Lib Dem manifesto: ‘Hardwiring’ fairness into Britain

By Ian Dunt

The Liberal Democrats can “hardwire” fairness into British society through reform of the tax system, Nick Clegg has said at the launch of his party’s manifesto.

This morning’s event, held in the City, brings a week of manifesto releases to an end.

Speaking at the launch, Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg said: “I believe every single person is extraordinary and the tragedy is we have a society where too many people don’t get to fulfil that extraordinary potential.

“Our manifesto will hardwire fairness into British society. This isn’t a promise, it’s a plan.”

The party is putting itself on the line by being very honest about the cuts it would make to public spending and refusing to rule out any tax rises.

But spokespeople are promoting the fact that all the policies in the document are fully costed as evidence that Britain’s third party can be taken seriously as a credible political force.

“I believe this is the first time a political party has spelt out, line-by-line, these pledges,” Mr Clegg said.

“We know how every policy will be paid for. We know how to invest in your schools and create jobs even in these difficult times.”

In his opening speech, Treasury spokesman Vince Cable said the plans in the manifesto would make a major dent of £10 billion in the £70 billion deficit.

The party is making its tax policies front-and-centre of its appeal to voters, with the headline policy – making the first £10,000 people earn tax free – the most constantly recited aspect of the package.

The party, which plans to raise the money by closing loopholes available to the wealthy and polluters, says the policy would take 3.6 million low earners out of income tax altogether and save most people £700.

“Doesn’t it make you angry that after 65 years of red-blue government, a child’s chances in life are still more determined by their parents’ bank balance than by their own hopes and dreams?” Mr Clegg wrote in the foreword.

“I was brought up to believe that the way things are is not the way they have to be. I was brought up to believe that you should fight for what you believe in, and fight for change.”

There was also be a guarantee to protect the state pension and more pay for members of the armed forces.

The party plans to separate banks’ retail functions from their investment function and make sure no institution is ‘too big to fail’ as a means of preventing another bank bailout in the future.

Under measures announced yesterday morning, all bonuses above £2,500 would have to paid in shares, board members would be denied bonuses altogether and loss-making institutions would be barred from paying them out at all.

Class sizes would be cut, the Lib Dems promise, by a programme targeting £2.5 billion at struggling pupils.

The public would be given the right to sack corrupt MPs – a policy all three main parties have now adopted – and a freedom bill would re-establish many British civil liberties, the document said.

Liam Byrne, Labour’s chief secretary to the Treasury said: “We may disagree with the Liberal Democrats on some issues but there is something we do agree on – that the Tories’ commitment to immediate cuts would put the recovery at risk.

“But what the Lib Dems have shown today is that their sums simply don’t add up and what they offer comes at the price of cuts for families.”

Shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Philip Hammond said: “There are lots of things in this manifesto that look appealing. The problem is that the sums just don’t add up. Instead of tackling the deficit, there’s actually a £11.6 billion black hole in the Lib Dems’ numbers which means that instead of reducing borrowing they would actually increase it by £900 million.