Monday, November 03, 2014

Why I'm Standing for FPC

As some of you know, now I am no longer in the race for Party President I am standing for Federal Policy Committee. I have said more about the changes I would like to see to our policy making process here. But I also believe it is essential that FPC includes members who are prepared to challenge and is not just made up of lawyers and academics! I have a lifetime of working in diverse communities, of experience on the ground of the impact of government policy and a life long commitment to the values we espouse in the preamble to our constitution. As we go into the next election it is essential we have a bold and radical manifesto. I am delighted that Nick Clegg has committed to ensuring that parity for mental health is on the front of our manifesto - and trust FPC and conference will support that. But we need something much bolder than just raising the income tax threshold (a measure which only actually helps 15% of the poorest in our society).

We knew that the decision to go into coalition with the Tories would cost us support - but some of the mistakes we made have compounded that. Recently I have spoken on a variety of external platforms and the question that always arises is tuition fees. Even among those who are not students it is symbolic of what the electorate see as complete betrayal. We promised to vote against - with few honourable exceptions, we broke that promise, we have a mountain to climb in terms of regaining the trust of the public. Although we say we have no red lines in terms of the basis for a potential future coalition, the reality on the ground is that what was on the front of our manifesto became the basis for red lines. So one of the biggest mistakes we made last time was not having tuition fees on the front of the manifesto. Then, FPC should have had a say (which it will now) in terms of the coalition negotiations, that would have ensured more consideration of policy issues and more thought about what the consequences were likely to be if we supported policies that were in direct contradiction of both our stated policies and our values. In particular, remember that line in the coalition agreement that said 'we will protect the most vulnerable'?

So, the temptation for the party will be to have a fairly vacuous front page to which the reaction from other parties will have to be 'what's not to like?' 

My view is, that given the reality of our situation, we must take risks. We must have a manifesto that is radical and progressive, that reflects our aim for a free, fair and open society, that seeks to redress the dreadful inequality that blights our country. So my front page would keep Mental Health parity and would include commitments to a minimum wage, massive investment in housing and a reform of national insurance that would mean those on low pay and those employing paid less (which could help close the gap between the minimum and living wage) and those most able to pay, paid more. And while I totally support subsidised travel for young people, there is far more we could do, particularly to improve the life chances of our most vulnerable young people. So I will also be looking to improve our offer to young people, to retain the Independent Living Fund, to scrap the Bedroom Tax and to do what we can to reverse the other changes to welfare that have impacted hardest on the most vulnerable. 

I hope you will give me your first, or a high preference. You can rely on me to ask the difficult questions, to put my head above the parapet when necessary and to fight for the socially liberal policies we all believe will make life better for everyone.


joy said...

Hi, I hope you have a good day. Thank you for inspiring us. You bring joy to our face.


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