by Stephen Tall on April 14, 2010
Five years ago, I think it’s only fair to say, the Lib Dem manifesto launch was not without its hitches. Today’s was toruble-free. The website is slick and engaging, the Nick & Vince double-act showcased their complementary skills, and the media response has been almost surprisingly favourable.
In the New Statesman, James Macintyre assesses that the Lib Dems are on a roll:
The Liberal Democrats, who launched their manifesto this morning, are having an undeniably good week. … Nick Clegg, who held his own against Jeremy Paxman this week, has undoubtedly matured as leader, just in time for an election in which his party is looking a formidable force again. … with Clegg’s own openness on tax aimed at taking 3.4m of the poorest out of paying it altogether, his shadow chancellor who reaches to otherwise alienated voters and his clear message of “fairness”, this interesting party is very much back in the game.
The right-wing Spectator also dished out praise, albeit grudgingly:
In his introduction, Cable said that the other parties were ignoring the “massive elephant in the room,” which is the state of the public finances. And he joked that he was “The Elephant Man” for bringing that forward. I must admit, it was encouraging to then hear a politician putting numbers on their cuts, and admitting that they “still don’t solve the problem” – just as it was refreshing to read all the Lib Dems’ sums and fiscal projections in the back of their manifesto (p.100, here). …
I expect Clegg will be pleased with how today went. His party have a few neat policies; they’ve found a message to wrap them up in; and, alas, it seems that they can just shove Vince Cable in front of the cameras to convince voters of their fiscal know-how. The high point of the Lib Dems’ campaign, so far.
Adam Boulton for Sky News acknowledged the Lib Dems’ more honest approach, and reckoned the party could be on the verge of something big:
The third party’s manifesto makes a virtue of simplicity working through Lib Dem policies and pledges in a pamphlet which looks like the sort of thing you’re sent by mortgage lenders. Its unique selling point is the tables of tax spending and saving proposals included at the back. Whatever holes will be picked in the Lib Dem sums they are the only main party to open themselves to direct scrutiny in this way. …
Clegg, Miriam and the kids in No 10 still looks a long shot but if the opinion polls stay as they are, let alone if the Lib Dems get a boost from Clegg’s equal status on the debates, the Lib Dems will be players in the formation of the next government.
Meanwhile Henry Porter at The Guardian focused on the Lib Dems’ approach to civil liberties, which he declared “leagues ahead” of the Labservatives:
By far the best undertakings on liberty come in the Liberal Democrat manifesto, which is hardly surprising, given that it has been stalwart in its defence of liberty under all three of its leaders since the last election. … The party will introduce a freedom bill, regulate CCTV, reduce local council surveillance, restore the right to protest, protect free speech, offer guarantees to investigative journalism, scrap ID cards, end plans to spy on email and internet connections, scrap ContactPoint, reduce pre-charge detention to 14 days and scrap secret evidence. The Lib Dems go much further than the Tories on the DNA database and offer wholehearted support for the HRA. On civil liberties, the Lib Dems win hands down.
The good parts are those in which the party draws on its essential instincts as a guardian of civil liberties and political pluralism: rolling back the powers of the surveillance state; shifting power from Whitehall to local government; reforming the nation’s political institutions to ensure that the way people vote is better reflected in electoral outcomes. The fairness theme comes across in the plan to pay a “pupil premium” to boost the educational chances of the most disadvantaged children. …
The Lib Dems have a solid following. Mr Clegg and Mr Cable look good together. And even with their wives in tow Messrs Brown and Cameron have scarcely been setting the country alight.
Please do feel free to add links to other articles focusing on the Lib Dem manifesto below …