Nick Clegg writes to Aaron Porter on ‘Right to Recall’ and tuition fees

Nick Clegg, has written to Aaron Porter, President of the National Union of Students, in response to the NUS’ ‘Right to Recall’ campaign.

His letter in full:

Dear Aaron,

Thank you for writing to me about your ‘Right to Recall’ campaign.

The idea of a right to recall was something I proposed when I first became leader of the Liberal Democrats and I am proud that it is now part of the Coalition Agreement. However my proposal was for it to apply to MPs who were found guilty of serious wrongdoing by the parliamentary authorities. My intention has always been that it should be for people found to be breaching parliamentary rules, the example I often used was that of Derek Conway.

While the Liberal Democrats have not been able to keep their pledge on tuition fees I believe we have played an important role in proposing a new system that is in line with our fair, progressive values.

That fairness includes ending the discrimination against part-time students; making sure that graduates do not start repayments until they are earning a suitable wage at a higher level than they do now; and ensuring that the lowest earning graduates will pay back less overall than they do currently.

For example, a nurse with a starting salary of £21,000 increasing to £27,000 in real terms over 20 years would pay an average of £7 a month over 30 years. Under the current system, they would be paying back at least £45 a month immediately.

I know your preferred option is for a Graduate Tax. As you know, that is something we also looked at but rejected, partly because we felt it was actually more unfair. Under a Graduate Tax people on below-average incomes would end up paying more than they would under our proposals.

If we are agreed that people should only start repaying after they graduate and that those repayments should be linked to the ability to pay then the important question is which system offers the fairest method of repayment. I firmly believe that a Graduate Contribution Scheme is fairer and more progressive than Graduate Tax.

I understand and respect the fact that you will continue to argue the case for your own preferred system and that debate is one that will continue after a new funding system is introduced. Equally I understand that part of that campaign will involve the NUS trying to pressure the Liberal Democrats.

However, I also believe that all of us involved in this debate have a greater responsibility to ensure that we do not let our genuinely held disagreements over policy mean that we sabotage an aim that we all share – to encourage people from poorer backgrounds to go to university.

Like me I am sure you have regularly spoken to people who believe that the new proposals will mean them having to pay before they go to university or say that they cannot afford the fees. As you know, there is no upfront charge and the repayments only apply to graduates who earn over £21,000. If the proposals are passed by Parliament I believe it is crucial that all of us are able to ensure that people know the true picture.

There is one thing in this debate that I believe unites all of us – both parties in the coalition; your fellow members in the Labour Party; the NUS and people throughout the country who care about higher education – and that is that the opportunity to go to university is one that everyone should feel they have. It would be a tragedy if we inadvertently allowed our debate about the methods to damage our shared goal.

I will be in touch to arrange a meeting with you to discuss this. I do not expect to change your current position, nor am I trying to stop you continuing to campaign for what you believe in, even after Parliament votes on these proposals. But I do believe that the nature of that debate, and the language we use, is important if it is not to have consequences that none of us want.

Yours sincerely,

Nick Clegg

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60 Comments

  • Anthony Aloysius St 30th Nov '10 - 8:34am

    “If we are agreed that people should only start repaying after they graduate and that those repayments should be linked to the ability to pay then the important question is which system offers the fairest method of repayment.”

    Pardon my French, but how much more of this crap are we going to be fed by Clegg?

    Obviously there are two issues – (1) how high fees are and (2) the method of repayment.

    Clegg and his cronies continually witter on about how the NUS supports a graduate tax. Yes. But there’s a hell of a difference between repaying £3000 a year through a graduate tax and repaying £9000.

    Clegg gave a written promise to vote against raising fees. That’s what’s at issue, and he knows it perfectly well.

  • So Nick Clegg thinks that the pre-election Lib Dem manifesto pledge on fees was fundamentlaly unfair, because that is the corollary of the argument above.

    That is either utter incompetence on the part of the Lib Dems, or alternatively you have a leader who has no faith in parts of party policy but didn’t have the balls to confront the members. What have you wrought?

  • Anthony Aloysius St 30th Nov '10 - 8:40am

    “As you know, there is no upfront charge and the repayments only apply to graduates who earn over £21,000.”

    And this is pretty much as bad. Browne recommended a threshold of £21,000. At the time it seems to have been generally expected that this would be in 2012 terms.

    But according to Vince Cable’s version, it will be £21,000 in 2016, and the threshold won’t be raised for a further 5 years after that, so it will stay £21,000 until 2020. Not that they made that clear to anyone, even when people (such as the IFS) asked them.

    So in effect that’s something like £17,500 in today’s money (assuming inflation will be 2%). Or, in real terms, just about 3% higher than the amount represented by the £15,000 threshold when it was introduced by Labour in 2006.

  • Wish Clegg and Willets would stop this line about no upfront costs. That’s true. But what everyone will have to do is create a personal debt burden which they have to repay. Of course, for toffs like Clegg and co (and app lots of LibDems nowadays), daddy can pay off that fee burden from the trust fund. But those from poorer backgrounds see £50K of debt as a massive millstone. Why would you go there? Stupid policy. Education is the right of all people and the state should provide it for those who cannot pay. And as for the pledge – Clegg is just toast – as he says in his own words. He won’t allow right of recall for PUBLIC wishes because he’s afraid the people of Sheffield would boot him out.

  • They are trying to reduce the issue to a matter of how much students pay per month. The consequences of what they are doing are far far more than that. They want to marketize, privatize, and commodify higher education. I don’t think Clegg even realises how disastrous this would be.

    This article comprehensively and meticulously rips the Browne review to shreds, covering all the issues the Condems want to skirt around:
    http://www.lrb.co.uk/v32/n21/stefan-collini/brownes-gamble/print

  • Nick, I liked you, I trusted you, I believed you knew what the electorate wanted, a new politics an honest politics. But I’m afraid you are now just wrong, wrong wrong, you are now so far from what the people who voted for you expected that you might as well be on the moon. It’s a shame it could have been so different you could have made a real difference but now you are just another self serving politician and will be recorded in histoy as such. An opportunity missed to be a true leader. a honest leader, a leader with integrity!

  • Clegg may have forgot the students but they won’t forget him. He and the Lib Dem must prepare for the on coming storm. They are facing the political abyss because of this man’s vanity and folly.

  • Yes, Paul, Collini’s article has been linked here before (a number of times, I think). One thing is clear, irrespective of the negative effects on students themselves, is that the Govt have withdrawn funding for many courses (Arts, Social Sciences etc) and replaced this with direct student payments. I am sorry, but it should NOT be down to a “bums on seats” argument which courses run and which don’t. There should be other (public, democratic) criteria at work. Just because some courses are found “difficult”, or for other semi-relevant reasons such as venue, snobbery etc, should not mean they are abandoned.

    I am clear that undergraduate funding (along with other FE and HE provision) should ultimately be funded from general taxation, although I accept that a major new commitment like this should not be made at times of economic hardship. Frankly, this debate between the lesser of two evils – graudate tax and pay back at certain income levels fees , is pretty academic. We as a society are trying to wriggle our way out of a good publicly funded post school education system.

    As for the Recall system (on thread for a moment) I assume Porter is calling for all those Lib Dems not voting against the likely Fees legislation to be subject to voter recall for “breaking pledges”. This type of action could be brought into voter recall, but you would have to have a huge threshold (say, 10000 of any MP’s voters) to make this practical – otherwise people would be being recalled any time an organised group didn’t get what it wanted! Clegg’s idea of serious misconduct is needed. Remember the arrogance of the likes of Anthony Steen etc. Far too many MPs have in the past felt they are above criticism or sanction (“because we were elected at the ballot box”). Eliot Morley and his cronies who are currently being prosecuted were in that category. I am sure no Lib Dem MP would cross a voter threshold like that on the Tuition Fee issue.

  • @Bryan
    Nick has taken some brave decisions that he knows may cost him his job, in the interests of the whole country.

    The NUS and Labour prefer to close their eyes and not look into the financial abyss that labour has created over the last ten years. If students think their future is bleak now, it would have been a hell of a lot worse if the deficit was not confronted with the CSR that has pacified the money markets. No one likes the idea of £6000 tuition fees but it was the best deal that is available in the present straightened times. I don’t see the NUS or Labour coming up with any realistic alternatives.

  • There are lots of claims about which section of people will pay more than others and those claims conflict with each other. Is there any source which is the official and complete proposal on how the repayment system will work?

  • @simonsez

    The sums on this issue do not add up and it’s as plain as anything can be that the policy is not ‘in the best interests of the country’ as it costs money to everyone.

    It is in the interests of the free marketeers, which is why the Tories and, I am afraid, Vince Cable, are all for it.

    It is deliberate wilful vandalism of the HE sector, it is based on a destructive ideology and not economics, it is needlessly costly, it will cause long-term damage to the UK as a whole, it is not necessary, nobody bar a small group of ideologues wants it, it directly violates Lib Dem MP’s personal pledges, whole swathes of detail have not been thought through and the policy is not even properly modelled.

    I can hardly remember a worse piece of policy – possibly Michael Howard’s CJB, which was a key reason the Tories didn’t get elected for 13 years.

  • If a Liberal Democrat MP thinks he has a comfortable majority then he can break the promise and not worry about voting for a tripling of Fees. If he thinks abstaining is the same as voting against a fee rise he can take also his chances with the electorate. If he vores against it he might hold onto his seat.

    If Nick thinks the anger or damage this will cause will just go away then he’s delusional.

  • It is deliberate wilful vandalism of the HE sector”

    What a stupid thing to say. It’s a sign of political immaturity to think that everyone who disagrees with you is an evil despot deliberately trying to destroy the country.

  • Liberal Neil 30th Nov '10 - 10:49am

    @Andrew Tennant – Whether the propose scheme is more or less fair than a Graduate Tax depends what sort of Graduate Tax you mean.

    Nick chooses to compare with a tax on future graduates on their earnings above the current basic allowance.

    On that basis his comparison is probably correct.

    If, however, you have a Graduate Tax on all graduates on earnings above, say, £26K, his comparison would be wrong, the rate required would be a lot smaller, and it would be genuinly progressive and fair between generations. You could even have tax bands, as with income tax, and make the initial rate smaller still.

  • Any system that relates the payments to costs rather than income is reprehensible. The tuition fee proposals are regressive above middle incomes. An MP on a salary of 64k will contribute a smaller percentage of their income over 30 years than a nurse on 25k. For Clegg to describe the current proposals as fairer (and more progressive!!) than graduate contributions linked to earnings is a downright lie.

  • I am gobsmacked by Clegg’s continued shamelessness.

    He is wrong to think the power of argument will win the day for him on Tuition fees. I cannot believe how quickly he has lost touch with the reality outside of Westminster. Part of the reason for the current Hung Parliament was people’s dis-satisfaction with the Political classes – felling they’ve been deceived and lied to over many, many years.

    Clegg’s shameful U-Turn on Tuition Fees and subsequent patronising of students has been striking to behold. This is not about policy – or cherry-picking of data to support his argument. It’s about MPs and their appalling behaviour in power.

    This will be the Lib Dem’s Iraq. And before I get all the synthetic responses of disgust – I mean it in the context of the decision that will haunt them.

  • On tuition fees, I feel we’ve moved from debate to a restatement of fixed positions.

    However, I think the most interesting part of the article is Nick’s line on right to recall:


    The idea of a right to recall was something I proposed when I first became leader of the Liberal Democrats and I am proud that it is now part of the Coalition Agreement. However my proposal was for it to apply to MPs who were found guilty of serious wrongdoing by the parliamentary authorities. My intention has always been that it should be for people found to be breaching parliamentary rules.

    Surely if an MP breaches parliamentary rules, then parliament should deal with them?

    I rather think that right to recall should be used when an MP has breached the trust that their electorate placed in them to such an extent that enough people in their constituency want them out before the next election.

    Clearly an MP would have to do something pretty extreme to breach the voter’s trust to that extent. Signing a pledge to oppose *any* rise in tuition fees (no small print about coalitions or budget deficits), and then voting to treble tuition fees might just do it though.

  • @MBoy

    Politics can be an emotive business. My apologies if my opinion distresses you.

    I’m not sure if you’ve been paying attention, but I suggest you actually listen properly to some of the things David Willetts, in particular, has been saying.

    I’m not sure what else, exactly, you’d call funding cuts on this scale and the deliberate withdrawal of support for the social sciences and the arts and humanities.

    I would also question exactly how private sector universities, so far distinguished by the low quality of their offerings and their inability to offer the very science and engineering courses so beloved of the Coalition, are supposed to compete with our excellent HE sector unless the quality of the latter is deliberately reduced to level the playing field.

    I’d also suggest you study the rhetoric that Vince Cable has been using when addressing colleges, when he’s been referring to HE.

    I’m sure you’d like more honesty in politics, so here it is again: these are measures designed to deliberately weaken an HE system that the Coalition views as being overmighty. Or, if you like, deliberate vandalism.

  • Incredulous 30th Nov '10 - 1:19pm

    Guess a millionaire can’t understand why a lifetime of debt would scare off anyone in the real world. £9000 a year tuition fees aside, the maintenance grant is being abolished, so most students will have to pay their living costs upfront – and face above-inflation commercial rates on debt. The UK will have the lowest investment in higher education of any developed country but the highest fees – fair and progressive, is it?
    Any 16-year-old kid who can’t afford the bus journey to his sixth form can see it for what it is – a con.
    Having voted LibDem you just end up feeling like the idiot the party clearly thinks we all are. We’ve all been had. The impotent rage of trying to recall the lying MPs is just what it is – the shame of having been stupid enough to vote for them and now having to listen as they patronise us, without a shred of redress.
    I hope the rotten carrot of a doomed AV referendum dangled by the Tories is worth losing a generation of young voters and their families. Hope it’s worth the shame of LibDems being forever branded the useful idiots who propped up a minority reactionary government in its attack on its people.
    It’s painful to watch the LibDems you once stupidly thought were honest and decent being forced to choose between playing Judas and Pontius Pilate by a figurehead who has to hide behind a 40 metre-wide ring of police from a bunch of schoolchildren.

  • Looks like right-of-recall will be joining tuition fees and nuclear power stations.

  • John Fraser 30th Nov '10 - 1:40pm

    I think it irks me more when Clegg pretends he gives a damn about student fees . just say what you think Clegg Education should be a free market ..thats clearly what your actions show you believe.

  • The abolition of the EMA is a double whammy to go along the rise in tuition fees. For many families with one or two kids at FE, Sixth Form Colleges or staying on at school this payment was a lifeline and a real contribution to the family budget that enabled youngsters to seriously think that staying on and getting to university was possible. It’s not much good saying that students from poor families will be protected when they are discouraged from staying on and getting A levels and Diplomas in the first place. The contribution universities make to our economic and industrial base is well worth the investment and should be funded through income tax which is the fairest tax of all.

  • Aaron Porter has just challenged Nick Clegg to a public debate in an interview on BBC News.

  • Don’t we have anyone who can go to Clegg and Vince and tell them that in the current political mood nothing they say on fees will make a difference? At the moment both are looking increasingly foolish and naive. Better to say the absolute minimum. Clegg’s letter to Porter is utter hypocrisy. We mocked Labour when they complained about confusion caused by our campaign against their fees policy. He is now doing the same sort of whinging.

  • Third time lucky, I’ve been moderated twice despite neither containing abuse or swearing…

    This letter is a joke. “While the Liberal Democrats have not been able to keep their pledge on tuition fees ” there is nothing stopping them keeping their pledge, they simply need to vote against the rise in fees.

    As for recall. Well I believe the student card was played very hard by the Lib Dems and everyone who voted for them expecting the pledge to be kept has been lied to. If he is confident that is not the case he could simply resign his seat and see how well he does with the student vote in the by election. It appears only non Lib Dem dishonesty should result in a recall.

  • paul barker 30th Nov '10 - 9:36pm

    Perhaps it would clear the air if The Party issued a formal apology for breaking The Pledge & for making it in the first place.

  • @Rich

    The point, for me (and I think a lot of others) is that making a pledge is more than a manifesto commitment. It’s like taking an oath, or marriage vows.

    It’s no good saying, after you’re married, “ooh, but that one over there is prettier – circumstances dictate a change of policy, and in any case, her parents are richer, it’s a better plan”. If you make vows or pledges, you should stick to them, come hell or high water.

    This is a matter of personal honour for the MPs concerned, and actually that really matters. Trust is the essential ingredient that keeps our society, and especially our politics working.

    If any LibDem MP doesn’t stick to their pledge, then from now on their word on anything is meaningless, since they cannot be trusted.

  • @ Rich

    ‘ As to an MP having the whip removed and kicked out of party, and so causing a by-election, you’re very mistaken. The MP is elected in their own right, not to represent the party.’

    This is an important distinction. The right to recall can only be for the constituents who elected the MP to represent their views. However, this should be a constant right. If the constituents believe the MP is not representing their views, they should have the right to immediately dismissal – all that is needed is a mechanism for this to happen. In this way, government would quickly be restored to the ‘will of the people’ – usually included in any definition of democracy.

    @ Paul Barker

    Yes I agree – an honest apology would help a great deal. ‘At the time, we did not realise that this pledge was incompatible with the state of the nation’s finances. It was made in good faith, but since learning the true nature of the nation’s debts, we realise the pledge was mistaken.

  • There hasn’t been a poll on trust in politicians since Sept 2009, as far as I know – it was 13% then. I wonder what it is now?

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/sep/27/trust-politicians-all-time-low

  • @ Rich

    Surely if the MP kept the promises they made and consulted with the electorate regularly to make sure they were representing their views – the MP’s popularity would go up rather than down.

  • The worrying thing for the lib dems is that they are falling down at the first hurdle. What is going to happen to health is pretty damn awful not to mention the decimation of the welfare state. Then we have some real absurdities like elected police chiefs. If lib dems cannot hold together on this one I cannot see the coalition lasting the full term. Especially when AV is lost next May. The problem is that there is nowhere left to go. Clegg will go down as the worst political leader in modern history. And it couldnt happen to a nicer guy.

  • Frankie MacManus 30th Nov '10 - 10:37pm

    A few weeks or so ago there was a council byelection in Winchester in a ward with a large student population. It was astonishing that the campus was leafleted by lib dems with a big headline saying that Winchester Lib Dems oppose tuition fees. Do they? I dont see martin Tods name on the letter from lib dem candidates

  • Terry Gilbert 30th Nov '10 - 10:51pm

    “ensuring that the lowest earning graduates will pay back less overall than they do currently”.

    And ensuring that middle income graduates will pay back considerably more than they do currently? And that very high earning graduates will pay back rather LESS than middle income graduates, and FAR less than they currently do, via income tax.

    Stop helping Tories to protect the wealthy, Nick.

  • I voted and persuaded others to vote on the issue of tuition fees.

    The pledge was clear. It wasn’t a stated policy. It was a PLEDGE.

    As quickly as it guaranteed the votes of 1000s of young people, Clegg has managed to screw it up so that 1000s of young votes have been lost.

    Clegg – you’re a disgrace. Get this guy out of the party. I hang my head in shame.

  • My 14 year old who has been out demonstrating – who has been knocked over by the police and kettled – says it is not just the amount you pay back – and whether it is like a tax – but it is the fear of the debt and whether she will ever her own home and raise a family,.

  • @John Roffey
    “At the time, we did not realise that this pledge was incompatible with the state of the nation’s finances”

    Surely that would just be another lie as the state of the Nations finances is actually better than expected, terrible but better than predicted by Cable and Osbourne pre election. Plus the fact that in the lifetime of this parliament the finances will be worsened by these measures with benefits to come longer term.

    Instead how about:

    “sorry when I said no more broken promises I lied”

    Or more accurately

    “Sorry I never liked the policy, and had tried to get it droppped, but shamelessly cashed in on it in May anyway”

  • Bernard Disken 30th Nov '10 - 11:29pm

    We were let down by leadership. The signing of the pledge was idiotic.

    But our GE election was completely unworkable. If fees could realistically be paid by taxation, Labour would never have brought in the fees.
    We now have a choice between breaking the pledge and putting forward an unrealsitic policy which will destroy our best universities.
    There is no evidence that fees put people off. And why should low -earning non-graduates subsidise high -earning graduates?
    Clegg and Cable should stand firm. It’s about time the Lib Dems grew up.

  • But our GE election was completely unworkable. If fees could realistically be paid by taxation, Labour would never have brought in the fees.

    Eh? Labour did not cut University funding. What are you talking about?

    We now have a choice between breaking the pledge and putting forward an unrealsitic policy which will destroy our best universities.

    Just restore University funding. Nothing will be destroyed.

    There is no evidence that fees put people off. And why should low -earning non-graduates subsidise high -earning graduates?

    Spoken like a liberal democrat?

    Clegg and Cable should stand firm. It’s about time the Lib Dems grew up.

    Yeah, they are standing alone. 80% of the public want the University funding from Government to increase or stay the same.. It is time the Lib Dems figured out whom they represent.

  • John Roffey 1st Dec '10 - 12:21am

    @ Steve Way

    ‘ Surely that would just be another lie as the state of the Nations finances is actually better than expected, terrible but better than predicted by Cable and Osbourne pre election. Plus the fact that in the lifetime of this parliament the finances will be worsened by these measures with benefits to come longer term.’

    Yes if that were the case, but I do not believe the nation’s finances have improved that much since the Co-alition came to office, it is very likely just another lie to encourage people to spend. Anyone who saw ‘Britain’s Trillion Pound Horror’ will know that we will not be out of the woods for a very long time.

  • LabourLiberal 1st Dec '10 - 1:37am

    “Like me I am sure you have regularly spoken to people who believe that the new proposals will mean them having to pay before they go to university or say that they cannot afford the fees. As you know, there is no upfront charge and the repayments only apply to graduates who earn over £21,000. If the proposals are passed by Parliament I believe it is crucial that all of us are able to ensure that people know the true picture.”

    This paragraph is unbelievable. Clearly Porter isn’t campaigning against the policy on behalf of misinformed people; he’s campaigning against it because, from his very well-informed position, he opposes it. It’s immensely patronising for Clegg to prevaricate with references to other people’s views, when what was clearly wanted was for him to answer [i]Porter’s[/i] queries, complaints and opinions. Never mind the fact that it’s rubbish anyway. Students don’t think they’re going to have to pay before university. They know the drill Nick, we have a fees and loans system already. When people talk of how they “won’t be able to afford” the fees, they’re not simpletons worrying about paying 30 grand upfront; they’re people worried about a burden of 30 grand or more, tied around their necks for most of their working lives; and no matter what the claims of controls for “fairness” are, that still boils down to being a burden of 30 grand or more. Paying it back fairly and sensitively is still paying it back. And a debt of 30 grand payed slowly and “fairly” isn’t fairer than a debt of 10 grand. It’s simple maths, and it’s a hell of a lot less fair.

  • @John Roffey
    “Anyone who saw ‘Britain’s Trillion Pound Horror’ will know that we will not be out of the woods for a very long time.”
    That’s like quoting the Daily Mail. The programme was ill-informed, sensationalist rubbish, just like all of Durkin’s programmes:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Durkin_(television_director)

    @gina
    “My 14 year old who has been out demonstrating – who has been knocked over by the police and kettled – says it is not just the amount you pay back – and whether it is like a tax – but it is the fear of the debt and whether she will ever her own home and raise a family,.”

    I think you’ve hit upon an important issue – the financial burden of fees+housing costs expected of the present generation in the process of considering going on to further/higher education. House prices are absurd in this Country (at the moment, although they will almost certainly fall for years to come) and the fact that the older generations are seemingly happy about this state of affairs, at the same time as wanting to increase the debt burden on the next generation of students, speaks of a society that is fundamentally sick and broken. The proposed increases to tuition fees is simply the straw that broke the camel’s back (not just the financial burden expected of the young, but also the behaviour of politicians in general). A wind of change beginning to blow in this Country, just at the moment the Lib Dems have finally come down off the fence (on the wrong side).

  • Does no one else write articles on here anymore except you and the other guy? Seems the supporters are drying up. It’s hard to blame them. After yesterday’s announcement in Wales, the Liberal Democrats have helped create an “education aparthied” within the UK.

    This is where I get off. Cop out, Sell out. Whatever. I no longer care.

  • Hey I’ve got an Idea! (!!warning Irony ahead!!)
    We can’t afford to pay for our students education because we are skint. Right?
    Well lets do what Ireland has done. Borrow money from those rich neighbours that don’t need to charge huge fee’s.

    That’s right Scotland and Wales! They must be in a much better financial situation than us.

    (The term PLEDGE has been copyrighted by Clegg & Co. Proper use of this word is strictly prohibited. Use of this word does not have any binding contractual obligation. Any damage caused to your reputation by the use of this word is not the responsibility of Clegg & Co. This does effect your statutory rights.)

  • Paul Kennedy 1st Dec '10 - 1:59pm

    Interesting leader in today’s Guardian:

    “The only argument that might wash is that the Lib Dems have had to give up on some cherished policies in order to form the coalition with a Tory party that also had to slaughter some sacred cows …”

    “The leadership badly needs to learn how to sing in harmony, as opposed to in unison, within the coalition choir. Until it does, it will struggle to escape the student debt trap.”

    I can appreciate that our ministers may have to abstain in order to preserve the coalition, and to explain that they have had to let the Tories have their way on this, in order to limit cuts for the elderly and disabled, and that we have done our best to ameliorate some of the worst consequences of the cuts to university spending, and that under Labour the position would have been even worse – a permanent and grossly unfair 9% supertax for a new generation of graduates.

    However, if, before the election, either Nick Clegg or Vince Cable had said that a massive increase in tuition fees was the “right” outcome, or something they “passionately” believed in and wanted to support, they would rightly have been thrown out by the membership. So why are they saying these things now? Please stop.

  • John Roffey 1st Dec '10 - 7:16pm

    @ Steve

    @John Roffey
    “Anyone who saw ‘Britain’s Trillion Pound Horror’ will know that we will not be out of the woods for a very long time.”
    That’s like quoting the Daily Mail. The programme was ill-informed, sensationalist rubbish, just like all of Durkin’s programmes:

    I think it is easy to form a biased view unless you do look at all of the different views expressed by the papers [perhaps excluding the Red Tops]. It is true that the Daily Mail put their own spin on each story, but I don’t think they are often accused of factual inaccuracies any more than other papers. It is the same for the “British Trillion Pound Horror Story” clearly Durkin had an agenda – essentially that virtually all services provided by the State, including by the NHS should be provided by private companies as the profit motive and competition makes them more efficient. It seemed to be a trailer for the ideology which the Tories are trying to introduce – one which I do not agree with.

    However, apart from a few slight of hands the figures showing the true indebted of the nation in commercial terms was a staggering £4.9 Trillion – rather than dispute this figure, what it showed was the licence the government of the day had to create liabilities for the nation and, in truth, those being created today are liabilities for our children and their children [and probably for a few more generation].

    To my mind, the important message of the film was that, even if this administration were able to get the debt to manageable proportions [highly unlikely if you watch the program] their is nothing to prevent the next administration from increasing these debts to their current level or even higher, making all of the suffering likely to be endured by the people all in vain. It is an issue which objectively should be treated as highly important – that is to put in control measures which prevent a similar crisis occurring in the future.

  • Sorry – I don’t think I have this wrong, do I? Isn’t the vast majority of the £4.9 Trillion is individual and company debt? Only a little is public sector.

  • We could afford to educate the most intelligent of our young people freely if we wanted to, it’s just a question of sorting priorities – for me, as long as we can afford to conduct illegal invasions and bomb other peoples’ countires, we can afford to educate our brightest.

  • matt thank you for the examples. I agree 100%.

  • Not all Lib Dem MPs made the same pledge on fees. For many there is photographic evidence of the pledge being made which can be examined. In some cases, it will be clear that they had their fingers crossed behind their backs, which is generally accepted as meaning that a promise made will not be kept. MPs who did cross their fingers should not be subject to recall, others should.

  • John Roffey 4th Dec '10 - 9:15am

    @ Matt

    I can understand your getting bored with the program. I did not like it and it has been an effort to return to it. However, this is not the debt of British nationals, but the debt of the nation – viewed in commercial accounting terms. A important feature, amongst others, is a trillion pound pension debt which is due to public servants. This will be offset by tax income etc during the time it is paid out, but if there is a Depression and national income dives – these pensions will still have to be paid. The program seemed to be based on this work:

    http://www.iea.org.uk/files/upld-book516pdf?.pdf

    However it was the last paragraph of my post which was its purpose:

    To my mind, the important message of the film was that, even if this administration were able to get the debt to manageable proportions [highly unlikely if you watch the program] their is nothing to prevent the next administration from increasing these debts to their current level or even higher, making all of the suffering likely to be endured by the people all in vain. It is an issue which objectively should be treated as highly important – that is to put in control measures which prevent a similar crisis occurring in the future.

  • @matt

    Good comments on the EMA. I abhor the tuition fee proposal but at least there is a chance for kids to go to university under it. The cuts to EMA mean many will not even progress beyond GCSE. It will be physically impossible for many to reach colleges in my area at all. The current bus fares are £400 per annum and this is WITH a council subsidary. The subsidary is now being withdrawn as part of cuts by the conservative run council. The removal of EMA will leave families with no means of finding the money to get to college in this rural area with few school sixth forms. This is before course costs are even taken into account.

    My grandfather was prevented from continuing his education past the age of twelve because his family needed him to ‘go to work’. Are we really going back to this kind of situation? What a terrible waste and injustice.

  • @ Mary

    I so agree with you on the ‘forced to work’ issue. I am in my 60s and was the first from both sides of my family to stay at school beyond 15 let alone go to uni – I did get there as well which is another family first.

    I like to think because I made it that my three kids got there a bit easier than I did and one also did a PhD. I came from a dirt-poor background and education provided me with social mobility which not only gave me personally a higher income but allowed me to pay higher rate income tax for a large section of my working life. I like to think that as well as repaying society’s investment in me that I paid it back plus and also gave my children better life opportunities.

    But I have never forgotten my maternal grandad who fought in WW1 and had to go out and queue every day at the docks hoping to be hired on for a shift – my grandparents fear of the NAB and the workhouse and the measured day work cutting peat they had to do, in all weathers, to keep their pittence of state aid.

    Things did get a little better for the family by the end of the 30s and my own dad was heading for the Royal College of Technology, which became Strathclyde University and then WW11 erupted and he went to the Royal Navy. He came back after 6 years of war and three sinkings and he had lost his appetite for study.

    Now I look at my grandkids and wonder whether we are in a clogs to clogs in one generation cycle.

    What Clegg and his clique are doing is attacking social mobility and only people with no connection with the poor can’t understand that especially the removal of EMA and the coalition decision not to extend the primary free school meals scheme as planned by the LP.

    I know what makes me a Socialist and I’ll never change but I have often admired bits of Liberal Policy and have a lot of respect for a lot of LibDems that I have dealt with, usually on demos where we made common interest against injustice or the Tories.

    I don’t want the LibDems to implode and unless Clegg does another U-turn then I truly believe he will destroy his party.

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