In Depth

Liberal Democrat manifesto: what are the party’s main policies?

Jo Swinson accuses Boris Johnson of ‘stoking hostility’ a day ahead of general election

In a final push ahead of the general election tomorrow, Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson said voters needed to decide whether Britain is “open or closed”.

She urged the electorate to back her party if they wanted to secure a second referendum or stop Brexit, and accused Prime Minister Boris Johnson of “stoking hostility”.

Here are the party's main policy pledges.

Stopping Brexit

The words “Stop Brexit” appear in large capital letters on the front of the Lib Dem manifesto. The party has said it would revoke Article 50 immediately if voted into government in the 12 December election, effectively cancelling Brexit without a public referendum.

However, Swinson has admitted that the Brexit Party's decision not to contest Tory-held seats has made the prospect of a Lib Dem majority even more unlikely. The party has therefore focused on how it will push for a second referendum even if there is a Brexit-backing majority in Parliament.

The economy

The manifesto says that staying in the EU would give the UK a £50bn “Remain bonus” that a Lib Dem government would spend on public services.  

This bonus is central to Swinson’s promise to build “a liberal movement to stand up for our values and against the forces of populism and nationalism” through an economy that puts people and the planet first.

This would include setting a 20% higher minimum wage for gig economy workers “at times of normal demand”. Jonathan Cribb, senior research economist at the Institute for Fiscal Studies, says the move would be “likely to reduce the number of firms who want to hire people on zero-hours contracts and incentivise them to move people on to a regular contract”.

In a bid to cut government borrowing, the Lib Dems are also pledging to raise specific taxes for specific policies - so for example, an air passenger duty rise would help pay for the fight against climate change.

Cannabis

One of the Lib Dems’ more radical policies is to legalise the recreational use of cannabis for adults.

The party says the law change would help “break the grip” of the criminal gangs that profit from drugs sales, and raise £1.5bn in tax, says The Telegraph.

Tackling the climate emergency

The Lib Dem manifesto calls for 80% of the UK’s electricity supply to come from renewable sources by 2030.

With current projections predicting that renewable sources will generate just 50% by that deadline, the plan would need the new government to rapidly roll out the construction of more solar farms and wind turbines on land and sea.

The party has previously called for an EU-wide commitment to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. And the Lib Dems want the UK to reach net-zero emissions by 2045 - five years earlier than the Tory government’s proposed deadline.

Swinson’s party has also set out plans to bring back a Whitehall department for climate change; revive the idea of a Green Investment Bank; and appoint a new chief secretary to the Treasury to oversee spending to help meet the zero-carbon pledge.

NHS

The Lib Dems would add a penny to the basic rate of income tax, to raise £7bn a year over five years - a total of £35bn - to spend on the NHS.

But the BBC’s health editor Hugh Pym says “this is a vague concept and simply means the party has promised £7bn a year more for health”.

The Lib Dems would also establish a cross-party commission to set a long-term funding settlement for the NHS and social care, and would introduce a dedicated health and social care tax to pay for it.

In addition, the party aims to introduce same-day phone or video appointments with a healthcare professional from the patient’s local GP practice in order to reduce the number of people attending A&E with minor problems.

One of their other key campaign pledges is to “transform mental health services by treating mental health with the same urgency as physical health”.

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Education

Swinson has made education a central plank of the party’s election pitch, vowing to give every child the best start in life by recruiting 20,000 more teachers as part of an extra £10.6bn-a-year investment for schools.

That funding would mean that by 2023, schools in England would be back to where they were in 2010 - when the Lib Dems started their last stint in government, in coalition with the Conservatives.

At this year's Lib Dem conference, the party also unveiled plans to extend the Pupil Premium, a grant given to schools in England to decrease the attainment gap for the most disadvantaged children, to students aged between 16 and 19, as education-focused site FE News reported at the time.

Transport

The party has pledged to freeze all peak-time and season ticket train fares, at an estimated cost of £1.6bn a year.

The Liberal Democrats say they would complete the HS2 high-speed railway, which would create extra capacity and make travel on busy services less cramped.

And they would spend £15bn on enhancements to the existing rail infrastructure over five years, about £1bn a year more than the government is currently paying.

Voting system change

The Lib Dems say the current voting system is “broken” and want to change it so that more voices across the country can be heard. “Labour and Conservatives will not change the system that has always entrenched their privileged position,” says the party.

It wants to introduce proportional representation to elect MPs, lower the voting age to 16, reform the House of Lords with a “proper democratic mandate” and enable MPs - rather than the Queen - to approve when Parliament is prorogued. It also wants to legislate to allow all-BAME and all-LGBT+ shortlists.

How are the other parties trying to win our vote?

Here are The Week’s guides to the main parties’ policies:

The Tory manifestoThe Labour manifestoThe Brexit Party manifestoThe Green Party manifestoThe general election manifestos at a glance

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