15 Apr 2015

Lib Dems: we’ll out-spend Labour and Tories on education

We are in the “Testbed1” creative space, adjoining the Doodle Bar in Battersea, south London, and the Lib Dems say it’s the perfect place for their manifesto launch. It looks like a rave venue to me, but I am no expert.  Here’s the view.


Nick Clegg began his manifesto launch with attacks on Ukip and the SNP. Decency and tolerance would be cast aside if Ukip got a share in power with the Tories. Alex Salmond, who he said was the man really in charge in the SNP, would jeopardise the UK if Labour did a deal with the SNP. Only the Lib Dems could be trusted as a coalition partner, he said.

The front page of the manifesto has five rather than the four “priorities” for government on the front cover in 2010. “Priorities” with front page billing is code for “red lines”, David Laws all but admitted on Radio 4 this morning. Nick Clegg called them the promises Lib Dems would “fight tooth and nail for in the next parliament”.

The priorities expressed as slogans – “prosperity for all” etc – are not things that a Tory or Labour leader would struggle to agree with but Labour might not be thrilled with raising the personal allowance to £12,500 as a priority and the Tories might baulk at the Lib Dems’ green laws.

The big policy focus this morning is the party’s commitment to out-spend Labour or the Tories on education for everyone under 19. Until 2017-18, the Lib Dems would protect the budget in real terms (2.8 per cent minimum) and then they would increase it in line with growth, which could mean 9.2 per cent between 2017-18 to 2019-20.

That compares with the Tories’ commitment to increase in line with pupil numbers – forecast to grow by 7 per cent over the next parliament. Labour is committed to protecting the entire Department for Education budget, so the Lib Dems in the first two years would be protecting something a bit smaller than Labour (the Lib Dems protect the two to 10 year olds budget) but would increase it by a bit more than Labour).

The Lib Dems make much of their honesty in saying where the pain comes from but one economist said there’s the usual “nonsense” about billions saved from benefit fraud crackdowns and billions more from tax avoidance – if the two main manifestos earned “one out of 10 I might just give the Lib Dems 1.5”.

There was microphone problems at one point but an aide scurried in with a replacement. I noticed David Cameron at his launch yesterday appeared to be wearing three microphones on his lapel – not much is left to chance these days.

Today the focus is still partly on policy but from tomorrow the party moves into full political mode: trying to make sure it is part of the political conversation, trying to make sure that the two main parties don’t, as the Lib Dems see it, kid people that either of them can form a majority government.

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2 reader comments

  1. H Statton says:

    It seems the days of positive proclamations are well and truly gone. Why am I surprised? I should be used to it by now. There has always been the familiar swapping of jibes in the House of Commons and sniping on the fringes.

    But now, right from the outset, the main parties commence by immediately mocking the other teams’ approach to governance – the comparison of dodgy statistics and economic frailties, not to mention personal digs.

    If I never hear another comment about a bacon-sandwich it will be too soon. Even Miliband is using it too often as an opening gambit.

    As I recall, in 1997 it started with billboard poster wars – the demonising of other parties rather than using constructive cases as to why we should vote for a given party. I seem to remember seeing Tony Blair drawn with red eyes, even a pair of horns on a Conservative poster. Obviously someone had a premonition. :-)

    Clegg like his competitors is more concerned with slating others, quoting reasons to not vote for them, rather than giving reasons why to vote for the liberal democrats. Along with the others it reeks of desperation.The ‘honest party’…Hmm

    Unless I’ve missed one (which I probably have), UKIP has provided the only Party Political Broadcast that’s included not just the voice but its actual frontman in its televised statement (I would like to stress I am in no way a UKIP supporter!).

    Farage has taken the opportunity to extol the virtues of UKIP policy in a hassle-free, relaxed setting. It is akin to some bloke speaking frankly and sincerely about his concerns in life over a cup of tea in your front room (Maybe that should be a pint in your local boozer).

    UKIP does well in staged political theatre. The speech of its charismatic albeit controversial principal player is calm and composed, but strong when needed.

    If you don’t agree with him, you still end up listening and not shouting at the telly which is what I usually end up doing at the other main parties, even the one I support (although I do still throw my arms in the air!).

    I have to say, where I live, the campaigners have been out in force, all except UKIP that is. They merely shoved a leaflet through the door. Were they afraid of being turned away or getting grief?

    Did they think people wouldn’t want to be seen speaking to them? It makes it difficult to know how much support they actually have, as I live in a Labour stronghold.

    The main parties have mostly used ‘ordinary’ folk in their broadcasts to illustrate not their own principles but ultimately denigrate each other. Yet again, the expression about piss-ups in breweries springs to mind.

    As for education, the Lib Dems have got a nerve, following the massive U-turn in policy once they were in power. Phasing out tuition fees in six years (though I think that was naïve):

    Tony Blair uttering “Education, education, education” at a Labour conference is another example that springs to mind.

    I don’t know which is worse, hearing a leader lie or listening to one that doesn’t mention a subject at all. One thing I am sure of is that is breeds mistrust and eventually, voting apathy.

    According to “UK Political Info”, these are the figures for general election turnout. I expect local election figures at least in recent times, are far lower.

    I confess I am politically weary, listening to the same old crap but I do fully intend to vote, and yes I will be waiting upon the results as they come in. I sure-as-sh*t do not want the Conservatives getting their hands on the NHS, or anything else for that matter.

    I have always voted for what I believe in – an ideology, but one that can be backed up by economic know-how. I am under no illusion that cuts and hard decisions have to be made.

    I fear more and more that ideologies are being lost amidst the frenzy of slanging matches.

    As my English teacher used to say (about manifestos), “It is beautifully written rubbish”. Cue spin-doctors…

    BTW, I thought Clegg’s comment about Salmond was uncalled for and Nicola Sturgeon would be fully justified in being insulted by it.

  2. Philip Edwards says:


    Yeah, right, we can turst the Cleggies…….like we could over the scam of university fees.

    The Cleggies are as trustworthy as an eel covered in oil.

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