The Lib Dems haven’t really announced many enormous policies so far at their party conference. Yesterday’s speech from Vince Cable was more notable for its loyalty than it was for its focus on ‘bolstering’ apprenticeship pay and ‘clarifying’ and ‘enhancing’ workers’ rights. But unless they’re planning to go for the 2013 Tory strategy of not announcing something in their leader’s speech and then cobbling together an announcement from one throwaway line when they realise the newspapers might not write anything up at all, the Lib Dems do still plan to use Clegg’s speech to announce something important.
Based on what Norman Lamb had to say yesterday at fringe meetings, it looks as though at least one of the policies the party announces will be on mental health. He told a ministerial Q&A session that his party will make mental health policy a ‘red line’ in future coalition negotiations, which is an interesting development for a policy area that is often neglected and treated as the poor relation of physical health.
Last night at a fringe event I asked Lamb for more details on this ‘red line’. He said:
‘There is an announcement coming ip and I can’t talk about it… it’s above my pay grade! But it’s an announcement I am very proud of but I want to make dead certain if we had anything to do with the next Government that we demand we see this through.’
It would be difficult for either Labour or the Tories to turn down a red line on mental health. But it has been interesting to see how the Lib Dems have softened on some red lines, and drawn others in indelible ink this week. They seem to see the EU referendum as a price worth paying for going back into government with the Tories after 2015, knowing that their Coalition partners have many MPs who would rather have a minority government. On others, such as human rights and welfare cuts, they are adamant they will block the Tories.