15 April 2015Liberal Democrats say no party will govern alone
The Liberal Democrats launched their election manifesto on the basis that no party would be able to govern alone after the election. In an effort to entice voters, leader Nick Clegg declared that the Liberal Democrats would be act as a "barrier" to prevent UKIP or the SNP holding the balance of power and, "add heart to a Conservative government and…a brain to a Labour one".
Clegg went on to say their manifesto was a sensible "insurance policy" against extreme cuts or reckless borrowing. As would be expected with such a middle of the road approach, the manifesto has little in the way of setting a clear, distinct path. Rather Clegg has hedged his bets on voters seeing them as a safe, centrist option. This is an expected approach given the Liberal Democrats have had five years to prove they are a viable coalition partner.
Their five key policies are balance the budget in a "fair" way, guaranteeing education funding "from cradle to college", increasing the income tax personal allowance to £12,500, an £8 billion hike in NHS funding and five green laws to protect the environment.
In their education policy they say parents will continue to be able to choose faith-based schools within the state-funded sector. The Liberal Democrats will also allow the establishment of new faith schools within the context of an inclusive admissions policy and staff recruitment policy.
Their manifesto says they will tackle religious discrimination and support faith and belief communities. They specifically mention their continued support of the Interfaith Network, Show Racism the Red Card, the Anne Frank Trust UK, Community Security Trust and the Muslim Council of Britain.
In our recent Idea magazine the Liberal Democrats said they supported the rights to religious freedom as outlined in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Their manifesto makes no mention of support Article 18, however, they acknowledge the need to protect freedom of speech and belief internationally in light of the recent Islamist extremist attacks on journalists in Europe. They would appoint an Ambassador-level Champion for Freedom of Belief to drive diplomatic efforts in this area and, "campaign for the abolition of blasphemy, sedition, apostasy and criminal libel laws worldwide, having already been responsible for ending them in this country."
The central theme of Clegg's speech was opportunity and their manifesto clearly sets out their main priorities which Clegg has said he will fight tooth and nail for. However, having learnt a tough lesson in 2010, he's avoiding making any non-negotiable conditions. It's now up to the voters to decide if the Liberal Democrat strategy of positioning themselves as a centrist coalition partner is what they want to support.
Some of the main policy pledges outlined in the Liberal Democrats' manifesto include:
- Increasing the personal tax-free allowance to £12,500
- An extra £2.5bn for England's education budget
- Guaranteeing education funding from nursery to 19 and qualified teachers in every class
- Investing £8bn more in the NHS
- Equal care for mental and physical health
- Balancing the structural current budget by 2017-18
- Protecting nature and fighting climate change with new green laws