One of the questions I get asked and a frequent refrain in comments to the blog is why I support coalition with the Conservatives. Today it is 10 weeks exactly since the coalition was born. So here are some of the reasons that explain why I believe in coalition government.
In the little over two months since the Government was formed – we have been able to deliver a huge amount of our manifesto as well being able to greatly influence the Coalition and its agenda.
Going into the election we made clear that we had four key priorities: fairer taxes; a fair start for children with extra funding for disadvantaged pupils; a comprehensive clean up of our politics, including a fairer voting system; and a green, sustainable economy. Thanks to our involvement, the Government will deliver on each of these.
There are also a large number of other Lib Dem policies and pledges that will now begin to make a real, positive difference to people’s lives because of our role in the Coalition Government. These include everything from the rolling back of the surveillance state and giving people back their civil liberties, to prison reforms, fairer pensions, the ending of child detention and the scrapping of the third runway at Heathrow.
Delivering on our promises
The Liberal Democrats promised to make the tax system fairer by ensuring no one pays tax on the first £10,000 they earn and closing loopholes that allow the wealthy to pay a smaller proportion of their income in tax than people on low and middle incomes.
The Coalition Government has already taken a huge step towards achieving this by raising the income tax threshold by £1,000 in last month’s Budget and reforming Capital Gains Tax. The income tax threshold will continue to be increased every year during this Parliament.
The Liberal Democrats also promised to restore the earnings link to pensions, which will now happen.
We also promised wide scale banking reform, including a banking levy to make sure that banks pay for the financial support they received from the taxpayer. The levy, which will raise £2.5bn, was announced in the Budget.
A fair start for children
The Liberal Democrats promised to introduce a Pupil Premium to target extra money at disadvantaged children. The Coalition Agreement makes clear that this will now happen. (In Haringey Labour underfunded our schools for years and years – letting our children get £1300 less each than children in Islington or Camden).
We also promised greater freedoms for teachers over the curriculum, which will also be brought in as a key part of the Coalition’s education reforms.
The Liberal Democrats promised a comprehensive clean up of the rotten political system. This is now a key part of the Coalition’s agenda for which Nick Clegg has responsibility.
The plans include:
• A referendum on the Alternative Vote to take place in May 2011
• The right to sack MPs guilty of serious misconduct
• Fixed term parliaments of five years
• Reform of party funding
• Moving towards a wholly or partly elected House of Lords, elected by proportional representation
• A statutory register of lobbyists
• A radical devolution of power and greater financial autonomy to local government and community groups
A green, sustainable economy
The Liberal Democrats promised a raft of policies to help the economy recover and make sure that we build a new green and sustainable economy fit for the 21st century.
A huge number of these policies will now become a reality, including:
• Tough action to tackle the deficit
• Reform of the banking system to make sure that banks lend to viable British businesses
• An independent commission on separating investment and retail banking
• Measures to improve energy efficiency in homes and businesses
• Support for low carbon energy production and an increase the target for energy from renewable sources
• Enabling the creation of a national high speed rail network
• The creation of a smart electricity grid and the roll-out of smart meters
• The creation of a green investment bank
• The establishment of an emissions performance standard that will prevent coal-fired power stations being built unless they are equipped with Carbon Capture and Storage Technology
• Replacing Air Passenger Duty with a per-plane duty
• The provision of a floor price for carbon, as well as working to persuade the EU to move towards full auctioning of ETS permits
Other Lib Dem policies that will now become a reality
The Liberal Democrats have long campaigned for the restoration of freedoms and civil liberties eroded under Labour and the rolling back of the surveillance state. A huge number of Lib Dem policies will now happen, including:
• The abolition of Identity Cards, the National Identity register, the next generation of biometric passports and the ContactPoint Database
• The repeal of unnecessary laws
• Further regulation of CCTV
• The outlawing of finger-printing of children at school without permission
• Extending the Freedom of Information Act
• Ending child detention for immigration purposes
There are also a host of other Lib Dem policies that will now happen under the Coalition Government. These include:
• Fair compensation for Equitable Life victims
• The modernisation of the Royal Mail
• Flexible working and promotion of equal pay
• Reform of the NHS to strengthen the voices of patients and the role of doctors
• A commission on long-term reform of social care
• Cutting Quangos and government bureaucracy
• Implementing the recommendations of the Calman Commission
• A referendum on further powers for the Welsh Assembly