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Published: Wednesday 15th April 2015 by The News Editor
Liberal Democrats will make increases to education funding a key demand for participation in another coalition government as they launch a manifesto promising to spend billions more than the Tories or Labour.
Nick Clegg said the pledge to ensure as much was spent per youngster “from cradle to college” over the next parliament was central to the party’s message of “opportunity”.
It is one of five policies featured on the front page of the manifesto – marking it out as an effective “red line” in post-election negotiations.
Mr Clegg told The Guardian the five – also including £8 billion a year extra NHS spending and mental health parity, a £12,500 income tax allowance, balancing the budget by 2017/18 and five green measures – enjoyed “a near religious status”.
As the parties battling for influence in the event of another hung parliament set out their stalls, Ukip will also launch its manifesto of “serious, fully-costed policies” for people who “believe in Britain”.
Leader Nigel Farage sought to bolster faltering opinion poll ratings with a plea to Tories to back “the new party of defence” – suggesting he would demand spending on the military substantially beyond the Nato target of 2% of GDP as a price for Ukip support.
An in/out referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union “as soon as possible”, a five-year ban on unskilled migrants coming in to the UK and a points-based system for others are among other key manifesto pledges.
But with the party keen to broaden its appeal amid opinion polls suggesting a slip in support after surging to victory in last year’s European elections, it also offers boosts for first-time buyers, military veterans, small businesses and hospital patients.
The Lib Dems said the pledge to raise the education budget for two to 19-year-olds in England to £55 billion by 2020 would protect spending per pupil even as the number of children enrolled in classes increases, and was £5 billion a year more than the Tories were promising and £2.5 billion more than Labour.
Under the blueprint, the education budget – covering nurseries, schools and colleges – would be maintained in real terms until the structural deficit is eliminated in 2017/18 – a reduction in per-pupil funding.
But above-inflation increases in line with economic growth after that would bring it back in line with today’s levels by the end of the five-year parliament.
Mr Clegg, who will give further details of his approach to coalition negotiations at the launch, said the party would campaign “very hard” on education issues in seats where they face a Tory challenge.
“The manifesto has one simple ambition and word at its heart: opportunity,” he said.
“Education is the great liberator of people’s potential so we need to make sure we support the education system in the next parliament to give every boy and girl the chance to thrive.”
He said: “B oth the Conservative and Labour parties want to cut the amount of money going into schools and nurseries and colleges because their plans don’t keep up with extra pupil numbers.”
Ukip’s manifesto will propose an extra £12 billion over five years for the NHS with another £5.2 billion being added to social care budgets.
And – in contrast to the Conservatives – defence spending would be kept above the Nato target of 2% of GDP, paid for in part by slashing the foreign aid budget by £9 billion a year.
Tories said that cash – as well as proposed savings from leaving the EU, reducing funding to Scotland and scrapping the HS2 high-speed rail project – had been spent several times over, leaving a £37 billion “black hole”.
But Mr Farage said the established Westminster parties had ” repeatedly and knowingly raised the expectations of the public, only to let us down, time and time again”.
The Ukip leader – who famously dismissed his party’s 2010 manifesto as “486 pages of drivel” – said the new document showed there was “real change on the horizon” in British politics for the first time in a century.
“You will find serious, fully-costed policies that reflect what Ukip is all about: believing in our country,” said Mr Farage – who has said bringing forward the Tories’ proposed 2017 EU referendum would be a key demand in any post-election deal.
“If you believe that we are big enough to make our own laws, in our own parliament; if you believe we should have the sovereign right to control our own borders; if you believe that we should be fiscally responsible, and stop adding to our national debts and expecting our children and grandchildren to pay the bill, then we are the party for you,” he said.
It came as The Times reported sources close to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker saying no EU treaty changes were envisaged until after the end of his term in 2019.
Ukip will seize on that as evidence the Tory leader would be unable to put serious reforms to the UK’s relationship to a vote in 2017.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Mr Farage said the Tories’ failure to commit to the Nato target in its manifesto would ” rattle the dwindling number of Conservative voters who still see Mr Cameron’s party as the party of security”.
Ukip’s commitment to the armed forces ” starts with honouring our 2% Nato spending commitment, and exceeding it substantially for the remaining years of the parliament”, he said.
“Our current party leaders have failed to honour the military covenant, and Ukip has serious, costed ideas to stop the rot in this area,” he said – including guaranteed jobs in the police, prison, or border force for anyone leaving the forces after 12 years or more and a dedicated military hospital.
Ukip will also promise to cut taxes for small business and waive stamp duty on new homes worth up to £250,000 built on brownfield sites.
Published: Wednesday 15th April 2015 by The News Editor