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Just under 15 minutes left to ask any questions you may have on the Lib Dem manifesto. Send them in to us here.
Q: Why are there so many ads which misrepresent the proportion of votes the Lib Dems received in the previous GE? I have seen multiple examples of Lab/Con marginals where the Lib Dems are trying to make people believe it’s actually a Lib Dem/Con marginal when in fact a Labour voter switching to Lib Dems will make a hard Brexit more likely. It makes me distrust the party. Matthew, Oxford
The Lib Dems have something of a reputation for sharp-elbowed practices in elections, and a particular notoriety for bar charts with very dubious scales. When I went out campaigning with Luciana Berger in Finchley and Golders Green she was at pains to show off the scale of the chart on her leaflets, saying it had been “measured to the nearest millimetre”. One confusion can be that the Lib Dems use various polls or election results.
So, in Finchley and Golders Green, while the Lib Dems were a distant third in the 2017 election behind the Tories and Labour, Berger’s chart showed a recent constituency poll which put her in second. It was a legitimate poll, so that seems fair enough. Other tactics are more dubious, for example citing council or European results as evidence the Lib Dems can win in an area. And the party has been criticised for other tricks – for example printing fake “newspapers” that look a lot like the genuine local paper.
Q: Hi, I can find nothing in the Liberal Democrat manifesto about fishing and CFP reform. Do they actually have a policy on this? Thanks. Alastair S. Edwards, 48, music and English teacher, near Jablonec nad Nisou in the Czech Republic
You’re right – there doesn’t seem to be anything in there. The party’s manifesto for the European elections in May also doesn’t mention it. I’m afraid I can’t add much, as I’ve never heard any senior Lib Dem people discuss the issue. So I’m not much help here.
Q: Introducing a written constitution for a federal United Kingdom sounds very radical, why am I not hearing more about it? How would they achieve that? Jason, 28, edit assistant, London
The party has long been a champion of constitutional reform, most obviously through their long-standing support for a proportional voting system. The party’s manifesto promises all sorts of changes such as Commons constituencies for overseas voters (MP for the south of France could be popular), giving 16- and 17-year-olds the vote, and making the Lords democratic. Some elements are, however, a bit vague, not least the plan for “a written constitution for a federal United Kingdom”. This would, of course, involve changing centuries of precedent and would keep constitutional experts in work for years. How would they do that? I’m afraid your guess is as good as mine.
You have been sending in your questions about the Lib Dem manifesto which I will be answering until 1.30pm. You can share your questions with us via our form here.
Q: How exactly can they revoke article 50? I’d like someone to explain how they can legally overturn article 50 and the impact it could have on future government decisions. Suzi, manual labour worker in a warehouse, West Yorkshire
If desired, the UK could revoke article 50 but doing nothing more than writing a letter to the European council. In 2018, the European court of justice confirmed this could be done unilaterally. In legal terms, this is a very specific issue so would seem to have no bearing on future governments. Politically it would be viewed with dismay by some voters. But the Lib Dems argue that since they would only do this in the (extremely unlikely) event of the party winning an absolute majority in parliament, this would be a mandate from the people. And constitutionally they are quite correct. Whether it was tactically a good idea to promise this, as a “more remain than you” sign to distance the party from Labour, remains to be seen. Some senior Lib Dems are not 100% happy with it.
Q: How will the Lib Dems fight for UK citizens in Europe, especially retirees. Patrick Markby, nearly 70, retired chef, Montpellier, France
They would say that the best way to do that would be to stop Brexit altogether, and let the status quo continue for UK nationals living in the rest of the EU. The Lib Dems have not, as yet, got into what policies they would seek to mitigate the impact of Brexit on people like you. For electoral reasons they don’t really want to discuss a preferred sort of departure, as their overwhelming election message is to cancel the whole thing. So I’m afraid I can’t really add much.
Q: What are the strongest and the weakest parts of the Liberal Democrats’ message? Laird Taylor, Victoria, Canada
If you asked ten Lib Dem activists, you might well get 10 – or at least six or seven – different answers. They have bet the house on tempting over large numbers of remain-minded Tory and Labour voters with an overwhelming anti-Brexit focus. The other key element has been a near-presidential spotlight on Jo Swinson (the party’s two battlebuses both carry the slogan, “Jo Swinson’s Liberal Democrats”).
Both these could be strengths … but given the way the party has slipped gradually in the polls, they have not been so far. One strength could be the revised central message to urge voters to vote tactically and help Lib Dems defeat Tory candidates in some seats and thus deprive Boris Johnson of a majority. With the Conservatives strongly ahead in the polls, and Johnson a highly divisive character, that could resonate.
Some of your questions so far have been about the Gender Recognition Act and the legalisation of cannabis:
Q: Does the Lib Dem manifesto have anything to say about the Gender Recognition Act? Does it want people who self-identify as the opposite sex to be able to obtain a gender recognition certificate and therefore a new birth certificate? Jane, London
The manifesto says this on the issue, in its section on equality: “Complete reform of the Gender Recognition Act to remove the requirement for medical reports, scrap the fee and recognise non-binary gender identities.” In truth, I’ve not covered this area of the manifesto, or talked to any Lib Dems about this, so I don’t know a whole lot more than this. In my defence, the manifesto is 96 pages long.
Q: Are the Lib Dems 100% banning fracking? I want to know this as Jo Swinson has voted in favour of fracking in the past, which I believe is despicable. Jules, Cornwall
Their manifesto is unequivocal on this. On its sections about a green economy four, “priorities for a first parliament”. One says: “Investing in renewable power so that at least 80% of UK electricity is generated from renewables by 2030 – and banning fracking for good.” More generally, Swinson has been keen to try and distance herself from decisions taken under the 2010-15 coalition, when she held a series of junior ministerial roles. It’s up to voters to decide on this.
Q: What are the implications of the legalising cannabis proposal? How popular is it and what do medical professionals say? Michael, 50s, manager in the charity sector, St Albans
That’s arguably a bit outside the remit of this chat, but it’s worth noting that the Lib Dems have advocated drug decriminalisation in earlier elections. The costings document for the current manifesto shows the party would expect revenues of almost £1.5bn a year in duties on cannabis and savings on law enforcement. More widely, you can – and people do – argue endlessly about drug decriminalisation, but there are plenty of experts, and doctors, who argue in favour of it, in various forms, as well as treating the wider issue of drug use as a public health rather than a criminal matter.
I’m Peter Walker, a political correspondent for the Guardian, and will be answering your questions on the Liberal Democrat manifesto today. I have spent much of this election campaign following the party around, including trips on both their battle buses. I have been covering politics since just after the Brexit referendum, and previously wrote about national and international news. Before joining the Guardian I worked for various other organisations, including Agence France-Presse, where I was based in Beijing, Hong Kong and Paris.
If you have a question you can send it to us by filling in the form here.
This article originally appeared here in https://www.theguardian.com/politics/live/2019/dec/02/general-election-swinson-condemns-johnson-over-trump-friendship-ahead-of-london-visit-live