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Friday, April 10, 2015

Why Plaid Cymru cannot take the moral high ground on tuition fees and coalition government

An anonymous, off-topic comment prompts me to do a search of the archives to illustrate that on tuition fees no party has a good story to tell.

We all know what happened with the Liberal Democrats of course. The fact that the new system is actually an improvement on what was there before, that it means most students will not have to repay their tuition fee loan and that it is attracting more students from the poorest backgrounds to go to university than before, does not excuse the poor way that this was handled by my party.

I did not agree with the decision at the time, though in mitigation, it was early on in the coalition when we were still finding our feet, we did not have a majority and both the Tories and Labour were in favour of fees. In Wales all the Liberal Democrats MPs voted against the increase in fees and the Welsh Liberal Democrats Assembly group supported the Assembly Government in subsidising them for Welsh students in this Assembly term.

Labour themselves do not have the excuse of being in a minority on this issue. In fact they set up the review that led to the increase in fees. They also broke two successive manifesto promises to introduce fees and top up fees. And they had a huge majority.

Similarly, despite what Plaid Cymru activists now say, they also broke a manifesto promise to bring in top-up fees when they were in a coalition government with Labour in the last Assembly. The evidence is here. That has not stopped Plaid AMs and others in their party assuming the moral high ground on this issue, ground which is now crumbling beneath their feet.

In fact the only party who can put up their hands and say that they have done what they said they would on fees are the Tories. And that is because they have consistently supported the concept of fees and the increase in the cap.
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