Lib Dems launch manifesto
Thursday, April 14, 2005
An exhausted Charles Kennedy returned to the election campaign to launch a twenty page Liberal Democrat manifesto targeted at disaffected Labour voters, promising a fairer tax system and withdrawal from Iraq.
Entitled The Real Alternative the manifesto pledges to reduce the lowest rate of income tax, but increase the rate on those earning over £100,000 to 50%. The party would also scrap the unpopular local council tax in favour of a new local income tax. The manifesto also promises to remove hidden "stealth taxes".
Under this system the party claims the poorest 15 million (25%) of people in Britain would be better off, and the middle 50% would be paying no extra tax.
The manifesto promised to scrap the controversial university tuition fees, increase services for pensioners and add £100 a month to the state pension, and train 21,000 new primary school teachers and 10,000 new police. A Lib Dem government would make eye and dental checks free, and reduce the cost of prescription medicine.
The Liberal Democrats were the only one of the three largest parliamentary parties to have consistently voted against the Iraq war, and the manifesto has promised an exit strategy with a phased withdrawal of Britain's 8,000 troops still in the country.
"We reject a foreign policy based on 'my ally right or wrong'," Kennedy said. "And we say that war should always be a last resort."
Kennedy, who became a father on Tuesday, admitted he'd had little sleep before the manifesto launch, and stumbled while answering questions on the proposed tax system.
Deputy leader of the Labour Party, John Prescott, focused on the 50% of the population falling in the higher tax bands, claiming that under a Lib Dem government a household with a combined income of £41,000 would be paying an extra £1,170 tax a year.
Conservative Party chairman, Dr Liam Fox said that the Liberal Democrats were not the real alternative on crime and the "immigration system being chaos".
Kennedy rejected this claim: "Over the course of the last parliament the Liberal Democrats have been the real opposition - over issues like Iraq, student top-up fees, the council tax and compulsory ID cards - while the Conservatives have either lined up with Labour or flip-flopped."
A Guardian/ICM opinion poll yesterday found that while the Conservative's policy on immigration was popular with traditional Conservative voters, it was unpopular with undecided voters, and was failing to win voters over from other parties.
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- "Lib Dems 'are real alternative'" — BBC News, April 14
- Tania Branigan. "Kennedy eager to fight Labour on home turf" — The Guardian, April 14
- Tom Happold. "Kennedy launches Lib Dem manifesto" — The Guardian, April 14
- Philippe Naughton. "Sleepless Kennedy rejoins election campaign" — The Times, April 14
- Alan Travis. "Immigration strategy backfiring on Tories" — The Guardian, April 14