Like beauty, political influence is in the eye of the beholder. What is really important to one voter can be mostly irrelevant to another voter, so a good to start to answering the ‘how much influence have the Liberal Democrats had?’ question is the front page of the party’s 2010 general election manifesto.
That set out the party’s priorities for the election, and was widely publicised ahead of voting. It was followed by two pages setting out what the headlines mean in more detail:
So how have the Liberal Democrats done?
- Fair taxes: achieved. The income tax allowance as in fact increased by even more – and this was all achieved despite the Conservatives saying it wasn’t possible. Overall taxes on the richest have gone up (by £381,000 in total during this Parliament for someone earning £1m a year) whilst millions of low paid have been taken out of income tax completely.
- Fair chances: achieved. The Pupil Premium has been introduced and even extended to early years education – with the evidence showing it making an impact on improving children’s education. Again, this was in the face of Conservative opposition, with the Tories trying to cut school expenditure.
- Fair future: achieved. The Vickers Commission on separating casino banking from high street banking is going ahead and the Green Investment Bank is leading the way with creating green jobs.
- Fair deal: half-achieved. The Recall of MPs Act is now law, the Freedom Act was passed (including a wonderfully bizarre detail about weddings) and the loophole that let some politicians escape paying full taxes by being non-doms was closed. Then in the less good news – a referendum on changing the voting system was secured but went down to a heavy defeat, and House of Lords reform was blocked by an unholy alliance of Conservative backbenchers opposed to it and Labour MPs not willing to vote for a timetable to handle the legislation.
Of course, there was plenty more elsewhere in the manifesto (including, ahem, tuition fees) but it’s worth emphasising that these were the policies put on the front page, used to headline the manifesto launch and repeatedly presented as the party’s top priorities during the campaign.
In addition to securing Liberal Democrat priorities, the party has blocked a large number of right-wing Tory policies.
As for the rest of the Liberal Democrat manifesto, a large part of that too got implemented, as you can read about over on What The Hell Have The Lib Dems Done?
Or for a more visual summary of the party’s achievements in government see my poster (click through for a larger version):