne Mansfield 13th Feb '15 - 10:50am

    Do the producers of this front page understand the psychology of colour? One glance and I am suffering from emotional overload and confusion.

    I have an eyesight problem and the only lettering that is clear to me is the black on yellow and quite frankly, opportunity for all would have sufficed. There is nothing about the design of this front page that would inspire me to make the effort to read on and delve deeper, which I thought was the purpose of a front page.

    All personal opinion of course.

  • @jedibeeftrix: “But Jack, that is there political outlook based on the settled will of their people. My point was precisely that their seems to be no similar political settlement in this country. It does not appear possible to get elected on the platform of adopting ‘extreme’ social democracy of our continental neighbours.”

    Why are you ignoring my post above where I addressed this very point. There is no possibility of shifting the UK onto a more sensible tax footing within a single parliament that does not mean that progress in the right direction cannot be made. It would help, a lot, if at least some politicians were prepared to repeatedly and vocally make the case for taxation instead of letting the ideological opposition of the Tory party go unchallenged.

  • @ Bill Le Bretton – thanks Bill, I can’t argue with any of that. Finding an effective way to use some of the poor stuff coming out of the national campaign will, for some constituencies, make a lot more sense than simply ignoring it – which is what I would do if I were running a reasonably well financed constituency campaign.

  • Someone mentioned the lack of electoral reform. Well, I heard Nigel Farage on LBC this morning saying that UKIP have taken up this cause now and want to fight for Proportional Representation for the House of Commons.

  • Alex Sabine 13th Feb '15 - 4:37pm

    @ Jack
    We need to bear in mind the the context here: In 1997 the public finances were still recovering from the early ’90s recession and Tory Chancellors Norman Lamont and Ken Clarke had set in train a measured fiscal consolidation plan to be completed by the end of the decade.

    They front-loaded tax rises in 1993-95, which increased the ratio of receipts to GDP from its low point of 33.7% of GDP in 1993-94 to 34.9% by 1996-97. Measures to rein in spending were introduced more gradually so the spending:GDP ratio only drifted down slowly until Clarke put in place tougher plans for 1996-97 and the subsequent two years.

    In order to win credibility with voters and the markets, Gordon Brown pledged to stick to these plans and broadly did so until he started making his own policy in 1999. He also increased taxes relative to Clarke’s plans which initially strengthened the already improving public finances, yielding sizeable budget surpluses in 1999-2000 and 2000-01 and giving Brown a ‘war chest’ to deploy in good time for the 2001 election and beyond.

    Thereafter his Chancellorship entered a very different, and defining, phase as he increased spending much faster than national income from 2000 onwards. Despite his best efforts with an increase in NI and a raft of ‘stealth taxes’, and notwithstanding buoyant revenues from the overheating property and financial sectors, he was not able to get the receipts:GDP ratio any higher than it had been in 2000-01 (in fact it dropped marginally, with some fluctuations as you say).

    Of course, you can ignore the macroeconomic context if you choose. But by the same logic you have to extend the comparison to 2009-10, when spending was almost 10 percentage points higher than a decade earlier. Clearly this exaggerates the true picture, since the fall in GDP itself was a big part of the reason for the (unplanned) sharp rise in the spending ratio over Labour’s final two years of office.

    The figures for receipts and spending are as follows (from the OBR/Public Finances Databank, updated in January 2015):
    1996-97:  34.9% / 38.2%
    1997-98:  36.4% / 37%
    2000-01:  37.8% / 36.2%
    2004-05:  36.7% / 40.1%
    2007-08:  37.5% / 40.2%
    2009-10:  35.5% / 45.7%

    http://budgetresponsibility.org.uk/wordpress/docs/PSF_aggregates_databank_Jan_2015.xls

  • Alex Sabine 13th Feb '15 - 5:22pm

    In any case, when in 1997 the Lib Dems called for a ‘penny on income tax’, they did so in order to raise an additional £2 billion for education relative to the then Conservative government’s plans (the spending plans laid out by Ken Clarke), not relative to spending remaining constant as a share of GDP. Clarke’s plans involved public spending continuing to fall as a proportion of GDP to complete the fiscal tightening begun in 1993. The Lib Dem proposals entailed spending being slightly higher as a percentage of GDP than in the baseline Clarke scenario, but still lower than the actual 1996-97 level. There was still a structural budget deficit in 1997 that needed to be eliminated.

    My main point was that, once the structural deficit of the 1990s had been dealt with over the 1993-2000 period, Brown increased spending (and not just on education but across the public services and welfare state) by a much larger magnitude than the Lib Dems had called for either in 1997 or 2001. Yet in 2005 they still called for more. The facts changed but, pace Keynes, they did not change their minds.

    This was part of a more general tendency across British politics to allow Brown to set the terms of debate according to his rhetorical dividing lines (eg ‘investment versus cuts’, whereby a reduction in his planned rate of spending growth would be labelled a ‘cut’) and big-state paradigm, rather than to challenge him on what he was actually doing and draw up policies that took account of the changing reality (ie what may have been appropriate in 1997 was unlikely to be so in 2005, when the context was completely different). The Tories fell into this trap as well as the Lib Dems.

    Interestingly, there is an echo of this today with the complaints (mostly from left-of-centre critics, but also from Jeremy Browne) that the party under Nick Clegg is allowing itself to be defined by others and that being ‘anchored in the centre ground’ really means tracking the moving targets of where the two main parties choose to position themselves. Much the same criticism applies to the Lib Dem posture in the ‘Noughties’; it’s just that back then this manifested itself not in a ‘split the difference’ approach but one that involved always calling for just a little bit more spending than whatever Gordon Brown was delivering. As well as being unimaginative and empirically unsound, this approach left the party highly exposed when (after the 2005 election) it dawned on the economic team that Brown’s ship was heading for the rocks even before the financial crisis holed it below the waterline.

  • The only tax increase in 2005 was raising the 40p band to 50p for incomes above 100,000 which was for two specific policies (Fees and elderly care).

    As to the Brown etc spending plans, the 2010 manifesto was still running with the broad message of more spending on education as the pupil premium was c.£2.5bn of money from outside the existing schools budget.

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Feb '15 - 5:41pm

    Alex Sabine

    This was part of a more general tendency across British politics to allow Brown to set the terms of debate according to his rhetorical dividing lines (eg ‘investment versus cuts’, whereby a reduction in his planned rate of spending growth would be labelled a ‘cut’) and big-state paradigm, rather than to challenge him on what he was actually doing and draw up policies that took account of the changing reality

    The changing reality is many more people going to university than used to be the case, many more people living into their 80s and longer than used to be the case, and other such things. So, if you are going you keep to the idea that university education is heavily subsidised by the state, that the state pays a reasonable level of pension and provides health care and social care for all, and so on, state expenditure as a proportion of GDP will rise. To call this “big state paradigm”, as if it is some big change in what the state does, equivalent to large scale nationalisation, or taking over published media, or some such thing is wrong. By using these words you are trying to cheat people. If there are many more people having the sort of on-going care that people in their 80s and 90s tend to need, I don’t see that as some sort of terrible “Big Brother” take over of society by the state. The language you use suggests you do, or at least you want to mislead people into thinking that’s what it is by not being honest about where the money is actually going.

    If people don’t want to pay the taxes for these things, then they have to accept the alternative. This is where political debate is dishonest. It talks about raising tax allowances and other forms of tax cuts, and puts out the message that any call for tax rises are just due to “envy”, but doesn’t mention the consequences. We have already seen the consequences with university tuition. If we follow your line of thought, there must be more things like that. If, on reflection, people don’t want to pay the taxes that would enable us to keep the NHS going, well, fine, that’s their decision. But let’s have an honest debate about that, and that means people like you stating just that – that you want to see an end to the NHS as it has existed since its foundation.

  • “But let’s have an honest debate about that, and that means people like you stating just that – that you want to see an end to the NHS as it has existed since its foundation.”

    The good old British public still isn’t ready for that debate yet. That is why there is, as you rightly say, a lack of honesty from the political class on the subject. Our dreadful (by the standards of much of Europe) socialised health system, with patients dying of thirst, survival rates at the bottom for many conditions, billions wasted by the inefficiencies of the of quasi Soviet bureaucracy is STILL an article of Holy Writ.

    Even Farage, the most outspoken (I would argue honest but maybe I am parti pris) leader in modern politics doesn’t dare say the truth. Understandably so given the firestorm of vitriol he received for an unexceptionable comment he made a while ago.

    But we will have to have a rational debate one day. And the longer we postpone it as a nation the worse it will be. We can’t go on ring fencing NHS spending and letting the rest of the public sector go hang.

    The demographics are devastating and we are pouring water into a can with holes in it wondering why it never fills.

    The dissatisfaction and rationing will just get worse and worse as we spend more and more money we don’t have. It was a noble idea but it failed. I am certainly prepared to say that and so should UKIP be, but sadly they are not.

    Will this be the last election it gets treated as a sacred cow though? I wish I could say so, but have my doubts sadly…

  • The problem is the only way you will hold power is in opposition so what ever the policies are of the main party will be your policies.

    So the issue is to day which party are you looking at it’s it labour then you will be the party of working people, I love your going to get people with mental health better so they can get back to work, but I do not know a single disabled person who does not have mental health issue.
    I’m paraplegic so I have serious mental health issues, but vote you lot nope likely, I’ve doe so in the past mind you, but your sell out with the Tories means I just cannot trust you any more.

    Being disabled you have all parties seeing us as either not fit to live or an easy target to get votes.

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