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For further comment or to arrange an interview please get in touch with Emily Taylor emily@brightblue.org.uk or 07841419316.

Commenting on the Liberal Democrat Manifesto, Ryan Shorthouse, Executive Chair of the independent think tank Bright Blue, said:

“Government today should do fewer things but better. Unfortunately, the Liberal Democrats have offered a manifesto that is too extensive and expensive. They often have the right priorities, but their long list of policies is either unnecessarily prescriptive or unhelpfully vague. Despite claiming they will achieve a current budget surplus, their offer in totality is a significant spending splurge with no detailed or persuasive plan to raise sufficient revenue.”

The Liberal Democrat general election manifesto adopted the following Bright Blue policies:

 

Tax and spending

Thomas Nurcombe, Senior Researcher at Bright Blue, commented:

“Creating a tax system which seeks to place the burden on the broadest shoulders is the right thing to do. The intention to prioritise tax cuts on work must therefore be applauded. What is not to be applauded, however, is the fact that they have chosen Income Tax over National Insurance, since the latter only applies to income from work.

“But considering the bold, and sometimes unnecessary, hefty spending pledges proposed, there simply will not be the opportunity for a Liberal Democrat Government to instigate significant tax cuts. The reality is that their spending plans will require significant borrowing and will merely pass the economy’s struggles even further onto younger, working people. There is certainly a degree of fiscal irresponsibility here.”

 

Economy

Thomas Nurcombe, Senior Researcher at Bright Blue, commented:

“Boosting employee ownership should be a goal for all parties. The Liberal Democrats have come out of the starting blocks well by encouraging employers to give employees the right to request shares. Employee-owned businesses, which are often overlooked, offer numerous benefits both at the individual and national levels, from greater resilience to restoring trust in our political economy. Importantly, this democratic model ensures that one’s labour translates into tangible returns. But more can be done on this front. Employees should also be able to request representation on boards.” 

 

Business and tech

Sarah Kuszynski, Researcher at Bright Blue, commented:

“At a time of rapid technological change, the Liberal Democrats are right to want to make the UK a world leader in new technologies. The UK’s participation in the Trade and Technology Council could go some way to enhance our global standing.

However, the Liberal Democrats’ preference for greater cross-sectoral regulation risks styming progress and quickly becoming outdated. A sector-specific approach, which empowers existing regulators, who understand their sectors’ needs, will do far more to promote growth and innovation.”

 

Social security

Bartek Staniszewski, Senior Research Fellow at Bright Blue, commented:

“It is unlikely that the Liberal Democrats would be capable of achieving their planned expansion of social security support while also maintaining their promise to reduce national debt.

“With that said, reforming carers’ allowance is long overdue. Around a quarter of the UK’s five million informal carers claim it, but the way the benefit is currently distributed penalises work and education, with support removed completely if your caring duties take up less than 35 hours in a week.

“The establishment of a new independent commission to recommend further changes to Universal Credit – as we have called for last year – is also welcome.”

 

Pensions

Thomas Nurcombe, Senior Researcher at Bright Blue, commented:

“The Liberal Democrats wisely avoided the Conservatives’ ‘triple lock plus’ pledge, but all parties must come to see that the triple lock, even as it currently stands, is unsustainable. Bolder reform to the UK’s state pension is needed to prevent worsening the economic challenges facing the workforce. Raising the state pension age to over 70 as quickly as possible is essential to ease this burden.”

 

Housing

Bartek Staniszewski, Senior Research Fellow at Bright Blue, commented:

“The Liberal Democrats have listened to a lot of what Bright Blue has been saying about housing over the last few months. They are right to focus on land value as a key reason for why housing in this country is so expensive, and they are right to crack down on land banking. Achieving greater housing development through the use of Neighbourhood Planning also has the potential to minimise cause for public dissent resulting from new developments.

“With that said, it is not clear that there are enough ideas there to achieve the Liberal Democrats’ very commendable target of 380,000 new homes a year. Such a number would go far beyond anything this country has managed to achieve within the last 40 years. High levels of new social housing and new cities could be some drivers for this, but it is in existing cities where housing needs are the most dire. It is disappointing that the Liberal Democrats were unwilling to commit to building on some green belt areas around those cities.

“The Liberal Democrats seem to understand better than most that, in order to address homelessness, one needs to focus on tackling its causes, and that the only way to end rough sleeping is to stop it from happening in the first place. Their plan to build 150,000 social homes a year, combined with the legal duty to provide emergency accommodation for those at risk of rough sleeping, could do just that – but only if an effective scheme for discovering all those at risk of homelessness is in place.”

 

Families, children and young people

Ryan Shorthouse, Executive Chair of Bright Blue, commented:

“Doubling the rate of statutory maternity and paternity pay – and making all parental pay and leave day-one rights – are bold and welcome policies. Together with paid carers’ leave, they comprise the most effective family-friendly policies floated by any political party in this election so far.”  

 

Education

Ryan Shorthouse, Executive Chair of Bright Blue, commented:

“There are too many well-intentioned but poorly targeted policies, such as extending free school meals to all primary pupils, restoring maintenance grants for university students and creating Lifelong Skills Grants. It would have been better to focus resources on well-evidenced initiatives, such as one-to-one tutoring for those pupils who are struggling and extending school hours.”

 

Healthcare

Emily Taylor, Senior Communications and External Affairs Officer at Bright Blue, commented:

“The Liberal Democrats are promising greater spending, demands and targets on the NHS, but without considering the more ambitious and fundamental reforms that are sorely needed. The current NHS model is not sustainable, so a more radical overhaul is needed.”

 

Natural environment

Dr Will Prescott, Senior Researcher at Bright Blue, commented:

“We are pleased that the Liberal Democrat manifesto has included a ban on bottom trawling. As we have long argued, this practice disturbs or destroys everything in its path, including rocks and coral reefs that are habitats for marine life. It has no place in UK waters, or any other.”

 

Climate change and energy

Dr Will Prescott, Senior Researcher at Bright Blue, commented:

“Although it will be complex to implement, decoupling electricity prices from the wholesale gas price is key to incentivising consumers to adopt greener technologies such as heat pumps. By allowing the cost of electricity to fall relative to gas, it would, for example, no longer be more expensive to run a heat pump than a gas boiler.

“We also very much welcome the Liberal Democrats’ support for implementing the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism, which Bright Blue first called for in 2022. It is only fair that all firms seeking to market their products in the UK market comply with the same rigorous environmental standards.” 

 

Immigration 

Dr Will Prescott, Senior Researcher at Bright Blue, commented:

“The Liberal Democrats have rightly identified problems with recent changes to skilled and family worker visas, but their solutions are hit and miss. Reversing, or at least lowering, the increases to income thresholds for spousal visas is humane and sensible.

“However, while the current £38,700 salary requirement for skilled workers is too high, it should be lowered rather than abolished. As well as being administratively simpler than a multitude of sector-by-sector arrangements, a salary threshold is key to managing migration numbers and the growing public concerns about them.”

 

Tackling discrimination and protecting human rights 

Thomas Nurcombe, Senior Researcher at Bright Blue, commented:

“The country’s reputation as a home for human rights is under attack, so it is refreshing to see a commitment to support the ECHR, as Bright Blue has campaigned for. What is more, the Liberal Democrats are rightly calling out human rights abuses across the globe, most notably in China. Banning imports from Xinjiang will send a strong message that human rights abuses will not be tolerated. But pressure must be put on our international partners to do the same.”

 

Constitutional reform

Dr Will Prescott, Senior Researcher at Bright Blue, commented:

“While we do not agree with all the Liberal Democrats’ constitutional proposals, establishing a United Kingdom Council of Ministers, as we proposed in 2018, would be a positive step. Given the often acrimonious relationships between the devolved governments and Westminster in recent years, establishing inter-governmental relations on a more formalised basis offers a chance to strengthen cooperation and mutual understanding between UK governments.”

 

ENDS

Notes to editors:

To arrange an interview with a Bright Blue spokesperson or for further media enquiries, please contact our Senior Communications and External Affairs Officer, Emily Taylor, at emily@brightblue.org.uk or on 07841419316.

  • Bright Blue is the independent think tank and pressure group for liberal conservatism.
  • The Liberal Democrat Manifesto can be found here.
  • Bright Blue’s Board includes Diane Banks, Philip Clarke, Alexandra Jezeph, Richard Mabey and Ryan Shorthouse.
  • Our advisory council can be found here. We also have 228 parliamentary supporters. Members of our advisory council and our parliamentary supporters do not necessarily endorse all our policy recommendations, including those included in this press release.

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