Quite a few of the Lib Dems’ manifesto pledges read as quite leftish. Their opposition to Brexit is clear, though revoking Article 50 without a new referendum is misguided. On migrants’ rights and free movement, they stand in many respects to the left of Labour.
Even on public services, they are promising something like £50 billion above the Tories’ spending plans, and in a few areas have outflanked Labour – for instance childcare, where they are pledging more free hours from earlier and specifying it will be almost all year round.
In general, though, what marks out the Lib Dems’ plans is not just spending less money than Labour. It is that they oppose anything that involves restructuring the economy by expanding public ownership and social and democratic control. Thus their manifesto specifically denounces Labour not only for pledging to nationalise utilities (advocating instead handing over more money to their private owners to “improve” them), but for a “dogmatic, backward-looking approach would destroy flexible jobs” by insisting on too many workers’ rights.
Moreover, pretty much the entire Lib Dem spending offer is premised on an economic “bonus” from stopping Brexit.
What if, one way or another, the bonus doesn’t materialise? Reasons not to trust the Lib Dems over austerity include not just their record in the Coalition but their turbo-charged-neo-liberal promise they will run a year-on-year budget surplus, making them more “fiscally conservative” than almost any mainstream party in any developed country.