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Lib Dems use conference to flesh out policy agenda

Chris Adams

The Liberal Democrats have been keen this week to demonstrate they are not a one-trick pony. This year’s conference has focused on a Liberal Democrat programme for government beyond Brexit, in anticipation of an autumn general election. As a result there is a palpable sense of optimism among members, both old and new, and a sense that a recovery which seemed unimaginable just a few years ago may just come to pass.

Against the backdrop of continuing defections to the Liberal Democrats by MPs from across the House of Commons, and a clear and unambiguous commitment to revoke Article 50, the Liberal Democrat conference has continued to pass policy which demonstrates it is a party serious about entering government again.

On infrastructure, the party has called for large-scale investment in transport from bus services to the railways, including reforming the franchising system and support for high speed rail. This has come alongside a commitment to improving digital infrastructure to support businesses across the UK, via a £50 billion ‘Rebalancing Fund’ to tackle regional inequalities.

In addition, the Liberal Democrats have committed to supporting the tourism sector by reducing VAT on tourism, supporting communities’ efforts to save music venues from closure and removing tax relief on short-term lets.

On education and skills, there is a commitment to improve funding for lifelong learning through Personal Education and Skills Accounts (PESAs), recognising the need to support people who need to upskill or change careers later in life.

These efforts, alongside an additional £5 billion investment per annum to tackle poverty across the UK, are aimed at tackling the causes of Brexit, ensuring every part of the country sees the benefits of a growing economy and continued membership of the EU.

On the environment, a policy area close to many Lib Dems’ hearts, the party has committed to an ambitious target for net zero emissions by 2045 through significant further investment in renewables and commitments to making homes more fuel efficient as well as planting 60 million trees every year.

Finally, on health policy, the Liberal Democrats have affirmed their commitment to an extension of minimum pricing of alcohol and backed restrictions on advertising foods high in fat, sugar and salt near schools.

While the focus will continue to revolve around the party’s Brexit policy, the Liberal Democrats have been keen this week to demonstrate they are not a one-trick pony. This conference has focused on a Liberal Democrat programme for government beyond Brexit, in anticipation of an autumn general election. As a result there is a palpable sense of optimism among members, both old and new, and a sense that a recovery which seemed unimaginable just a few years ago may just come to pass.

Chris Adams is a Senior Account Manager at MHP

Before joining MHP’s public affairs team, Chris was Political Advisor to the Liberal Democrat Party President, Federal Board and Federal Communications and Elections Committee.