Six red lines

Over the last week Nick Clegg has been drip-feeding his negotiating red lines. And here they are:

key_NHS-red-line (1)


key_Public-sector-workers-red-line (1)

key_tax-red-line (1)

key_economic red line

But that’s only five, I hear you say. I’m afraid I can’t find the graphic for the sixth red line on protecting the environment, and indeed very little has been said about it. I would like to know whether each of the proposed five green laws are themselves red lines. They are:

  1. Zero Carbon Britain Act
  2. Resource Efficiency and Zero Waste Britain Act
  3. Green Transport Act
  4. Green Buildings Act
  5. Nature Act

None of the red lines should have surprised any of us – or any other party, for that matter. They are all hinted at on the front page of the manifesto, which was revealed some weeks before the full manifesto was launched.


In some ways, what is more interesting are the policies that are NOT included as red lines. There has been some concern that Nick has refused to rule out a referendum on the EU. But, as Caron Lindsay says, that does not mean that he agrees with it. What policies do you think should have been included as red lines?


Since this post was published HQ have issued a summary of all six red lines, with a new graphic.




* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames and is a member of Federal Conference Committee.

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  • Maybe the environment stuff comes under the heading of “Green Lines” ?

    Have they been downgraded already along with the 70 year Liberal commitment to Europe?

  • Tony Greaves 4th May '15 - 10:32am

    I hate to think what is meant by a Stability Budget.


  • Sorry to come back for a second time but I have just noticed in the Twitter column on this page a picture of people holding up diamond posters which each have a one word slogan.

    The words are –

    These are not obviously Liberal Democrat slogans or references to red lines , or the manifesto.

    They would not be out of place in the pages of George Orwell’s book ‘1984’.

    I fear that Big Brother would have approved of UNITY, STABILITY, DECENCY.

    So would David Cameron and most of the rightwing media.

    Whatever our own personal priorities (a word I prefer to red lines) we should be concerned that bland, Orwellian slogans are replacing Liberal Democrat slogans during this campaign.

  • Tsar Nicholas 4th May '15 - 11:24am

    Why weren’t tuition fees a red line in 2010?

  • paul barker 4th May '15 - 11:46am

    For me the top red line should be “No Referendums”. A Refendum on either Europe or Scotland would threaten the existence of The UK & that ought to come first. That is not a narrow concern with our own country, the break-up of the UK would only encourage similar trends in Belgium, Spain, Canada etc.
    If there is one Liberal value above all surely its Internationalism ?

  • Where is our commitment to environment, Europe, human rights, to name but three? Agree on weird Orwellian words. makes whole backdrop team look like a phoney gimmick.

  • Simon Oliver 4th May '15 - 12:03pm

    We are still waiting for a press release I think, but it was reported as an exclusive in the independent,and Marr mentioned it.

  • Denis Mollison 4th May '15 - 12:04pm

    I am very disappointed that electoral reform is not a red line. STV for local government elections (without need for a referendum!) was supposed to be one, but seems to have slipped down the agenda.

    As I’ve argued in a different piece on LDV though, the most promising avenue may be for a Constitutional Convention, because (1) other parties have called for it – Labour in their manifesto, UKIP in today’s news,
    and (2) a Convention on the lines of the Scottish one of the 1990s, or the British Columbia one on their voting system would take it out of the immediate power of the Con/Lab duo that have stifled recent attempts at reform. Of course they could still oppose whatever the Convention came up with, but if it is a cross-party or no-party consensus that will be much more awkward for them.

  • @John Tilley you may recall that the dystopia described in 1984 was left wing.

  • I thought the Lib Dem proposal was to increase spending by £8billion a year by 2020, not to increase it by that much every year, which is what the graphic says. They are significantly different promises.

  • Stevan Rose 4th May '15 - 12:14pm

    “For me the top red line should be “No Referendums”. A Refendum on either Europe or Scotland would threaten the existence of The UK & that ought to come first.”

    An EU referendum only threatens the UK if you think the arguments to remain in the EU as one UK are weak or you think the majority of the population are too stupid to see through the UKIP propaganda. I would like to see this party standing for a referendum on Europe and making the case strongly. Embrace the challenge. And it should then kill the debate for another generation. But the Tories are right and reform is necessary as this is not a Europe of equals that it once was but one of great economic disparity that creates push and pull from poor to wealthy, weakening all. I want the chance to say Yes to being a European. At the moment only UKIP and the Tories are offering me that so should I switch votes?

    On Scotland it is vital to commit strongly to delivering the devo-max promised, not conditional on anything else. I see no reason not to work with the SNP on that. As a separate matter I would like to see a truly federal UK with an English Parliament and the House of Lords converted into a Senate. To me that is how you preserve and strengthen the UK as a whole. There is no demand for a second Scottish referendum if what was promised is delivered. It doesn’t need to be a red line.

  • paul barker, such a red line would be contrary to supporting self determination, and thereby be neither liberal nor democratic.

    for me, am astounded that PR is not there, alone, as the one ORANGE
    line. If ever there was a time to pick fptp apart …

  • These are clearly calculated not to cross any of David Cameron’s red lines and have the hallmarks of having been pre-agreed within the coalition to be put into action if the numbers allow. Hence why a europe referendum is not a red line nor any sort of constitutional changes.

    It is clear that a Lib Dem vote is a vote for 5 more years of David Cameron and his chums with all that implies, while Lib Dem MPs slap them on the back and cheer them on and while the remaining decent activists despair and wonder why they bothered..

  • Nick Collins 4th May '15 - 1:11pm

    Al. Precisely so. Any list of Liberal red lines worthy of the name would surely include protection of the Human Rights Act.

  • David Allen 4th May '15 - 7:33pm

    These aren’t red lines, they’re blue lines. An invitation for the blue team to stroll across in harmony with Clegg.

  • David Allen 4th May '15 - 7:42pm

    If Clegg had the slightest intention of asking for any real concessions whatsoever from Cameron, they would have included a red line against the EU Referendum.

    But Cameron told Clegg he couldn’t have that, because the Tory Right wouldn’t wear it.

    Clegg, who says that he must be in government so that he can bravely stand up to the Tory Right, said “Oh help, oh OK Dave, anything you say, I’ll back down.”

    Don’t kid yourself that by voting LD you are going to provide Tory government with a heart. You’re just going to provide Tory government.

  • Peter Davies 4th May '15 - 8:29pm

    Given that half our campaign has been ‘a fairer society’, our first demand should be that the reduction in deficit is not disproportionately at the expense of the poor.

  • There shouldnt be any gimmicky red lines. People support the Lib Dems for a variety of reasons and these red lines dont properly address what differentiates us from the other parties.

  • Osborne has committed to reducing the benefit cap by £3k p.a. To reach max benefit kids are almost always involved. Given that this is not a red line it means this party is willing to condone reducing funding for our poorest kids whilst increasing personal allowances which will benefit the more affluent the most. Fantastic!!!!

  • Julian Tisi 5th May '15 - 12:26pm

    Dennis Mollison “I am very disappointed that electoral reform is not a red line.” I can understand this as electoral reform is long overdue. If we don’t collapse massively as all the pundits have predicted and remain a strong force I hope that PR for local government would get into any coalition agreement, if there is a coalition.

    But I can see why the party has chosen these red lines. They tally with our “stronger economy, fairer society” core message but above all they’re all entirely reasonable red lines. If either Labour or Tories try to say “we can’t do a deal with the Lib Dems because they insist on xxx” where xxx is any one of our red lines, they will be the ones to look unreasonable. On the other hand, if say PR for local government was a red line, either Tories or Labour could make us look like we were being unreasonable and use this as a stick to beat us.

    Suppose say 3 years from now, following an inconclusive election with say a Labour minority government but where Labour could have had a coalition with us but chose not to – everything has gone belly-up, with debt spiralling and companies taking flight, market instability and the SNP undermining them at every opportunity – what will the electorate think then? Will they think – “well Labour could have chosen stability but were too pig-headed to go with the entirely reasonable offer the Lib Dems gave them back in 2015” – or will they say “if only the Lib Dems hadn’t insisted on their pet PR project, we would now have the stability we had in the last parliament?”

  • Keith Sharp 6th May '15 - 9:57am

    While I accept Julian T’s point about the tactics of our selection of red lines, I truly hope local government electoral reform (as in Scotland) is not just being shovelled away somewhere. The party has been admirably consistent on this in the run up to tomorrow and this is no time to hold off. Arguably, reformists can take this a critical step further and be ready to raise the issue of the Westminster voting system, given the likely result and the fact that there are now many voices — Greens, Ukip, SNP, PC as well as us — all calling for change. How about STV for local government and an urgent constitutional convention/people’s assembly to look at reform for Westminster elections?

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