UK Politics

David Laws: Lib Dems must plan for 2015 coalition

David Laws
Image caption David Laws helped negotiate the 2010 coalition agreement

The Lib Dems must come up with a set of "credible and deliverable" policies to fight the 2015 general election, minister David Laws has said.

The party is anxious to avoid a repeat of its tuition fees policy, which had to be ditched when it entered a coalition with the Tories.

Mr Laws said they had to be better prepared for power-sharing in 2015.

He was speaking ahead of the party's annual conference, which gets under way in Glasgow at the weekend.

The education and Cabinet Office minister said they would use their week in Glasgow to start work on a set of distinctive Lib Dem policies to put before voters in 2015.

But he stressed that the final decision on what would go in the manifesto would not be made until the second half of 2014.

And although there will be a string of new policy announcements in Glasgow, they have all been agreed with the Conservatives, reflecting the coalition's desire to continue "right up to the wire".

'Thoughtful discussions'

There would also be no question of Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg setting out policy "red lines" - potential deal-breakers in any coalition negotiations with Labour or the Tories in the event of another hung parliament - at this stage.

"We are way too soon for a red line list. You can see from all these debates that are happening in conference on the policy papers this is a conference about setting the detail of policy in lots of very important areas."

The party would focus on "finishing the job" of deficit reduction, said Mr Laws, but it was also committed to policies for growth. Activists in Glasgow are set to adopt a plan to push for the income tax threshold to rise to around £12,500.

The Lib Dems suffered a public backlash when the coalition trebled university tuition fees, despite Nick Clegg's election pledge - forced on him by the party's policymaking body - to oppose any increase.

Mr Laws, who was a key player in the 2010 coalition negotiations, said there would be "thoughtful discussions about the way in which we present our policies next time round so that the electorate can see that they are credible and deliverable".

Labour coalition?

He added: "That's not just a challenge for the Liberal Democrats, that's a challenge for all parties in an environment where, at the moment, a coalition outcome of some kind is possible."

Asked if his party could tackle the deficit with Labour as coalition partners, Mr Laws said: "The problem in so many areas with Labour policy on Syria, on the economy, is that it's not really that clear what it is at the moment. It seems to be in some areas just not what the government is doing."

Mr Laws said: "Now that we have seen a coalition in action I think credibility and deliverability are going to be extremely important for all the parties next time round. We are acutely aware of that from our experience in government, I think the other parties will be aware of that too."

But he said the Conservatives had also been forced to abandon key parts of their manifesto including their "flagship" policy of raising the inheritance tax threshold to £1m.

And he dismissed his party's dismal standing in opinion polls, where it lags behind UKIP, insisting voters would make up their minds closer to the election.

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