An announcement today which has been headline news is Nick Clegg’s pledge to increase mental health funding by £120 million. Part of this policy, to set waiting time targets for people with depression, or young people with psychosis, is actually a Coalition, not a Lib Dem policy- but Clegg aims to go even further than this, increasing the £120million funding even more. The issue of mental health will be prominent on their upcoming manifesto, and should there be the need for more coalition negotiations, the reform proposals will be a deciding factor- although, to be fair, wasn’t the same said about tuition fees?
Back to business; Clegg’s reforms certainly could gain the party much support from the electorate. Mental health charities such as Mind, are describing his pledge as a “landmark moment.”
Another conference pledge that is sure to appeal to the electorate is the tax cut proposed by the party yesterday. By raising the personal tax allowance to £11,000, starting from April 2016, 29 million people will be given a tax cut of £100. An increase in capital gains tax for the rich will be used to fund this-something that won’t be quite as popular with a certain section of the electorate! There is, however, some party politics surrounding this; Clegg has accused David Cameron of stealing the policy, with the Conservatives having announced their intention to cut taxes by a huge £7.2bn, part of which will also include raising the personal tax allowance. Unlike the Lib Dem’s, the Conservatives increase of the allowance will probably only start in 2018, as they want the budget deficit to be gone first.
Other interesting developments include a mismatch of policy proposals of varying importance, such as a vote for reforms in British football. Actions would include an independent review and homophobic chanting becoming a criminal offence. In another vote, the party voted against support for a second runaway at Gatwick, going against Clegg’s personal views to keep their commitments to the environment.
Clegg said in his speech today that the Liberal Democrats stand for a “different kind of politics” yet have they really distinguished themselves fully? Their mental health reform proposal was already part to a certain extent, of coalition policy, and is there anything unique or radical about promising to cut taxes? One thing’s for certain, next years election will in my view, ultimately decide Clegg’s fate, and the direction of the party.