Thursday, 27 April 2017

Some Current Lib Dem Views to be aware of this General Election 2017

The Lib Dems hit their 100,000 membership target on Monday whilst at a campaign event in Vauxhall. Current Labour Brexiteer MP Kate Hoey is being challenged by Lib Dem candidate, ex Simon Hughes staffer and half Brit, half Croatian journalist George Turner. At first glance you'd think it'd be a daunting task, with Hoey having a 12,000 majority and a relative amount of celebrity recognition but throw in the fact that the constituency voted to Remain in the EU by a whopping 78% and you can see that there's a real chance for an election upset here. As a Remain Independent voter (who's currently leaning towards Labour), it'd be quite satisfying to see the seat switch hands, especially as Hoey hasn't been exactly clear on whether she approves of the Labour party's current policy platform, including on Brexit.

Whilst it's obviously a big plus to vote for Turner if you want to reduce the chances of Hard Brexit and make it clear that Vauxhall still favours remaining in the EU, it's important to be aware of Lib Dem views on the key issues that may sway undecided voters to mark the X firmly in the Lib Dem column, at least in Vauxhall. I've already covered Education in some depth and you can access that blogpost here: http://sassysvensknorsk.blogspot.co.uk/2017/03/a-short-analysis-of-lib-dems-education.html.

Welfare State:
    • The Lib Dems would reverse the Universal Credit cut, allowing those on the National Living Wage or just above to keep more from the income they work so hard to earn.
    • The Lib Dems would remove the Benefit Cap whilst addressing high-level payments to households by looking at ways of reducing housing costs. (Passed Motion F31/Policy Paper 124 "Mending the Safety Net" Autumn Conference 2016 http://www.libdems.org.uk/conference-autumn-16-f31-social-security).
    • The Lib Dems would abolish the Bedroom Tax and replace it with "incentives to downsize"(F31). 
    • The Lib Dems would increase Jobseekers Allowance and Universal Credit (UC) payments to 18-24 year olds in line with National Living Wage and Apprenticeship Wage increases (F31). 
    • The Lib Dems are considering introducing a Second Earner's Work Allowance to help families who are working hard to support their children.  The Lib Dems would reverse the "Two Child" tax credit and UC limit, remove the disgusting rape clause and reverse cuts to the family element of UC. The Lib Dems would give an extra £5 a week in Child Benefit for the first child to families on UC. All these policies would be funded through abolishing the Marriage Tax Allowance and ending universal entitlement to winter fuel allowances and free TV licences for wealthy pensioners (F31). 
    • The Lib Dems would abolish the Work Capability Assessment for those who are long term sick or disabled and then create a system that was fair, so that nobody would be forced to do a job that they are unable to do.
    • The Lib Dems would help disabled people into work by expanding the Access to Work Programme so that those with mental health conditions could be given access to reasonable adjustments. The Lib Dems would also encourage employers to take part in the "Two Ticks" scheme and to improve their HR policies towards disabled employees (F31). 
    • The Lib Dems are committed to helping carers, increasing the amount a carer can earn before the Carer's Allowance can be taken away to £150 and reducing the number of hours of caring to qualify to 20 (F31). 
    • The Lib Dems would provide a "decent, generous" State Pension and encourage young and middle aged people to save more towards their retirement.
Environment:
    • The Lib Dems admit that more action needs to be taken at a governmental level to help reduce carbon emissions so as to meet targets set out in the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The Lib Dems would reform planning framework so that local authorities can adopt a consistent and positive approach "to zero and low carbon installation applications across the domestic, non-domestic, public and community sphere"(Passed Motion F29: "Investing in the Green Economy", Autumn Conference 2016 http://www.libdems.org.uk/conference-autumn-16-f29-green-economy). 
    • The Lib Dems have set an ambitious target to reduce net UK carbon emissions to zero by 2050.
    • The Lib Dems understand that there needs to be more funding for wind and solar power-i.e. "real investment in renewables" to turn the UK into a green economy. 
    • The Lib Dems would retain the 5p charge on plastic bags.
    • The Lib Dems would invest in electric vehicles and phase out diesel vehicles (Passed Motion F40: "Future Transport" Autumn Conference 2016). 
    • The Lib Dems continue to support HS2 and would approve plans for HS3 (F40). 
    • The Lib Dems want to work closely with local authorities to establish "innovation hubs" which link universities with local businesses to "promote mutual learning and encourage exchange of ideas" (F29).
    • The Lib Dems would retain all EU environmental legislation and targets. 
    • The Lib Dems believe that agricultural policy needs to be upgraded. There would be a positive approach to helping farmers and processing factories to expand and grow their businesses and there would be funding and investment available to support new entrants into the food industry. The Lib Dems would also provide funding for agricultural research and development.
    • The Lib Dems want to stop the illegal importing of pets and require all puppy breeders to have a mandatory licence before they can start their breeding programs. 
    • Animal testing must be minimised, with the Lib Dems working with researchers to help them change their practices. 
Housing:
    • The Lib Dems want to build 300,000 houses a year, with financial help given to encourage housing associations and councils to build more homes.
    • The Lib Dems would build 10 new garden cities.
    • The Lib Dems want to create a Housing Investment Bank, which would generate new funding for housebuilding and ensure that the construction industry can hire enough staff and create apprenticeships to be able to help build the housing.
    • All housing built under a Lib Dem Government would be to high quality standards and would be sustainable. That would include making sure they are insulated to Standard B or C. 
    • The Lib Dems want to make sure that letting fees are banned and want to introduce stronger measures to hold private landlords to account when they provide substandard housing to low and middle income earners.
    • The Lib Dems would restore Housing Benefit fully to 18-21 year olds (F31). 
    • The Lib Dems want to tackle the issue of homelessness. A suggestion was made at the 2016 Autumn Conference to establish a £60m fund to be made available to local councils so that they could provide emergency accommodation for those who find themselves on the street (for at least 28 days) and early intervention finance for those at risk of losing their home. The Lib Dems would also extend the period that someone is "threatened with homelessness" from 28 days to 56 days. 
    • The Lib Dems seek an end to the Vagrancy Act, so that sleeping rough is no longer an criminal offence. 
    • The Lib Dems would end the Government policy forcing local authorities to sell off high value council houses.
Justice:
    • The Lib Dems believe that immigration has been positive for the UK and would continue to make the case that closing our borders would not be beneficial to the UK economy or culture.
    • The Lib Dems would work with national and international agencies including the Refugee Council to do more to help refugees fleeing persecution and conflict.
    • The Lib Dems would protect the Human Rights Act 1998.
    • The Lib Dems would conduct a review into the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, including introducing simpler procedures for legal aid in domestic violence cases and making legal aid available to children and vulnerable youngsters (Passed Motion F23: "Restoring Access to Justice" Autumn Conference 2016 http://www.libdems.org.uk/conference-autumn-16-f23-justice ). 
    • The Lib Dems want to introduce basic legal education in all schools which would be delivered as part of existing Citizenship lessons (F23). 
    • The Lib Dems would create and fund a national online site to provide legal education resources, which would be backed up by a telephony service for "signposting and clarification" (F23). 
    • The Lib Dems are looking at streamlining and simplifying all court and tribunal procedures "using accessible digital technology where appropriate" (F23). 
    • The Lib Dems would scrap surveillance legislation, so that billions would not be wasted on storing personal web and email histories that do not need to be collected. Monies saved would be spent on improving community policing, getting more bobbies on the beat.
    • The Lib Dems would focus on getting prison numbers down by reducing the amount of short sentences given to low level offenders. 
    • The Lib Dems would stand up for the judicial system and their right to rule independently on cases free from political bias.
Constitutional Reform: 
    • The Lib Dems are very much in favour of reforming the voting system. The First-Past-The-Post system is unfair and allows parties to win power based on relatively small vote shares. In 2015, for example, they point out that the Tories "won only 37% of the vote but 50% of seats", giving them a majority in Parliament. The Lib Dems want to introduce a proportional representation system where parties win seats based on the number of votes cast for them, regardless of where those votes are cast. That would mean that every vote would really count which could motivate more constituents to go out and vote.
    • The Lib Dems want to reduce the voting age to 16. If you can start work or an apprenticeship at 16, if you can get married at 16 or consent at 16, then you should have the right to go and vote for the party of your choice at 16. 
    • The Lib Dems have argued for decades for House of Lords reform, long before the Conservatives and UKIP. They contend that the HofL should be an entirely democratically elected chamber and that no politician should "have a job for life". Bishop and hereditary peers places would therefore be abolished under Lib Dem proposals.
    • The Lib Dems are committed to making the Houses of Parliament more representative of 21st century UK society and are introducing all women shortlists in the future and encourage more LGBTQIA+ people, BAME people and disabled people to stand for national and local elections. 
Health and Social Care:
    • The Lib Dems want to ensure that the NHS and Social Care system are protected for future generations. They recognise that there are particular funding and capacity issues that need to be urgently addressed. Tim Farron at the 2016 Autumn Conference suggested integrating NHS and Social Care into one system, calling it the "National Health and Care Service". Social Care would be provided freely whenever elderly or short or long term disabled patients required it. (See https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/sep/20/lib-dems-will-turn-nhs-into-national-health-and-care-service-says-farron). At the conference Farron announced that an expert panel "The Beveridge Commission" would report back to the party regarding the funding that would be needed to make the National Health and Care Service a reality within six months. The commission set up by Norman Lamb is independent of the Lib Dem party and released their Interim Report released in March 2017. The report found that the Tory Government's funding provisions for the NHS and Social Care are woefully inadequate, with a projected funding shortfall of £20bn in the NHS by 2020/21 and a funding gap of £6n in social care. 
    • The recommendations within the report include:
      • raising additional revenue through taxation, either through raising Income Tax, raising National Insurance or introducing a dedicated NHS and Social Care Tax and  
      • establishing an independent body to make health and social care budget recommendations to Government (similar to the Office of Budget Responsibility).
    • The Lib Dems would continue campaigning to improve mental health care provision within the NHS, including improving standards and providing sufficient funding to hire more specialist mental health nurses.
    • The Lib Dems want to treat drug use as a "health issue" rather than as "criminal issue" and are in favour of establishing a regulated cannabis market. 
Whilst the majority of the views and policies laid out in the blogpost come from passed Conference Motions and press releases, there is a strong likelihood that a number of these policies may appear in the Lib Dems upcoming manifesto; for example, the pledge to lower the voting age to 16 or the complete retention of EU environmental protection in UK law post Brexit are bound to feature prominently. What's certain is that the ideas and views espoused by the party that I've outlined here should be enough to provoke constructive discussion and to persuade those who may be hesitant to switch their vote away from Kate Hoey. There are a number of policy similarities with Labour, not least the idea to scrap the Benefit Cap and to restore Housing Benefit to 18-21 year olds. Ultimately, the success or failure of Lib Dem challengers standing against Brexit MPs will depend on the individual likability factor of the candidate, whether they can persuade swing voters on local issues and whether they can fight a positive campaign. So I wish George Turner the best of luck in his campaign in Vauxhall and wait to see the result on June 9th with much anticipation.