FactCheck: Liberal Democrat’s ’23 policies…’

Apparently, there are 23 policies in the Queens Speech which are Liberal Democrat policies. Surely this has to be worth the sell-out?  The contortions that the Liberal Democrat’s have to go through to make this claim would, I suspect, impress George Orwell and be Pravda-worthy. I thought I would, in an homage to Channel 4’s FactCheck, delve a little deeper into this claim. Of course, it is worth adding the caveat to this piece that the full detail of the Bills has yet to published and since, as rightly noted by David Miliband, the Speech was a little light on the detail side there is probably much more watering down to come.      

  • Making the tax and benefits system fairer and simpler, including a significant increase in the personal allowance and an ambition to increase it to £10,000

Right out of the traps we have to note ‘fairness’ and ‘simplicity’ are subjective terms and hard to quantify. No politician would claim they want to make taxes more unfair and complicated so the first part of this ‘policy’ falls under the heading of ‘seal clubbing’. Rhetorically, the Liberal Democrats do not own a monopoly on wanting this; in fact, please explain to me the difference between this and the Conservative manifesto stating:        

The Conservative Party believes in lower and simpler taxation.        

Both the Coalition party’s make the natural assumption lower and fairer are the same thing (gone is the Liberal Democrat talk of moving the burden to those earning more; something the Conservatives would perhaps not argue but then again neither do the Liberal Democrats anymore). If you look at the National Insurance proposals in detail what you will find is that the rise in the threshold for employees is nothing compared to the one granted to employers. Also, notice how it’s now an ‘aspiration’ to raise the amount you can earn before tax to £10,000 something that is of questionable ‘fairness’ value in the first place though yes, I admit, it sounds like a good idea. However, look a little deeper and actually, ‘fairness’ means robbing Peter to pay Paul and picking Paul’s pocket after as Left Foot Forward helpfully explain.      

Verdict: False to claim this is a Liberal Democrat policy win.  

  • Restoring the earnings link to pensions

The audacity of this claim is amazing. It was included in the Conservatives manifesto and Labour’s. So, errrr, that makes it not a (solely) Liberal Democrat policy then?   

Verdict: False to claim this is a Liberal Democrat policy ‘win’.   

  • Greater freedoms for teachers over the curriculum

Once again we enter into ‘seal clubbing’ territory. Like many things on the Liberal Democrat list it is stretching the definition of ‘policy’ to breaking point; arguably to the point where it isn’t a policy at all but in fact is a banal statement. This truth shows us how little the Liberal Democrats actually got policy wise. It’s so painfully vague that once again any of the three major parties could claim credit for it. Witness this passage from Labour’s manifesto:

our primary curriculum reforms will create more flexibility for teachers to offer a broad, challenging and engaging education     

We eagerly the nut’s and bolts which will ‘liberate’ teachers with a degree of skepticism.   

 Verdict: False to claim this is a policy at all, let alone a Liberal Democrat policy ‘win’    

  • A referendum on the Alternative Vote

At last, something concrete. Something concrete that actually isn’t Liberal Democrat policy as their manifesto helpfully explains:     

 Liberal Democrats will:    

• Change politics and abolish safe seats by introducing a fair, more proportional voting system for MPs. Our preferred Single Transferable Vote system gives people the choice between candidates as well as parties

Rather ironically, this ‘policy win’ is closer to Labour’s stated policy of a referendum on AV+. AV doesn’t even have the proportional element that AV+ does; in fact, it has no element of proportionality, because it modifies First Past the Post to ensure a winning candidate has more than 50% of the vote.  As for it being the ‘first step to STV’ two words spring to mind; ‘get real’. Similarly, fixed-term Parliaments were included in the Labour manifesto as was the ‘right to recall’ in the Conservatives.

Verdict: A policy win for Labour from the opposition benches.  

 A Equitable Life settlement was included in the Conservatives manifesto and arguably the positive effects of ending child detention are off-set by continued incarceration of their parents and the immigration cap which will separate families. Furthermore, in some cases, like that of Royal Mail, the ‘policy win’ is actually a ‘policy loss’ (the Liberal Democrat manifesto commits to ‘full public ownership’ for Royal Mail. I could go on but I think the pattern is quite clear. The claim there is ’23 Liberal Democrat’ policies in the Queen’s Speech is totally false.  So, how many Liberal Democrats can, keeping a straight-face claim they got a ‘good deal’?

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About darrellgoodliffe

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