Lord Browne’s review – what now?

So Lord Browne’s review has been published and thrown a potential grenade into the coalition. However, his proposals do not have to be implemented, they are merely an indepedent recommendation. I’m not willing to comment until a Government proposal has been put forward, but I obviously want the Lib Dem MPs to stick to the NUS pledge which they, and I, signed at the general election.

Although all this presure on the government is forgetting one thing as “Liesandstats” commented on the Guardian today….

“In the interest of fairness it might be worth pointing out that the last government in the shape on Mandelson commissioned this report which at the time was reported as a ruse to kick the subject of university funding into the long grass until after the election. It was also Labour that introduced tuition fees in the first place in England. University education was free in England up to 1998 when labour introduced a £1000 charge and then upped that to £3000 in 2003.

Its simple you need to decide your finding priorties and make sure your MP knows them. We can waste billions on Afghanistan, Trident but you can’t educate your children.

I suggest you either move to Scotland or go abroad to take a degree it will be a lot cheaper in the long run.

The worrying thing in Scotland is if Labour get in next May we will be in the same boat as you couldn’t really put a fag paper between their policies and the Tory/Lib coalition if they had been returned to power.”

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Red Ed or Yellow Mili?

Ed Miliband used his first major speech as Labour party to leader to position himself and the party back into the centre ground. It was almost as though his brother, David, was giving the speech, talk of having to deal with the deficit, not backing unnecessary strikes over public sector spending cuts and wanting to reform welfare.

He paid tribute to Labour’s achievements, but also made several attacks on its past like:

  • An unjust war on Iraq
  • Student tuition fees
  • Attack on civil liberties
  • Loose regulation of financial services

Is it me or is Ed Miliband saying that the Liberal Democrats have been right all along on these issues? Does he want to join the Liberal Democrats?

Actually of a bigger tactical note is he’s making both an attempt to move to the centre as well as appeal to Liberal Democrats voters and open a flank for potential co-operation in the next parliament should there be a hung parliament. The other risk for the Liberal Democrats is of being squeezed, even more reason to continue to shout about the Liberal Democrat policies being implemented.

Of course we need to see policy announcements but the speech sets a tone, but that can change over time, David Cameron veered from soft and cuddly to right wing depending on his own political situation.

It’s only day 3 of Ed Miliband’s leadership but he’s certainly shown over the past months something his brother David Miliband never had – balls. And I don’t mean having to work with Mr Yvette Cooper!

What would I / the Liberal Democrats have done differently with the Budget?

An emergency budget for tough times. Overall, although I was uncomfortable with some of the budget announcements there were few things in there I didn’t expect or which Labour would have done vastly differently. Cuts are needed, although timing is always questionable and to some degree it has been driven by the financial markets / ratings agencies (yes the same ones which thought Lehman Brothers was sound…).

I won’t cover what’s in there and how the Liberal Democrats have managed to get a few of our policies in the budget announcements, but rather to highlight the distinction between my party and the Conservatives I want to highlight what I would have done differently: 

  • I’m still uncomfortable with the £6bn cuts this year, given the need for public demand to fill the lack of private sector demand, this is a concern shared by the US, fuelled by the 1930s depression and the problems faced by Japan since the 1990s.
  • I would have kept child benefits rising year on year, but I would have withdrawn it from better off families via taxing of the benefit.
  • Invested more in capital projects such as green technology to kickstart the growth in the private sector which the Government is relying on.
  • Announced the renewal of trident to be included in the Strategic Defence Review to understand the potential for cost reduction.
  • Examined the case for road pricing along with investment in public transport (have the environmental costs fully accounted for).
  • Although I don’t want council tax increases, I would allow local authorities the ability to increase council tax if it’s needed to protect local services, many of the cuts will be at the local level due to tight budgets.
  • Look to increase the incentives to work via a greater personal allowance rather than just cutting back on benefits.
  • Not enforced the rule stating single parents must work when their child begins school, too broad brush and ignores the poverty trap.
  • Remove the winter fuel payments for pensioners.

 

Politics like life involves compromises

I must admit I never expected a coalition, but at the end of the day it is probably the least worst alternative.

We could not have done nothing. There is a country to be run.

Supporting a Conservative minority government would have been possible but it would have been fragile, most Liberal Democrat policies would not have been enacted and there was the consdierable risk of another election within 12 months.

A coalition with Labour would have been ideal for many supporters but was never practical due to the parliamentary numbers and lack of support from the Labour party itself. A coalition with the Conservatives, although difficult should lead to many Liberal Democrat policies introduced (such as the £10k income tax threshold) and Conservative policies curbed (marriage tax allowance and inheritance tax threshold increase). All the details have still to be announced but this is what coalition government gives you compromise, hopefully of the important and best things for the country.

It’s also why voting for what you want, can make a difference. Although the electoral system is still against the Liberal Democrats, we can point to the 23% of people who voted for our policies when we were negotiating with the Conservatives, it gave us weight to get what our supporters wanted.

I don’t know what the road ahead will be like but at the very least we can say Liberal Democrat policies will have been delivered, we have experience of government and that coalition government can work (hopefully…).

Best performance ever in Bromsgrove by the Lib Dems

Although not the result we were looking for, and in common with the national picture, not what the Lib Dems expected. It was nonetheless the best ever general election performance by us in Bromsgrove.

Over 10,000 votes (up 3,000) and almost 20% share of the vote (up 5%) whilst both the Conservatives and Labour saw both votes and share of votes decline, even if the Conservatives have an increased majority.

The Lib Dems will be building on this in next years local elections and the next general election (whenever that may be!)

Two horse race in Bromsgrove

It is evident from speaking to thousands of residents in the Bromsgrove constituency that it is a two horse race for the parliamentary seat between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. It is not a safe Conservative seat.

Number of reasons:

  • The Liberal Democrats have a strong candidate who listens and answers voters questions honestly.
  • Expenses scandal is still raw and has lost the Conservatives votes
  • Some voters don’t like the new Conservative candidate’s professional background (investment banker), how he was chosen (central shortlist) or the fact he’s not even from the West Midlands
  • Weak Labour support and campaign
  • Number of independent candidates and the rise of the Bromsgrove Independent Conservatives
  • UKIP will take core Conservative votes away.

If you want a change for a fairer, better Bromsgrove and Britain then vote Liberal Democrat on 6th May.

Yougov shows the Lib Dems ahead by 3%

A Yougov poll out today show the Liberal Democrats on 34%, Conservatives on 31% and Labour on 26%.  Yougov also found:

“Just under half the country (49%) would vote for the Liberal Democrats if they were seen to have a reasonable chance of winning. Only 25% would vote for the Conservative party in these circumstances; a comparatively meagre 19% would vote for Labour.”

We’re not far off that situation to be honest! We’ll be there if we can get to 36-38% in the polls.

Despite days of scrutiny the political opponents are unable to find severe weaknesses in our policies. Just today in the Times several Generals  have said that Trident should be examined.

They “express ‘deep concern’  that the future of Trident has been excluded from the Strategic Defence Review that will follow the election. They caution that suppressing discussion of the issue or dismissing alternatives would be ‘a major strategic blunder’ “.

The key here is “alternatives” as the Liberal Democrats are not saying have no nuclear deterrent, we’re saying are there cheaper forms of nuclear deterrents?