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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Broken promises

This morning's Independent reports on an admittance by Nick Clegg that he "should have been more careful" when he signed a pre-election pledge to oppose a rise in tuition fees.

The Deputy Prime Minister goes on to say that he will not ignore the problem by putting his "head in the sand", and that the Government's policy will help generations of poor people go to university.

In many ways the solution that the Government have come up with on tuition fees has a lot to offer. By raising the threshold at which students need to repay the loans and making payments relate to earnings they have done a great deal for poorer students.

The problem is the level of the cap itself which is simply much too high. Nobody who signed the NUS pledge could seriously vote for this proposal in my view and I will repeat what I have said earlier that Liberal Democrat MPs should vote against it.

This problem of broken promises is not a new one of course. As Clegg pointed out in the House of Commons yesterday, it was Labour who first introduced fees and then top-up fees despite explicit manifesto promises to the contrary. Plaid Cymru also voted to bring top-up fees into Welsh Universities despite promising voters that they would not do so.

Liberal Democrats do not have a majority so we are not in a position to bring in our own policy, but we can moderate this policy more and we should do so.

Having said that I was disappointed at the way the protests turned out yesterday. This was not the fault of the National Union of Students. Their legitimate and peaceful demonstration was hijacked by anarchists and others intent on causing trouble. There was a huge failing on the part of the Police to contain this action.

The violence and damage to property has not done the NUS's cause any good. This is not the Conservative Government of the 1980s and 1990s. It is a coalition government with a genuine commitment to civil liberties and fairness. Reacting as if we are still in the Thatcher era is counter-productive and does not change anything.

I can only hope that it has not entrenched attitudes so as to make further changes to the student finance proposals more difficult.
Rationalisations like this are of no use to families looking at further hardships. Lib Dems consciously targeted the student vote in key constituencies with promises to scrap tuition fees. The pledges were unequivocal and were never once modified by Nick Clegg even when the coalition scenario was put to him at meetings. How any party thinks is acceptable to alienate such a large section of its support and potential recruitment ground in exchange for a brief spell in office is beyond me.
This is not an attempt at a rationalisation Shambo. It is a balanced view of the situation facing the country. As to how any party thinks it is acceptable to alienate a large section of its support and potential recruitment ground in exchange for a brief spell in office perhaps you should tell us. As a Labour supporter you will know all about that.
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