Liberal Democrats have been speaking openly of applying a “Remain bonus” of around £50Bn to helping the most vulnerable in our society, if Brexit doesn’t happen. On the doorstep this has caused some questioning.
A very short comment is that the web site fullfact.org [Full Fact] has looked into this and concludes that the “figure is a reasonable estimate but highly uncertain” (the figure is uncertain as the situation is hard to predict).
The longer comment is that all forms of Brexit harm the economy. A hard Brexit (where we leave everything) does the most damage, but none are neutral. From an economic angle, stopping Brexit stops the damage and means we have more money than otherwise. Boris Johnson’s deal is projected to cost the economy £70Bn between now and the late 2020s (70bn between now and the 2020s).
What Liberal Democrats are calling the “Remain bonus” is the extra money we have from escaping this. If anything, the figure of £50Bn is cautious --- if those predicting Boris Johnson’s deal would cost £70Bn are right, then the “Remain bonus” is arguably £70Bn.
This “Remain bonus” isn’t “new money”, but however it is viewed it reflects the reality that escaping Brexit means there is more money in the system to address the real social problems we face --- including the ones that led people to vote Leave out of a sense of frustration.
The Liberal Democrats have announced two major policy initiatives designed to help with wealth inequality. One is to make available £10,000 over a person’s working life for training. The other is to pay for 35 hours of free child care per week for children once they reach nine months of age. Both are highly-targeted. Both are likely to make big differences.
Both Labour and the Conservatives have been making big promises, as if they have suddenly found the proverbial “magic money tree”. That would be rash at the best of times, and is doubly so when we are facing real strains over climate change, and self-inflicted ones if Brexit happens.
But there are real problems of wealth inequality in our society. These policies --- like pushing the Tories to agree to an increase in the basic tax allowance to £10,000 when we were in coalition --- are highly-targeted ones to reach real bite points.
For people with access to money, childcare is practical, and training can happen when needed. But for many others, having a child means a parent drops out of work, because they are not earning more than the cost of child care, and then struggle to re-enter work. This is a particularly serious concern because there’s a lot of evidence that people who spend their first five years in poverty are much more likely to face poverty for the rest of their life. Early intervention can make a huge difference.
In a world that is rapidly changing, people without the money to pay for further training easily find themselves trapped in dead-end jobs or out of work. This is a crippling inequality. A little money to help with the cost of training is a way out of this.
Both of these policies hold the promise of making a big difference. They are also likely to pay for themselves because they are likely to lead to people earning more (and being able to pay more tax). They are examples of policies targeted to make a big difference to people’s life chances, without imposing an unrealistic burden on public finance.
Recently I was out in St Ives, making a video for use on Facebook. A total stranger interrupted to say how glad he was to see me out campaigning. He explained that he’s always voted Conservative, but is appalled at the way things have been going around Brexit, the lack of support from Mr Djanogly our local MP and the behaviour of the Conservative party recently. He said he would be voting Liberal Democrat, for the first time in his life.
Canvassing recently in St Neots, a grand total of two people told me they were planning to vote Conservative.
These are both signs of a huge change going on, as both the Conservatives and Labour leap to extremes. They’re a sign of growing support for Liberal Democrats as a credible alternative --- and the prospect of Huntingdon Constituency returning a Liberal Democrat MP in December.
In the past, Huntingdon has been seen as a safe Conservative seat. Things have changed.
The web site Flavible.co.uk provides breakdowns of national polls by constituency. On 30 May it showed Liberal Democrats likely to win, and on 18 September it showed us just six percentage points behind. Remain supporters are in a position to vote for a pro-Remain Liberal Democrat in Huntingdon. Labour can't win in here, but Labour supporter who are in a position to vote tactically for the Liberal Democrats to bring about change.
On top of this, Best for Britain’s tactical voting site GetVoting.org is encouraging Remain supporters in Huntingdon Constituency to vote Liberal Democrat.
Climate change is the biggest problem facing humanity.
Margaret Thatcher was one of the first major political leaders to recognise the seriousness of climate change. She’d had a scientific education, saw the science and tried to act on it. That was a long time ago.
Since then CO2 levels have gone up, we’ve had a succession of “hottest summers on record”, “unprecedented flooding” and major forest fires.
Urgent action is needed.
If the next General Election produces a Liberal Democrat government, we will revoke the Article 50 notice and cancel Brexit.
This isn’t about ignoring the referendum. If we receive enough votes to give us a majority in parliament, then enough people will have voted Liberal Democrat to give a new mandate.
Nearly a decade after the formation of the coalition it remains controversial. I’ve heard Labour supporters angry that Liberal Democrats didn’t form a coalition with Labour, and Conservatives angry about the things being in coalition with the Liberal Democrats stopped them doing.
In the mean time key Liberal Democrat achievements like pushing up the point where people start to pay income tax to £10,000, equal marriage and helping disadvantaged children with the Pupil Premium tend to get overlooked because they clearly work and have come to be seen as mainstream (even though it was an uphill battle to get them accepted). Forming the Green Investment Bank was a Liberal Democrat achievement, which has dipped below since it was sold by the Tories. This is one of a number of things where the harshness of the Conservative regime since the coalition gives an insight into the moderating influence of Liberal Democrats.