Nick Clegg, UK Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Democrat party since 2007, is reinforcing his party’s commitment to education funding in the lead-up to May’s General Election.
The centrist Lib Dems are committed to increasing per-student spending for those aged 2 to 19, or as they have phrased it, “cradle to college.” This would mean a budget increase from £49.6 billion to £55.3 billion between 2018 and 2020. To them, this is a non-negotiable “red line” and would have to be included in any future coalition deal.
The Lib Dem party is expected to lose half of its 57 seats in May 7th’s general election, writes Nigel Morris of the Independent. Clegg has stated that he is optimistic about keeping more than the projected 30 in the upcoming election, but support for the party has fallen since 2010.
Clegg responded to the climate of uncertainty:
I have been quite reluctant to talk about the language of ‘deal breakers’ and ‘red lines’ and so on. But I think it is now right in the final stages of the election to set out some core deal breakers for us.
The Liberal Democrats will not allow our children and grandchildren to pay the price of this generation’s mistakes. We believe above all else in spreading opportunity, in tearing down the barriers that stop people from reaching their potential. Nothing is more crucial to that than education.
According to Frances Perraudin of the Guardian, the Conservative Party promised to maintain spending at current levels, which amounts to a cut due to inflation and the rising population of students. The Labour Party has agreed to an increase, but by about £2.5 billion less than the Lib Dems.
Clegg has said that education is the policy area that he personally feels most passionate about. The Lib Dems also want to protect spending on the NHS, science, and overseas aid, writes Kamal Ahmed of the BBC, leaving the military and the police vulnerable to budget cuts.
Tamara Cohen of the Daily Mail notes that this comes only a week after Clegg’s promise to not set out any “red lines” for this election. Despite Clegg’s promise, the party has inched toward using education funding as leverage if the potential for another Conservative-led coalition government presents itself.
The Liberal Democrats have also promised to provide free school meals for 1.9 million schoolchildren. Clegg and his wife have campaigned in the final weeks through schools to reiterate the party’s commitment to support for children:
“Liberal Democrats want every child to have the best start in life. That’s why I want every child to have a hot, healthy school lunch.”