Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Lib Dems Conference Policy

As the Lib Dems Conference in Bournemouth draws to a close, the sun setting on the sandcastles and empty pint glasses. What has the conference to offer the voter rather than a party member? I've been following with an interest in what policy the Lib Dems are taking into this election and there are several points that have caught my eye.
  • Tuition fees - This has always been a dividing line with the Lib Dems, yet given public worry over government spending Clegg will never be able to justify where the money will come from, he's right put this on hold. I want university to be available to anyone, yet it's impossible to fund the amount of people now attending. So I would rather see a fairer system in place, one that helps students, not penalise them.
  • Economic Policy - Vince Cable laid out plans to freeze public sector pay, pensions and limit tax credits for the middle classes. He's also not ruling out like the other parties raising taxes. He's right to look at public sector pay as it's a large government burden, for example 70% of the health budget goes on pay. Labour have been incredibly relaxed in this area simply for not wanting to clash with the unions. But the debt has to be paid back, whether this is the way though I'm not sure yet, I'll hear all the parties out first.
  • Ban/curb airbrushed photos - This is on adverts targeted at children, also having warnings on images that indicate the digital retouching done for adults. I'm glad this issue was raised, yet banning is not something I expect from the Lib Dems, in fact banning is not something I expect in general. Yet given how exploitative advertising has become, perhaps education on the realities of advertising i.e in a boarder capacity would be more of benefit. I don't see warnings really working practically, as all images go though a digital process these days, it could end up like a cigarette packet, just a warning message.
  • EU president Blair - Those wonderful Lib Dems voted not to support his candidacy until an inquiry had established his role in torture and Iraq. This has my complete support, I'm so glad they're keeping the pressure on the government over this. The only thing worst than President Blair is making him "peace keeper" of the Middle East. Which isn't at all like putting a pyromaniac in charge of the Fire Brigade.
  • Britain's libel laws - Lib Dems are the only party so far to really bring this up and want to readdress the crazy libel tourism our laws currently cater to. There have been a few references on the web to the Tories being interested in this policy, it will be interesting to see just how pro big business the Tories are.
  • Reform - Consisting of localisation, electoral reform, party funding and giving parliament greater power. The big difference between the Tories on this point is devolution, Lib Dems support devolving greater power. Vince Cable said he thought London was on a "collision course" with Edinburgh, I think he spot on with that. I certainly like that the devolution of power won't be just for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, but they propose to address the democratic deficit in England to.
Overall it was a really mixed bag from the Lib Dems, pulling together all these strands to make a clear, defined narrative is going to be difficult for Nick Clegg. Particularly with an overlap in areas with the Tories. Clegg needs to find a way to make that message his own or it will be used as a stick to beat them with. His strongest asset is Vince Cable, at a time when few politicians are respected Vince* has managed to remain above it all. Clegg also needs to grow some sharp teeth and bite back or he will never be heard. Leaving this election just about David Cameron and how badly Labour will loose

*We're on a first name bases.

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