List of Lib Dem broken (or ignored) promises

For readers living outside of the UK I need to start this blog with an explanation. Winding up well meaning left of centre Lib Dems has become something of national sport since they went into coalition with the Conservatives.

Normally I try to resist this. In fact I’m often the one listing Lib Dem achievements in government as a backlash to those crass lefties who have no real concept of how Westminster politics work. I honestly believe we are better off with the Lib Dems in government but I am also, like so many on the left, pissed off with so much regressive rubbish they have let happen on their watch.

I say I normally resist taking part in this new national sport because the other day a wonderfully nice Lib Dem friend tweeted in response to me posting a link to the Lib Dem 2010 manifesto:

I just couldn’t resist whipping off a list off the top of my head:

Not letting things settle, Sam went straight for a blog post entitled, “Lib Dem Broken Promises”.

In this post, he suggests none of my suggestions constituted a broken promise. As such I thought I would use a few words to explain why, for all pretense and purposes, they are. I am sure more well informed readers can add to my following reasoning (a particular appeal to my lawyer friend Tom who I mention later on!).

So to go through my original list:

Trident. Sam makes the point that Trident has not been replaced. True…sort of. The decision on actually replacing Trident has heroically been pushed back to 2016, although the “Initial Gate” phase, consisting of £3bn in procurement, has already been approved. I think this is what Sam refers to as “bit of money” being spent. That, to clarify, is £3bn spent (without a value for money test like the sorts the Lib Dems have always said is needed).

Ever heard the phrase, ‘a project is too expensive to fail’?

Electoral reform. Sam lists the things the Lib Dems have done, and perhaps more importantly, things Lib Dems have tried and failed to do (the longer of the two lists). On electoral reform in general the Lib Dems can hold their heads up high – they have heroically lost their fight for proportional representation – but this wasn’t through lack of trying.

Apart from that is, with Lords Reform. With this they just sort of gave up after their coalition partners reiterated that they didn’t really like that idea. Not quite so heroic.

So, they certainly haven’t delivered on many of their promises – but this is not quite the same as breaking them and it isn’t through a lack of trying. But on Lords Reform, I would argue they have as good as given up on a promise.

Benefits Reform. When I wrote this one I was thinking of their promise to set the minimum wage at the same level for every adult over the age of 16 (at the moment a 16 year old only has a legal right to be paid 3.72 – compared to a 21 year old who can claim 6.31). This has not happened and I haven’t even really heard it being discussed. A small promise broken.

Sam, in his post, uses the income tax threshold rise as an example of a promise kept. True, but not exactly benefits. If we are talking tax, we might want to mention the broken promise to not raise VAT (the “Tory tax bombshell”).

Drugs Reform. Again a non-starter for a Lib Dem policy. You see, the Lib Dems believe in all sort of crazy hippy ideas like science and evidence based policy making. The Conservatives don’t as they worry it might offend middle-Britain. The result? A non-starter. No reform of drugs policy to refocus on treatment rather than punishment.  A promise ignored.

Asylum policy. I mainly put this in because I had just come back from a holiday with a refugee lawyer who specialises in dealing with undocumented children.  I walked with him for hours as he explained to me how generally shit our system is and I am sorry to say, how children are still being detained. He did say the move to end child detention was a good thing and that things have got a bit better. But let’s not kid ourselves. Innocent children are still being held in horrific conditions whilst being put through a brutal and inhuman system.

A move with good intentions by the Lib Dems but ultimately, until the system gets a proper shake up, this remains a promise broken!

Then there was the promise of ‘End deportations of refugees to countries where they face persecution, imprisonment, torture or execution’. Well, that err…hasn’t happened.

The list could go on. Sorry Sam, but it could – think, police (less not more on the street), more midwives, banning banker bonuses over 2,500 pounds….and this isn’t just a turn of phrase, the list really could on!

Now of course, promises have been broken by political parties of all colour. I guess the Lib Dems deserve just a little extra kicking because they had the audacity to produce this video.


Filed under Politics

5 responses to “List of Lib Dem broken (or ignored) promises

  1. Phil Irvine

    Also to add that to the lay person who will be voting, rather than a politician analysing each word precisely, the broken promises from the Lib Dems are not so much whether they didn’t get exactly what they promised, but whether they’ve stayed true to the principles that people voting for them thought they had.

    Like you I was a supporter of the coalition, but I feel that at many points the approach taken has not been what I was hoping for. Rather than putting a check on the Tories worst tendencies, I rather feel that they have been used as a shield that has enabled worse policies than if there had been a Tory minority, allowing the Conservatives to put through items that they wouldn’t have dreamed of on their own, knowing that it’ll be the Lib Dems that get the flack for betraying their principles.

    Further, I think that there are a number of policies that shouldn’t have been voted for at all by any Liberal, notably the bedroom tax/spare room subsidy. Such policies will stop many a person who voted for them based on the idea that they were ethically sound if unexperienced, from voting for them for years.


  2. Phil Irvine

    I would argue that electoral reform was very much a broken promise. What we were promised was a referendum on proportional representation, what we were given was the worst of all compromises, a referendum on AV which is hardly much better than FPTP.

    The problem with this was that it led to one of two options for those advocating true PR, a) Vote for AV and then not be able to have a referendum on PR as we’ve only just changed the system, or b) Vote against and then not be able to have a referendum on PR as “the people have voted against change”.

    I genuinely think they would have been better off not having a referendum at all.


  3. Steve, good that you’ve engaged in a health debate, and in likewise stead, I’ll do the same.

    On Lords reform, I think it is unfair to say that we gave up at the first sign of resistance. Nick Clegg planned to have the consultation document ready by Dec 2010, and spent an extra 2 years negotiating with the Conservatives.

    There is a new ploy by Labour and the Tories when they want to resist something out of self interest, that has public backing. They say they want to reach consensus on the the solution. They then ensure that there is no consensus around a single solution. So no majority backing for 100% elected House of Lords or 80% or having church links, or grandfathering, or voting method. So you end up with a horrible compromise document that no-one likes and everyone can criticise.

    Then it got passed in parliament, despite the Tory rebellion. It then went to a motion to allow it to have enough time in parliament to pass as an Act. Despite the Tory rebellion, this would have passed if the Labour party en masse, at the instruction of Ed Miliband had not voted against it.

    The idea that it was a Tory rebellion that killed it is a complete fabrication, when in fact it was the Labour party that torpedoed it, whilst claiming they support Lords reform.

    Children still under detention is a valid issue, but is being worked on.

    Drugs reform, Nick Clegg called for a Royal Commission in Dec 2012, but this has essentially been vetoed by Cameron and May.

    The VAT promise was a silly one to make. And agree on equalising minimum wage for young people – which would also help to address an imbalance that reinforces ageism in the jobs market.


  4. The theme here is that every policy in the manifesto not delivered is a broken promise. Does the same go for the Conservative manifesto? If Labour were to be in a coalition one day would the same go for them.

    In an hung parliament each party ought to demand 100% of its own manifesto and offer nothing to a partner?

    This position makes sense only as an attack line coming from someone who likes having alternate Conservative and Labour majority governments and resents anything that upsets this hegemony. Because it is basically saying that in a hung parliament all parties should refuse to work together.


  5. Sam

    Good piece! Really, what you’ve done is describe every compromise, Commons/referendum defeat and policy difficulty that the Lib Dems have faced. Every government faces problems and complications – these often don’t amount to ‘hypocrisy’ or ‘broken promises’ so much as ‘the difficulty of governing the world’s 6th largest economy’.

    In all seriousness, I worry about painting complex policy issues (EG child detention – if it’s hard, we need to pull together rather than accuse each other of breaking promises) as simple, black-white failures of stereotyped they’re-all-the-same politicians. They’re not all the same, governing is not an easy job and if we don’t grant them that, we’re only disillusioning ourselves!


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