The “trailblazing, hell-raising rule breaking Rennie”

Another Friday, another day Willie Rennie wins the internet.

I don’t think there has ever been such fun at a manifesto launch ever.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats’ manifesto is centred around opportunity in so many ways. Children are at the very heart of it, so it seemed appropriate that the event took place in a soft play event in Edinburgh. And if you are going to go there, you need to get into the spirit of the place. You can’t afford to look too stiff and sober. And Willie didn’t.

The team got three specific things right. First a bit of humour, reminding everyone how you won the internet last week too.

And, let’s be honest, it’s a bit of a treat to imagine hard-nosed political hacks being asked to wait in a room like this:

Finally, if you have a leader who can do a 3 second pitch while going down a slide, then that’s a talent you have to exploit.

Jamie Ross from Buzzfeed absolutely loved it:

Asked by the Scottish Sun if people can take him seriously after he spent the morning sliding down volcanoes, Rennie was defiant:

“I’m having the best campaign of my life, I’m thoroughly enjoying it, and actually politics can sometimes be a little bit fun.
“I’m sorry to say, guys, I know you’re reporting on it all the time, but actually having a bit of fun does no harm. We have tackled the big issues in this campaign: investing in education, challenging Amazon on tax, people being paid below the proper living wage, making sure we get proper investment in mental health services.”

He added: “You’re allowed to do both – you can raise big issues and have a bit of fun at the same time. It’s fine, and I noticed you’ve printed the pictures.”

You have to read the whole article because it has lots of video clips of Willie sliding down things.  Like chocolate and garlic, that’s something you can’t have too much of.

Three ways to read the manifesto

The whole event seems to have gone down very well with our journalist friends, but what of the substance of the manifesto?

Well, here it is.

If trying to read that drives you to the point of wanting to rip your own eyes out, there is a nice pdf version here.

My favourite way to browse through is this page, which groups the main points under each of our values.

You have the big ticket items, the penny on income tax to invest £500m a year in schools, colleges and nurseries with a Pupil Premium to help disadvantaged kids, the investment in mental health, giving it parity with physical health and having a mental health professional in every primary care centre, treating drugs as a health rather than a criminal issue. There’s also things that proper old fashioned liberals will love, like a long term move towards Land Value Taxation to replace the Council Tax.

There’s also plenty to upset the Daily Mail. Along with the drugs stuff, there’s decriminalisation of sex work, recognising non binary gender identity and outlawing physical punishment of children. All these are good, solid liberal policies.

One of the powers devolved to the Scottish Parliament by the most recent Scotland Act is the power to vary abortion law. The manifest o clear that we will “retain existing abortion legislation.”

Changing the law on defamation to make it more liberal is also in there:

Protect free speech, investigative journalism and academic peer-reviewed publishing through reform of the law on defamation to ensure it is suitable for the digital age, has a ‘public interest’ defence, and is available for genuine cases and not used to curtail free expression.

Protecting the environment is something that we have always been passionate about and there’s a section devoted to various ways of tackling climate change. Low carbon for transport and energy production, making sure homes are built to higher energy efficiency standards, heavy investment in renewables are all good things. WWF Scotland is broadly welcoming of the policies, although they say we could have had clearer targets fro investment in renewables. They particularly liked the warmer homes elements:

With over half of Scotland’s climate change emissions coming from heating, we’ve consistently called for new policies in this important area. It’s great therefore to see a strong focus on this in the Scottish Liberal Democrats’ manifesto. With several clear policies including local municipal energy strategies and support for a new Warm Homes Act, their manifesto provides a welcome focus on reducing emissions from heating.

Our mojo has re-entered the building

I probably haven’t felt this excited by a manifesto since 2003, when we were building on our success over tuition fees and free personal care in the first Labour/Lib Dem coalition. That 2003 manifesto had STV for local government (delivered) and free eye and dental checks (also delivered) at its heart. We had lost our way in policy making terms quite a way before the Westminster coalition. Today’s manifesto shows that our mojo is well and truly back in the building.

It feels really good to have a manifesto I feel confident about, that I feel reflects our values and who we are as a party. We are singing loud and clear about who we are. It shows as off as the planet-saving, establishment-busting, freedom loving, people trusting party we are to our core. “Rennie’s penny” is already going down well on the doorsteps. Our positive focus on education is engaging people. We’ll know in just under three weeks if it’s delivered the growth that we think is achievable.

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

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