Liberal Democrat Newswire #62 is out: 5 things you may have missed in the manifesto

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.

Statistic of the week: 73.4% – that is the new record high level for the employment rate, reached in the latest figures released last week, showing how the large fall in unemployment is due to people securing jobs.

Thank you as ever to the generous readers who make a small monthly donation to help cover the costs of Liberal Democrat NewswireYou too can join them at www.patreon.com/markpack.

I hope you enjoy reading Liberal Democrat Newswire, and do let me know what you think.

Best wishes,


P.S. You don’t have to wait for the next edition of Liberal Democrat Newswire to keep up with news. My site is regularly updated with stories such as Labour council leader condemns “abhorrent” immigration leaflet by Labour shadow minister.

In this edition:

Five things you may have missed about the Lib Dem manifesto

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Nice recovery after Lib Dem typo

Lib Dems correct typo getting party's policy wrong way round

Image courtesy of Guido Fawkes.

Voting Lib Dem? Three simple things to do

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  3. 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? Lib Dems most popular choice as coalition partner

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.

This is far from theoretical speculation given that, at the time of writing, the latest polls show five pollsters putting Labour ahead, five putting the Tories ahead and one having them tied. A hung Parliament looks almost a dead certainty, and with that potentially a key role from the Liberal Democrats. Hence it’s no surprise that my recent piece recapping how the party’s famed (and misnumbered) triple lock mechanism has been revised for this time round has been doing rather well in the readership stakes.

Don’t miss out on new Lib Dem stories

As well as Liberal Democrat Newswire, you can also get:

  • a daily round up of the new stories posted up on the official Liberal Democrat website, and
  • a daily round-up of the new posts on my blog.

The latter features more chocolate and less Nick Clegg than the former.

If one or both take your fancy, just sign up here.

The most unusual way of displaying a Lib Dem poster

Mark Williams poster on display, with the help of two manikins

Handy campaign resources for Lib Dems

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Don’t miss out!

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There really are lots of uncertain voters

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:

MORI data on the number of voters who may change their mind

Lib Dem manifesto has the fewest cliches

Front page of Lib Dem 2015 manifestoJonathan Calder reports:

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.

As I wrote on my blog:

To his credit, Lord Ashcroft has addressed these sorts of criticisms [of his polling methodology], but he’s done so without evidence:

“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).

I have updated my scorecard of constituency results for seats of interest to the Liberal Democrats and the overall tally in Lib Dem held seats is Lib Dem ahead in 19 and behind in 27 (with the others not polled, but generally safer for the party).

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.

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