Eyeing kingmaker role, Britain’s Liberal Democrats pitch manifesto

Nick Clegg. Brussels, 2008. [Liberal Democrats]

The Lib Dems will make their bid for a seat at the top table Wednesday (15 April) after May’s national election, launching a centrist manifesto designed to win over swing voters and lay the groundwork for coalition talks. 

Neither the centre-left Labour Party, nor Prime Minister David Cameron’s centre-right Conservatives is likely to win an outright majority on 7 May, in what is forecast to be one of the country’s closest elections since the 1970s.

The Liberal Democrats, who in 2010 won their first stint in government as junior coalition partners with Cameron, go into the election hoping they can overcome a collapse in support and hang on to enough seats to win a decisive say in which major party forms the next government.

“This manifesto is a blueprint for a stronger economy and a fairer society,” Nick Clegg will say at an event in London. Both the Conservatives and Labour published their manifestos earlier in the week.

The central Liberal Democrat campaign message is that it will be fairer than the Conservatives when it comes to spending cuts and stricter on fiscal discipline than Labour. The Liberal Democrats also oppose Cameron’s plans to hold a referendum on Britain’s European Union membership by 2017.

Nevertheless, Wednesday’s manifesto has been painstakingly compiled to allow the party to take on a coalition role with either Labour or the Conservatives. Its front page pledges that the Lib Dems will set out key areas where the party will not compromise, informing the complicated negotiations expected to start on 8 May.

“This manifesto is a serious document from a party prepared to govern,” said David Laws, the legislator who led the writing of the manifesto. “It sets out a credible and deliverable liberal vision for Government that builds on our achievements in coalition.”

The 7 May UK general election will go a long way towards deciding whether Britain will stay in the European Union, or choose to leave, after forty years of uneasy relations.

A surge in Eurosceptism has firmly pushed the European Union up the political agenda in Britain.

The ruling Conservatives have promised an in/out referendum on EU membership before the end of 2017 if they win the election, placing Europe's future at the centre of the debate.

The UK Independence Party's (UKIP) position on Europe is probably the clearest. They want the UK to leave the European Union as a first step towards regaining Britain's 'lost' national sovereignty.

>> Read our LinksDossier: Voting on Brexit: The issues shaping the UK election

>> Folllow our rolling coverage: Countdown to UK election: A vote on Europe?

  • 7 May: General elections

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