In this instalment of Elections for Dummies our Political Sub-Editor, Shaun Balderson, explains the Liberal democrats history, ideology and current manifesto commitments.
This General Election the Liberal Democrats are undergoing the fight of their lives. It seems all hope is lost in respect to gaining seats, instead in this election, the party prays for survival and the avoidance of an electoral wipe-out.
This is a first for the Liberal Democrats whom have revelled in consistent rises in public opinion since its founding in 1988. While the Lib Dems had such persistent rises the real surges started in 2001 when Liberal Democrats under Kennedy’s leadership made a historic breakthrough and in both 2001 and 2005 the party made significant gains in the House of Commons and was recognised as a formidable third party.
The only wavering support was a very short spell of stagnation after the resignation of Kennedy due to alcoholism, and media attacks over the old age of the new leader Campbell, which eventually forced him to step down. However despite this, the Liberal Democrats proved their resilience and remained endorsed by the people at the polling time.
Last General Election the Liberal Democrats, under their new, refreshingly young faced and bright eyed leader Nick Clegg, again had seen a monumental rise in the party’s public opinion. The popularity of the Liberal Democrats under Clegg grew, both out the party’s advocating of its alternative ideological commitments which offered a credible challenge across the country, and also due to Clegg’s outstanding performance in the United Kingdom’s first party-leader debates.
However, the Liberal Democrats came out third in the 2010 Election, at the same time no party achieved a majority in the House of Commons. The following decisions that ensued can be seen as the source of the Liberal Democrats current crises. Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats agreed to form a coalition government, propping up David Cameron and his Conservative Party. The party had secured certain conditions for the coalition government such as a nationwide referendum on the adoption of the alternative vote system. However, not only did the referendum prove disastrous; with the proposed reform being defeated by a huge margin but the sacrifices made by the Liberal Democrats for such agreements – such as not raising tuition fees – had dismantled the party’s credibility and on a broader note trust in British politics and politicians.
Historically, the Liberal Democrats ideology is composed by radical and social liberalism. Ever since formation, the party has put a great deal of effort in securing constitutional reform; such as electoral reform, the reform of the House of Lords, installing freedom-of-information legislation, advocating local democracy, the devolution of state authority as well as commitments to creation of a bill of rights. The Liberal Democrats have also commonly adopted a slightly left-of-centre stance on educational and social issues. However, they have consistently attempted to place themselves in the middle ground of the political spectrum somewhere between the Labour party and the Conservative party.
The Liberal democrats have been in the coalition government for five years now. During their time in government they argue that they had played a positive role in the governance of the United Kingdom. It’s presented that their role in taking the most economically vulnerable people out of tax, acting as a counterbalance to the Tories harsh welfare cuts, refusing the pervasive counter terrorism measures, along with demanding an increase in free childcare provision across the country, has benefited the people of the UK.
This time around, what’s in the Liberal Democrats manifesto? Have they peddled back radical promises or are they resiliently sticking to ambitious aims of social and constitutional reform?
In terms of the NHS, the Liberal democrats are unique in offering £3.5 billion extra for mental health with an aim of treating mental health issues like any other health issues. They wish also to increase NHS funding by at least £8 billion a year by 2020. For education, the liberal Democrats guarantee qualified teachers and a core curriculum consisting of decent sex education. Another focus for young people, the Liberal Democrats promise to give all 16-25 year olds two-thirds of bus travel.
They also wish to solve the housing crises by building 300,000 houses per year and set in motion ten new ‘Garden cities’. The Liberal Democrats also are making ambitious efforts to solve environmental degradation; aiming to double renewable electricity by 2020, decarbonise the power sector by 2030 in order to provide a zero carbon Britain by 2050. On a more soft touch, they wish to plant 750,000 trees per year, charge plastic bag usage as well as promote the use of public transport.
However, the Liberal Democrats also wish to deal with the deficit, despite great spending promises. Their plans to do this consist of; raising £1.5 billion from taxing homes worth over £2 million, raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy bringing in an extra £14 billion, along with both the clamping down of tax avoidance and enforcing a separate corporation tax on the banking sector.
The Liberal Democrats provide a rather unique focus on combatting human right abuses, modernising the criminal justice system and advocating the benefits of the free movement of people and European integration. The Liberal Democrats aim to ban arms exports to all countries flagged up for human rights abuses, they wish to remain in the European Union and install full entry and exit checks in the UK to develop real estimates of Net Migration. On the topic of reforming the criminal justice system an important part of the LibDems manifesto is it promise to end the imprisonment of those who possess drugs for personal use and the scrapping of police and crime commissioners.
A focus on constitutional reforms is also at the centre of Liberal Democrats campaign, they hope to devolve even more powers to Scotland and Wales, bring in votes for 16 year olds, exchange the First Past The Post electoral system for a more proportionally representative ‘Single Transferable Vote’ method, not only this but the Liberal Democrats aim to reform the House Of Lords and cap annual political donations to £10,000 per person – eliminating the heavily undemocratic role of finical and corporate elites within election campaigns.
This has been a short introduction to the Liberal Democrats party:- for more information on their plans for government you can read the manifesto here. https://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/manifesto2015/ConservativeManifesto2015.pdf
Or you can watch Nick clegg in this year leaders debate here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Sv2AOQBd_s