Here’s one we prepared earlier…
Handily, there was pretty much a complete general election manifesto drafted and ready to go in the event of a snap general election last year. People have been hard at work updating it in a process that is kept very confidential until the press stories start being placed.
The usual form for such urgent policy documents is to stick as closely as possible to existing agreed policy. That combined with the many recent public statements from Tim Farron means it is possible to have a pretty good guess at what the main themes will be and the key points to look out for.
The party’s now fairly well-established combination of messages in the last few months has been Brexit, the NHS and education, as field-tested in several Parliamentary by-elections. I fully expect them to be the top priorities once again.
On Brexit, expect a referendum on the exact terms of Brexit to be promised. The Liberal Democrats have often recently talked of being opposed to a “Hard Brexit”, which helps broaden the party’s appeal to those who voted Leave but want the UK to stay in the Single Market. In fact, a majority of the UK want us to remain in the Single Market. But the party’s position has been to want a referendum regardless of whether it is a Hard or Soft Brexit deal that is negotiated. That’s not going to change suddenly when the manifesto comes out.
On the NHS and social care, the big issue to look out for is whether the party firms up talk of raising taxes to pay for better health and social care. Both Norman Lamb and Tim Farron have been making positive noises about raising taxes in some form in order to fund this. Look out to see where this ends up, especially as talking of raising taxes to fund public services is the sort of policy that often gets the thumbs up from the public… right up until the point at which votes are cast. That said, as I pointed out when looking at these risks before, the party’s old policy of raising income tax to pay for better education was very popular and effective and even before the election was called Norman Lamb was a long way down the road of creating a policy based on raising tax.
As for education, Tim Farron has talked about being his top priority. It is a good fit with what makes the Liberal Democrats distinctive, with the emphasis on giving everyone the freedom who they want to be, rather than who the Daily Mail thinks they should be, or who a minister sat behind a desk in Whitehall wishes they were. It is also, however, less of an issue now for the public when it comes to deciding on voting than it was back when it was a central and successful part of the party’s messaging in the 1990s. Theresa May’s fixation with grammar schools will, most likely, provide a route therefore to talking about education in a way which voters feel is relevant to the decisions being made this time.