The Liberal Democrat manifesto
The Liberal Democrats hope to repeat the trick the Scottish Nationalists managed after the independence referendum, when they captured most of the ‘yes’ vote and all but wiped out Labour.
How would the Liberal Democrats stop Brexit?
By winning the election. They are now pledged simply to revoke Article 50 — the procedure for the UK leaving the EU — and going back to the status quo before the 2016 referendum.
This policy has the advantage of simplicity. They say we made a mistake in 2016 and the way to “get Brexit done” — Boris Johnson’s slogan — is just to stop the whole thing.
Legally, the UK can revoke Article 50 and simply revert to its existing status. It doesn’t need EU agreement. Although the other EU 27 countries could be forgiven for being both pleased and annoyed at the same time.
How would they try to tackle the climate emergency?
Like the Green Party, the Liberal Democrats see the climate emergency as real and requiring urgent and major action by government. But they do not go as far as the Greens in promising a net zero carbon economy by 2030.
Instead, they propose that energy production in the UK should be 80% renewable by 2030. That is still a highly ambitious target — currently only about 40% of electricity is produced this way.
They propose a range of other green policies on homes, industry, jobs, products and transport — but, unlike the Greens and Labour, they do not wrap this up as a Green New Deal.
One eye-catching change to air-travel would be to reduce the tax for infrequent flyers. This would be welcome by many who only fly for family holidays once or twice a year. But for frequent flyers (mainly business people) flight taxes would increase.
They would also freeze train fares — something that will be popular with commuters.
Are they prioritising better education and skills?
Yes. They are proposing to spend a lot more: £10.5 billion on schools, with 20,000 more teachers in England. And almost £14 billion on early years and childcare. Extending free school meals means another £1.2 billion, and a further £2.8 billion to tackle child poverty. Which all adds up to an extra £28.5 billion a year — far more than they are proposing to increase on health and social care at £7.7 billion.
One issue they have somewhat side-stepped, that has caused the party problems in the past, is university tuition fees and maintenance grants. These will be the subject of a review.
They say they want a fairer economy – what does that mean?
Whereas Labour has been concentrating its attention on the 1%, or really the top 5% of earners and the wealthiest, with extra taxes, the Liberal Democrats seem to be concentrating on levelling-up rather than down.
So, their attention seems to be more on helping those on low incomes. For example, they propose to help those on zero-hours contracts by making their minimum hourly wage 20% higher. They also plan to put an extra £6 billon a year into the benefits system and introduce a right to universal access to basic services.
Where they are proposing to raise taxes, these are mainly focussed on corporations — raising the tax on profits back to 20%, taxing income from capital more fairly, and cracking down on business tax evasion.
What about health?
The big headline on health is their pledge to put an extra 1p on the basic rate of income tax to fund their £7.7 billion extra for health and social care.
They also propose much greater integration between health and social care services, and more emphasis on mental health.
Another big issue will be their plan to effectively legalise and tax the personal use of cannabis, which they think could raise £1.5 billion a year in tax and savings on criminal justice. They would transfer responsibility to the health system and away from law enforcement.
This will be highly controversial — but mirrors developments in many other countries.
What is this Brexit Bonus thing?
Finally, the Liberal Democrats are making a pitch to be seen as more responsible about the public finances than either the Tories or Labour.
They are helped in this by their determination to stop Brexit. They argue that most economic assessments suggest the UK will be about £50 billion a year better off if Brexit does not go ahead. They say this Brexit Bonus makes their slightly less ambitious plans much more affordable.
This briefing is produced by The Day in association with ENGAGE Public Policy.
- Would you vote Lib-Dem?
- Is the pledge to revoke Article 50 a good idea? Discuss and debate after reading the Expert Links.
- Officially cancel a decision or promise.
- Status quo
- The existing state of things, especially in social or political issues.
- Net zero carbon economy
- When the UK manages to balance carbon emissions with carbon removal (often through carbon offsetting, like planting more trees) as a commitment to the aims of the Paris Agreement.
- Energy that is collected from resources that do not run out and can be replaced, such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides and waves.
- Caused the party problems
- In 2012, former Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, as deputy Prime Minister of the Tory-Lib Dem coalition Government, apologised after his party “did not stick” to its key pre-election promise to oppose any rise in university fees. As a result, tuition fees increased to £9,000 (nearly three times more that the earlier £3,200 limit). The u-turn on tuition fees became a source of division within the party.
- Zero-hours contracts
- A contract between an employer and a worker, where the employer doesn’t have to offer a minimum number of hours and the worker doesn’t have to accept any work that is offered.