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Hitting the ground running: The first 100 days
Hitting the ground running: The first 100 days

The Liberal Democrat manifesto launch – For a Fair Deal

Words by:
Account Director
June 10, 2024

This morning, the Liberal Democrats became the first mainstream party to launch their 2024 General Election manifesto – titled “For a Fair Deal” – at an event in London.

As was trailed by the party in advance of the launch, the NHS, environment, social care and the cost of living were central to the manifesto; all policies designed to attract voters in the previously Conservative-held ‘blue wall’ seats in southeast England and home counties.

Indeed, party leader Sir Ed Davey made a point of criticizing the Conservative government’s record in all of these policy areas in his speech, reflecting this strategic shift of closely targeting disaffected Tory voters.

The significant polling lead held by the Labour Party, and the size of their expected majority, meant that Davey was not inundated with questions from journalists regarding what his party might do if it needed to join with Labour in any kind of coalition.

Rather, the challenge facing the Lib Dems is one of influence: how Davey can leverage the political weight of what is expected to be the largest contingent of Lib Dem MPs for several parliaments to shift the governing agenda in their direction. Businesses should therefore view the Lib Dems of the forthcoming parliament through this lens: as a potentially influential stakeholder group that can no longer be dismissed as not having sway over government policy and the policy debate on the Labour benches.

In introducing the party’s centre-piece policies for the NHS and social care, Davey continued to tell the personal story of his care experience which he has highlighted throughout the campaign so far, saying that caring has “been in the shadows for far too long”.

What followed was an £8.35 billion commitment to free ‘personal care’ and 8,000 more GPs, along with an increase in carers’ allowance by £20 a week and a change to the rules on how much carers can earn. In a point of differentiation from Labour, Davey pledged to scrap the two-child limit on benefits introduced by the coalition government a decade ago. So far resisting to do the same, this issue could return as a headache for Starmer – with pressure from the Lib Dems – if he becomes Prime Minister.

Pledges on education, childcare, and foreign policy all followed – with the Lib Dems mirroring Labour’s fiscally cautious approach of explaining in simple terms how each major policy would be costed. For business, the general acceptance from both Labour and the Lib Dems that government is not flush with cash to pay for large policy commitments may pose a potential risk – as both parties have been happy to single out sectors of the economy that will see tax rises in order to cover costs of new social policy spending commitments.

In his speech, Davey referenced internet and social media firms, water companies, large banks and energy firms as targets for this – with more sectors lined up as money-raisers contained in the full manifesto document. While clearly these are popular policies with the public, as each party goes to great lengths to spell out how they will pay for things, businesses should be alive to the reputational risks that may arise from being attached to any costed policy during the campaign period.

Finally, two of the cornerstones of Liberal Democrat policy over the last decade – closer integration with Europe and electoral reform – were addressed by Davey towards the end of his speech. On Europe, he committed to ‘seeking to rejoin’ the EU single market – admitting the lengthy process that this would entail. With all major parties having been relatively quiet on the issue of Europe in the campaign thus far, this is an issue that an emboldened cohort of Lib Dem MPs may seek to apply pressure on Labour in the next parliament, and one that businesses interested in the UK-EU economic relationship should monitor, as a future Labour government will need to make significant decisions on this within their first few years.

Overall, while many of the party’s ‘greatest hit’ policies resurfaced once again, and previously ‘toxic’ issues like student tuition fees were notable in their absence, it is clear from today’s manifesto launch that the Lib Dems, anticipating the largest number of seats they have had in nearly 10 years, have built a focussed electoral strategy to chip off voters from the soft centre of the Conservative Party, worsening the headache for the Prime Minister and his campaign team, with neither the ‘Red’ or ‘Blue’ wall safe as we head towards election day.

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