I previously blogged on a seven-page document released by the Conservative-Liberal Democrats coalition on May 12, 2010, stating the general policies that would guide their new government in the United Kingdom. On May 20 the two parties issued a more detailed program on 31 subjects covering every aspect of British social, economic, and political life.
The foreword written by David Cameron and Nick Clegg states that “the first duty of government is to safeguard national security...” In the short term, the most urgent problem facing the country is tackling the country’s record debts. In that regard, “The deficit reduction program takes precedence over any other measures in this agreement,...” The new chancellor of the exchequer, George Osborne, has scheduled the release of an emergency budget on June 22 stipulating how the government will reduce its deficit. The bulk is to be through reduced spending rather than increased taxes.
A few highlights. The government will introduce a banking levy, investigate a possible separation between retail and investment banking, and create a free national financial advice service funded by a new social responsibility levy on the financial services sector. It will also ban excessive interest rates on credit cards.
Green is a theme running through the program in keeping with the proclamation that climate change is one of Britain’s gravest threats. The program promises greater emission reductions, creation of a green investment bank, a national tree planting campaign, criminalizing possession of illegal timber, and cancellation of the third runway at Heathrow Airport and new runways at London’s other two main airports of Gatwick and Stansted.
The government’s stated goal is for a strong progressive coalition inspired by the values of freedom, fairness, and responsibility. It pledges to take lower and middle income families into account in all its policies: tax reform, spending cuts, educational opportunity (for disadvantaged pupils), free nursery care for pre-school children, maintaining the national minimum wage, health care, introducing new dentistry services, access to talking therapies for mental health, allocating credit, freezing local council taxes, protecting consumers, promoting gender equality, and representation of all minorities in executive departments. The government will train a new generation of community organizers,...especially in deprived areas. (President Obama and ACORN will be pleased.) The focus on low and middle income households gives the appearance of a coalition in which Clegg's LibDems, not Cameron's Conservatives, are the dominant member.
How Chancellor Osborne will square the government’s commitment to maintain and, in some areas, expand government programs, while it slashes away at the budget deficit, will make for interesting reading on June 22.