The Social Liberal Forum made clear earlier this week that we favoured a progressive alliance between the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties as the basis for a government. We very much regret that due to the intransigence of some individuals within the Labour Party that opportunity was not taken.
The alternative deal that our MPs had placed in front of them contained a series of important progressive policy commitments secured in the negotiations with the Tories. It was a hard-won deal for the Liberal Democrats and will lead to far more progressive outcomes for Britain than a Conservative minority administration. We therefore fully support the Liberal Democrats’ role in the coming government. This must include constantly holding the Tories to account and constantly seeking to introduce the progressive measures that Liberal Democrat supporters will rightly expect from Liberal Democrats in government.
In particular, the Social Liberal Forum will pay attention to the key issues we set out on Saturday 8 May:
First, that Liberal Democrats in government should not support measues that widen the gap between rich and poor – indeed we must work to narrow it. The deal includes important elements of our progressive tax policies and we welcome that as a good first step. Above all, it will be essential that Liberal Democrats fight to ensure that the forthcoming deficit reduction package is delivered fairly, with the greatest burden falling on those who can most afford it (if necessary by higher taxation of wealth).
Second, there should be no move to cut social spending or frontline public services this year. We are satisfied that the deal has ruled this out.
Third, treatment of asylum seekers must improve. The abolition of detention for the children of asyslum seekers is a good start.
Finally, there must be no attempt to water down the Human Rights Act. This was not mentioned in the deal.
These and other issues will be critical yardsticks by which the Liberal Democrats can show the public how a coalition government is far better than an unfettered Conservative administration would have been. We are confident that Liberal Democrats in government and in parliament will continue to fight to temper the Tories’ baser instincts and to introduce progressive change.
The Social Liberal Forum will keep a keen eye on all policy developments.