For as long as I’ve been active in politics people have complained they don’t know what we stand for. We may have a reasonable profile for our position on Brexit, but the fact that we’re only the fourth party in terms of MPs makes it even more difficult than usual to gain media attention.
On top of that, the party has more than doubled in size over the last two and a half years, so we have a large number of new or newish members who aren’t as familiar as many of us with the details of party policy or our key priorities for action.
So over the last six months the Federal Policy Committee has worked to produce the paper Demand Better: Liberal Democrat Priorities for a Better Britain, which is available here and will be debated at our autumn conference at Brighton.
We’ve written the paper in close cooperation with the party’s campaigns and communications committees and staff, and we’re using the party’s new slogan as the paper’s title. Demand Better summarises the Liberal Democrat approach to politics in 2018 and highlights our key policy priorities. Should a general election take place in the next year or so, it will provide the core of the Liberal Democrat election manifesto.
Our main theme is that Britain nowadays is fundamentally unfair and unequal. People too often struggle to achieve a decent quality of life for themselves and their families; work and effort are often not rewarded, while a rigged system allows wealthy people and companies to avoid contributing their fair share. Too much of people’s success in life is determined by the circumstances of their birth, rather than their hard work and skills. Public services such as the NHS and schools are starved of resources to do a proper job. People from diverse backgrounds often face unfair barriers to success. Long-term challenges such as climate change or the impact of automation on employment are neglected while the machinery of government is consumed by Brexit.
We then set out our key policy priorities in six sections:
- A better society, in which everyone is supported in times of need, with an end to austerity, where everyone pays a fair share of taxes on income and where wealth is taxed fairly; where everyone has the chance to live in decent homes in safe and clean communities; where everyone has opportunities to succeed regardless of their race, gender, sexuality, religion, age or disability and where everyone has a chance to make their voice heard through the decentralisation of power and a reformed voting system.
- Better and more integrated health and social care, including a higher priority for mental illness and standards of public health and greater equality in healthy life expectancy, supported by an immediate injection of resources funded by a 1p rise in income tax and, in the longer term, a dedicated health and care tax.
- Better education, with more resources for schools, teachers and further and higher education, in particular to support children from deprived backgrounds, in order to foster understanding and tolerance and equip people to play a full part in democracy, to provide children with the skills they need to make the most of their lives and to underpin future prosperity.
- A better environment, in which people enjoy clean air, clean water and clean energy; where the countryside and wildlife is protected; where businesses are supported to invest in green solutions, including energy efficiency, renewable energy, and low-carbon transport; and in which Britain is a leader in the fight against climate change, achieving zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
- A better economy, breaking the cycle of low productivity and low-paid and insecure employment; providing opportunities for people to make full use of their talents and be properly rewarded; and spreading prosperity to every community in the UK including a major programme of capital investment to stimulate growth and encourage business in turn to invest, the establishment of a British Housing and Infrastructure Development Bank, and support for innovation in the digital economy.
- A better Britain, open to and engaged with the world, benefiting from the opportunities of world markets and a positive approach to immigration, cooperating with other countries in promoting peace, human rights, sustainable development and the rule of law world-wide, and remaining a full member of the EU.
I haven’t listed everything in the paper here, so I do encourage you to read it – it’s a good deal shorter than our normal policy papers! It also includes key statistics illustrating what’s wrong with Britain today and why we need to demand better.
I hope you find the paper a decent summary of what we stand for, and a useful tool to spur discussion within your local and regional parties and particularly amongst our new members. As with everything else on the conference agenda, the motion accompanying the paper is open to amendment; the deadline is 1300 on Monday 3 September. The paper itself will be debated on the Tuesday of conference (18 September) at 1130. I hope to see you there.
* Duncan Brack is the Editor of the Journal of Liberal History and Vice Chair of the Federal Policy Committee.