Who cares what’s in the LibDems’ Manifesto? It is guaranteed to be meaningless

November 10, 2019

by Martin Odoni

At some point in the next couple of weeks, all the national political parties in the UK will launch their Manifestos for the 2019 General Election. “Mass publication of end-of-year fiction,” the cynics will sneer. We often find that to be the case, it is true. Not always.

But one Manifesto that is guaranteed to be a completely-non-binding fantasy – it is physically impossible for it not to be – will be the Manifesto of the Liberal Democrats. It is an absolute mathematical certainty that whatever they promise in their Manifesto will bear no causal relationship with what they do in the somewhat unlikely event that they get into Government.

This is not just a reflection of their broken promises while in coalition from 2010-2015. Their GE2010 Manifesto was arguably more progressive than Labour’s, but once in office, they enabled a very harsh, regressive Conservative program of Austerity, only modestly watering it down.

LibDems Manifesto 2010

Exhibit A in the case against the Liberal Democrats since 2010.

But more pertinent is the excuse they came up with for abandoning their Manifesto during negotiations with the Tories. They argued that a coalition requires compromise between parties who have different aims. Therefore, in the event of a Hung Parliament, the Manifesto is taken off the table. The Manifesto, they said and continue to say, only applies in the event that they win the General Election outright.

If you think about this, you realise quite quickly that, at least in the LibDems’ case, that means the Manifesto will never be worth the paper it is written on, irrespective of whether there is a Hung Parliament. For while Jo Swinson may have convinced herself otherwise, in all honesty, the LibDems are not going to win a majority in the House of Commons at any time in the foreseeable future. The days of the old Liberal Party as one of the ‘big two’ parties came to an end between the World Wars, when Labour supplanted them as the party of the left. Since then, neither the Liberals, nor the Social Democratic Party, nor their post-merger successors, have ever come particularly close to breaking back into the top two, be it on vote count or seat count (debatable exception – 1983).

If a coalition is an excuse for a smaller party to disregard its own Manifesto, then everyone else should be ready to ignore it too as soon as it is launched, as there are no plausible circumstances under which it will be implemented.

Such a Manifesto will be a waste of paper, not worth the bother of reading.

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