The Liberal Democrats have launched a desperate attempt to win back voters, packing their General Election manifesto with meaningless pledges.
Why are they meaningless? Because the Liberal Democrats, under the same leader (Nick Clegg), made pledges to us before the 2010 election – having already hammered out an agreement with the Conservatives that meant they would not be able to honour those commitments.
There is evidence that teams representing the Tories and Liberal Democrats negotiated what would be in a coalition agreement on March 16, 2010 – and abolishing student tuition fees, a principle Liberal Democrat pledge, was not part of it.
In this light, how can we believe Liberal Democrat plans to push for higher capital gains tax, bringing it more closely in line with income tax? How can we believe they would change tax relief for entrepreneurs, so it does not provide a tax loophole for the super-rich – or even the modest plan to cut tax relief on pensions from £1.4 million to £1 million? And how can we believe they will restrict access to “non-dom” tax status for foreigners living in Britain who do not pay tax on their earnings abroad?
The BBC has an even more hard-to-believe report that the Liberal Democrats will cut the Winter Fuel Allowance and free TV licences for better-off pensioners, in order to pay for a 66 per cent discount on bus travel (in England only) for young people aged 16-21.
This is doubly insulting to our intelligence. Firstly, a concession on bus fares is no consolation for the tripling of student tuition fees in which the Liberal Democrats participated after promising to abolish them instead – and don’t they know that means-testing benefits to discover who deserves them is not a simple matter? It is complex and costly – as Alex Little told us only a few days ago.
This comment of his is particularly apt: “Old Tories are often popping up to say they don’t need their £250 winter fuel allowance. It may be true that they don’t need it, but their motives for mentioning it are so these things will be means tested, the budget will be slashed and then they think they can ask for lower taxes, or more ‘contributory benefits‘ (code for benefits not available to the ‘undeserving’ who’ll need to rely on charity).”
The Liberal Democrats are being more than a little disingenuous with that promise, then.
And does anybody really think the plan to decriminalise possession of restricted drugs for personal use will ever happen? The Liberal Democrats know their performance in the Coalition means they won’t win any elections soon and are hoping to be part of another hung-Parliament alliance. This means they would be sharing public office with one of the other parties who, they state, have “blighted” UK drugs policy with “kneejerk prejudice and the wish to appear tough”. This is another pledge they can make safely, knowing it is never likely to happen.
You’ll notice, also, that the Liberal Democrats say next to nothing about the National Health Service – that foundation stone of British fair play and decency that they allowed the Conservatives to sell off to private companies (in which many of them are shareholders) in order to make a profit from the suffering of the sick.
They will increase its budget in line with inflation so the private companies leeching off of it won’t lose profit. How caring of them.
To cap it all off, Clegg repeated what has become the Liberal Democrat mantra ever since he first used it in December 2012: “Liberal Democrats are committed to building a stronger economy and a fairer society, enabling people to get on in life.”
It’s the ‘party message script’, you see. Back in 2012, he added: “We will stay the course on the deficit. We will cut income tax bills and help with childcare bills. We will invest in boosting jobs and we’ll reform welfare to get people into work.”
Considering his party’s record on those matters, there is certainly no reason to buy any of what he’s peddling today.
Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike
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