Faulty microphones, broken lights, a slightly surreal venue: yesterday’s launch of the Liberal Democrat manifesto (which also comes in a clever in theory but hideously put together easy-read version) provided plenty of material for the sketch writers.
Yet with his party still likely to be one of the most significant elements in the event of a hung parliament, not least due to their willingness to cooperate with both of the major parties, it is worth examining the policies that Nick Clegg has set out to the electorate (or to the Tory and Labour negotiating teams, if you’re in an unkind mood).
In line with the party’s aspirations here there are foundations for coalitions with both major parties. On tax, for example, the Lib Dems strike similar stances to the Tories on personal taxation but couple them with Labour-ish calls for mansion taxes and a crackdown on non-doms.
- Extend the Freedom of Information Act provisions to cover private sector companies which are delivering public services.
- Introduce a ‘digital bill of rights’ with strong anti-snooping provisions.
- Cap individual political donations at £10,000.
- Reduce the franchise age to 16.
- “Make sure that everyone who is in the House of Lords has been elected to be there.”
- Stop jailing people whose only offence is being a drug user, and set up rehabilitation programmes.
- Abolish Police and Crime Commissioners.
- Reduce Trident and “end continuous nuclear weapon patrols”.
- Enshrine the Military Covenant in law.
- Toughen rules on British arms exports.
- Eliminate the structural deficit by 2018.
- Ensure richest ‘pay their fare share’ of deficit reduction.
- Increase public spending in line with economic growth once budget is balanced.
- Set a legally-binding decarbonisation target to halve the economy’s energy demand by 2030.
- The Lib Dems take up Tristram Hunt’s line about ‘qualified teachers’, and will “ensure all teachers are qualified to teach the national curriculum.
- Like the Tories, they’ll raise the personal allowance to £12,500, but bring forward a rise to £11,000 to April 2016.
- Raise the National Insurance threshold so it matches the Income Tax one.
- No increases in rates for VAT, NI or corporation tax.
- Pay all government employees the Living Wage.
- Increase paternity leave.
- “We will concentrate on the things that the EU is good at.”
- Invest £500m in mental health – the party have been trying to lead on this issue since their conference last autumn.
- Match the Tories’ promise of an additional £8bn for the English NHS, with more money for the rest of the UK.
- Introduce a £250 annual bonus for carers.
- Get housebuilding to a rate of 300,000 a year.
- Establish a scheme whereby rent payments go towards tenants buying a stake in their properties.
- Cut council tax for those who insulate their home.
- Bar landlords letting properties that tenants cannot afford to heat.
- A mansion tax on properties worth £2m or more.
- Build no less than ten new garden cities.
- Provide young people with loans for rental deposits.
- Encourage migrants to improve language skills and ensure that migrants speak English before they claim benefits.
- Only lock up criminal migrants..
- Cap rail fare rises in line with inflation for the lifetime of the next Parliament.
- Continue with HS2, with plans for a further high-speed rail link to Scotland.
- Write the current ‘triple lock’ on the state pension rate of increase into law, and ensure nine million people have workplace pensions.
- “Change laws so pensions go up in value.” An entire entry from the easy-to-read version.
- Introduce a one per cent cap on working age benefits until the budget is balanced.