So, why vote Liberal Democrat in 2015? For some, this is an almost impossible question to answer. Open the pages of any newspaper and find an article about the Liberal Democrats, and you’ll be sure to find the words ‘traitors,’ ‘sellouts,’ ‘liars’ littered throughout. The popular but mostly unquestioned narrative on the Lib Dems is that we have sold out and gone into bed with the dreaded Tories. However, this is not fair or true.
In May 2010, Nick Clegg made the most sensible choice he could. To sit on our hands and let the Tories go alone, in the midst of one of the worst recessions the country has ever seen would have been politically convenient but reckless, irresponsible and immature. The country needed stable government, not one that could have had the rug pulled from its feet at any time and the Lib Dems were the only party in the position to provide it. The Conservatives are not our natural allies and it was not an easy decision. But the simple point is that this was the only responsible one to make; all other options were either impossible or would have left the country with a deeply unstable government at a time of economic peril.
Since May 2010, we have massively punched above our weight in government. We have delivered our front page manifesto commitments. We have removed two million low paid workers from paying income tax, meaning that currently no one earning less than £10,000 pounds will pay a penny in income tax, putting money back into people’s pockets. We believe that no child’s postcode should dictate their life chances and so have introduced the Pupil Premium, which gives schools extra funding every pupil who is entitled to free school meals.
As well as this, we have ensured that more under fours are entitled to free nursery care than ever before. We have also pioneered shared paternity leave, allowing couples to share parental leave and so allowing women to return to work if they wish. We are starting to make important changes to mental health care, implementing in April 2015 the first ever statutory waiting time limits in mental health services, beginning a long term process of giving mental health care parity with physical health care.
All these policies have and will undoubtedly make a real difference to peoples’ lives. We have also attempted to water down the very worst of the excesses of the Tory Party; we blocked the invasive ‘Snoopers Charter’; prevented the Tories from restricting housing benefits from the under 25’s; and opposed them on the Leveson Report. This does not mean that we have got everything we wanted. We only have 8% of MP’s and have had to make compromises – particularly on Tuition Fees – but we have ensured key Lib Dem interests are a prominent part of the coalition government.
In the future, the country faces a choice. We are being pulled in all sorts of directions by the likes of UKIP, with the other two parties playing along on issues like immigration and our place in Europe. Only the Liberal Democrats are offering a moderate liberal pitch anchored in the centre ground, arguing that Britain should be a vibrant, outward looking country with a stronger economy and a fairer society.
We argue for deficit reduction measures to be phased out by 2017; a change to our broken electoral system; a mansion tax on the super- rich; to continue the process of improvement in our mental health care system started by Norman Lamb; and to strengthen our connections with the European Union. We reject the quick, easy answers being offered by UKIP and the likes of Russell Brand; instead, we argue that Britain is stronger when it is working with Europe and anchored in the moderate centre ground. We do not think there needs to be a sell off between having a pragmatic approach to government spending and having a fair and equal society, and that all of Britain answers will not be found by blaming immigrants or blaming Europe. We can moderate the Tories in coalition talks, bring economic clarity to Labour and not seek to divide like the SNP and UKIP.
Come May, we need to send out a message that Britain is best served from the centre ground, with a stronger economy and a fairer society and reject the easy populism being talked about by other parties. If this is the society you want, vote Liberal Democrat.