Friday 22 November 2019

Our Liberal Democrat do-able manifesto

Someone on the radio this morning said that the Liberal Democrats had highlighted five vital points of our manifesto, which made it easy to grasp.

I haven't noticed these five defined on any official manifesto I've seen, but I think he mentioned:

  1. Stop Brexit.
  2. Action on the climate emergency.
  3. The health service.
  4. Education.
  5. Housing.
1.  Stopping Brexit is rightly at the top of the list.  As the other parties are trying, and I suspect succeeding, in hiving off Brexit as a boring issue we've all heard quite enough about, we need to continue to emphasise that hardly anything anyone wants to do for our society - about the climate crisis, housing, education, the NHS, crime or whatever - is made any easier by leaving the EU, and most things become much more difficult.

 "Just get it done because we're bored by it" is a fatuous argument when  the reputation of our country  and well-being of our own and future generations will be gravely damaged by a wrong decision.

2.  We are right  to give the next priority to the climate emergency: a "climate fund" of £100bn over five years, an ambitious target of  80% of our energy needs to  be met from clean renewable resources by 2030 and the taxation of frequent flyers.

3.  We are right to advocate an extra 1p on income tax to more properly fund the health service and bring mental health services into line with physical services.

4.  Although the manifesto highlights an extra 20 000 teachers I'm curious from know from where we'll find them.  Scrapping STATS and OFSTED would be my favourite bits, and I suspect those of most practising teachers.  Set the teachers free to teach

5.  A target of an 300,000 houses a year, along with penal levies on homes left empty for more than six months, will help alleviate a major distortion in our quality of life.

As far as I can see we have left proportional representation by single transferable vote in multi-member constituencies, second chamber reform, devolution of power to the nations and regions, land value taxation, employee representation, profit sharing and other Liberal shibboleths on the back-burner for the time being (though legalisation of cannabis has somehow squeezed in).

Politics is, after all the art of the possible.

By contrast dedicated Labour  supporters must feel that all their birthdays and Christmases have come at once.  Their manifesto claims to be "the most radical for decades."  Indeed it is and, in an ideal world I would go along with most of it.

In the 2017 election Labour's fortunes improved when they launched their slightly less comprehensive manifesto, and they presumably hope this even more radical one will have a similar effect.  I hope they are right.

However, I suspect they misinterpret the public mood. 

Yes, back in 1945, when Britain had emerged from a devastating war as part of a victorious coalition, memories of the miseries of the 1930s depression were still very vivid and national self-confidence as at a maximum, the country was ready for a complete and adventurous change of direction.

Labour is right to highlight the miseries and unfairness of the post crash decade, of the damage to civic society, the crumbling of our infrastructure, and, above all the sheer unsuitability of the lying and disingenuous clique who have taken over our government.

To me the biggest puzzle is why the public are not seething with anger.

But we  aren't - maybe because 80% of us have survived austerity reasonably comfortably.

So while the Labour manifesto is to be admired, and chunks of it could well be at home in a Liberal Democrat manifesto, the public is not ready for it. 

And the successful media demonisation of Mr Corbyn means that they are not ready for him either.

Most serious of all, it really is not credible that the major contender for replacing the present shambles of a government should continue to sit on the fence regarding the major issue facing us: Brexit.

Step for award the Liberal Democrats with our more modest but do-able proposals - a sort of Fabian Liberalism

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