Lib Dems launch draft election manifesto

The Liberal Democrats have launched a draft version of their general election manifesto in preparation for the autumn conference which begins this weekend in Bournemouth.

The 5000-word document outlines the party's top ten policies under the title "Freedom, Fairness and Trust".

Its key pledges focus primarily on public services and domestic policy, but it also mentions Iraq, emphasising that the Liberal Democrats opposed the war.

On health, they pledge to end "Whitehall meddling" and introduce free personal care for the elderly.

The promise to scrap council tax, provide free off-peak transport for pensioners and the disabled, and raise the basic state pension by £25 a week for the over 75s are also likely to appeal to older voters.

On education, they pledge to abolish tuition and top up fees and scrap the Child Trust Fund in order to focus investment on early years education.

The two final pledges are to place 10,000 extra police on the streets and action to improve the UK's environment by cutting pollution and increasing the use of renewable energy.

Launching the party's manifesto leader Charles Kennedy said: "The values underpinning our agenda for Britain are freedom, fairness and trust.

"Freedom is about giving people the opportunity to make choices for themselves. Fairness is about equal access - a decent health service, a quality education. And trust is about telling the truth when it counts and trusting people to make decisions."

Mr Kennedy said that the evidence was that the "ideas are already working for us", pointing to "victory in the Brent East by-election, and in Leicester South. They are working for us now in Hartlepool.

"As this Labour government becomes more unpopular, increasingly the challengers are not the Conservatives. The challengers are the Liberal Democrats."