Why Vote Liberal Democrat!

The General Election in 2015 is the most unpredictable in a generation.

It is fairly likely that there will be a hung parliament, with no party having an overall majority, but past that it is impossible to say what the result will be. Many of the potential combinations or coalitions would create uncertainty and threaten all the hard work done over the course of the last parliament to rectify the damage done to the economy during the financial crisis of the late noughties. A Conservative-UKIP government promises a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU, leading to uncertainty, particularly among business and instability whilst a Labour-SNP coalition would lead to an increased nationalist agenda and the politics of division and blame, increasing tension between England and Scotland. Only the Liberal Democrats in government, limiting the extremes of both left and right, can provide Britain with the stability it needs to create a stronger economy and a fairer society for all.

It is also important to recognise the vital contribution made by Liberal Democrats in government. Many of our achievements have been overlooked by the media, but will certainly provide long-term benefits to the country. Some of the most important changes made by Liberal Democrats have come in education. We have ensured that all pupils in Key Stage 1 (Reception-Year 3) receive a hot and healthy school meal, free of charge, saving parents an average of £437 per year. The £2.5bn pupil premium scheme,

Nick Cleggdesigned to reduce attainment gap between children from disadvantaged backgrounds, has been implemented despite strong opposition from then education secretary, Michael Gove. This will ensure that all children, regardless of their financial or ethnic background will have an equal start in life. We have also restructured the tuition fees system, which has already started to have an effect. In 2014, more people than ever applied to attend university, including more from disadvantaged backgrounds and more from ethnic minorities. This shows that the change, lambasted by the media and political opponents alike, has not had the drastic effects on university applications as they predicted. Despite the rise in overall fees from £3,000 to £9,000 a year, the poorest 30% of graduates actually pay back less than they did under the old system. This is because the threshold at which you start repaying has risen from £15,000pa to £21,000. This means that all graduates pay back less per month than before (see table), and the lowest earning 30% of graduates actually pay back less overall as the dStudent_finance_tableebt is wiped after 30 years.

Healthcare, in particular mental health has also been a priority for the Liberal Democrats in government. Putting mental health on an equal footing with physical health is one of the key barriers in overcoming the long held stigma attached to such conditions. That is why Liberal Democrats have changed the NHS constitution to reflect this, putting us on a pathway to better understanding and funding of mental health issues. This has already begun to take place; with a 160% increase to £66 million in funding for dementia research and a £440 million investment to ensure psychological therapies are available to all, including children and adolescents. Liberal Democrats have also made progress in improving social care standards, something which is vital in ensuring the elderly and the most vulnerable in our society are looked after humanely and compassionately. This is why we have embarked on a professionalistaion of the industry. As of March 2015, all care workers must have a certificate proving that they are qualified within 12 weeks of starting work. This will ensure that atrocities such as those at the Rose Villa care home in Bristol in 2011, where patients with mental illnesses were physically abused, never happen again.

The Liberal Democrats have also done a lot of work to counter the politics of fear spread by the likes of UKIP over Britain’s position on Europe and on immigration. When times are tough for many people, due to extensive Tory cuts which punish those at the bottom with policies such as the so-called ‘Bedroom tax’ whilst giving a tax cut to rich (top rate of tax down from 50% to 45%), it is human nature to try and find a simple solution to a complex problem. UKIP and Nigel Farage have exploited peoples fears for electoral gain, saying that everything; from lack of school places and affordable housing to traffic congestion is a result of eastern Europeans settling in Britain. There is also a portrayal in the media of Poles and Romanians as benefit cheats and as people who do not pay their way. Both of these are untrue as statistics show that immigrants actually pay more into the tax pot than they take out and immigrants are also less likely to claim benefits than people who were born in this country. During every ‘wave’ of immigration experienced in the UK, from the Indians and Pakistanis of the 1950s and 60s to the present day, doom-mongerers have proclaimed that Britain will be irreversibly affected for the worse. On each and every occasion they have been proved wrong; immigration has culturally and economically enriched this country and will continue to do so. Liberal Democrats are proud of our pro-European, pro-immigration stUnknown-1ance and will continue to support hard working people, wherever they are from.

So there is the Liberal Democrat perspective on three key election areas; education, health and immigration. For information on other areas such as the economy, environment and welfare among others visit the website www.libdems.org.uk.

For more on the Worcester Lib Dems follow us on twitter @worcesterlibs and like our Facebook page – it’s Worcester Liberal Democrats

Clegg: Bite The Ballot Review

On Tuesday evening, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg, appeared on Leaders Live – a programme supported by the youth organisation Bite the Ballot; that hopes to raise awareness of politics and political issues amongst young people. Clegg answered questions from a studio audience and from people on Twitter. Below are the main points that were raised.

Introduction : Clegg urged the audience to get involved in politics and to stand up against the ‘politics of fear’ currently dominating British politics (A reference to UKIP? We couldn’t possibly say) He then went on to reference his proudest achievements in government ; the pupil premium and free school meals.

Jobs – Clegg emphasized the need of a strong economy to provide jobs and referenced the drop in youth unemployment and increase in apprenticeships to emphasize how the government has increased opportunities for young people. He went on to say that if involved in the next government he would take more low paid workers out of income tax and make it easier for people to move up the career ladder.

Zero Hours Contracts – Said that exclusive zero hours contracts were ‘deeply exploitative’ and should be outlawed. Also said apprenticeship minimum wage (£2.73) should be abolished and that apprenticeships should be put on the age related minimum wage (£3.71)

Unpaid Internships – Said internships should be about ‘what you know and not who you know’ and should be completely meritocratic. He went on to say that companies that offer work masked as an internship should be clamped down on. In government he has quadrupled the penalties companies can receive for such an offence and increased the number of inspections they have to undergo. He also noted that it is now much easier for the public to report abuses.

Unequal Pay and Gender Discrimination – He noted that the gender pay gap has almost been eliminated for under 40s. For over 40s where gap is still wide, he suggested that all companies should have to publish what their pay back is, thus increasing scrutiny. He also spoke of the increase of women on the boards of FTSE100 companies.

Living Wage – He paid tribute to those who have implemented a living wage, including Ed Davey, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change and several councils. However, he stopped short of saying it should be implemented as legislation due to the findings of the low pay commission, an independent body which sets the minimum wage based on maximum job creation. He said disregarding this would be foolish.

(58% OF TWITTER AUDIENCE AGREED WITH NICK)

Education – Emphasized the need to help children early – ‘before they’ve hung up their coat on the first day of school’. Referenced policies that help children from disadvantaged backgrounds from the age of 2 and universal childcare and pre-school support for 3-4 year olds. Spoke of the pupil premium that has pumped £2.5bn into schools for disadvantaged children. He added that vocational courses should not be seen as less worthwhile than academic courses – calling the current perception as ‘snobbery’.

Tuition Fees – Explained the reason for his well publicized u-turn, saying that scrapping fees would have been impossible due to economic restraints and a Labour-Conservative consensus against it. He went on to say that he’s ‘learnt his lesson’ and will not make a promise he can’t keep again. He went on to say how the rise actually makes the majority of graduates better off as nothing is paid until they are earning £21,000, up from £15,000 and that no up-front payment is required. Stated that more people from ethnic minorities and disadvantaged backgrounds are attending university than ever before. When asked about the Scottish paying no tuition fees he said that the system was ‘unsustainable’.

Political Studies in UK – He said that citizenship and sex education should be taught in all schools, including free schools and academies. He also said that he was trying to secure money to publicize the new electoral registration system.

Age of Compulsory Education – Said that he supports the rise from 16 to 18. Went on to say that a 2/3 reduction in bus fares for all 16-21 year olds would be included on the front page on the 2015 general election manifesto.

Gender Equality in School – He said that the best way of promoting this is to have successful women in schools that the girls want to emulate.

(45% OF TWITTER AUDIENCE AGREED WITH NICK)

Health – He said that we should ‘cherish, defend, promote and protect’ the NHS.

Mental Health – He said we should end the ‘dickensian’ treatment of mental health in the UK and that it should be put on an equal footing with physical health. NHS constitution has been changed to reflect this and £120 million has been put in to improving waiting times for mental health patients. He added that funding for mental health clinics is now on a par with physical health clinics. He then spoke of the mental health taskforce that he founded and currently chairs. Health secretary Jeremy Hunt is the vice-chair. A report is currently due on how to get treatment for children with mental health issues more quickly.

Governance – He said that getting involved locally is the best way. From this people can get involved nationwide. Noted the current trend of decentralisation of power.

NHS Privatisation – Noted that it was actually Labour who introduced private companies into the NHS and that privatisation has slowed under the current government. He said that he has outlawed the practice of giving sweetners to the private sector and that £1 billion extra should be put into the NHS pot, paid for by taxing the rich on their dividends, shares and assets at the same rate as their income. He finished by saying that ‘people should come before profit’.

(60% OF TWITTER AUDIENCE AGREED WITH NICK)

Immigration – He said that Britain needs to ‘fair but firm’. He noted the contribution of immigrants to Britain, 1 in 7 companies in Britain set up by foreigners, and that without immigration the NHS would disintegrate. He added the immigrants should be counted in and out as one of the biggest problems regarding immigration is people staying in the UK on expired visas. Illegal immigration needs to be clamped down on and exploitative companies paying migrants less than minimum wage should be reprimanded.

EU – He said the EU is very beneficial as issues such as climate change and cross-boarder crime must be done collectively.He also added that 3 million jobs directly depend on EU membership. He said leaving the EU would be ‘economically self-defeating’.

Benefits – Said that freedom of movement is not the same as freedom to claim and that immigrants should not be entitled to take benefits that they haven’t paid into. He said that the issue was not about race but principle.

Integration – Agreed that immigrants should learn English and that there is greater focus on this at job centres than under the last government.

(61% OF TWITTER AUDIENCE AGREED WITH NICK)

Do you agree with Nick? Comment you thoughts below. For more info on the work of Worcester Liberal Democrats follow us on twitter @worcesterlibs.