Why do people, and by definition me, get involved in politics

This week for the ordinary person they’re probably thinking about half term entertainment or what to give up for lent. For the politicos out there, general election fever is slowly coming to the boil, but what makes thousands of activists give up their free time, and those like me, stand for election?

I’ve had to think about it, because it’s something that crosses my mind whenever I ask a volunteer to help with a campaign, a voter asks why they should vote Liberal Democrat, or friends ask me why I am standing for an election. It’s because of the type of society I would like to see in the UK, and the world, and who I think is best to deliver, or campaign for this.

For me, it’s a world where each individual has the opportunity to make the most of how they live their life, a society strong in civil liberties and evidence based policies.

And when I look at the policies the Liberal Democrats, and by definition the coalition Government, have delivered over the past 5 years it makes me realise that there has been a liberal theme. A theme, which resonants with me, and those who give up their time for the party.

On life opportunities helping pupils from the poorest backgrounds so their future is not dependent on their birth; giving an income tax cut for millions of ordinary working people; shared parental leave so families can decide how best to care for their children; ensuring the state pensions are delivering a dignified retirement.

Scrapping ID cards for civil liberty reasons; blocking the Tories “Snoopers Charter” and delivering on same sex marriage. Evidence based policies such as introducing free school meals, as trials showed they improved educational results for all pupils. It’s why the Liberal Democrats want to tackle drug and criminal reform as the current processes aren’t working.

It’s one thing to say what the Lib Dems have done (good and bad), it’s then another to show what a liberal Britain can look like. I will cover more of that in another post, but I truly believe that a strong liberal voice, whether in Government or opposition is essential for the UK, and I will be campaigning over the coming months (and years!) to make that voice heard.

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“It’s the economy, stupid”

In continued recognition of Liberal Democrat’s economic competence, The Financial Times and Economist in the last few days has criticised both Conservative and Labour’s honesty and openness on the necessary actions to control the budget deficit whilst commending our plans and approach.

George Osborne get’s a particularly strong attack from the Economist

“One explicit difference between Mr Brown’s plans and Mr Cameron’s is that the latter wants to start cutting this year, despite the risk of stalling the crawl out of recession. In that, he is probably mistaken, just as he was wrong to oppose Mr Brown’s fiscal stimulus. In both cases, the Tories may have subordinated sensible economic thinking to political positioning.”

The Liberal Democrats have been explicit in some of the actions necessary to cut the deficit identifying areas like Trident, ID cards, scrapping child trust funds and a 10% tax on banks profits. However, unlike the Conservatives, the cuts will be made at the right time when the recovery is clearly happening, rather than straight away and derail the recovery.

As I’ve said in the first Focus of 2010, do we want Vince Cable, with experience in industry and a PhD in Economics to run the economy or George Osborne with his lack of expertise and experience and would be learning his trade at the country’s expense…

Clegg has been prudent in putting some policies on hold

My view is that a lot of what the Lib Dems were looking to do; free personal care for elderly, free childcare, extended shared maternity leave, citizens pensions is not feasible when you are also talking about making cuts in government expenditure not just rebalancing the books. We are already proposing cuts to trident replacement, abolish Child Trust Fund, restricting public sector pay increase for two years to £400 and cancelling ID cards.

You have to be realistic and reasonable. Companies and families adjust to the economic situation and so must political parties. We still firmly believe in free personal care for the elderly and no tuition fees for students, we did introduce these measures in Scotland when we were in coalition government.

We can still say what we stand for and advocate their introduction when the time is right, which is better than being populist and jumping on the nearest bandwagon that rolls by.

The Lib Dems are still proposing pretty serious changes, which would make the UK a fairer country:

  • A fairer tax system – lifting income tax threshold to £10k, effectively a £700 tax cut and taking c.4 million low paid and pensioners out of tax. Paid for by taxes on the wealthy and with green taxes (to change consumption behaviour).
  • A fair start for children – maximum primary school class sizes of 15 for children up to age 8. Most children from impoverished backgrounds will automatically be behind by the time they are 7 so we need to give them as good a start as possible.
  • A fairer economy, investment in green technology and industries, it is a growth industry and we’ll become less dependent on the financial sector.
  • A fairer form of government, more power to local authorities and  electoral reform to enable proper choice for voters people and make sure their votes count.