More than any other issue, tuition fees have damaged the view of our party in the country as a whole. For what it’s worth, here’s what I think our leader should say about fees when going into the next general election:
I would just like to say a few brief words about tuition fees.
As a party, we entered the last election with a promise to oppose any increase in tuition fees. As a party, we then broke that pledge. That was wrong.
Nothing can justify breaking a promise like that. Nothing. We made a mistake and we have been punished for it by the electorate over the past five years. But I can promise that we will never make that mistake ever again.
After the last general election, we found ourselves faced with a choice. Either we could keep our promise and let an unlimited tuition fees cap be implemented or we could break our promise and support a more limited increase in fees while trying to make sure the new system was as fair as possible.
The new tuition fees system is far fairer than the one before. No student will repay a penny until they earn over £21,000. Poorer graduates repay less under the new system than they did under the old. Wealthier graduates repay more. Anything unpaid after 30 years will be written off. For all intents and purposes, this is a time limited graduate tax.
On top of that, there is more funding and help for students from disadvantaged backgrounds and we made sure that part-time students are no longer forced to pay their fees up front.
The new fees system is fairer and more progressive than anything which existed before we entered government. This was achieved despite the fact that 9 out of 10 MPs in parliament belonged to Labour and the Conservatives – both parties which had entered the election committed to supporting unlimited fees.
Nonetheless, we made a promise and we broke it. It doesn’t matter than the new system is fairer – it is the principle that matters. Well, we can’t change the past, though if we had been able to create a fairer system and keep our promise we would have. But the future is not written. We have learned from our mistake and the lesson will never be forgotten.
We did the best we could but we let you down. That was wrong and we are sorry. But I give you my word that we will never let you down ever again.