Local man for UK Parliament?

On 6 May Britain goes to the polls to elect a new Parliament. To find out more about the policies of the different parties flandersnews has spoken to local representatives here in Brussels. Hugh Annand is a former Chair of the Brussels and Europe Liberal Democrats and is standing for the North East Hertfordshire constituency. We asked him to give us the low down on the policies of the Liberal Democrats.

1. In recent months there has been increasing speculation about a hung parliament and the possibility of the Liberal Democrats holding the balance of power. Which points would have to be included in any government accord for the LibDems to be willing to join the government?

The platform we are standing on consists of the four fairnesses: fair taxes, a fair start for children, a fair and sustainable economy, and fair politics. We would not support tax cuts for the rich at the expense of the poor, but would support a government that was proposing the opposite. We would not support a government that was proposing cuts to education. We would support measures to improve our country's environmental performance and diversify its economy, and oppose a government that wanted to go backwards on the environment or back to business-as-usual with the financial sector. And we would seek serious reform of our political system: fair votes, a reformed House of Lords and a written constitution. We do not wish to speculate on the outcome of the election, but my personal view is that we could work with a party in government that got the direction of travel right on those key issues, even if the details were negotiable.

2. How do the LibDems distinguish themselves from the two other main parties when it comes to Europe? What would be the European priorities of a British government with LibDem ministers?

The Liberal Democrats are the most "euro-enthusiastic" of the three main parties - and arguably of any pan-British political party, as the smaller parties (the Greens, the far left and the far right) are all euro sceptic. This does not mean we are uncritical of the European Union. Instead, we believe that by fully engaging with the European political process we can help put right the things that are wrong with it, and cooperate all the better on the things it does well. The top European priority of an incoming Liberal Democrat government would be to work with European partners to get a deal to address climate change. Other priorities would include trans-European energy networks (the "European super grid") and cooperation on financial services regulation and cross-border crime.

3. The election will probably be won or lost on the economy. What is the LibDem recipe for economic recovery?

First, we would not impose immediate and sudden cuts in public spending immediately after the election, as doing so would jeopardise the fragile recovery. Second, we would put money back into the pockets of the lowest earners by raising the income tax threshold. Such people are likely to spend the extra money, thus boosting the economy further. We would pay for this by closing tax loopholes exploited by the rich. Third, we would make sure the recovery was sustainable by investing in green technologies, thus reducing our dependency on the financial sector and on imported energy. Fourth, we would reform the banking sector, separating retail banking from investment banking, so that the government could protect savers without having to bail out merchant bankers.

4. Would a government with LibDem ministers have a different approach to defence and NATO?

The differences would be nuanced.

We would focus more on cooperation with our European partners and less on the "special relationship" with America.

Unlike the other two main parties, we would also include nuclear weapons in the next Strategic Defence Review.

5. Would you also like to make changes to international development and policy towards the UN?

Under a Liberal Democrat government, there would be no repeat of the illegal invasion of Iraq, which undermined the credibility and moral authority of Western powers. We would meet the UK's obligations to the developing world by committing to spending 0.7 per cent of GNI on aid - but I am not sure how different that is from the other parties. We would also take measures to tackle illegal logging, corruption and tax havens, particularly those that allow individuals and corporations to avoid paying taxes to developing countries.