Friday, 30 January 2015

Key campaigning points for Liberal Democrats.

 Last August I set out some of the policies which I think ought to be in the Liberal Democrat manifesto, and earlier this month took a critical look at the six key themes on which the Tories have chosen to fight. Now with fewer than 100 days to go, here's my suggestion for the six key themes which would offer the electorate a  real alternative to the counter-productive "austerity  heavy" or "austerity light" on offer from the Tories and Labour.

1. More real jobs, especially for the young, through growth stimulated by  Keynesian public works in the maintenance and improvement of the infrastructure, renewable energy,  housing stock (more below), research and development in universities etc. This will have the added bonus of reducing the deficit as the tax take increases and social security expenditure falls as more employment is created

2.  Housing.  This is the second most important domestic issue facing the country at the moment. Local Authorities to be permitted to undertake mixed housing projects with a high proportion of affordable housing, as far a possible on brownfield sites, financed by the issue of Local Authority Housing Bonds. The "right to buy" should be suspended.

3.  Adequate funding for the NHS, emphasising the proposals already announced by Nick Clegg.  After upheaval of the past four years further reorganisation will not be helpful, except for the repeal of the "any qualified provider" clause in the 2012 Act.  The present organisation should be allowed to "bed down" but the reliance on the private sector gradually reduced.

4. Education, like housing, will not benefit from further reorganisation, but should be left to "bed down"  However, the further creation of academies, free schools and other steps towards privatisation should  be halted,  the obsession with measurement and league tables reduced, along with the powers and influence of OFSTED, and the planning, financial and advisory functions of local authorities gradually restored.

5.   Social security system.  Restoring compassion, so that it once again becomes  a "safety -net" designed to help people rather than punish them.

6.  The constitution.  The promises of further devolution made to Scotland should should be honoured in full but piecemeal "fixes" should end there.  Along with Labour we should support the setting up of a Constitutional Convention to discuss all issues of devolution to the nations and regions of the UK, the responsibilities of the various parliaments  assemblies and local authorities, methods of election to them and other constitutional issues. 

There are lots of other relevant arrows in the Liberal Democrat quiver, not least land value taxation, the non-replacement of Trident, our enthusiasm (sic) for remaining a member of the European Union and working more co-operatively with our partners,  but I think campaigning on the above six gives a clear idea of the kind of society we should like to create.

A WORD ABOUT LANGUAGE.  Everybody knows that the Liberal Democrats are not going to form the next government: indeed we might be lucky to be even junior partners it it, though I think it is highly likely that we shall be.  Therefore we should not bandy about boastful-sounding declarations that we will do this and shall do that, but shan't do the other.  Rather we should campaign on what we believe and what policies shall press for, argue for, and advocate.

I do not feel it is helpful to issue red line declarations that we shall insist on this and not join a coalition that does that.  The fewer hostages to fortune the better.    Both the parties and the electorate need to learn the language of multi-party politics, in which what is possible becomes less certain, but none the worse for that.



  1. I've long thought that as a Liberal, we should also focus on the Quango state and the lack of accountability of large parts of Government and public administration. as part of our overall concern for liberty.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Richard T. I couldn't agree more. I think the issue of unelected and unaccountable Quangos is one that should be covered in a Constitutional Convention. With substantial devolution to the nations, regions and local authorities there should be far less need for Quangos. For example. we in Yorkshire had a regional layer of government in Yorkshire Forward, but few knew who was on it, how they were chosen, what it did (though I'm assured some of the things were quite useful) or to whom it was responsible.

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