Liberal Democrat Newswire #62, the latest in my weekly general election specials, came out at the start of the week, including five things you may have missed in the Lib Dem manifesto, why Maidstone is more interesting than you may think and other stories.
You can also read it below, but if you’d like the convenience of getting it direct by email in future, just sign up here.
Welcome to the 62nd edition of Liberal Democrat Newswire, rounding up some of the Lib Dem-related election news you may have missed in the last week.
Five things you may have missed about the Lib Dem manifesto
The front page priorities really are the party’s priorities. Sounds obvious, and yet if you read the many pieces in the media about how the party has done in implementing its 2010 manifesto you find something curious. They don’t start with the front page priorities from 2010. Nor do they end with or pass through them. In fact, the existence of 2010 front page prioritiesfrequently doesn’t even get a mention, and I’ve not found during this campaign any media evaluation of the party’s record in government that actually goes through them all.Rather you get a semi-random selection of different policies examined, always leaving out from consideration some of the front page (which is not without consequences for the political verdict given how good the record on the front page is).
50.3% to 49.7%. That is the balance between spending cuts and tax rises in the first year of the manifesto costings, which show how the deficit will be cleared over two years. In the second year it is fractionally different, with spending cuts taking up 50.7% of the strain. It’s a long (and welcome) way away from the world of 80% spending cuts from the last Parliament and of the more recent talk of 60% spending cuts for finishing the job in the next Parliament. It is, within the margin of economic forecasting error, a 50/50 split – something I’d campaigned for with others, including securing an amendment at the party’s spring conference.
Orange Bookers like public spending. I’m not a fan of the ‘Orange Bookers’ motif for reasons best illustrated by Vince Cable. Contributor to the Orange Book himself, yet keen advocate of Keynesian economics and of heavy state intervention in the financial markets. So Orange Booker or not?But it’s worth noting that the Liberal Democrat manifesto prioritises protecting and increasing public spending in health and education, with them securing the exemption from cuts only doled out to very few areas. And who have been the Liberal Democrat ministers in both those areas, championing the need to spend more, not less, public money on them? Step forward Orange Bookers David Laws and Norman Lamb.
Full backing for Ben Goldacre’s AllTrials campaign. The Lib Dem manifesto fully backs Ben Goldacre’s AllTrials campaign to improve medical research by requiring all clinical trials to be registered and all results to be published – ending the current situation where ‘unhelpful’ trial results can be kept secret.
Mandatory arbitration to settle highly disruptive strikes. Whilst the Conservative answer to highly disruptive strikes, such as on the London Underground, is to weaken the powers of employees and their trade unions compared to those of their employers, the Lib Dem manifesto takes a very different approach – introducing mandatory arbitration for strikes likely to cause widespread public disruption. That way employees get to have their case made without disruption to innocent bystanders – many of whom in the case of Tube strikes are other public sector employees trying to get to work in hospitals, schools and elsewhere.
Remember to sign up for a postal vote if you’re not absolutely sure you can vote in person on the day. (The deadline for applications is 5pm, Tuesday 21st April.)
Lib Dems most popular choice as coalition partner
Which of the smaller parties would you most like to see holding the balance of power?
Not many polls put the Liberal Democrats on 37% nationally these days, but this YouGov poll for The Times illustrates why the party’s campaign is so happy to abandon the old political wisdom about not talking up holding the balance of power and instead make a virtue of talking about it.
What do the Liberal Democrats believe? is a poster about the party’s philosophy and roots. This is more for the new member, interested helper or voter who specifically asks about the topic rather than one for the public in general.
Are you reading a forwarded copy of Liberal Democrat Newswire? Or perhaps the web-based version? If so, then why not join thousands of others and sign up to receive direct to your email inbox future editions of what the Daily Telegraph calls a “must read” and of which Lynne Featherstone says “all Lib Dems should read this”?
It’s a bit of a badge of honour amongst political canvassers not to come away from a doorstep having recorded a voter as ‘undecided’. That’s because it doesn’t give a clue about how best to persuade them in the future – and also because it often indicates a conversation in which the canvasser was given a polite brush off rather than asking the right questions.
So it is reassuring to know that it isn’t simply me losing my canvassing touch to have found so many voters uncertain in the seats I’ve been heading round to help during the campaign. Rather, as MORI found, a huge chunk of the electorate is still not sure:
The people at Polifiller have measured the party manifestos against their database of political clichés. This was compiled with the help of political correspondents, editors and opinion formers.
The exercise produced the following league table:
Conservatives – 200 clichés
Labour – 58 clichés
UKIP – 51 clichés
Greens – 49 clichés
Plaid Cymru – 48 clichés
Liberal Democrats – 44 clichés
SNP – yet to publish
Well done to the writers of the Liberal Democrat manifesto. Among the clichés they let through were “package of measures,” “those who need it,” “there is more to do” and “a return to boom and bust”.
Lib Dems will outlaw caste discrimination
It can be frustrating in politics when other parties copy your policies, minimising the ability to get political credit for them. But in this case, the more copying and the sooner the better:
The Liberal Democrats have become the only party to explicitly set out plans to outlaw caste discrimination in their manifesto.
The party wants to accelerate moves to give caste recognition legal recognition on level footing with other protected characteristics.
Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Liberal Democrats Nick Clegg said:
“Equality and fairness are the cornerstones of what makes a democratic society.
“We will be taking a pro-active approach towards combating caste discrimination and tackling inequality in all aspects of our society.
“Liberal Democrats are rightly proud of a commitment to equality that goes back decades, and the vision for a fair, free and open society is enshrined in our constitution.
“We reject any notion that the circumstances of someone’s birth should determine their future role in society.”
Currently, caste discrimination and harassment is not explicitly covered by British discrimination legislation. However, the Equality Act 2010 includes the provision that, by order of a Minister, caste may be treated as an aspect of race.
Because some religions are almost wholly low caste, some cases of caste discrimination and harassment may be covered by religious discrimination provisions of the Equality Act 2010.
However, for caste discrimination and harassment, religious provisions are likely to be less effective than caste-specific provisions and are unlikely to provide protection for members of a mixed-caste religion (including many Hindus, Sikhs, Christians and Muslims) or for atheists.
Liberal Democrat plans therefore seek to address this.
An estimated 400,000 Dalits – widely known as “untouchables” – who are regarded as being beneath the caste system, live in the UK.
Updated constituency scorecard
The argument over the wisdom of naming or not naming candidates in constituency polls continues to rumble on, with Lord Ashcroft mixing robustness with silence over the question himself.
Robust in defending his approach in not naming candidates, yet silent over his evidence for doing so.
“I have not gone so far as to name individual candidates, as the Lib Dems do in their own private polling. Doing so usually boosts the Lib Dem vote share… Whether this produces a more accurate assessment of real voting intentions is a different question. Indeed I have coined the term “comfort polling” to describe the practice of parties conducting research in such a way as to maximise their own apparent vote share.
“On balance I continue to think that when people are prompted to consider their own area and the local candidates, an MP’s personal reputation should be baked in to their voting decisions.”
No actual evidence presented for his viewpoint yet followed by “I continue to think…”? Ashcroft’s right to criticise comfort polling but this is comfort punditry, not evidence-based punditry (on which point see Stephen Tall’s excellent post).
In the last few days, a series of further Ashcroft constituency polls have been published along with another Liberal Democrat poll (in Jo Swinson’s constituency).
However, of those 27 the Lib Dems are behind by less than 10% in 11 seats – and remember the Ashcroft polls did not name candidates. Moreover, in three seats where Ashcroft put the Lib Dems behind by more than 10%, published Lib Dem constituency polls put the party level (within margin of error) or just ahead.
Therefore an awful lot rests on both whether there’s some further move towards the party in the second half of the general election and also how much of an impact not naming candidates really makes.
As for seats the party might gain, it’s worth noting that Nick Clegg’s campaign tour so far has included Watford, Oxford West and Abingdon and the rarely mentioned Maidstone. Clearly the party’s views of the chance of a Lib Dem gain in Maidstone are rather higher than you might think from its regular omission from lists of seats to watch.
Special reader offer
Sign up for Quidco and get cashback on your purchases at over 4,200 retailers. Rather than go direct to the retailers’ website you just go via Quidco and pocket discounts without having to make any further effort. It’s a fab deal.
What did you think of this edition?
I really value the views of readers as it helps me decide what to include in future editions.
P.S. I use Mailchimp to power these newsletters and absolutely love it – it’s really powerful yet easy to use, and comes with a good range of free and low cost options. Plus their technical support team responds quickly and in plain English. If you’re after an email service yourself, you can sign up for a Mailchimp account here.