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Liberal Democrat manifesto targets the youth vote

Millennials remain the target audience for Tim Farron's wannabe opposition party

By Katherine fidler

So here’s your third time-travelling election choice – if Labour will take the country back to the 1970s and a Tory landslide sweeps us right back to the 1950s, where does the Liberal Democrat manifesto propose we land? Possibly the 2030s.

That’s not to say it’s full of incredibly forward-thinking policies, rather that this is a manifesto aimed at millennials, hoping to capture young minds with promises of Help to Buy schemes, green jobs and votes for 16- and 17-year-olds. A small mention of tuition fee repayments too, but they’re not trumpeting that…

Add in the fact leader Tim Farron’s introduction yells “go for the silver”, categorically stating his party is taking aim at the opposition despatch box, not that currently gripped by Theresa May, and thus is a manifesto designed to woo back Generation Y – many of whom it burned while in coalition with the Conservatives (something Farron has ruled out this time around). The polls suggest they haven’t succeeded so far – will that change after today?

Brexit, Brexit, Brexit

This was always going to be a major issue for a party that was emphatic in its assurances that Britain was better off in the EU. Brexit crops up no fewer than 23 times within the pages, with a second referendum the party’s key offering – voters will return to the polls (Brenda from Bristol will be even more furious) to decide whether to accept the Brexit deal (likely brokered by the Tories) or to say no, thus remaining in the EU.

Given that 75 per cent of voters aged 18-24 voted remain and 56 per cent of those aged 25-44 did the same, this is a policy designed to entice those concerned about what a future outside the EU holds for Britain.

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Home sweet home

The Lib Dems are not alone in acknowledging Britain’s housing crisis, which affects numerous sectors within society. Proposals include a new Rent to Own scheme for first-time buyers, capping rental deposits, giving tenants first refusal if their home is put on the market and protecting tenants against rent hikes.

It also promises to meet a target of 300,000 new homes per year, including half a million energy efficient homes by the end of parliament.

The Treasury will benefit by a levy of up to 200 per cent council tax on second homes and ‘buy to leave empty’ investments from overseas.

Support green (policies)

A survey by CensusWide last year showed more than 90 per cent of young people agreed it was important for politicians to consider the environment, with half adding environmental policies were more important than those on immigration.

The contents would suggest Farron’s party agrees, with green policies well up the pecking order. Priorities include insulation retrofitting in 22,000 homes and the introduction of its Air Quality Plan aimed at preventing the 40,000 deaths a year caused by air pollution.

It also offers a diesel scrappage scheme and a ban on the sale of diesel cars and small vans by 2025, increasing the number of low emission zones around the country and strong support of the Paris agreement.

Green jobs also factor into the proposals, supporting investment in cutting-edge technologies including energy storage, smart grid technology, hydrogen technologies, offshore wind, and tidal power.

Get out and vote

Two years earlier than you can now. Enfranchising 16 and 17-year-olds was branded a key priority and potentially vital should the Lib Dems get their wish of a second referendum given an estimated 82 per cent (or roughly 1.2m, the number by which Leave won) would have voted Remain had they had their say last June. However, that is without considering voter apathy – 64 per cent of 18-24 year olds used went to the ballot boxes last year, compared to 90 per cent of those over 65. Current voters may wish to capitalise on this momentum and welcome them into the pro-EU fold.

And, of course, tuition fees

They’re still here, and not going anywhere, but a Lib Dem government would aim to reinstate maintenance grants for the poorest students and, rather vaguely, “establish a review of higher education finance in the next parliament to consider any necessary reforms, in the light of the latest evidence of the impact of the existing financing system on access, participation and quality”.

And how will all this be paid for? The manifesto pledges to save the NHS with a 1p income tax rise and reverse a number of Tory tax cuts including corporation tax and and capital gains tax to fund pledges, but is also aiming to eliminate the deficit on day-to-day spending by 2020 – no mean feat while also pledging to reverse benefit cuts, increase Local Housing Allowance, increasing Job Seeker’s Allowance and Universal Credit, building homes and maintaining the pensions “triple lock”.

If this is a manifesto for the future, it must be able to afford to survive till then. More importantly of course, the Lib Dems need to secure some semblance of power. The polls suggest even another coalition role unlikely come June, thus rendering any policies – forward- or backward-thinking, good for young or old, rich or poor – an irrelevance.