I was campaigning yesterday and when we were done, we retreated to a local pub to unwind, debrief and, of course, discuss politics. As part of this I approached the barkeeper, who indicated that I have almost no chance of getting elected in the constituency because “there are too many rich people” and “you need to come back when the Lib Dems have some actual ideas”. OK, I thought, I can do that. So here’s a list of five major policy ideas that the Lib Dems have (note that these are not necessarily exactly in line with my personal manifesto, which is open and transparent already, but represents the motions that the party has agreed at Federal level).
The Lib Dems support democracy, in that we believe that all voices need representation at government level, not just the least unpopular party in a constituency. In practice, this means that it is necessary to introduce proportional representation so that everyone’s vote matters and safe seats are a thing of the past.
This has a knock-on effect that political parties will need to get much better at co-operation, negotiation and long-term views, as coalition governments will become the norm rather than an exception.
Lib Dems believe that everyone in the UK has a right to good quality healthcare free at the point of service and funded by taxes paid by everyone (see below). This includes ambulance services, which are currently atrocious, and social care, which has the potential to take all assets carefully acquired over an entire life of work and taxes.
Lib Dems believe that everyone deserves a quality education, and that as a society we are better off educating as many people as far as possible. As such, the party centrally support the abolition of university tuition fees, increases to the funding of schools in general, and the creation of an educational fund which encourages people beyond normal university age to take up some form of education to improve their overall knowledge base.
Without question, the Tories have doubled-down on the idea that immigration is a crime rather than a cry for help. The Lib Dems believe that the UK isn’t doing anywhere near enough to help asylum seekers, and on to of that the plan to ship migrants to Rwanda is frankly disgusting and economically prohibitive. Instead the Lib Dems believe that immigration is generally a positive for the country, in that immigrants often do jobs that those in the UK do not want to do, e.g. fruit-picking, cleaning, etc. Frankly these individuals should be welcomed, not demonised.
We Lib Dems acknowledge that the current tax system is designed to be unfair. Capital – or wealth – is taxed at a much lower rate than income, meaning we effectively reward those who already have their fortunes while penalising those who work to build a similar fortune. The idea of a progressive tax system is to ensure that those with the broadest shoulders carry the largest load, but our progressive system utterly falls apart for the highest levels of wealth, where often almost no tax is paid at all on the largest of estates in the form of either capital gains tax or inheritance tax.
As a first step to redressing this, the Lib Dems believe that harmonising capital gains tax with income tax is an improvement in fairness and will capture more wealth, taking some of the burden off income-earners.
As an aside, I believe this doesn’t go far enough, and I would like to see further harmonisation with inheritance tax, the abolition of most allowances and tiers, and the introduction of the universal basic income to provide the progressiveness.
Conservatives have failed miserably when it comes to house building and infrastructure required to support that. Part of the increased tax take from the ultra-wealthy above could easily be used to build more housing, which in turn would take a lot of pressure off the immigration system. As part of this, we would need to acquire some of the 30-50% of the UK currently owned by landed gentry, but this seems less of a problem if said estates are required to actually pay tax like normal individuals.
This wasn’t really much of a challenge. Frankly, the Lib Dems have a huge number of policies, and it is only by listening to the Conservatives or their client media that you could ever think that this wasn’t the case. In fact, looking at the last General Election, it is quite possible that the Conservatives had the fewest ideas with the least amount of actual analysis, resulting in a very short wishlist of ideas that had no analytical backing whatsoever (oddly reminiscent of the “true Tory Budget” announced by Kwasi Kwarteng as Chancellor which had to be almost wholly walked-back by Jeremy Hunt).
I imagine there are criticisms that could legitimately be levied against the Lib Dems, but lack of ideas is definitely not one of them.
So yes, next time you feel like announcing that the Lib Dems don’t have ideas, think again. We do. Lots of them.