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The Times, "Coalition Deals" and Our Manifesto

February 18, 2014 2:38 PM

David Laws, Chair of the Lib Dem 2015 Manifesto Working Group, sets the record straight.

"One of the great frustrations of being a Liberal Democrat in modern British politics is the inability of so many in the other parties and in the media to grasp a simple enough idea: parties can have clear independent identities and their own visions for the future, but also work together in the national interest when circumstances require it.

The latest example of this is the highly misleading article on the front page of today's Times (18 February) under the headlines 'Lib Dems Axe pledges for coalition deal' and 'Lib Dems seeking policies to suit rivals'.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

As Chair of the Manifesto Group, I see it as our role to set out a clear Liberal Democrat vision of where we would like to take Britain in the next Parliament - this is why our Manifesto themes paper at the Glasgow conference has a chapter on the Liberal Democrat Vision for 2020. I certainly do not envisage us 'pre-negotiating' a possible future coalition agreement by watering down the idealism of our own manifesto.

Of course, it is important that we do have a costed and implementable programme for government for the five years 2015-2020. One of the great lessons of being in government is that it is often much harder than you imagine when in opposition to get the Whitehall machine to deliver on your policy ideas. So we need to focus not only on where we want to go, but also how we plan to get there.

That does not, however. mean lessening our ambitions for Britain or self-censoring our ideas because they are too distinctively liberal. A strong, self-confident Liberal Democrat Manifesto will be the best starting point for any potential coalition talks.

Nick Clegg has put this very well:

"The Liberal Democrats will fight the General Election as an independent party. The experience of government has taught us that we must craft a manifesto which meets the tough test of being deliverable in government. But we must do this without stifling our liberalism, our creativity or our boldness."

The Manifesto Group is still considering ideas from party members and outside groups - please feel free to feed in via our online consultation at www.manifesto2015.org