May 18, 2017 by Paul Goldsmith
Assessing this Liberal Democrat manifesto is an odd business. They aren’t even suggesting that it is a manifesto for Government, instead arguing that it is about positioning them as the ‘real’ opposition to the Conservatives.
Furthermore, it is hard to place a political position on them, as they are combination of the old Liberal Party and the old Social Democratic Party, the latter being ex-Labour. Therefore their proposals are a mixture of more government intervention than a Liberal might like with the justification of helping people to flourish whatever their background that Liberals are more comfortable with.
The most eye-catching part of the manifesto will be the section on Brexit. The Lib Dems have committed to push for a new Referendum at the end of the negotiation process with the EU in which the deal will be one option, but “with the alternative option of staying in the EU on the ballot paper.”
The reaction to this has been rather predictable, with Brexit-supporters accusing them of ‘subverting democracy’, although every democracy has to have the option of changing their mind. But in truth there probably does need to be at least one political party with this option in their manifesto to give proper democratic choice.
Looking at the ‘second referendum’ policy on its’ merits, both the Lib Dems (a vote to reverse) and Labour (refusal to accept no deal) need to understand the impact of those stances on our EU negotiating partners. In every negotiation there needs to be a ‘walk away’ position, and neither the Lib Dems nor Labour have one. Both of their positions give an incentive to the EU to give the UK a bad deal – as in Labour’s case they know the UK won’t walk away and in the Lib Dems’ case will vote to Remain. The failure of so many people in this country over the past year to understand how negotiation works is very frustrating.
That said, there is a lot to be said for having some kind of mechanism to re-consider what we are doing. As I said, every democracy has to have a mechanism to change its mind, whereas we seem to be deciding that a 52-48 outcome means no single market, no freedom of movement, and possibly WTO rules on trade, which could cripple our economy (or might not, we don’t know). Deciding how to deal with this situation is difficult, but not beyond our politicians, although they will need backbone to resist the baying mobs on both sides of the debate.
Something else that caught my eye was the idea to fund the NHS by putting 1p on the income tax rate at every band (basic, higher and additional) and ring-fencing it to fund the NHS. The manifesto says that eventually the Lib Dems want to find away to put an ‘NHS tax’ on a payslip. This is an important idea as it involves people seeing just how much it costs each person and considering that when they think about what should happen to it. At a time when absolutely nothing is done about demand for the NHS it is good that at least the cost of it would be more transparent.
Also, the Lib Dems have joined Labour and the SNP in wanting to reduce the voting age to 16, which looks increasingly like an idea whose time has come. If you want to know what I think of that, watch this! – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sqq4a6beCnw