Labour, Lib Dems ‘may be split over Brexit and social care’

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Pronged parties could mean a painful spring in British politics

After eight years out of power, Nick Clegg – a once slick politician who became an internet expert – has built the Liberal Democrats into a potential kingmaker.

And, on the eve of the four-way contest, Mr Clegg told BBC Newsnight: “I think it’s fair to say that I have learnt in the digital age that you can’t just have a general manifesto. You have to deliver on all the promises you’ve made.”

He said the Lib Dems should implement at least 10 of the 10 policies they announced at the start of the campaign.

The boldness of his proposals was bettered only by Nicola Sturgeon’s manifesto, of course. And the SNP has promised more powers.

But, if the polls are to be believed, the Lib Dems are on the cusp of becoming a part of that first-past-the-post system. Mr Clegg warns that another fragmented Conservative/Labour government might seek to impose a looser version of proportional representation – an approach this party has consistently opposed in the past.

Mr Clegg revealed that the Liberal Democrats recently discussed staging a national conference – after Bruges – to decide on the details of their Bologna agreement, including the number of measures it would take to achieve free movement and the shape of a relationship with the EU after Brexit.

The Lib Dems long-term goal is to make politics more democratic and give voters a bigger say in how they are governed. In the early 1980s, I went to Cambridge to study the debate about proportional representation, and the idea of elected leaders was furiously discussed. These days that idea is commonplace.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The Tories have gone against public wishes by returning to their policy on social care

The Lib Dems want to go further and employ a form of proportional representation that would completely change our political system.

The other Bologna Manifesto promises have done little to boost our public confidence in party politics. These include the Conservative policy on social care.

There was a panicked announcement from the Chancellor about £2bn of extra funding for social care last week.

That was rushed out amid concerns about social care services crumbling as a result of unprecedented levels of “old person poverty”. The details we have are vague and there are a series of caveats.

And the impact will be far more difficult to gauge once the new Act comes into force. It would be unfair to haggle over the details now. It would be folly to wait and agree a deal until the details become clearer.

Read more: What do you think will happen after the election?

What is more urgent is the fact that the impact of Theresa May’s approach to social care is clear for all to see. The government has drawn up a £2bn bill that it promises to pay by 2020.

The risk is that May’s colleagues will dash to dodge any blame. Someone will climb down from this cliff. I hope it is not the Lib Dems.

I hope the prime minister is strong enough to act to protect those in need. She needs to ensure the money is properly spent.

I hope no one tries to step over the cliff edge. I hope she listens to her party. She needs to start delivering on the promises she made when she first became PM in 2010.

Political reality has shown us that, even though a general election is called six months before the official polling day, it is impossible to predict what the exact outcome will be. So this month’s outcome is the only thing that is truly predictable.

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