10 Jun 2024

General Election 2024 – Liberal Democrats manifesto

On 10th June, the Lib Dems launched their manifesto - here's our take on the objectives of the policies and their overall impact.

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The Liberal Democrats were first out of the traps with the release of their manifesto. After a series of attention-grabbing stunts by leader Ed Davey, now came the serious bit.

There was clearly a high level of interest; the party’s website seemed to be initially overwhelmed by traffic when the manifesto was published.

Here is a topline summary of what the party announced:

  • In a move likely to stoke the Brexit fires of yore, but is predictable red meat for their base, the party has said it would seek to “place the UK-EU relationship on a more formal and stable footing by seeking to join the single market”. This would sit alongside the “longer-term ambition” to rejoin the EU.
  • Health has been a core focus of the campaign, with the party announcing a £9.4bn package of support for the NHS and social care in England, paid for by increasing taxation on the banks. The manifesto promises everyone “the right to see a GP within seven days, or 24 hours if they urgently need to”. 8,000 more GPs will be recruited to deliver this, and the Lib Dems have also pledged to guarantee access to dentistry.
  • A cross-party commission on establishing a new funding model for social care sits alongside a broader package of interventions, including giving unpaid carers a right to paid leave from work and expansion of the carers’ allowance.
  • All those water-based campaign events served a purpose. The Liberal Democrats have pledged to “end the sewage scandal” by turning water companies into public benefit companies, banning bonuses for water bosses until discharges and leaks end and replacing Ofwat with a new, empowered regulator.
  • A roadmap to net zero would be introduced, alongside a pledge to expand the market for climate-friendly products through changes to criteria in public procurement policy and support for low-carbon processes and technologies in energy-intensive sectors.
  • On the cost-of-living crisis, the party proposes to cut energy bills through an “upgrade programme” and tackle rising food prices through a “national food strategy”.
  • Education spending would go up under the Lib Dems, with increases to school and college funding per pupil “above the rate of inflation every year”, the flagship element of its education offer.
  • Like the other parties, they are committed to maintaining the triple lock on the state pension.

Analysis from MHP

On Monday 10th June, the Lib Dems launched their manifesto – a ‘fully costed’ programme that focuses on providing a health funding boost to ‘save the NHS’.

This is not a programme for government – unlike his predecessor, Ed Davey is not telling voters that a Lib Dem vote will result in him becoming Prime Minister.

And it is, like all Liberal Democrat manifestos, a long list of policies – the real democracy that powers his party reduces Davey’s ability to arbitrarily add or remove policies in the way that leaders of Labour and the Conservative Party can and do.

But this document is designed to show potential Lib Dem voters what the party will prioritise in parliament and what they will pressure the next government to do.

That is where the core offer – social care, NHS funding and tackling the sewage crisis – comes to the fore. These are issues that many middle-class voters, particularly in the ‘Blue Wall’ seats Davey is targeting, want whoever is in government next to tackle.

The pledge to return the UK to the single market has attracted headlines as an attempt to reopen a front in a war which ended long ago. Given their membership, it was predictable that something like this would be included. However, as Labour seeks to achieve a “better deal” for the UK in its dealings with the EU, it is clear this is something Davey will push Starmer on.

Taken in the round, though, it is worth mentioning that were this manifesto to be implemented in full, the cost would be astronomical – it feels like caution (the watchword of Labour’s proposition this time round) has been slightly thrown to the wind by the Liberal Democrats.

Davey’s pitch is that he is the man, and his is the party, to keep Keir Starmer honest. The manifesto is the policy scaffolding to reassure voters that he can and will push Labour in a more progressive direction.

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