Monday, 8 May 2017


Here is a collection of my immediate thoughts in response to the volleys of political items which have been discharged recently. Going backwards from the latest:

One reads between the lines of pronouncements by political leaders. The pledge not to raise taxes made by John McDonnell carefully does not rule out milking employers' National Insurance Contributions nor increasing 0% and 5% VAT rates, such as that which applies to home energy bills.

(Incidentally, the refusal by Mrs May to guarantee the triple lock on pensions may be no more than a tease, and we may well see it included in the Conservative manifesto. After all, the Conservatives have been claiming credit for this LibDem initiative for ages. Tim Farron has done well in early confirming that we will stick with the policy, so that whatever Mrs May does will look like playing catch-up.)

The discussion on Sunday Supplement about Liberal Democrat performance in the recent local government elections missed one important factor: money. The Conservatives are notably well-heeled, Labour has lots of TU money and Plaid Cymru has devoted followers who are prepared to commit a large share of their income to the cause. It showed in the amount and quality of the literature which those parties put out. We are poor cousins by comparison.

I do agree with the consensus on the Radio Wales programme that the party is in danger of painting itself into a corner with our resistance to what Liam Fox calls "a clean break" with mainland Europe. Tim Farron's pro-EU stance has done wonders for the party's coffers in attracting new members. History suggests that enough will stay to provide the MPs and councillors of the future, as in the period leading up to 2006 when we reached our peak representation in Westminster. The Remain platform will also be popular in London and other metropolitan centres. However, we do need to stress our social policies. These are very different from the Conservatives', and the official "opposition" has not been vigorous in contesting Mrs May's agenda.

I am glad to see that recent party announcements, culminating in the welcome pledge to put 1p on income tax to restore the NHS and social services, have largely ignored Brexit. This is important for the nation of Wales and certain regions of England, where there is suspicion or resentment of the EU, but who will suffer hugely if the Conservative social cuts and privatisation of public services continue. Whether the media will play ball is another matter. All the major media have an interest in painting Liberal Democrats as a single-issue party, no matter how many policy statements on domestic issues made by Tim and our spokespeople.

A last thought on that general election timing. Clearly, the major reason for Mrs May's sudden change of mind was the imminence of dozens of investigations into the alleged election campaign overspend by dozens of Conservative MPs, investigations which will presumably be put on the back-burner now. However, another factor may have been the probable Liberal Democrat gain in a by-election in Manchester Gorton, a by-election which will not now take place. Seeing as how most marginal Conservative seats are those in which LibDems are the challengers, Mrs May and her strategic advisers did not want Liberal Democrats seen to be building momentum with a second by-election win in the parliament.

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