Is this a taste of what's to come?

Liberal Democrat city councillor withdraws her support for Wolverhampton coalition, citing "ideologi

A Liberal Democrat city councillor in Wolverhampton has just announced that she will be withdrawing her support for the city's ruling Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition.

The council was exactly balanced, with 30 Labour members, 25 Conservatives and 5 Lib Dems, meaning that Claire Darke's abstention causes the coalition to collapse.

Darke has reportedly taken this action with the support of her local party, and has cited two main reasons for her departure -- firstly, that a Labour victory in a July by-election demonstrated that the electorate were leaning away from the coalition, making it "morally wrong" for it to continue; and secondly, the "ideologically driven" Conservative spending cuts.

This passage from her full statement is particularly interesting:

In addition, in a controlling alliance - and then a formal coalition - with the Conservatives (controlling Wolverhampton since May 2008) I believe that the Conservatives have treated their Liberal Democrat partners with contempt: our partnerships agreements have been ignored or appropriated by the Conservatives with no due respect given to us as individuals or as a party.

Plus, the ideological driven policies of the Conservatives to 'slash and burn' our great city's (nation's) services must not be tolerated. The ideological driven philosophy of the Conservatives that 'if we do not legally have to do it - don't do it at all' is the opposite of what any fair and equal (and just) society should be.

Of course, this is a city council with few ties to Westminster, and this move by one single councillor cannot and must not be blown out of proportion as regards the stability of the Westminster coalition. But the fact that Darke is citing broader problems of ideology and working relationship with the Tories rather than specific issues local to Wolverhampton prompts the inevitable question: could this be an indication of what is to come?

Caroline Crampton is assistant editor of the New Statesman. She writes a weekly podcast column.

Getty
Show Hide image

The 5 things the Tories aren't telling you about their manifesto

Turns out the NHS is something you really have to pay for after all. 

When Theresa May launched the Conservative 2017 manifesto, she borrowed the most popular policies from across the political spectrum. Some anti-immigrant rhetoric? Some strong action on rip-off energy firms? The message is clear - you can have it all if you vote Tory.

But can you? The respected thinktank the Institute for Fiscal Studies has now been through the manifesto with a fine tooth comb, and it turns out there are some things the Tory manifesto just doesn't mention...

1. How budgeting works

They say: "a balanced budget by the middle of the next decade"

What they don't say: The Conservatives don't talk very much about new taxes or spending commitments in the manifesto. But the IFS argues that balancing the budget "would likely require more spending cuts or tax rises even beyond the end of the next parliament."

2. How this isn't the end of austerity

They say: "We will always be guided by what matters to the ordinary, working families of this nation."

What they don't say: The manifesto does not backtrack on existing planned cuts to working-age welfare benefits. According to the IFS, these cuts will "reduce the incomes of the lowest income working age households significantly – and by more than the cuts seen since 2010".

3. Why some policies don't make a difference

They say: "The Triple Lock has worked: it is now time to set pensions on an even course."

What they don't say: The argument behind scrapping the "triple lock" on pensions is that it provides an unneccessarily generous subsidy to pensioners (including superbly wealthy ones) at the expense of the taxpayer.

However, the IFS found that the Conservatives' proposed solution - a "double lock" which rises with earnings or inflation - will cost the taxpayer just as much over the coming Parliament. After all, Brexit has caused a drop in the value of sterling, which is now causing price inflation...

4. That healthcare can't be done cheap

They say: "The next Conservative government will give the NHS the resources it needs."

What they don't say: The £8bn more promised for the NHS over the next five years is a continuation of underinvestment in the NHS. The IFS says: "Conservative plans for NHS spending look very tight indeed and may well be undeliverable."

5. Cutting immigration costs us

They say: "We will therefore establish an immigration policy that allows us to reduce and control the number of people who come to Britain from the European Union, while still allowing us to attract the skilled workers our economy needs." 

What they don't say: The Office for Budget Responsibility has already calculated that lower immigration as a result of the Brexit vote could reduce tax revenues by £6bn a year in four years' time. The IFS calculates that getting net immigration down to the tens of thousands, as the Tories pledge, could double that loss.

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines. 

0800 7318496