As the slow news summer rumbles along, the broadcasters turn towards political posturing, preparing for an autumn conference season which will see the political parties position themselves for the run up to the next general election. This will be a new experience for us Brits. In the USA they are well used to electioneering gearing up pretty much as soon as one election draws to a close, and because they have fixed terms they know just when to start buying up ad space and hitting the streets. Well, now we have fixed terms too, and whereas before our politicians would have sat on their cash in a darkened room paranoid the Prime Minister would either call a snap election or delay it as long as humanly possible, now they know when. It’s May 2015 folks. Bring it on.
So looking forward to the Liberal Democrat conference (for those of you non-Brits, the Lib Dems are our centre party – Labour is the party of the left… or at least is supposed to be) here is my wish list of policies & attitudes I would like to see expressed.
A courageous infrastructure plan based on technology of the future rather than standard procedure of the past
HS2, whilst bringing us up to date with pretty much the rest of the developed world, is rather lacking in ambition. The Lib Dems also run the risk of beating the same green drum that’s been kicking around since the eighties, without realising that there is a brand-spanking new green fiddle that is well worth a play. Rather than trying to reduce petrol consumption (which will happen anyway due to rising prices) they should be proposing investment / subsidies for driverless cars. Driverless cars will change our economy and change the way we live our lives and we should be at the cutting edge rather than playing catch up.
An economic message that is Stage 2 rather than Plan B
The Liberal Democrats went into coalition with the Tories. They supported a centre-right economic model. These are the facts and the Lib Dems have to live with them. There will be a strong urge within the party to distance themselves as far as possible from Osborne and whilst that desire is justified, it is not good politics. We already have one party howling in anguish at every announcement Osborne makes, we don’t need a second. The Liberal Democrats need to present to the electorate their own narrative of where to take the Coalition’s economic model, embracing the strengths whilst putting a unique centrist spin on its future. No matter how much people naively complain about all three parties converging on the same political space, in truth there is a vast gulf in the middle that a canny centrist party could exploit. It is better to talk about tax cuts for the poor than tax rises for the rich. They just need to quell the left to do it.
Take a lead from Uruguay and change the world
To hell with the Daily Mail. The Lib Dems need to come out in favour of legalising cannabis now. In ten years’ time it will be legal across the world and every party except UKIP will have accepted it. The Lib Dems need to take the lead and exploit this rare opportunity now, before the moment passes. Legalised cannabis means greater revenue in cash-strapped times, reduced burden on the justice department in an era of cuts and a healthier more educated public. It is a unique selling point that will differentiate the Lib Dems from the Tories and Labour. True, there will be voters who will never vote for a party who contemplates legalisation, but they would never vote Lib Dem anyway. But there will be plenty of swing voters and first time voters will be drawn be the prospect. I repeat: the time is now!
Embark on an aggressive fight back against authoritarian politics
Even under the coalition we have seen too many big-state solutions to social problems, from national security and terrorism to copyright infringement and pornography. It is time the Liberal Democrats distanced themselves from the Labour Party and Conservatives by pledging to repeal intrusive surveillance by the state and implementing safeguards against further such legislation in the future. Freedom is a notion that seems to be forgotten in modern British politics and it is time someone brought it back.