James Forsyth

What will the Lib Dems say at the next election?

What will the Lib Dems say at the next election?
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The rapidly increasing likelihood that the Lib Dem payroll vote will vote to increase the amount that universities can charge in fees to £9,000 is a reminder of how different the next election is going to be. The Lib Dems will not be able to stuff their manifesto with eye-catching but unrealistic commitments designed to grab votes from this or that interest group.

The experience of coalition means that their policy positions will receive far more scrutiny than usual and have to be defensible.

Already, those around Clegg talk of a very different kind of Lib Dem manifesto at the next election. They drop heavy hints that the empty gestures—like ruling out the use of military force against Iran in any circumstances—will go. Also anything that can be depicted as ‘amnesty’ for illegal immigrants will go not make in. They joke that it probably won’t advocate euro membership any more, either.

If the Lib Dems will have to produce a more credible and realistic manifesto, how will they do that while remaining distinctive? We already know that Vince Cable is keen on the idea of a land tax. But some in the party are dismissive of the idea, saying that it is unworkable.

One think I think we can definitely expect is an attempt to build on what the Lib Dems have achieved in government. So, for example, there’ll be a commitment to increase the value of the pupil premium. I’d also expect another bold move on raising tax thresholds, a policy that can be depicted as benefitting the working poor but also acts as an effective tax cut for all basic rate taxpayers.