The Liberal Democrats

          A.K.A The Lib Dems

  The Liberal Democrats were created by a merger of the Liberal Party – itself founded in 1859 out of an alliance of Whigs, Peelite Tories and Radicals – and the 1981 breakaway Labour group the SDP in 1988. The Liberal Party was the main opposition to the Conservatives up until the 1920s, and introduced such radical reforms as the creation of the original welfare state. The SDP were a less left-wing version of Labour who had become concerned in the late 1970s about the alleged Trotskyite Communist infiltration of the party.  

  The Liberal Democrats are the junior partner in the current Coalition Government. The party won 23% of the vote and 8.8% of the seats in the House of Commons at the last General Election and has around 44,000 members.


Economics

  • The Lib Dems’ core economic policies follow the basic neoliberal principles of a free deregulated market, minimised state expenditure across most areas and private ownership of industry
  • Lib Dem taxation policies are more progressive than the Conservatives and are on a par with New Labour; they support generally low direct taxation but first proposed the idea of a mansion tax on properties worth over £2 million and have been the main drivers behind the increase in the personal allowance threshold to £10,500
  • The Lib Dems are committed to a swift reduction of the budget deficit


Social Policy and the Constitution

  • Liberal Democrat social policy is more progressive than the other major parties; they have been long-time proponents of LGBT rights and are generally in favour of increased diversity
  • The Lib Dems wish to replace the House of Lords with an elected second chamber and to reform the voting system for Westminster Parliamentary elections to a more proportional system – with their preference being STV – and to reduce the voting age to 16. There is traditionally support within the party for disestablishment of the Church of England
  • The party is committted to the Human Rights Act, though some of their actions in coalition – including the introduction of secret courts – seem to contradict this view

Welfare, Health & Education
  • The Lib Dems hold the view that the welfare state should be sufficient to provide a safety net for those who need it but should not be so extensive and to allow long-term dependence; the party grassroots are generally more supportive of social security than the leadership
  • Lib Dem education policy is largely in line with the other major parties, including the existence of diverse types of school including academies and free schools, but they are in favour of significant reductions in university tuition fees – though they have received heavy criticism for their failure to keep their pledge to remove them entirely prior to the 2010 general election
  • The party supports harsh cuts to the department of health – 50% – and is in favour of the decentralisation of the NHS through the introduction of more NHS Trusts

Crime and Justice Policy
  • Party policy remains full criminalisation of most drugs, though some individual Lib Dems have called for a relaxation of drugs laws
  • Lib Dems want a less punishment-focused, more rehabilitationary criminal justice system, though in coalition they have supported Conservative efforts in the other direction
  • The Lib Dems, in coalition with the Conservatives, have introduced secret courts, in which persons can be tried for serious offences without being even allowed to speak or know the charges against them, as part of their commitment to tackle terrorism


Foreign Policy and Defence

  • The Liberal Democrats are in favour of NATO membership but are less concerned with the ‘special relationship’ with the USA than other major parties
  • The coalition has increased foreign aid spending to 0.7% of GDP
  • The party is generally anti-interventionist, though there was support for action in Libya
  • The Lib Dems do not wish a like-for-like replacement for the Trident nuclear missile system when it reaches the end of its usable life

Europe
  • The Lib Dems are fully committed to membership of the EU and are in favour of further European integration, including a possible UK accession to the Eurozone at some point in the future
  • The party is committed to an in/out referendum if there is further significant transfer of powers to Brussels, though this is in fact enshrined in law in any case
  • The Lib Dems support TTIP, an EU policy which would allow US companies to sue the UK government and to buy out public services such as the NHS


The Environment

  • The Lib Dems are committed to increasing focus on renewable resources and replacement of those trees cut down for timber
  • They support fracking and the HS2 high-speed rail line


Important Party Figures:

  • Nick Clegg MP: Deputy Prime Minister and Party Leader
  • Vince Cable MP: Business Secretary
  • Danny Alexander MP: Chief Secretary to the Treasury
  • Ed Davey MP: Energy Secretary
  • Tim Farron MP: President of the party
  • Jeremy Browne MP: Right-wing party theorist
  • Simon Hughes MP: Minister for Civil Liberties; Former Deputy Party Leader
  • Malcom Bruce MP: EDeputy Party Leader
  • Baroness Shirley Williams: Former Education Secretary; Co-Founder of the SDP
  • Lord Paddy Ashdown: Party election strategist; Former Party Leader


WEBSITE: http://www.libdems.org.uk/

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