In what looks like a real-life Quiet Bat People moment for the Lib Dems, their strategy adviser was snapped, The Thick of It-style, carrying documents apparently containing the party’s manifesto proposals.
The Times’ Red Box morning politics missive suggests the ideas, revealed in a high-resolution photo, would be the party’s “red lines” if it comes to negotiate another coalition in 2015.
The documents revealed four proposals:
– To balance the budget by 2018
– To ring-fence education spending
– To increase the income tax threshold to £12,500
– To reduce waiting lists for mental health treatment
A party spokesperson told the Times: “Like all political parties, we’re currently discussing our priorities.”
Whether this was a mistake or an unsubtle trick by the party to get itself back in the headlines while it’s been swimming in the bottom of the polls (recent surveys put the Greens ahead of them), it is still revealing of its priorities.
During the party’s annual conference in October, Lib Dem ministers had to start shutting down any questions or talk about “red lines”, particularly on Britain’s EU membership. In spite of the party, in the past, being vocally pro-Europe and suggesting a referendum on EU membership would be unacceptable to the Lib Dems, Nick Clegg and government colleagues began to row back on this conviction, as I reported at the time. Clegg began insisting that he had been, “a major advocate of a referendum on Europe” throughout his adult life, hinting that he wouldn’t block a referendum attempted by a Tory-led coalition. He simply questions the “arbitrary date” of 2017, which nowhere near constitutes drawing a “red line”.
Clegg went on to deliver a rather policy-light speech to his audience at the end of the conference, and it became clear that the two proposals upon which the Lib Dems insisted was improvement in mental healthcare – they promised this would be on the frontpage of their manifesto – and raising the personal tax allowance to £12,500.
So the leaked proposals above are revealing in that they bolster what has already been suspected of the Lib Dems’ priorities in the next election: no mention of Europe.