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The good, the bad and the ugly

I have gone through the coalition agreement between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives, line by line, so you don't have to (but if you do want to click here). As someone who voted Lib Dem and feared he had made a mistake, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised... until I started to think about the consequences. True, there is the prospect of meaningful constitutional reform and some good soundings on the environment. Yet the agreement, despite the attempts to help the low paid keep more of their money, will heighten inequality and deal a savage blow to public services. The scrapping of the New Deal schemes for the unemployed and the refusal to increase taxes on the well paid, pours scorn on Cameron's claim to be a One Nation Conservative. These proposals dilute Labour's albeit timid measures to create a semblance of work-life balance. And they do nothing to improve quality of life, drawn up as they were by middle-aged white men who have little understanding of how a working mother of three gets by. She will look to Labour to champion her cause, and so too shall I. Here are the main extracts of the agreement, copied verbatim, with my thoughts in brackets.

The Good (with reservations)

The parties agree that funding for the NHS should increase in real terms in each year of the Parliament (which will have a massive impact on other services, especially education).

The target of spending 0.7% of GNI on overseas aid will also remain in place.

We will restore the earnings link for the basic state pension from April 2011.

The parties agree that the personal allowance for income tax should be increased in order to help lower and middle income earners. We also agree to a longer term policy objective of further increasing the personal allowance to £10,000.

The parties agree that a switch should be made to a per-plane, rather than per-passenger duty.

We agree that a banking levy will be introduced.

We will end the detention of children for immigration purposes.

The parties agree to the establishment of five year fixed-term parliaments (why should the people have to wait that long though - how about every four years?).

The parties will bring forward a Referendum Bill on electoral reform, which includes provision for the introduction of the Alternative Vote in the event of a positive result in the referendum, as well as for the creation of fewer and more equal sized constituencies (this is not real PR but is still much better than the present system. How about a demcracy day when voters get a say on a codified constitution?).

The parties will bring forward early legislation to introduce a power of recall, allowing voters to force a by-election where an MP was found to have engaged in serious wrongdoing and having had a petition calling for a by-election signed by 10% of his or her constituents.

We agree to establish a committee to bring forward proposals for a wholly or mainly elected upper chamber on the basis of proportional representation.

We have agreed to establish a commission to consider the ‘West Lothian question’.

That all schools have greater freedom over the curriculum (yet you also call for greater accountability so isn't this double-speak?).

The scrapping of ID card scheme.

The extension of the scope of the Freedom of Information Act to provide greater transparency.

The cancellation of the third runway at Heathrow.



The bad

Deficit reduction shall be borne by reduced spending rather than increased taxes.

The parties agree that reductions can be made to the Child Trust Fund.

The Government will be committed to the maintenance of Britain’s nuclear deterrent.

We have agreed that there should be an annual limit on the number of non-EU economic migrants admitted into the UK to live and work. (blogger' note - how on earth do you set the number?)

State pension age starts to rise to 66.

The parties agree to end all existing welfare to work programmes.

We shall seek to limit the application of the Working Time Directive in the United Kingdom (goodbye quality of life).

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