Monday, 11 January 2010

Nick Clegg Launches Our Campaign

Nick Clegg is this morning setting out our key messages for the general election campaign. He is outlining what our priorities are and what we stand for. The Liberal Democrats are different because we’re the only party that believes in fairness: we’ll bring change that works for you, instead of just those at the top.

Our four key pledges to deliver a fairer society are:

Fair Taxes: We will make the first £10,000 you earn tax-free. People earning £10,000 or less will not pay any income tax and those on the basic rate of tax will have a tax cut of £700 per year. We’ll pay for it by making sure the rich pay their fair share by introducing a mansion tax on the value of homes over £2m, by taxing income and capital gains at the same rate, and switching tax from income to pollution.

A fair start for all our children: We will cut class sizes and give every child a fair start in life by introducing a pupil premium. This will provide an extra £2.5 billion to our schools allocated according to the number of disadvantaged pupils on their rolls. It will allow schools to reduce class sizes, recruit more teachers to improve discipline and provide more one-to-one tuition to help pupils who are struggling. This will be paid for by stopping tax credits for higher earners and scrapping Labour gimmicks in the Department for Education.

A fair and sustainable economy that creates jobs: We will make Britain the world leader in the green economy - investing to create tens thousands of new jobs that last. We will use at least £3.5 billion of savings that we have identified from current expenditure in the first year of a new government to invest in public transport, a national programme of home insulation and new social housing. Our nation’s finances need to be sustainable too - we will be honest about where savings must be made to balance the books and will break up the banking system to ensure financial gambling can never again bring our economy to its needs.

Fair, transparent and more local politics: We will introduce a fair voting system to end safe seats so all MPs listen to people; we will ensure MPs can be sacked by their voters if they break the rules; we will return powers to local councils and local communities so they can take more decisions that affect their local areas and we will stop tax avoiders from standing for parliament, sitting in the House of Lords or donating to political parties.

We also have the following commitments:

· Protect NHS services from cuts: Paid for by diverting planned efficiency savings to frontline services like cancer care, dementia, and mental health. Unlike the other parties our detailed deficit reduction plans also mean that we will be able to avoid unplanned cuts.

· Recruit 3,000 more police officers to keep our streets safe: Paid for by scrapping the ID card scheme.

· Scrap student tuition fees to reduce burden of student debt immediately and eliminate it within 6 years: Paid for by stopping unnecessary spending across government including abolishing the Government Offices of the Regions.

· A pay rise for our brave service men and women: Paid for by cutting back on senior bureaucrats in the MoD.

· Uprate the basic state pension in line with earnings immediately: so that pensioners do not continue to fall behind earnings when the economy starts to grow again.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Waiting on a New Arrival

Sarah and I are on tenterhooks now awaiting the arrival of our first child. We don't even know if it's a boy or a girl, which makes it even more exciting (if that were possible!). As baby is due now it could be any day.....

It's a Question of Cuts

We've already heard a lot about cuts in spending in the aftermath of the deep recession we now seem to be tip-toeing out of. We've also heard about budgets that are protected, talk of investment, and priorities. What we need to see now is exactly what the priorities are and where the cuts will come. That is going to be key for people in the coming election. We have spoken already about making the tax system fairer, supporting early years education. We've pledged to cut big ticket expediture like the replacement to Trident, as well as reforming and shrinking Government. I think we will only finally see what each party will cut or support when the manifestos are published, although any party that tries to fudge it will come a cropper at the election.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

The Trouble With Salt

So, local authorities are being asked to cut their salting of the roads by 25%? The Tories have said that this means the Government are guilty of an 'astonishing failure'. Balance that with the fact that, in Surrey for example, roads except the motorways and major trunk roads are the responsibility of the County Council. Who runs Surrey County Council? The Tories. Who said in March this year that they learnt the lessons of the February snow? The Tories. Who is guilty of an 'astonishing failure' this time in Surrey? Answers on a postcard please!

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Infamy, Infamy........

...they've all got it in for me! Astonishing news today from Westminster as former Cabinet Ministers Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt call for a secret ballot to decide on Gordon Brown's future. Will it happen? Early signs are that it probably won't, although the hush from several big hitters is surprising. So far only Alan Johnson seems to have given full support to the PM. This is a bizzare early twist to a General Election campaign that is already unofficially in full swing. Frankly it looks clumsy and remarkably stupid from a Labour point of view. Under these circumstances you have to say that again we have a Government not governing, but turning in on itself. We cannot afford that at the best of times, but certainly not now. Time for a General Election? Well, if Labour cannot keep its house in order then the answer is yes. The economic recovery is so fragile that this sort of uncertainty could be very damaging. Gordon is fast running out of time here, and an Election may be the only way for the country to move on, whatever the outcome, and forge a more sustainable drive out of recession.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Still Waiting

Well, David Cameron has launched his General Election campaign by telling us? Well, not much. It looks like his 'age of austerity' has been elbowed aside, as it risked telling voters a little too much about how savage the cuts will be if the Tories win power. So we had 'optimism' cautiously inserted in it's place. The trouble is, that is all we have really been given. We will have a General Election in the next few months, but over 4 years after he took over, we still don't know what Cameron would ACTUALLY DO. I assume that he knows but just can't bring himself to spill the beans as they are unpaletable. The Lib Dems have given strong positive policies for the public to inspect and decide on for a long time. We are not afraid to be judged on our values and policies. With the discredited MP standing down this time, people will get a change, and have the chance to vote Lib Dem knowing what we stand for politically, and that I have pledged to be utterly open and transparent about expenses, and crucially, what I actually do in the constituency and in Parliamnent. If you check the record of the current MP at you wil find out that in his case it has been 'not a lot' lately...........