Who are they?
Led by Nick Clegg since 2007, the Lib Dems are the third largest party in the United Kingdom, with 57 seats in the House of Commons. The political party is social-liberal and was formed in 1988 by a merger of the Liberal Party and the Social Democratic Party. The two parties first formed the electoral SDP-Liberal Alliance for seven years prior.
The Liberal Party was in existence for 129 years and introduced the notable Liberal Reforms, which lead to the creation of the British Welfare state. Despite this success, during the 1920s, the Labour party replaced the Liberals as the largest opponent of the Conservative Party.
No party having an overall majority at the 2010 general election, the Lib Dems joined a coalition government with the Conservative Party, with Clegg becoming Deputy Prime Minister and other Liberal Democrats taking up ministerial positions.
What are their values?
“The Liberal Democrats are working to build a stronger economy in a fairer society, enabling everyone to get on in life. We are the only party that can anchor Britain in the centre ground, ensuring we have sustainable growth and equality of opportunity’
Their aim is to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which they seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity. The Lib Dems assert that Labour cannot be trusted with the economy, as they would ‘drag Britain to the left’ by borrowing and spending too much. They equally believe that the Conservatives cannot be trusted to treat people fairly and, without the Lib Dems in Government, the Tories would focus attention on the wealthiest in society. The party also distinguishes itself from the other parties, claiming it is a democratic organisation, where its members decide their policy and elect their leader.
What are their proposals for the upcoming election?
The key points of their manifesto are as follows:
- The Lib Dems will raise the personal allowance to at least £12,500, thus cutting taxes by an extra £400
- They will invest to make the UK a world leader in low carbon cars, energy efficiency and hi-tech manufacturing, and continue the Regional Growth Fund to support growing businesses
- The party also wish to promote more free childcare by moving to 20 hours a week for working families from the end of paid maternity leave right through to school
- If elected, the Lib Dems will legislate to make the triple lock permanent guaranteeing decent pension rises every year
- The party proposes to cut energy bills and simultaneously create jobs with a national programme to insulate homes with a Council Tax cut if you take part
- They will also introduce a discount bus pass for under-21s so they can afford to travel to college or work
- The Lib Dems have stated they will introduce a new ‘Carer’s Bonus’ so carers can take a proper break every year
- The party, if elected, will also bring back proper border checks so we know who is coming in and leaving the UK
- They also wish to reform party funding, electoral reform and an elected House of Lords
- The Lib Dems will introduce ‘Devolution on Demand’ to transfer more power and control to local areas
Could they be successful?
Whilst the polls are suggesting that the May election might be the tightest general election for decades, this is really between Labour and the Conservatives who could even end up with the same number of seats. The Lib Dems are currently polling at around eight per cent of the national vote, a third of what they achieved in 2010. According to Electoral Calculus, this would leave them with just 15 of their current 56 seats. Some polls have even suggested that Clegg could have trouble winning his own seat. Another obstacle for the Lib Dems is the split within the party itself between those who have got a taste for government and would favour continuing in coalition with the Tories, and those who have not enjoyed the partnership and would prefer either to work with Labour or to give up government entirely.