Wednesday 20 November 2019

On the Liberal Democrat Manifesto

Can we have a word about the title of this document? Jo Swinson's Plan for the Future? As we've noted recently, cloying desperation is a structural characteristic of the Liberal Democrats. Snakery and opportunism are but two of the piss diamond's many faces, and so they have decided to copy the strategy of ... Theresa May circa 2017. You might remember the Tories went for broke with a plan where the spotlight was on the imperial majesty of the then poll vaulting Prime Minister, and the rest of her toxic party were dubbed Theresa May's "team". It worked after a fashion because the Tories gobbled up 42% of the votes cast, and so the LibDems have decided to have a bit of that too. Because the yellow party have what you might describe as an honesty deficit, the campaign launched with a M&S catalogue aesthetic and a hyper-stylised Swinson slapped on everything, with the LibDems minimised to the corner of not just this document put nearly all the imagery put out on social media. How it must chafe for Chuka Umunna, relegated to second fiddle.

They are not reliant on the May approach alone. The LibDems are banking on the return of Cleggmania, this time around Swinson's non-personality. Because she's not terribly well known among the public at large, and having swallowed poll after poll about how unpopular Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn are (whereas the truth is they're polarising, which isn't quite the same thing) they think the unknown Swinson can break through as this election's wild card. Unfortunately for her, the ongoing dishonesty of LibDem leaflets, her punching left reflex, reticence when it comes to attacking the Tories on anything but Brexit and, yes, the squirrels, the more the public see the less the public like, especially among the remain voters she's trying to cultivate. Perhaps the hard remain posture isn't as clever as they thought it would be.

But yes, the manifesto. Having read most of it so you don't have to, the document is much better than one of the Chris Leslie-esque headlines policies suggest. Yes, you know I'm talking about the one where, to quote the document itself, the LibDems will "help young people into the rental market by establishing a new Help to Rent scheme to provide government-backed tenancy deposit loans for all first-time renters under 30." Just as neoliberalism is croaking its death rattle, here comes Jo Swinson's "team" with the defibrillator. Not content with saddling almost half of young people with huge debts (only a vague promise to review HE funding makes its way into the list of promises), they want to add a little more to the pile. It's almost as if indebtedness is governance strategy. And then there is their flagship policy: the skills wallet.

In full personnel manager mode, Swinson talked about this on Monday in front of the business heroes of the CBI as if she was parting the Red Sea for them. In reality, it's yet more reheated neoliberal cobblers not dissimilar to the Training and Enterprise Council grant schemes heavily promoted to school leavers in the early 90s, but seldom taken up. According to the policy, everyone will get £4k at 25, £3k at 40, and £3k at 55 to spend on approved training and education courses. Employers and local govt as well as punters themselves will have the option of topping up their wallets as they see fit. And to prevent fly-by-night training providers from cashing in, everything will be accredited and regulated by the Office for Students. A nice job creation scheme for bureaucrats then. This proposed system, which has as much chance of getting implemented as an accurate bar chart appearing in LibDem Focus leaflets, just assumes people are going to shop around for courses like a sprinkling of atomised consumers. If the LibDems were serious about retraining, surely a national lifelong education system that can be dipped in and out of would be a better choice. Ah, but that sounds too much like a sensible approach. And a Labour policy.

We have to put up with the dishonest asides throughout the manifesto. Because Liberal Democrats. We're told "Labour are facilitating Brexit" (p.15) (nope), "Labour has no plan for the economy of the future" (p.18) (nope), and "Labour will waste billions nationalising utilities – spending money that could be used to improve them just to bring them under state control." (p.26). Again, no. Nevertheless, despite a running polemic throughout with nationalisation, but not the kind of nationalisation Labour is proposing, a preference for strong regulation by the state, and the neoliberal idiocies and rightist rhetoric, if this had appeared in 2015 the Tories would have denounced the manifesto as a Marxist document no different to Trotsky's Transitional Programme. It is certainly the most substantive document put out by the LibDems in recent years, and effectively amounts to a weak programme of universal basic services. What is shows more than anything is the influence of Corbynism on political debate, and how its common sense is rapidly becoming the consensus view. And so the LibDems have adapted accordingly.

There are a few good wonkish ideas in here too around wellbeing and reforming fiduciary duty to insert social objectives into all businesses, but ultimately while it shows how the LibDems are trying to adapt to the political scene it is a vision destined to be crushed between Labour and Tory policies. If you accept the need for thorough reform and an institutional recasting of British capitalism, Labour's manifesto is the document to turn to and the party to vote for. If pushing through a hard Brexit and transforming Britain into a tax haven is the game, then the Tories have the market cornered. With the hard remain pitch falling flat, and Jo Swinson proving an effective voter repellent, it's not a case of the manifesto trying to please everyone. Thanks to the party's own efforts, at this rate no one will bother themselves to read it.

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1 comment:

If you were me you would have my views said...

The liberal democrats best friend is the media and the 'influencers' on Twitter etc.

Jo 'lets nuke poor people' Swinson represents the holy grail of the ruling class and its lackeys, i.e. whoever you vote for you get Tory.

Because Corbyn represents a socialist world view the ruling class and its lackeys hold out hope for the Liberal Democrats but they know history is against them.

The best outcome for the ruling class and its lackeys is a Tory majority and liberal democrat gains, that way they expect that the Labour party will be hijacked again by a Blairite (some twat like Burnham or Miliband).

I think the ruling class and its lackeys (e.g speedy and Boffy) will get its way but I live in hope!

If they do get their way and we end up with a Toty wins whoever you vote for then the time has come to make this country ungovernable, I don't see how peace and harmony can break out when the British public actively vote for a terrorist organisation that has killed mor brits in the last 10 years than every so called terrorist organisation in history!

A Tory win is a provocation and a vote for terrorists. The people who vote Tory are far far worse than those who go to fight for ISIS or even the IDF.