- Through the introduction of civil partnerships, Labour has for the first time given legal recognition to same-sex partners. Gay couples now have the same inheritance, pension and next-of-kin rights as married couples.
- More than doubled Britain’s overseas aid budget. UK aid helps lift an estimated three million people out of poverty every year.
- Cancelled up to 100% of debt for the world’s poorest countries.
- Britain now has more offshore wind capacity than any other country in the world. Wind last year provided enough electricity to power 2 million homes.
- Launched the £1.5 billion Housing Pledge to speed up the delivery of new affordable housing and embarked on the biggest programme of council house building for twenty years.
I have just made a telephone call here in the House of Lords and lying next to the telephone was the confidential briefing that the LibDems have given to their spokespeople on what to say if they are asked about a hung Parliament.
It starts with a stern admonition:
“The only benefit of a debate about a no-overall-control Parliament is if we use it to get across our key policies.
Entering into speculation about the mechanics of a “hung” or “balanced” parliament will simply see you dragged into further complexity.“
And we know that Liberal Democrats cannot cope with complexity.
Apparently, “only if pushed” are LibDem spokespeople supposed to say:
“There will be no deals, understandings or agreements of any kind before peole have voted. No such conversations have or will take place.”
So what are they hiding? Why can that only be said, if pushed?
And then they have their mandate line (but still “only if pushed”:
“IF voters decide no party deserves an overall majority, then the party with the strongest mandate will have a moral right to be the first to seek to govern on its own or seek alliances with other parties.“
So that is a nice, unconvoluted, set of words.
And sorry to be a pedant but each voter is an individual casting their ballot in a single constituency – so voters cannot collectively decide that no party should have an overall majority.
And what constitutes the strongest mandate? Helpfully there is a little Q & A to explain it:
“Q: Does the ‘strongest mandate’ mean more seats or votes?
A: It will be abundantly clear after the election which party has the strongest mandate. It would be pointless to speculate at this point as to whether that means seats or votes – we are setting out a principle, not a mathematical formula.“
Errr pardon? Would you just run that past me again?
I thought that the Liberal Democrat principle was that we needed electoral reform so that the precise national balance of votes cast was reflected in the numbers elected to Parliament. But now – despite our so-called unfair voting system – seats matter just as much as votes.
So like all Liberal Democrat principles, this strongest mandate thingee is eminently flexible and Nick Clegg will be open to the best offer on the day …
They might call that a “principle”; I ‘m not sure that I would.
- Since 1997 overall crime is down 36%; domestic burglary is down 54%; vehicle related crime is down by 57%; and violent crime is down 41%
- a new flexible points-based system to ensure only those economic migrants who have the skills our economy needs can come to work in the UK
- Police numbers up by 16,000 since 1997, alongside more than 16,000 Police Community Support Officers
- Every community now has its own dedicated neighbourhood police team, easily contactable by the people who live in that community and working with them to agree local priorities and deal with people’s concerns
- Equalised the age of consent and repealed Section 28
- The UK is now smoke-free, with no smoking in most enclosed public places
- The UK’s greenhouse gas emissions are now 21% below 1990 levels, beating our Kyoto target
- Over £20 billion invested in bringing social housing to decent standards
- Rough sleeping has dropped by two-thirds and homelessness is at its lowest level since the early 1980s
- Free off-peak travel on buses anywhere in England for over-60s and disabled people
- more young people attending university than ever before
- more than doubled the number of apprenticeships starts, with figures for 2008/9 showing 234,000 started an apprenticeship this year compared to 75,000 in 1997
- in 1997 more than half of all schools saw less than 30% of thier pupils fail to get 5 good GCSEs including English and Maths; now only 270 schools fail this benchmark and we are guaranteeing that no school should fail this mark after 2011
- we have increased school funding to support the delivery of higher standards: between 1997/8 and 2009/10, total funding per pupil has more than doubled from £3,030 to £6,350 in real terms – an increase of 110%
- the Northern Ireland Peace Process
- nearly 3,000 Sure start Children’s Centres opened, reaching 2 million children and their families
- over 42,400 more teachers and 123,000 more teaching assistants than in 1997
- there have been approximately 3,700 rebuilt and significantly refurbished schools; including new and improved classrooms, laboratories and kitchens
- a free nursery place for every three and four year old
- doubled the number of registered childcare places to more than 1.5 million – one for every four children under eight years old
- 900,000 pensioners lifted out of poverty
- 500,000 children lifted out of relative poverty and measures already in train will lift a further 500,000 children out of poverty
- free TV licences for over-75s
- the New Deal has helped over 2 million people into work
- over 3 million Child Trust Funds have been started
Smart casual requires constant effort:
- Over three quarters of GP practices now offer extended opening hours for at least one evening or weekend session a week
- All prescriptions are now free for people being treated for cancer or the effects of cancer, and teenage girls are offered a vaccination against cervical cancer
- The NHS can now guarantee that you will see a cancer specialist within two weeks if your GP suspects you may have cancer.
- 22 million people are benefiting from real tax cuts to boost their income this year
- 12 million pensioners benefiting from increased WinterFuel Payments
- The National Minimum Wage – uprated annually – brenefiting at least a million people per year
- The shortest waiting times since NHS records began; whatever your condition, you will not have to wait more than 18 weeks from GP referral to the start of hospital treatment
- Three million more operations carried out each year than in 1997, with more than double the number of heart operations
- Over 44,000 more doctors
- Over 89,000 more nurses