Nick Clegg announces red line on education

Nick Clegg has announced tonight that protecting the education budget is going to be a deal breaker in any coalition negotiations and that we would not enter any coalition without ensuring that funding would be raised by £6.3 billion over the next Parliament. He told the BBC he would:

not accept under any circumstances the cuts to nurseries, to schools and to colleges that both Conservatives and now Labour have announced”.

And if we don’t get that we wouldn’t enter into a coalition in the first place,” he continued.

We are the only party to protect from cradle to college, from nursery to 19-year-olds.

In pounds and pence – per year – we will be spending £2.5bn more than Labour, £5bn more than the Tories. That is a significant difference.

Party President Sal Brinton emailed party members tonight to elaborate on Nick’s announcement:

This is an incredibly uncertain election – perhaps the most uncertain I have ever known. The only thing I can honestly tell you I’m sure of is this; nobody is going to win. Labour and the Tories won’t admit it, but every pollster agrees that no party will have a majority. We shouldn’t pre-empt the election result but with our target seat teams delivering some absolutely incredible campaigns, as President part of my job is to make sure the party is ready for what may come post-election.

Our priority in any coalition negotiations after the election will be to deliver the priorities that you, our members, have decided through our manifesto process. Just like in 2010, where the four priorities on the front page of our manifesto were the priorities for the negotiations , our negotiation team will be led by the manifesto front page that was decided by the Federal Policy Committee, and the pre-manifesto that was agreed by conference.

You’ll see this evening that Nick has identified the first “red line” for us to consider entering a second coalition government, which is our manifesto pledge to project the education budget from “cradle to college”. As Liberals we know that education more than anything else is what empowers individuals, so it’s right that we make this a prerequisite of us forming a government.

Of course, just as the priorities Nick is arguing for in public are the ones decided by the party, so the process of entering a coalition is governed by the party as well.  If you’d like to know more about the party’s process if we are in a position to begin coalition negotiations after the election, click here.

If after May the 7th we are in a position to enter negotiations then you’ll be hearing a lot more from me, including how individual members can feed into the process.

Until then I know you’ll be focused on exactly the same thing I am – electing as many Lib Dem MPs and Councillors as possible so we can deliver as much of our manifesto as possible. If you’re not yet signed up to help a particular target seat this week why not make some phone calls from home? Just fill in this form and one of the team will be in touch.

A couple of quick thoughts from me:

It’s hardly a surprise. and the party is nothing if not consistent. Remember the penny on income tax to pay for education in 1992. Education is something that goes to the very heart of liberalism, as an end in itself, not just as a means to work. One of the great things the Lib Dems have done in this Parliament is to channel extra money to disadvantaged kids in school to help them one day break out of poverty.

However, thought will need to be given on other red lines. This only applies to England. The party will have to offer something a bit special to Scotland, a bit more than “we won’t work for the SNP.” Full implementation of the Smith Commission measures is something that all 3 parties have promised to do so it can’t be that. Likewise, Wales needs something, too – perhaps that alteration of the Barnett Formula in their favour. But then where does that leave our USP on the NHS, being the only party to present a fully-funded plan on the £8 billion. That again is England only.

The Conservative Party has done enormous damage to the union in recent weeks with its shameless and cynical posturing about the SNP. We need a deal-breaker that gets the relationship between the two countries back on track.

Thirdly, we’d better be careful about pre-announcing too many red lines. Because we’ll have to get them in full. Or else there will be trouble. One pledge unfulfilled could be forgiven. Two, well, Lady Bracknell would be very disapproving.

And one final thought. It would be lovely if we members could get these emails before the press, just once or twice. I first heard about this while watching tv in the garage after limping there with a very flat tyre. The email from Sal came in an hour or too later.The other way around would be good.


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

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This entry was posted in News.


  • Eddie Sammon 27th Apr '15 - 9:49pm

    Caron I agree about not setting too many red lines. I want to be more positive about the Lib Dems, but the Lib Dem election campaign seems to have gone: education, mental health, nhs, first timers buyers, SNP, Blukip and back to education. There are areas that are not even getting a look in and didn’t really get a look in in the manifesto either.

    Norman Lamb did well today to squeeze military veterans into his mental health campaigning, All it would take is someone to say they are going to set up an enterprise or military workers and families commission and it would send the right message. I don’t think something mild like this would require a vote at conference.

    Of course these areas were mentioned in the manifesto, but there is a big gap in emphasis. The police isn’t getting much support either.

  • Caron’s point about keeping this red line is essential.

    We smiply can now never go back on this – and I for one don’t want the party to do so. If we are in the situation to enforce this we must, or walk away. This isn’t 2010 – the economy is not in the state it was, we should be prepared to totally stand by them. Let others chose not to support the policy.

  • “The only thing I can honestly tell you I’m sure of is this; nobody is going to win. Labour and the Tories won’t admit it, but every pollster agrees that no party will have a majority.”

    It amazes me, given what happened in 1992, that everybody is putting so much faith in the polls. I still think it’s perfectly possible that one party (most likely the Tories) could scrape a majority.

    I’m dismayed by the endless emphasis the Tories and Lib Dems are putting on all this post-election speculation. The whole election has been turned in to a game. It’s to Miliband’s immense credit that he’s the only leader trying to avoid such talk and concentrate on the issues.

  • @Stuart

    Miliband is only avoiding such talk becasue discussing it means acknowledging Scotland and not being able to ignore an SNP on 54%.

  • So – It’s an extra £6.3 bn “over the next Parliament”, and Nick also says “In pounds and pence – per year – we will be spending £2.5bn more than Labour, £5bn more than the Tories.” I’m not sure how these figures add up. Thus if we spend £5bn “more than the Tories” per year, that totals £25bn over a 5-year parliament. Can anyone clarify?

    What’s to stop Ed Cameron or Dave Miliband from promising this big spend, signing up the Lib Dems as partners, and then saying after a year or 2 months or whatever “dreadfully sorry, but the economic ship of state seems to have sailed into the jolly old stormy weather dontcha know, and we’ll have to cut…”?

  • “One pledge unfulfilled could be forgiven. Two, well, Lady Bracknell would be very disapproving.”

    It beggars belief that we could consider breaking even just one pledge. Have you not looked at what happened to the polls the last time we made a pledge and broke it? Have you not spoken to the students who feel a lasting deep sense of betrayal over the last one? Do you not realise most people outside the party (and plenty in it) no longer trust a word that Nick Clegg says because of it?

    You couldn’t make it up!

  • Pupil premium seemed like a good idea but it hasnt provided extra places when and where they were needed and its impacted spending on special needs. Under this government if I want my kids to go to a good school I have to move house or build a new school myself.

  • David Blake 28th Apr '15 - 7:00am

    I agree with Stuart. The Tory campaign is based on fear and unfortunately that sometimes succeeds. I wouldn’t be surprised if they get a very small overall majority. This endless talk about coalition means that we don’t talk about much else – and if we do it doesn’t get reported.

  • @James

    The one broken pledge was the 2010 Tuition Fees, Caron was not saying we cannot break another. Thought that was quite clear.

  • Bill le Breton 28th Apr '15 - 7:37am

    Morning ATF. You are right about the special status of a red line for us post tuition fees.

    I was therefore a little worried to hear the BBC news at 10 report ending with the suggestion that the reporter had been led to believe that this would not be the last LD red line we would learn of over the next few days.

    For the reason you give above, this communication of red lines looks an important change of strategy.

    Would you be prepared to say what you think may be going on.

    Is this a recognition that the Blukip campaign has gained no traction?

    Is it an effort to redirect people to the front page manifesto pledges?

    It seems a desperate measure as it does cut down options in future dialogue post election results, and not just in the days that follow, but througout the Parliamnet?

  • How about a red line against the combination of the reduction in the welfare cap along with tax cuts for the rich as promised by Osborne?
    If that isn’t a red line what are we in politics for?!!!

  • Morning Bill,

    Well, we have now discovered the second red line. Would imagine more is to come – mental health funding a likely area.

    Think this is important because;

    – Does make clear those front page policies
    – Makes people aware what would be push for in Govt
    – Makes clear the reasons why we may walk away from Govt (which we should be prepared to do)
    – If promoted properly, will mean that Con and Lab will be pushed on why they wouldn’t support such policies

    So yes, on a whole I think it is a good thing. It gives us definition when five parties and not three are dominating the airwaves.

    PS. On a local level, I think Blukip has gained some traction – I’ve found it to be a good message for Lab voters in LD/Con seats. The problem with it is that it won’t have cut through in anything but those seats, but that is the campaign we are running: hyper-local.

  • I think a clear statement on the Lib Dem ‘red lines’ would have been very useful before the 2010 GE, then we would all have been clear that the priorities were the four (?) issues on the front page of the Manifesto, and that tuition fees was not one of them. It might have spared some of the anguish which came later. Setting out red lines now, after saying at the launch of the Manifesto that no red lines would be spelt out at this stage, is very strange for two reasons. First it’s a u-turn which looks a bit desperate, and secondly, there is an element of hubris about it – a party which is likely to be halved in terms of seats in just over a week’s time and relegated to fourth or even fifth place is laying down its terms and conditions for being the ‘Kingmakers’ – seems a teeny bit arrogant to be honest.

  • John Barrett 28th Apr '15 - 10:35am

    I agree with Nick…..Barlow.

    If we are planning to use the red line strategy as a way of convincing the electorate that Liberal Democrats in Government are a good thing, we should remember two things.

    The first, is that if the plan to convince the electorate that getting the party back into Government is what we really want, that will not convince many people to vote for us. Our sister party in Germany (the FDP) tried that line and were reduced from over 90 MPs to 0 in the election that followed. While that will not happen here, we need to make it clear what we stand for and our vision for the future must be more than moderating what the other larger parties want.

    Secondly, after 2010, many people still do not trust we will deliver what we promise and just saying that an issue on the front page of our manifesto will be something we consider a red line is fine…….until someone mentions electoral reform.

    The more red lines Nick announces, the less likely it will be to be able to deliver on all of them.

    Also, if the opinion polls are wrong and one party has a majority, how can we rebuild, if our lasting message from the campaign is that all we wanted to do was borrow less than Labour and cut less than the Tories?

  • William Hobhouse writes:

    > …Labour would not be in the frame without the SNP, and The Lib Dems have
    > ruled that out… if this is a red line, what evidence is there that the
    > Conservatives would be reluctant to say no?

    I don’t know, but if Labour and the Conservatives both say ‘no’, the Lib Dems still have other options, if they want them, including another election or passive support with no deal.

    Assuming a second election does not appeal, the Lib Dem leader might issue a statement along the lines of “we don’t like the new Party X government, but the people have spoken and we do not intend to force another election… therefore the Liberal Democrats will not be voting against the government on motions of confidence for the foreseeable future.”

    The Lib Dems would still be able to defend their red lines to the extent that the government required legislation to breach them, (and there was solidarity in opposition).

    Also, as it appears Clegg is presenting these as red lines for a power sharing deal, one could make the case that they would apply less and less the further the Lib Dems got away from having a deal and being in power.

    That is not to say that any of these routes would necessarily be advisable.

  • Too little, too late. Teacher’s incomes have fallen 12% in real terms. I have voted Labour this time, after decades of voting Lib Dem. I hope I can return, but you need to get rid of the market fundamentalism.

  • @GPBurnell please give details of this “market fundamentalism” of which you speak.

  • Following on from John Barrett, I am glad the focus has shifted somewhat back to policy, but we really must not forget the disillusionment with us among the electorate and former members. There are also many remaining members who are hanging on in the hope of a change of direction after May 7th to rebuild the party. Another coalition with the Tories could well spell the end of us in 2020.
    A coalition with Labour would in theory set the record straight, that we are different from either of them, However, if a coalition with Labour is not sensible due to the election result or inability of Labour to negotiate to our satisfaction, we should NOT go into any coalition and look long-term to campaigning among the people to gain support for a truly comprehensive set of Liberal policies. If we do that in the next 5 years that will be a much better achievement than being once again heavily compromised in government. It is not only a matter of red lines. Have we not yet learned that coalition also means being associated with other policies that we totally disagree with ? The only way round that problem, would be to resign from a coalition as soon as we feel unable to support the other party on a major issue.
    I am also concerned at this idea that we negotiate with the party that has the largest number of MPs. Technically that is legitimate, but are we not the party that believes the present system is fundamentally flawed, due to the lack of proportional representation? Surely, the first criteria is the party that has the largest number of votes.
    We are still in danger of further loosing our way. Our manifesto has a good set of policies in the circumstances, but we still are not conveying to the public what we really stand for.

  • Tony Greaves 28th Apr '15 - 11:52am

    One of the building blocks of this campaign was “no red lines”. Funny how things change under the pressure of failure to make an impact. But who decides what the red lines will be (one a day between now and PD?) And who thinks hard about the medium term implications of making these top, unassailable priorities (or indeed breaking them). Does no-one think beyond tomorrow morning any more?


  • @Nigel Jones let’s face it, we’re never going to govern on our own and inevitably any coalition we go into will have policies that we disagree with.

    So – the choices are purist inaction (and pointlessness) or messy real world compromise and delivery.

    I know which party I’d rather be in.

  • Eddie Sammon 28th Apr '15 - 12:15pm

    Tony Greaves is right to ask “does nobody think beyond tomorrow anymore?”. None of the parties manifestos will survive first contact with reality and the party with the most red lines will probably come off worst.

    I want to give the leadership some slack because I know they are more pragmatic, but reading the comments on this website and the manifesto it is clear the party wants to go back to being for the minority and by the minority. Perpetual opposition in the hope that they can introduce PR and swap some safe seats for other safe seats. Some radical plan for change.

  • Eddie Sammon 28th Apr ’15 – 12:15pm

    Eddie, there is a an odd mismatch within the party between those who by and large have experience of success in getting elected themselves and buiding a successful party at local council level and electing MPs in their localities and those who are apparently absolutely desperate to keep Cameron in Downing St.

    To suggest that those who want to get Cameron out of Downing St want perpetual opposition is to fall for a propaganda line which does not bingo their than help the Tories.

    I cannot remember meeting anyone within either the Liberal Party or the Liberal Democrats who favours or seeks perpetual opposition. Now I have only been meeting people in the party for 45 years and I suppose it possible that there are such people. If you or anyone in this thread can name one such person , please tell me who they are.

  • Nigel Jones 28th Apr '15 - 5:31pm

    First, let me say that I am not ruling out negotiations in my previous comment, though I am not in favour of another coalition with the Tories.
    Second, let me say that those of us who see benefits in being in opposition for the next 5 years are NOT suggesting we be in perpetual opposition. That is a distortion of what is being said. It is important to rebuild the party and campaign to get more support for our distinctive values and policies among the general public, ready to go into government later. Indeed is it right for us to be in government when we have such a small part of the vote ?
    Indeed, I am a member of a local party (now group leader) that has in the recent past been in coalition with Tories and I was on the cabinet for part of that time, until we lost to Labour control. The situation locally is a lack of certainty that any one local party will be able to run the council after 7 May. I have recently been formally advised from the LGA Lib-Dems, that for the next year at least, we need to stay in opposition and build up support in the local communities.
    Those who claim that our best interests always are to be in government are wrong. Look long-term to build to be in government later in the future may well be the very best way forward.

  • Eddie –
    That sentence should had been –

    “…To suggest that those who want to get Cameron out of Downing St want perpetual opposition is to fall for a propaganda line which does nothing other than help the Tories.”

    How the word “bingo” crept in there is beyond me.
    No doubt it is something to do with the wonders of I-Pad

  • Bill le Breton 28th Apr '15 - 7:35pm

    I have another question now I have had a chance to read about the new red line.

    In what way would the stability budget differ from the fiscal plans outlined in our manifesto?

    Why should we expect another Party to change its fiscal manifesto proposals to match ours?

    Are we campaigning on our own self-importance?

    I think this redlining fest will alienate a lot of people. It reveals character and not an attractive one. Self aggrandizement, which I suspect plays to people’s suspicion of our Leader.

  • Eddie Sammon 28th Apr '15 - 11:06pm

    Hi John, I agree that the community politics approach perhaps has more merit than I thought in the past. I am particularly impressed with the way the SNP have attracted the working class vote by simply showing a bit more solidarity.

    However, I have concerns about whether a community politics approach can work in government to the same effect. MPs arhieve under a lot of pressure as it is.

    I have seen at least one person on here say “the most a liberal party can expect to ac

  • Eddie Sammon 28th Apr '15 - 11:12pm

    Hi John, I agree that the community politics approach perhaps has more merit than I thought in the past. I am particularly impressed with the way the SNP have attracted the working class vote by simply showing a bit more solidarity.

    However, I have concerns about whether a community politics approach can work in government to the same effect. MPs are under a lot of pressure as it is.

    I have seen at least one person on here say “the most a liberal party can expect to achieve is 25% of the vote” and going by the ideas and the rhetoric that many want I get the impression that that is what they are aiming for.

    Happy birthday by the way.

    Nigel, I too think spending the next five years in opposition could be good, but going by the rhetoric and ideas that people suggest I don’t think they have plans for ever winning a majority. It is not just about power, I like appealing to the majority.

    Best regards

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