Have Libdems abandoned those most in need of help?

by Adam Lent

There is a lot to like in this coalition deal stuff that the Labour Government should have attended to long ago: political reform, cracking down on tax avoidance, regulating and taxing the banks, restoring the link between the state pension and earnings, environmental measures.

But there are three parts of the agreement that must make any serious progressive question the priorities of the Liberal Democrat leadership. Unemployment, the deficit and immigration have all been handed over to the Tories with only moderate qualifications. They are all areas which will most seriously impact on the poorest and most disadvantaged.

The Conservative Party policy on unemployment is very weak, planning to abolish the most effective initiatives of Labour – the Future Jobs Fund and the Job Guarantee – and replace them with half-baked schemes such as a sole trader mentoring programme for young people.

On immigration, the Liberal Democrats humane plans have been ditched in favour of a Tory policy designed to please the tabloids rather than deal realistically or fairly with the issue.

And on the deficit, it seems, the Conservatives have been given carte blanche to start cutting services as quickly as possible.

As a result, these policy areas are now controlled by Conservative Cabinet and junior ministers with the one exception of David Laws at the Treasury.

The Tories are not entirely the Tories of old, it is true, but on these three issues I can see little to distinguish them from their Thatcherite fore-runners who had such an abysmal record on protecting those without work, those reliant on public services or those trying to survive away from their home country.

Liberal Democrats need to ask themselves whether, come 2015, they will really be able to look back and say that their coalition helped those most in need of that help.

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