What should be in the Lib Dem manifesto if there’s a snap general election?

How would you spend £2 billion?

That is one of the questions in a survey to party members asking for their opinions on our platform for a snap general election.

My answer was on house-building. If people have somewhere safe and secure to call home,  that has such a huge positive impact on every other area of their lives.

The difficult bit was then explaining where you would get the money from. That, for me, was easy – take it from defence and most especially the budget line that goes “like for like replacement for Trident.”

Many people think that the prospect of a quick poll has now receded, but if Labour are still imploding next Spring, would Theresa May resist the temptation to kill them off for good and aim for a much increased majority? Of course, that gamble may not pay off – and it’s our job as Lib Dems to make sure that it doesn’t. Making sure we have a strong message is a good exercise to complete anyway so even if there is no election, this is very important work.

With that in mind, the party is consulting members on our priorities for our manifesto. An email from Lords Chief Whip Dick Newby, who is chairing the group charged with pulling the manifesto together, said:

The manifesto group is already working hard to make sure we have the best platform possible in the event of a snap election.

But we need your help.

Tell us what you want to see in our manifesto now by doing one of these three things:

  1. Respond to the consultation – join the 4000 members who have already told us what they think and respond to our online manifesto consultation now – it’ll only take 5 minutes.

  2. Come to a discussion event – find an event near you at liberalbritain.org/events. Join a discussion with your local party to tell us what you want to see in the manifesto and how we can build a more liberal Britain.

  3. Host your own event – can’t see an event? Organise your own. Invite local members and follow the plan – simple. You can get in touch with Your Liberal Britain for some help if you need it.

Some of the questions are way too simplistic, but at least it will provide a snapshot of how the party is thinking.

It’s amazing to think that just over a year ago, Your Liberal Britain didn’t exist.  It’s great to see how this initiative from last year’s new members has become such an integral part of our policy making process. They want to know about your vision for what a Liberal Britain looks like. I went to a YLB event at Spring Conference in York. We had several speakers (including me) talk about how we thought a Liberal Britain would serve the people and then the audience was asked to contribute their ideas. It was a very stimulating evening so if there is an event near you, I can highly recommend it.

We’ve run a few posts from people sharing their vision of a Liberal Britain. You can read them here, and if you want to contribute your own 500 word article for that series, just send it to us at [email protected]

You only have until Friday to respond to the consultation, so get to it.

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

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  • I didn’t like this consultation at all – it will mislead whoever uses the results.

    E.g. I think £2bn should come from scrapping the very unfair pensions triple lock, which means pensions rise faster than earnings. But all I could say is ‘I want to cut the benefits bill’, which is not the same thing at all. The other questions have similar problems.

  • I wanted a “none of the above” answer on several of those.

    The main thing I would like to see our manifesto do is to stop being a prenegotiated coalition agreement and start being properly radical and liberal, mind. For ALL policies.

  • Also:

    “The difficult bit was then explaining where you would get the money from. That, for me, was easy – take it from defence and most especially the budget line that goes “like for like replacement for Trident.””

    I put defence too, but it’s telling that “increased taxation” wasn’t even an option.

  • Eddie Sammon 27th Jul '16 - 3:58pm

    Not a member, but I’d like to any planned increases on higher rate tax payers scrapped (but not additional rate payers).

    I want the re-introduction of the 50p rate, but scrap National Insurance above this amount so it is 50% and not 52%.

    I don’t have faith in any “mansion tax”. I think it would be expensive to implement.

    What would I spend it on? Well, besides getting rid of the deficit I would go for the NHS. We could do with improving maternity services and others.

    What cuts would I like to see? Some cuts in state intervention in financial services. Free advice is a threat to much of the industry and I’d prefer to see a voucher system in place for this.

    When it comes to defence cuts: I’d support some of the Trident money going back into it, but not meeting the 2% target would threaten Nato, so I’m not sure if it is feasible at the moment. We could scrap Entrepreneur’s relief and other enterprise tax reliefs, but these need to be phased out because entire industries are based on venture capital tax relief. We could perhaps cut capital allowances too and align it more with depreciation.

    I could think of much else waste in government spending at the moment. A lot has been cut since 2010.

  • Eddie Sammon 27th Jul '16 - 4:00pm

    I can’t think of much else waste I mean, not could. Amend that if you can. 🙂

  • How can there be a snap election?. The Government would not call a Vote of No Confidence in itself, if it did and won there would a 14 day calling off period, another government majority or minority could be formed. Labour would not want an election and would not support a no confidence vote, whilst the public would think the Tories were nuts to have no confidence in themselves and then ask for their vote. Trouble is the media still live in the past before 5 year fixed term parliaments. The front page of todays Times follows this pattern.
    Me I said put the £2billion into HS2 more money for compensation.

  • How can there be a snap election?

    I expect the Fixed Term Parliaments Act to be repealed early in the next session.

  • ^That would be very difficult to get past the laws

    I said £2million should be spent on a Severn tidal barrage, and should be taken from the health budget, which had been protected thus far.

  • another great example of garbage in garbage out approach to policy formation. Where should we get £2 billion for council housing from ? It would be far to radical to suggest it comes from the £40 billion that currently goes in Housing benefit and tax breaks to private sector Landlords. The whole consultation is utterly meaningless. It’s like being consulted by a Tory run Council – no real choices and no outcomes linked to responses.

  • @ Eddie Sammon “What cuts would I like to see? Some cuts in state intervention in financial services. Free advice is a threat to much of the industry and I’d prefer to see a voucher system in place for this.”

    Steady, Eddie. That’s not a policy it’s the declaration of a vested interest.

  • Eddie Sammon 27th Jul '16 - 8:21pm

    Lol, David Raw, we should keep some intervention. Steve Webb has said he is interested in the voucher idea – it could help mutuals and social enterprises too.

  • Agree with Jennie about the survey. I too was surprised that increased taxation wasn’t an option to pay for increased spending. Also, there was not an option to answer “a bit of each” to some of the questions, in addition to “none of the above”.

    I finished the survey since I started it, but if this was really intended to play a significant part in the policy making process then I don’t hold out much hope for a genuinely radical and progressive manifesto in the event of a snap election.

    I’m going to a YLB event next week, so hopefully that will be more productive.

  • Conor McGovern 27th Jul '16 - 9:14pm

    I agree on investment in housing, but I’d add putting up homes (empty properties) for homeless people as a top priority for us, maybe funded by a tax on land.

  • Interesting. Some frustrations. It’s not helpful to be forced into single choices. The NHS – I would cut free access to non-essential and cosmetic services but provide them at cost of a small profit to subsidise the essential. But I went to A+E last week with a follow up in outpatients this week. Whilst the clinical care was excellent the paper driven bureaucracy doubled my treatment time. There’s still huge waste in the NHS administrative systems. That survey gave no opportunity to give a multi-faceted answer. Homes, yes definitely but has to be medium density to avoid destruction of green belt with plenty of parks and integrated transport , health and education. In other words the survey is far too simplistic – solutions will be complex.

  • Matthew Huntbach 28th Jul '16 - 11:19am

    Caron Lindsay

    My answer was on house-building. If people have somewhere safe and secure to call home, that has such a huge positive impact on every other area of their lives.

    The difficult bit was then explaining where you would get the money from.

    The difficult bit is where are you going to get the land to build large scale new housing.

    Maybe where you are, it’s not a problem. In the London and the south-east of England where the biggest demands for housing are, it’s a huge problem. In my experience, almost any plans for large scale or even medium scale building gets met by huge protests from locals.

    I grew up on a council estate built in a valley in the South Downs in Sussex. When I was young they busily building more houses up the valleys. Do you want them to fill in more of the South Downs (now a national park) with housing?

    When I was a councillor in London sitting on the planning committee, on almost every occasion where there was a big plan for new build, the locals would organise a protest against it, and jeer at you at the planning committee meeting “How can he ignore us?” and “He must have been bribed by the developers”; they never got the point that actually councillors can’t arbitrarily reject planning applications, there has to be a legal ground to do so.

    I am not saying there should not be new housebuilding, far from it. The issue is that everyone will agree to it and say it’s a good policy, but everyone will have reasons why it should definitely not be done near the place where they live.

  • Robert Wootton 28th Jul '16 - 11:47am

    What should be in a Liberal Democrat manifesto is a commitment to introduce an alternative Economic Operating System that establishes a fair deal for employees, reduces income inequality that businesses and investors are free to use or not as the case may be. It would be up to government to make it in their self interest to use the alternative system.

  • I had exactly the same issue as RBH in the first comment. I put pensions and benefits, but really meant freeze the state pension!

  • @ tpfkar I ……..really meant freeze the state pension! WHY ????? I sometimes wonder what has happened to this party when I see postings like that.

    Is this a joke ? It’s a real vote winner, not……. Any reasons given ? No.

    And suggesting this to the party that first introduced state pensions – and at a time when individuals like Philip Green are living it up on a £ 100 million pound yacht having caused irreparable damage to the BHS occupational scheme.

    Of course Alexander D. also compromised the party’s appeal to public sector workers when he diminished future public sector pensions and at the same time got absolutely nowhere with tackling overseas non dom tax avoidance…..

  • Government spending is £740 billion, £2 billion is not 1% of that. It’s not even 1/2 of 1%, it’s about 1/4 of 1%. Is this question really about a radical Liberal change or tinkering that no-one will notice?

  • I’ve not decided how to answer this yet, but with respects of the Defence budget, and our requirements to spend a certain percentage on it, are there rules as to what is defined as ‘Defence’?

    I’ve always held the view that our country is kept safe by more than having an army and navy, with or without those expensive submarines. In the last couple of years, our army and volunteers from the NHS did amazing work to combat Ebola, which didn’t just make those countries safer, but kept the world, including ourselves, safer. The same can be said for many international aid projects, whether or not they include the armed forces.

    We’d have to be careful if it seemed like we were scrapping the international aid budget, but then I think it might be easier to sell some of the international aid spending if it were presented as making us (and the world) safer, and not just being liberal do gooders who don’t care about the British working man or woman.

    Regardless of how it looks to traditionalists, I am of the view that keeping our country safe is about a lot more than fire-power. We should be investing in programmes that enhance stability, and international development is a huge part of that.

  • Denis Mollison 29th Jul '16 - 8:32am

    We should be thinking about the actual amount of the state pension, not its rate of increase.
    The key justification for introducing the triple lock was the assessment that the state pension was not enough to live on, and compared unfavourably with levels in other countries. The triple-lock was seen as a process to bring it up to a fairer level over time.

    It is still only about half the national minimum wage (pension minimum 119.50, flat rate 155 per week; NMW 7.20 per hour, giving 252 / 288 for a 35 / 40-hour week).

  • The consultation totally misses the point; it’s a ‘deck chairs on the Titanic’ approach when we need to be strategic.

    We have a government that’s simply not fit for purpose. It’s terrible at making decisions about key infrastructure (airport expansion, Hinckley Point etc.) but has no qualms about having its anonymous bureaucrats dictate to teachers exactly how they interact with their pupils.

    We spend more than ever on ‘education’ yet can’t even manage to train enough lorry drivers let alone engineers, nurses, teachers etc.

    People are aware of these and other big issues and despair that there is apparently no leadership in any party that has a coherent plan. The payoff over 10 years to getting them even vaguely right is at least two and possibly three orders of magnitude greater than the £2 billion mentioned above.

    So what do we propose to do about such issues? What we need is a narrative that tells people what we think are the big problems and, in terms of direction of travel rather than detailed policies, what we propose to do about them.

  • Richard Underhill 29th Jul '16 - 2:44pm

    Matthew Huntbach 28th Jul ’16 – 11:19am “everyone” is too sweeping.
    There is lots of land in Greater London as the previous mayor said.
    The current mayor has said there is lots of land in public ownership.
    Why were the Olympic plans for the Greenwich peninsula so unambitious? Lack of bridges? Other transport problems?
    Mark Twain said of land “They are not making it any more”. Not true, we could choose to build taller, every additional floor is more land, just make sure the lifts work.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 29th Jul '16 - 3:05pm

    Massive investment in the frontline of treatment and drugs available in the NHS and much effort to bring in the whole of the mainstream private not for profit providers at every level , and some complimentary provision where the patient could benefit .Paid for by moving towards a hypothicated Health Tax , increased according to improvements in national and personal wealth and income.

    A significant investment in creativity , both in the arts and creative industries and beyond in enterprise , with grants as actual investment in the enterprising individuals and those with small projects that could have wide potential , for both commercial and community impact .Paid for by a bureaucracy busting new broom cleansweeping at the Arts Council , and by a new limit to the amount that can be won by any one individual in the lottery , set at one mllion pounds.

  • Laurence Cox 2nd Aug '16 - 3:34pm

    I wanted to spend the £2bn on council housing but the next question didn’t give me the opportunity of taking it off debt repayment. I would argue for local authorities to be able to sell housing bonds with the Bank of England buying them (or at least underwriting them) in the same way that they bought gilts from banks for QE. As a country that has a sovereign currency, we can do this. Even in London, TfL owns 5,700 acres; property partnerships with London Boroughs could unlock some of this for council housing.

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