We all know the Lib Dems U-turned on tuition fees, so why’s The Guardian indulging in half-truths?

The Guardian carries a sensationalist headline tonight: Revealed: Lib Dems planned before election to abandon tuition fees pledge. The truth is somewhat different from the newspaper’s anti-Lib Dem spin, however.

The story is clearly designed to make the reader believe that, even as Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems spoke out against tuition fees, it was secretly their plan to renege on the party’s manifesto pledge. Yet, if you read more carefully it becomes clear that the party was simply anticipating the likely hung parliament scenario — that faced with two parties, Labour and the Tories, committed to tuition fees and the Browne Review, there was little chance of the Lib Dems winning the argument on abolishing fees. Instead the party was working out how to get the best, fairest deal possible on the assumption that it held the balance of power but did not have a working majority to be able to implement its manifesto.

Only half-way through the piece, does the Guardian journalist Nicholas Watt eventually concede that:

The leaked document showed that during the preparations for a hung parliament the Lib Dems still intended to fulfil that commitment [to the NUS pledge].

Yet everything about the way the story is written, let alone the headline, is designed to leave even the careful reader with the impression that the Lib Dems went into the election fully intending to break their manifesto pledge.

No-one pretends that the last few weeks have been anything other than mortifyingly embarrassing for the party. The Lib Dems have spectacularly U-turned on one of the party’s key election manifesto pledges. Many party members are up in arms at the decision. But that is no excuse for the Guardian, or Nicholas Watt, to distort the truth in a desperately thin attempt to smear the party.

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  • All the documents show is that our team were clever enough to see that with both Labour and the Tories supporting fees that if we didn’t have a Lib Dem majority government we wouldn’t deliver the fees policy in a manifesto. The phrase no s**t sherlock comes to mind.

    Labour broke to manifesto pledges on fees when it had just won in 1997 then again in 2001 with massive majoritys and an ecconomy that wasn’t in tatters.

  • “All the documents show is that our team were clever enough to see that with both Labour and the Tories supporting fees that if we didn’t have a Lib Dem majority government we wouldn’t deliver the fees policy in a manifesto. The phrase no s**t sherlock comes to mind”

    I think Stephen Tall is definetely overgenerous in his analysis.

    The documents show that several weeks prior to the election, prior to the signing of the NUS pledge, the leadership said they would not fight for a compromise over student fees in the event of a coalition. They also show that the leadership basically assumed that they would be in a coaltion.

    In light of this it appears the NUS peldge was not simply incompetent, as Clegg would (strangely) like us to believe, but an actual deliberate lie and grab for votes.

    In light of this the question of whether MP’s who vote for the fee rise should face recall is fairly legitimate, in my book.

    And a deliberate distinction which I would, unfortunately, have to assume you deliberately missed Simon is that the pledge that Clegg et al. signed is not the same as their manifesto commitment. The pledge they signed unconditionally states that they would vote against a rise in fees this parliament, it was made when they were planning to do no such thing and the pledge was worded is such a way as to anticipate that the lib dems would not win the election.

  • Again, as I have commented elsewhere, I really can’t take Clegg and other leaders as anything other than barefaced liars now, not just because of the various U-turns and documents such as these.

    Clegg keeps on pretending that he acted out of emergency in a situation that he couldn’t have anticipated…. he also keeps claiming the COnservative manifesto policies being introduced are in fact ‘progressive’. He never attempts to indicate that being a coalition partner with the Conservatives has put him in this sticky situation, but that he has come to his unconditional support for regressive policies through his own reasoning. Not only would that make him at total odds with the party, the evidence doesn’t stand up either.

    No Clegg has been lying about his motives. He isn’t even honest to the party members who get sent the emails or read LDV…. it is both intensely patronising and infuriating that he doesn’t think we deserve to know the truth.

  • Erm, the article does not say that they intended to honour the manifesto commitment, it was precisely this commitment they were not prepared to fight for. It was the personal pledges, you know, the ones that said MPs would vote against any increase in tuition fes, that was the commitment they intended to honour.

    Tell me Stephen, why have you decided to twist the words of the article, to mean something that they didn’t?

  • Sometimes at some point you have to stop being a lying apologist for the unacceptable – whatever party appears to honour the values you have. There has to be coherence if there isn’t condemn it – otherwise you are just an apologist – shame on you. Twisting and turning – you can’t escape a decision was made – and yet you went scurrying after the student vote – we pledge, we pledge, we pledge.

  • Doesn’t it just show how journalists failed to ask the right questions in the last election? They constantly asked Clegg who he would talk to if there was a hung parliament and he consistently said that he would talk to the party who “won” the election. What journalists should have asked all three party leaders is “what polices do you consider to be sacrosanct and what policies are open to negotiation?”

  • Philip Rolle 13th Nov '10 - 1:07am

    People feel conned and any story that even hints at duplicity by the Lib Dem leadership will cause damage.

    Bearing in mind the conclusions that had been already drawn about the Lib Dems negotiating power on tuition fees, the pledge was breathtakingly cynical. Possibly that is because Nick Clegg, as a politician, is equally cynical.

    The party has a very difficult period ahead of it.

  • A newspaper article written in such a way that a truth is misrepresented and spun in such a way to suggest something terrible yet vague enough to still keep plausible deniability should they be called on it? Well I never,what a shocker. Obviously it would be great if reporting like this happened less (though if it did, I’m not sure what the Daily Mail would print), it’s still going to happen and now that the Liberal Democrats are involved in government, is going to happen a hell of a lot more. It’s been 6 months now, it really shouldn’t be surprising.

    I’d also warn against lapsing into cognitive dissonance and rejecting all arguments of a story or article the minute a misrepresentation is found within. A dishonest slight of hand may damage an argument but it doesn’t necessarily render it moot.

  • Deviating from the policy once in Government has never been the real issue in this whole sorry saga. It is obvious that the Lib Dems cannot implement their manifesto in full and that compromises will need to be made. It would also be utterly stupid for the smallest of the three parties not to plan for the eventuality of a hung parliament, including identifying appropriate red lines. So no wrong there.

    However, the one issue that won the student vote more then any other – the willingness to pledge a vote irrespective of the result of the election – has been proven to be a bare faced and cynical lie to gain votes. It was quite simply the one issue which had to be a red line or lead to a loss of credibility. Get used to the press brining it up as we’ll se it from now until May. It will then go away until every election (be it a by election, council or general) that the press feel it will cause harm. Frankly those who break the pledge deserve it.

    @Simon you are right Labour lied in 1997 and 2001 and just take a look at what Lib dems said about them at the time. Where in the manifesto did it say that they were aspiring to lie as well as Labour ? I’m sick of hearing the excuses of matching another parties dodgy history. Labour were rightly kicked out by the electorate they don’t want another bunch of spin and deception they deserve better.

    The article is typical of the rubbish the guardian seem to be pushing of late with Red Top style headlines followed by little substance. The main charge seems to be that the Lib Dems were planning to drop manifesto promises prior to the election.

    Unfortunately, by his own admission Nick Clegg WAS campaigning to reduce the defecit at roughly the same pace as Labour (i.e. no early cuts and a 50% reduction over the parliament) whilst having already changed his mind. So he is guilty of planning a different approach to his manifesto, just not on student fees.

  • @Alix

    I disagree. What this shows is that the leadership were not prepared to put up a fight for the manifesto commitment. Yet they were still prepared to go out and actively court the student vote, using the manifesto commitment, as well as the personal pledges. They may say they intended to keep to their personal pledges, regardless of coalition government. So why the need for the option to abstain? It get curiouser and curiouser by the day.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 13th Nov '10 - 1:38am

    So, what’s the consensus?

    That the party _was_ planning to abandon its manifesto commitment, but to honour the promise to vote against an increase in fees?

    And now it’s planning _both_ to abandon the commitment _and_ to break the promise? Is that meant to be somehow good?

  • I don’t see how the article can be seen as a smear on the LibDems. It states what is evidently true. In the event of an hung Parliament, the LibDems would not fight for one of, if not the key manifesto commitment, instead they would push for agreement on part-time students. What has smeared the party is the behaviour of the leadership. You do not go out of your way to court the votes of specific voters, sign a personal pledge, and encourage others to do likewise, knowing that it is a policy that you are not willing to fight hard for. I call that deception.

  • Hank from Surrey 13th Nov '10 - 2:05am

    To paraphrase a student I saw interviewed on TV the other day: “Before the election, we couldn’t get Clegg out of our Students’ Union; now we can’t get him anywhere near the place”. Clegg et al actively courted students, knowing that their votes could make the difference between success and failure in certain constituencies. The fact that he made such a huge public commitment to opposing tuition fees whilst fully aware that, if the LibDems were ever part of a coalition, this commitment would be completely untenable makes him look even more cynical and opportunist than I previously believed.

    Unfortunately for the LibDems (and, I believe, for democracy in this country) this issue now absolutely determines how vast numbers of people see Clegg, and will continue to see him up to and including May 2015. He will not be able to escape it, and his leadership (and credibility) are seriously damaged. And I suspect he knows this.

  • The phrase that will stay with me is:

    “We will have clear yellow water with the other [parties] on raising the tuition fee cap, so let us not cause ourselves more headaches.”

    Stephen, on the doorsteps in Oxford, the fee commitment was played big. The other parties believed in a contribution from graduates, the Lib Dems did not.

  • Ross Stalker 13th Nov '10 - 6:27am

    @Lonely Wonderer

    I’m left wondering how many of the commenters on the article actually voted Lib Dem in the first place, vs how many of them voted Labour and would be saying this stuff anyway.

  • “It would also be utterly stupid for the smallest of the three parties not to plan for the eventuality of a hung parliament,”

    There was only one party for whom, a hung party would have been the best outcome.

    The leadership were saying “these are our commitments which we will only stick to if we dont get a foothold in government”.

    If you cant understand why this encourages deep cynicism in “floating” supporters like me (other than casual dismissal as a labour troll) I’d be interested.

    You managed to attract a lot of first time voters this election; students and those disenchanted with the other parties among them. Many now not only disappointed, but feeling downright cheated.

    The defence that “labour lied” “labour would have done the same thing holds no value. I voted for your party because you weren’t labour ! I expected more. Fool me once ……

  • Paul Kennedy 13th Nov '10 - 8:22am

    In the Guardian’s defence I think they distinguish between “abandon” and “break”. However, I agree with Steven that the article is misleading, and I hope letters will say so. I hope they will also point out that by hiding behind the Browne Review, Labour and the Tories were being far less frank than we were about what they were planning.

    I think most Lib Dems would accept that it was right to assume before the election that we would be unable to persuade either Labour or the Tories to agree to phase out tuition fees, and that fairer voting for example had to come first.

    But the leadership have parted company with us in a four-stage process:

    (1) accept there isn’t enough money to insist on phasing out tuition fees during this Parliament
    (2) allow the Tories to accept the Brown Review (and funding cuts) on the basis we abstain
    (3) accept and advocate the need to make up that funding shortfall from higher tuition fees
    (4) negotiate a few means-tested sticking plasters to justify voting in favour of higher tuition fees.

    But we all know that if higher tuition fees are voted down, the Government will have to revisit (2) and spread the cost of universities more fairly than imposing a permanent 9% supertax on recent graduates while keeping taxes down for high earners.

    This is our Iraq War moment, and the way individual MPs vote on this issue will be remembered for many years. We need to redouble our efforts to persuade as many of our MPs as possible to keep faith with the party and with students, keep their pledges, and above all keep their seats!

  • Stephen

    The point would be more forceful if it wasn’t public knowledge that Nick tried to dump the fees policy before the general election and the retreated in the face of FPC and conference resistance. This article did not tell us anything new, but it is obvious that Nick and Vince have been looking for some way to dump this policy… What makes it unforgiveable is that it became a pledge, not just a policy in a defeated manifesto.

  • Peter Welch 13th Nov '10 - 8:39am

    I fought the election on four key policies – like every other lib dem candidate. These were

    Fair taxes that put money back in your pocket.
    A fair chance for every child.
    A fair future, creating jobs by making Britain greener.
    A fair deal for you from politicians.


    When voters asked me what our priorities were for a coalition, I told them that these were the ones we intended to deliver. This was the national message too – and they are all reflected in the coalition agreement.

    If the planning team had made anything else the priority, I would have been upset.

  • Leviticus18_23 13th Nov '10 - 8:54am

    However biased you argue the article is…

    Nick Clegg and the LibDems say tuition fees are bad
    Nick Clegg and the LibDems say they’ll oppose tuition fees and hang out with students
    Nick Clegg and the LibDems form Govt with Conservatives
    Nick Clegg and the LibDems and the Conservatives propose tripling student fees
    Nick Clegg and the LibDems tell us it’s because they didn’t know how bad the economy was so it’s necessary
    Nick Clegg and the LibDems tell is it’s fair and progressive

    The only question is when they decided to do a u-turn. And it looks like that may have been before the election, while they were telling students they’d oppose it.

  • Stephen

    Perhaps you might ask yourself why, after asking its readers to vote Lib Dem, the Guardian is printing article after article just like this one.

    Do not underestimate the damage that has been, and continues to be done.

  • Nick (not Clegg) 13th Nov '10 - 9:54am

    Our MPs are pledged to vote against an increase in tuition fees.

    The coalition agreement gives them leave to abstain. That’s the get out for those who think that post-election pragmatism trumps a pre-election pledge.

    How can anyone respect any LibDem MP who votes in favour of an increase? Frankly, I would not believe a word which any such MP said from now on in.

  • Fair taxes that put money back in your pocket.
    A fair chance for every child.
    A fair future, creating jobs by making Britain greener.
    A fair deal for you from politicians.

    Bit of a shame that, despite the admirable principles, the word “fair” has become meaningless.

    Besides “fairer” taxes do not necc equate to more money in my pocket . Even the opposite could be argued and in someways contradict your second wish.

    The third looks under threat.

    And the fourth blown out of the water.

    However, I would rather prinicples were retained – over and above manifesto wishes and not abandoned for political expediency.

  • Sorry but I really can’t see what all the fuss is about. The party was considering its options in the event of a hung parliament. That’s the simple truth of the matter and they realised fees might be an area they would need to compromise on. I’m hoping that at some point we will get some proper analysis and reporting rather than all this hype and spin. I personally was never convinced by the policy. The bigger issue is why we are paying for such worthless mickey mouse courses, why we perpetuate this myth that uni is the answer to everything and why we have created a society in which people who don’t go to uni are looked down upon. That is equally as unprogressive an attitude as making it hard for poorer people to climb the education ladder. There are other places to learn other than universities andinstitutions of that ilk.

  • “Even as a student, Lib Dem Activist & fervent believer in free eduction, I wouldn’t have.”

    Well if you’re currently a university student then “even as a student” is meaningless as you won’t be affected.

    “But, the point is, given the situation, not fighting to scrap fees in the coalition negotiations was a solid, pragmatic call.”

    What situation is that ? You may need to check the definition of fervent.

  • “The bigger issue is why we are paying for such worthless mickey mouse courses, why we perpetuate this myth that uni is the answer to everything and why we have created a society in which people who don’t go to uni are looked down upon. ”

    Entirely irrelevant. Even if we accept there is such a thing as a MIckey Mouse course (whatever one of those is) the approach adopted by the coalition impacts MIckey Mouse courses, Donald Duck courses, in fact … every course. BUt with a disproportionate effect on courses that are socially useful, but not necc. economically lucrative.

  • Mr Clegg, Dr Cable and Mr Alexander are, politically, dead men walking. Clegg in particular is seen widely as a dishonest, opportunistic and shallow politician. . Cameron, on the other hand, has been infinitely cleverer than Clegg, and is the head of a Tory government in all but name. Tory voters are more than happy with the result. People like me who voted LibDem at the election (I have voted LibDem and Labour in the past – never Tory) will not do so again – ever, largely because of the defence of the LibDem leadership being mounted by the party establishment as in the Stephen Tall article here. This government is seen as a rich men’s club, with 18 millionaires in the Cabinet – all detached from the cuts with private education and private medicine. For the sake of the party, those defending Clegg should be strenuously trying to remove him. Can you imagine Clegg and Cable (Mr Bean II?) uttering the words at the next election ” We Promise to……”.

  • @Paul Martin. Well said, I too will vote No in the referendum. For no other reason than Clegg wants me to vote Yes. And I can hope that if there is No result it will destroy this Tory government.

  • Roy's Claret Army 13th Nov '10 - 10:32am

    I can only wonder at the political ambition of the editors of this site, who seem to be engaged in placating the membership on behalf of the leadership.

    Making a pledge you had no intention of keeping is a downright lie. LibDem MPs could have and can still vote against this and keep their pledge.

    We can also take as read that Nick and Vince were lying when they said that it was due to the state of public finances.

  • @ Terry Gee – I think you misread my post which you quote (or perhaps I did not express myself clearly). I agree with your cynicism and dissapointment at how the party have acted over tuition fees. That said it is obvious that in coalition not all policies can be protected.

    The electorate though should be able to expect that personal pledges (irrespective of result) should be honoured. It is not defense to say that they did not win, the pledge would have no use if they did win as there would be no measure to increase fees to vote against.

  • @DaveN

    Given the Lib Dems got 8% of MPs for 23% of the vote, leaving them with two choices, supporting the Tories or coalition with the Tories, what would you have done in Nick Clegg’s position?

    I repeat the question, what would you have done?

    By the way, Labour promised to abolish child poverty, but failed. When are you going to rage against them for “betraying” people?

    All this anger about “betrayal” is just a “terrible twos” tantrum from voters who thought someone could come along, wave a magic wand and magic up some money from somewhere for unlimited spending commitments. In reality, as Labour freely and jokingly admitted, there was no more money. In fact, things were even worse than they admitted to, a fact Clegg and Cable found out only once they looked at the books.

    What would DaveN and his friends like to cut instead? hospitals? schools?

  • Terry gee – it is not irrelevent to raise the issue of how much all these courses are costing and whether or not they are worthwhile or not! We are perpetuating a myth that in order to be a worthwhile citizen you must go to university – and if you don’t you are somehow inferior. That’s really progressive isn’t it?!! People are discriminated against for not going to university. They feel compelled to take any course simply to get on the uni ladder because society says that’s the way you should do things. Not every career needs university and not everyone is ready/prepared for uni at 18 either. There are other options which don’t involve taking up this so called lifetime of debt. And in my experience people who come to me for work after uni are often very unprepared and expect everything on a plate, deluding themselves that a 3 year degree means they don’t to do anymore to impress. I never went to uni but have considered doing it in later life just for the sake of it. However institutionalisation and being treated like a kid in my mid-years is not something I really fancy. Don’t pretend all is perfect with universities, how much they cost and how much they waste. Let’s look at the bigger issue here. Tuition fees are a consequence of a much wider problem.

  • The Guardian has morphed from spinning articles against the Lib Dem for Labour, into a Labour attack leaflet promoting deliberate distortions designed to mislead people. They may well succeed in shifting votes from the Lib Dems to Labour, but at some point people will look back on their journalism in this period and wonder what on earth was going on in the editing studios.

    It’s perfectly clear what was going on was a discussion of which policies the party would red-line in the coalition negotiations. Abolishing student fees was one that wouldnt be red-lined, however not letting them rise would be.

  • @ Roy’s Claret Army

    “We can also take as read that Nick and Vince were lying when they said that it was due to the state of public finances.”

    Er, no you can’t. If they didn’t know what the state of the public finances was, which they didn’t, how could that be the case? If they had had more MPs than the insane 8% allowed by our electoral system for 23% of the vote and the finances had been better than expected, don’t you think that they would have gone ahead with their pledge?

    The May 2010 left them with little parliamentary power and no money to spend, right in the eye of the storm of a financial crisis – it was a worst case scenario – and yet everyone expects them to walk on political water.

    This burgeoning hate cult against Nick Clegg is just utterly, patently ridiculous. It is beyond absurd. Why should he carry the can for all the mess left by Labour?

  • Hank from Surrey,

    “He (Clegg) will not be able to escape it, and his leadership (and credibility) are seriously damaged. And I suspect he knows this.”

    I do hope you’re right. But I somehow suspect he will hold on for as long as he possibly can, regardless of the damage he does to the party he purports to lead. The solution is in the hands of his senior colleagues, as I have said elsewhere.

    Paul Martin,

    “And for what it is worth I will vote NO in AV referendum because you have shown that a hung parliament ids about getting your arses on givernment benches, jobs for your boys and savage cuts on a scale beyind Thatcher.”

    I, too, will vote “no” in this ridiculous referendum, but for completely different reasons. Firstly, I am in favour of true PR (ie, STV in multi-member constituencies), not ersatz PR. Secondly, AV is a ruse by Cameron to fiddle the voting system so as to ensure there are more Tory and fewer Lib Dem and Labour MPs.

    What we do in the event of a hung Parliament is an issue of fundamental importance which the party has always ducked, and our failure to adopt a coherent position is now coming back to haunt us big time. Don’t be fooled by Clegg’s undertaking to talk first to the party that wins the most votes and most seats. This is not party policy, and has never been debated at conference (correct me if I’m wrong, Stephen), but is Clegg’s own invention (invented when it became clear that Labour would not be the largest party).

    During the election campaign, it did not once occur to me (up until the last few days) that Clegg would prop up a minority Tory government. If it had done, I might not have been so keen to deliver all those thousands of leaflets and drag people out of bed to vote. Indeed, I felt that a hung Parliament was the last chance to keep the Tories out of power. I was betrayed by a leader I did not trust and for whom I did not vote, and against whom I warned when he stood for election. I can recall wondering out loud on this site if Clegg was not the insurance policy of the mega rich and the US military-industrial complex and billionaire families – the people who had imposed Cameron on the Tory Party – who wanted to be sure that in the event of a hung Parliament the Liberal Democrats would not stand in the way of elite interests and US foreign policy objectives (such as war with Iran). I was scoffed at, sure, and fixed with the “conspiracy” smear, but was I so wrong? Why else did the media hype Clegg so vociferously?

    Free education for all is not just a Liberal Democrat policy, it is a core value. No, I don’t have a problem with politicians breaking promises if there is a justifiable reason for it (eg, unforeseen change in circumstances, no money, etc), but I can see no good reason why Liberal Democrat MPs should not honour their individual pledges to vote against an increase in tuition fees. What do they have to fear? What can Cameron do to them (other than chuck them into the Cherwell after a Bullingdon night out)? They have rather more to fear from their constituents, as their mailbags must make clear.

  • @Stephen Tall et al.

    I think you should read the article ‘under’ the headline on the guardian wesbite: http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/wintour-and-watt/2010/nov/12/nickclegg-danny-alexander

    It better explains the Guardian’s take on this, and it seems to justify the headline they used.

  • @ Sesenco

    “What we do in the event of a hung Parliament is an issue of fundamental importance which the party has always ducked, and our failure to adopt a coherent position is now coming back to haunt us big time.”

    “During the election campaign, it did not once occur to me (up until the last few days) that Clegg would prop up a minority Tory government. If it had done, I might not have been so keen to deliver all those thousands of leaflets and drag people out of bed to vote.”

    Great, so fewer Lib Dem votes means fewer Lib Dem MPs, probably resulting in an outright Tory majority, with the Tory right able to push through even bigger benefit cuts, “renegotiation” with Europe, Trident renewal, abolition of the minimum wage, no tax cuts for those on lower incomes, no rise in capital gains tax, no 50p rate.

    Brilliant, job done. Sorted.

  • If there’s no truth in this story why, just two and half hours ago, did ITN send it to my computer? The claim that the Lib Dems drew up plans to scrap tuition fees two months before the General Election comes, apparently, from a new book about the formation of the coalition by Tory MP Rob Wilson.

  • @Robert C

    “By the way, Labour promised to abolish child poverty, but failed. When are you going to rage against them for “betraying” people?”

    three things.
    1. Pledging to abolish child poverty is an extremely complex process that involves many different strands of policy. A pledge to vote against a rise in tuition fees is not complex; the pledger either does or doesn’t vote against.
    2. There is no need to rage against Labour. This was the point of the election; the public had a chance to judge the results of Labour’s work over the past decade and decided to reject them. Thus there was an outlet for this dissatisfaction. The Lib Dems were huge beneficiaries of this rejection. Seeing as the voters will need to wait 4 and half years to make this clear to the leadership many seek an outlet for their frustrations now.
    3. Is this the extent of the argument? well what about Labour and the things they did? These are the forlorn pleas of naughty children with no other defence. Take responsibility for your own actions.

  • @Alix

    “For the last time, the Guardian makes it clear that the “secret document” says they DID intend to keep the pledges”

    Read the article I posted above, it explains the Guardian’s stance. Originally they intended to keep the pledge to vote against tuition fees in a secret document by Alexander, but they later agreed to abandon this stance when negotiating a coalition. This is their revised policy in full:

    “On tuition fees we should seek agreement on part time students and leave the rest. We will have clear yellow water with the other [parties] on raising the tuition fee cap, so let us not cause ourselves more headaches.

    Can ‘leave the rest’ be any clearer?

    In short, they planned to abandon the pledge in the anticipation coalition negotiations yet the pledge was totally unconditional and its wording indicated it was designed to apply to a scenario in which the lib dems would not win the election. The leadership didn’t inform the party or the public. Basically they stole votes and had no intention of sticking to the pledge even prior to the election.

  • @ Sesenco

    ‘I, too, will vote “no” in this ridiculous referendum, but for completely different reasons. Firstly, I am in favour of true PR (ie, STV in multi-member constituencies), not ersatz PR. Secondly, AV is a ruse by Cameron to fiddle the voting system so as to ensure there are more Tory and fewer Lib Dem and Labour MPs.’

    Well said Sesenco. I absolutely agree, and with most of your other remarks. You are no Orange Tory.

  • @MBoy

    The Guardian has morphed from spinning articles against the Lib Dem for Labour, into a Labour attack leaflet promoting deliberate distortions designed to mislead people. They may well succeed in shifting votes from the Lib Dems to Labour, but at some point people will look back on their journalism in this period and wonder what on earth was going on in the editing studios

    The Guardian supported the lib dems during the election run-up and its editorial stance since has at least, until recently, been pro-lib dem. If you look at the stance of their regular journalists, Glover, Kettle et al you can see that many of them take a pro-coalition line. The Guardian can’t be claimed to have taken a stance that is ‘rpo labour’… at worst they are attempting to pander to their leadership, yet I think this headline is legitimate (if you actually bother to read the articles and the sources they use).

  • “with the Tory right able to push through even bigger benefit cuts, “renegotiation” with Europe, Trident renewal, abolition of the minimum wage, no tax cuts for those on lower incomes, no rise in capital gains tax, no 50p rate.”

    My trust in Clegg is so low I’m not convinced he wouldn’t find some way of justifying supporting many of these, if it meant hanging on by his fingertips to some illusion of power.

  • Rob,

    “In short, they planned to abandon the pledge in the anticipation coalition negotiations”

    Who is “they”?

    “The leadership didn’t inform the party or the public.”

    Right. So by “they” you are referring to Clegg and a clique of admirers who surround him, not the Parliamentary Party, not the Federal Policy Committee and certainly not the membership?

    What really irritates me is (1) there are still Liberal Democrats willing to open their mouths and utter justifications for Clegg’s actions, and (2) the membership isn’t up-in-arms about this appalling situation in which Clegg and his fellow Orange Bookers have dumped our party.

  • @ Sesenco

    ‘I, too, will vote “no” in this ridiculous referendum, but for completely different reasons. Firstly, I am in favour of true PR (ie, STV in multi-member constituencies), not ersatz PR. Secondly, AV is a ruse by Cameron to fiddle the voting system so as to ensure there are more Tory and fewer Lib Dem and Labour MPs.’

    Well said Sesenco. I absolutely agree, and with most of your other remarks.

  • @Robert C
    Actually people are expecting better behaviour from a party who promised better behaviour. People are expecting “no more broken promises”. This is not simple rage against the Lib dems it’s expecting integrity from those we elect.

    As for raging against Labour I guess kicking them out of power after 13 years answers that. What Labour did or did not do is not an excuse for broken primises and lies.

    An no I’m not a Labour Troll, look through my previous posts you’ll see what I think of Gordon Brown and co.

  • @dave Page
    Sorry don’t follow your logic the pledge is clear on voting against a rise in fees. NO wriggle room for abstention.

  • @ Matt

    Yes, that would have been the case. Indicate you are going to work with Labour after the election and then you end up losing Tory voters. Bingo, more Tory seats in the South and South West. In the end, how many seats did Labour end up losing to the Lib Dems? Virtually none, almost all went to the Tories, so your argument doesn’t stand up.

    We all thought the Lib Dems would get more seats – at one point they were projecting 80+MPs. But then our electoral system (plus judicious Ashcroft millions) gave them six fewer MPs than before, despite increasing their vote.

  • @ Steve Way
    ” This is not simple rage against the Lib dems it’s expecting integrity from those we elect”.

    …..While giving them 8% of the MPs and less than no money to do anything with.

    I repeat my question, if you were in Nick Clegg’s position, with a financial crisis raging, a tiny parliamentary party and the threat of a second election being called, what would YOU have done?

  • @Robert C

    “Virtually none, almost all went to the Tories, so your argument doesn’t stand up.”

    Totally simplistic.

    Could the reason that a lot of Labour seats went to the Tories possibly be because more people voted for the lib dem candidate who didn’t win either? The left wing vote was split?

    I do not think many Tories were wooed by the lib dems in the first place… otherwise their percentage of the vote would not have stayed at consistently the same levels, unlike the percentage vote for the Lib Dems and Labour.

  • @ Steve Way

    “As for raging against Labour I guess kicking them out of power after 13 years answers that.”

    And yet loads of people posting here are saying no, hang on, wait a minute, we should actually have formed a coalition with a Labour party that people kicked out of power.

    What part of this “We hate the Lib Dems” argument is supposed to make sense?

  • @ Rob

    You are making the erroneous assumption that Lib Dem voter = anti-Tory.

    I for one don’t like either the Tories or Labour. The truth is, they are just as bad as each other. On the other hand, Liberal Democrat ideas and policies appeal to me. The fact they can’t be implemented makes me angry, not with the politicians, but with the STUPID electoral system that always denies us our rightful share of MPs.

    It is your binary thinking that is simplistic.

  • Robert C,

    “and the threat of a second election being called,”

    Really? Despite the media and the Ashcroft money, and an unpopular Labour government, the Tories only managed to get 36%. What makes you think they would have done better in a second election? And if Cameron really thought they would have done, why did he not call one anyway?

    Let’s knock this “second election” nonsense firmly on the head once and for all.

  • @ Rob

    Had the Tories been able to portray the Lib Dems as friends of Labour, as they continually tried, the LDs would have lost far more seats than they did in the South and South West.

    That is the most important factor. Plenty of potential Tory voters stayed with the party in those seats, rather than defecting, as the Tories and Ashcroft had calculated.

  • @ Sesenco

    Not nonsense at all. You are reinventing the past to suit your arguments. A re-run election was very likely.

    The Tories knew that Labour and Lib Dems were bankrupt. They would have held on for a few months to raise some more money and then forced another election on the grounds the country needed stability.

    The possibility was openly being discussed in May.

    Analysis: the only certainty is another general election


  • Lucky Labour for having ‘red’ as it’s party colour. Makes it so much easier for all those with rose coloured spectacles to post favourable comments about the Blair/Brown wars and how, if only Labour had got back in, we would be living in a wonderful world. Get real. New Labour was a conservative Government that made even Thatcher envious. It encouraged the domination of the City and, by de-regulation and the blind eye approach, made it easy for gambling to bring down our banks. It massively increased the gap between rich & poor. It flogged our Gold reserves when the price was rock bottom – it’s now about six times what Brown got for it [flogging the family silver McMillan called it 40yrs ago]. It grovelled before George W Bush and got us into illegal & unwinable wars. Want any more ‘cos there’s lots & lots more. The tuition fee [or more importantly Higher Education Funding] problem is unsolvable unless were are prepared to recognise, and deal with, the fact that those of us who were adults in the 1970’s have allowed our young people to be completely misled and let down by allowing the myth that only a University is of any value and to be able to get a degree is an entitlement. Wrong on both counts. Comb through any list of University Courses – especially from the newer ones – and one finds a bagful of subjects that are not academic. And this is not to argue that courses should be focused on ‘jobs’. Quite the reverse. If you want to do hospitality management you get a job in a hotel chain, study accountancy part time and let the employer train you. Contrary to popular belief It can and does still happen that way. One of my daughters is a graduate mental nurse. It’s not a degree subject. It needs huge theoretical knowledge but Uni is not the way to get it. It has been battered & bent into an academic frame. She was nearly thrown out because she failed the ‘Write a Research Proposal’ task. Less that 1% of mental nurses will ever write a research proposal and the standard of instruction was a disgrace. You go to University to study History, Literature, Physics – stuff which is truly academic. Stuff for thinkers. The doers are better served going elsewhere.

  • that Guardian headline is the straw that has broken the camel’s back as far as I am concerned. After more than 30 years, I am giving it up.

  • @ Matt

    The only reason why the Lib Dems are losing votes is because of the brazenly cynical and opportunist position of the Labour party, trying to make hay while other people clear up the appalling mess they left behind. The Lib Dems are being used as the whipping boy for people’s anger about the state of the economy and need to stop spending money that we just don’t have.

    It is the easiest job in the world l to get protest votes in mid term while someone else does the hard and thankless work of sorting things out. Just you wait until Labour actually have to present some policies. Then we’ll see.

  • @Robert C

    I don’t want to sound cruel but it does seem like you’ve ingested a government talking points document whole.
    1: Bring up the fact the LDs didn’t get a majority…..check (bonus points for sticking the boot into FPTP)
    2: Bring up some part of the Labour Government’s record (relevance be damned)…check (bonus points for mentioning the no more money note)
    3: Repeat the argument about how much worse the books were once people got to see them…check
    4: Finally, challenge Labour to provide an alternative regardless of audience…check

    1: Everytime any LD MP or supporter parrots this line, I want to pull out my hair because it’s weak at best and damaging at worst. If the pledge was conditional on the Lib Dems getting a majority in the GE then it was very cynical ploy. No one expected the LDs to get a majority under the current system. If pledges and promises from LD mouths come with small print comparable to dodgy money lender adverts like this, then any attempt to argue about honesty or ‘different politics’ is going to look laughable the next time the LDs appeal for people’s support.

    2: This point also irritates me beyond belief. Labour lied and…aren’t in power any more. I suppose you could argue that it’s mightily unfair that Labour got to lie, deceive and generally disregard promises for so very long before press picked on them (they didn’t actually, they just weathered it better) and the coalition should get an easy ride for a bit longer but then this, once again, makes a bit of a joke out of the claim that the LDs are different, are honest and can be trusted.

    3: The books were worse, the finances were terrible, etc. etc. Another point which unconvinces just about as many as it convinces. The idea that the true state of country’s finances were so shockingly bad once the Coalition took power is one that is rapidly losing credence. No doubt they are in an awful state but generally it looks like things were marginally better than expected. This combined with the new policy of rubbishing anything inconvenient to come out of the previously respectable IFS just adds to the general perception that the Coalition are prepared to be as cynically dishonest about finance as the former government.

    4: And so we round it off by demanding a workable alternative from the opposition WITHOUT ACTUALLY JUSTIFYING THE ONE PROPOSED. I know block capitals are crude but this infuriates me the most. No actual justification is put forward, not even just for a small segment of it (which the LDs could arguably get away with seeing as they’re a junior partner). Instead we get a list of weak excuses that can be picked apart, a dummy-from-pram complaint about how unfair it all is (obviously I mean the treatment, not the policy, that would be a turn up) and then an equally childish demand: “so if you’re so good, you do it”.

    I know why it’s done, I know that somewhere a Tory communication guru looks at polling responses and wants to prolong the public perception that Labour don’t have any answers, thus we get this at every opportunity but it is a perception that is bound to diminish in time once the public realise that as an opposition, it’s not Labour’s role to produce and justify complete alternative policies (especially when the government haven’t actually justified their own). Doing this is just more of the old politics spin game. We reject actual debate for jeering, name calling and the pursuit of the nice acidic soundbite that sticks it to the other lot for the 6 o’clock news. You kind of expect if from Labour and certainly expect it from the Conservatives but the more the Liberal Democrats participate, the more they shoot themselves in the foot.

  • @ Matt

    Labour lost votes because they were completely unelectable, with an unappealing leader, no ideas and an appalling track record.

    Now they have a new leader, but nothing else has changed. It is just they don’t happen to be in government to take the flack.

  • Robert C,

    “You are reinventing the past to suit your argument”

    That is exactly what you are doing.

    “A re-run election was very likely.”

    Do you have any evidence to support this, or is it just a motivated opinion?

    “The Tories knew that Labour and Lib Dems were bankrupt.”

    You have copies of the Bankruptcy Orders issued by the High Court, I take it?

    “They would have held on for a few months to raise some more money and then forced another election on the grounds the country needed stability.”

    If so, why didn’t they?

    Or maybe Cameron remembered what happened to Ted Heath in February 1974 when he called his “Who runs the country?” election. The Cleggmaniacs clearly don’t, or don’t want to.

    Think carefully what you are doing by supporting Clegg. Think what you are doing to our party – and the country.

  • @coldcomfort

    Who here is posting ‘favourable comments about the Blair/Brown wars’?! What a terrible attempt at justifying the behaviour of the LD leadership!

  • @ Veeteen
    1) FPTP is rubbish and is largely to blame for the Lib Dem’s lack of power to ensure their policies are put into practice. Which bit of this are you quarreling with? It is self evident.
    2) Labour were rubbish in government. QED.
    3) The public finances AREN’T better than expected, what are you talking about. They are truly dreadful. Someone has to sort it out. Taxes have to be raised, spending has to be cut.
    4) It is a totally valid question: what would you do instead? Where would you find the money, and don’t just parrot the usual : “tax the rich”. They already ARE taxing the rich more. So what would you cut instead? Answers please.

    Finally, the jewel in the crown:
    “it’s not Labour’s role to produce and justify complete alternative policies”.

    So what is their role then, precisely?
    A) Twisting the history of the last six months to suit their own agenda?
    B) Denying the need for any cuts at all, while conveniently forgetting their own cuts programme?
    C) Inventing scare stories with little hard evidence behind them in order to stoke rage among their usual dependent client groups?

    The real truth, you wanted the Lib Dems to come along and wave a fairy wand and make it all OK. Well sorry but they can’t, no-one can.

  • @ Matt

    And 71% voted to kick Labour out. The Lib Dems, with 57 MPs, didn’t have the MPs to prop up a government not wanted by almost three quarters of the electorate.

    Talk about selective memory. Shish!

  • No amount of apologist sophistry can disguise the fact that the LibDem leadership intentionally and cynically deceived the electorate and the student vote in particular. When they campaigned, they made student tuition fees a major part of that campaign. You do not make a policy a major campaign issue, if you have already decided that this will not be a red line issue. If you were not being led by such political pygmies this would not have happened. if you had been led by people with political acumen and gravitas, a Ming Campbell perhaps, I doubt you would be in the position you find yourselves. Clegg is well out of his depth, drowning slowly. Sadly you are stuck with him till at least the next GE. I can’t see him relinquishing the office of DPM. If you could somehow manage to remove him as party leader, but allow him to keep the office of DPM, that may allow the rest of the party to salvage something from the ruins, before the next GE.

  • @ Sesenco

    I have just posted a link to the Times article discussing just that point. A second election was being actively considered by the Tories.

    John Prescott admitted the Labour Party was broke in August 2010, with debts of £20m.

    John Prescott warns Labour Party faces bankruptcy

    Both of these points (1) possible second election, (2) both Labour and Lib Dems broke are matters of record. I’m not sure why you are trying to deny them.

  • Sesenco and I have crossed words on here before 🙂

    But I think the question posed by Sesenco: Who is they – is very very important to the perceived integrity of LibDems. I am a Labour supporter and don’t know enough about the LibDem party framework to know who would be involved in making policy decisions or formulating choices for a coalition scenario. I wonder if any mechanism exists for involving the wider party to sound-out or seek approval for the vital decisions especially those radically divergent from party policy and manifesto commitments. I also wonder if the post-election meetings when the coalition ‘sell’ was put to various elements of the LibDem party whether these previous decisions were made public.

    It was sensible for the LibDems to be exploring how a coalition scenario might require changes to manifesto commitments. The problem I have is the personal pledges given after the apparent decision to ditch the full tuition fees commitment. I and other people would not have any problem with the signed pledges if they had contained a caveat that they were only redeemable if the LibDems remained in opposition.

    But, of course, that would have made them less useful for raking in student votes and those of their parents, so the cynical pledges were made although I accept that most MP and parliamantray candidates were probably unaware of the apparently secret Alexander machinations and decisions.

    It really is a LibDem matter that a small, elite pre-election group, appears to have formulated post-coalition policy, probably not in smoke-filled rooms anymore, but I’m sure you get the idea. This really is a matter for the LibDem party but the general public will look at it, shake their head, and mutter that politicians are all the same and nothing they say can be believed.

    Democracy really is the loser here.

    And then there’s Cameron explaining to Chinese students that we have increased UK tuition fees to make it cheaper for foreign students to study at our universities. Not so long ago I thought it was the other way round. It seems obvious to me that Cameron is already anticipating a drop in UK student numbers because of his policies and he’s hoping to fill the gap with foreign students.

    Has he consulted his coalition partners on this and how do they feel about charging UK students more to assist foreign students to get a cheaper university education.

    I have made comments on here previously about the lure of ministerial office and was decried – my comments are based on previously decent people who I have seen bought-off by the trappings of power in various areas including politics.

    I have noticed that increasingly on LibDem discussion boards and blogs growing numbers of party members and supporters appear to be questioning their parliamentary elite and that is a good thing because they are removing the scales from their eyes and learning the political realities which to me means: all power has the potential to corrupt – excuse the adaptation 🙂

    By questioning you will expose the mealy-mouthed lackeys who do their masters’ bidding for a chance to get a place in the food chain – every political party has them and we all must oppose their forked-tongues and spinning if we are to have any chance of keeping the electorate engaged.

    Personally, I think the LibDem party may be doomed in its current form. The longer it stays in the coalition the harder it will become to justify especially as the cuts bite and enormous pressure will be put on those with principles to stay quiet until the next election.

    But will the electorate be interested in anything a LibDem has to say at the next election – I very much doubt it. I think Cameron has pulled a master-stroke – probably by accident or perhaps engineered by Hague – but not only will he destroy the LibDems but he will kick PR way into the long grass as no one will want a system that gives us more coalition governments.

  • @ Matt

    Labour allowed deregulated banks to run riot (praising them to the heavens) while maintaining a government deficit of 3% of GDP even during the biggest boom for decades.

    These two things were fundamental to the UK’s downfall. If the public finances had been kept in better shape before the downturn, we wouldn’t be cutting so much now.

  • @Mrs B
    Welcome to the club, your with good company

  • @ Robert C

    FPTP is rubbish, I did not suggest otherwise and perhaps you should read the expansion underneath where I mentioned it. The LDs make a pledge to oppose tuition fees without mentioning the condition that they will only do this once the rubbish electoral system ceases to be rubbish or is completely replaced and they receive a majority. Then after the election when the result everyone predicted becomes reality, say how sorry they are and would have done it too were it not for that pesky electoral system. Do you honestly believe that this approach at excusing a tuition fee u-turn will not irritate people, will not turn voters away?

    Labour was rubbish, again not something I argue against. I argue against how useful it is to bang on about what Labour did INSTEAD of justifying what is being done by the current government. Sure, the coalition could continue to rely lazily on comparisons with poor government decisions of the past (why not cast the net further back, say the 19th century? There some real beauts in there), the “yeah but look what they did” approach but it hardly warms the heart or gives anyone much confidence.

    The finances are bad. I said that. I said that there is a general belief that is gaining ground that they weren’t as bad as everyone expected even if it was only marginal (thanks in part to the tories lowering expectations as much as they did). The growth assessment was shown to be too low and was increased, the deficit smaller (only slightly but still smaller). The point is that if you put forward a policy that is claimed to be fully costed based on the current predictions, get in government and find those current predictions were marginally too pessimistic, to then turn 180 degrees and say how a variety of policies can no longer be honoured, whichever way you look at it, you look like an idiot and continue to look like an idiot the more it is repeated. Maybe the country’s finances were not marginally better, it’s certainly possible to present them in any number of different ways to claim whatever you want but the problem for the Lib Dems remains perception. The perception is growing that the finances, though terrible, were not AS terrible and repeating the “once we saw the books” line will just make one look faintly ridiculous. By all means rail that perception and maybe try and turn it back the other way but it will take some doing and take a lot more than parroting.

    Finally, the point you seem determined to miss is that while the coalition government keep pressing Labour to provide alternative policies, they DO NOT JUSTIFY THEIR OWN. We receive the briefest justification and explanation and then nothing. When pressed for details, when pressed for reasons we get the above.

    “Labour did bad stuff”
    Yes I know, but could you just expl…
    “Look what Labour did!”
    Right, okay. However what you’re doing is…
    “So what do Labour propose?”

    Labour’s role in opposition? Well their role is to provide alternative policies but they’re not going to be complete. Key word there. They are not in government so why should they be expected to construct whole policies, fully costed and worked out when they have no hope of getting them implemented? Especially when the coalition, despite claiming they want debate, make it continually clear they have no intention of doing so. I would agree that Labour’s proposals have been weak but I do not feel that justfies the attitude and approach we see from the coalition. This weak formula which includes the bare minimum explanation, just an announcement with a few weak platitudes on the Andrew Marr Show to be followed up with excuses and snipes at the opposition when the announced policy is put under scrutiny. It’s lazy governing. It’s dishonest. It’s poor and it damages all who are associated with it, which, sadly seems to increasingly include the Liberal Democrats.

  • Douglas Thomson 13th Nov '10 - 1:37pm

    I don’t know Stephen; I’m ‘mortified’, as you put it, and when I hear my fellow party members making excuses as to how we’re portrayed – they really do sound just like excuses. We should accept the kicks on this because we deserve them.

    Let’s just hope we learn from this, and don’t in future make foolish promises if we don’t think we can keep them if we’re called upon.

  • toryboysnevergrowup 13th Nov '10 - 2:24pm

    You conveniently miss the point in the article about the LibDems never standing up for their own policies in the negotiations, or Cleeg’s own admission that he did not agree with his party’s own policy on the deficit during the course of the elction campaign. You are quite clearly deluding yourself if you don’t believe that the LibDems do not have an “honesty” problem with the electorate – jokes about LibDem promises are now becoming pretty common.

  • I am sorry Stephen but it is clear that the Party was willing to surrender a key principle in order join a coalition Government. As one of my local members commented after supporting the Liberals and the Liberal Democrats for 40 odd years he was so excited the week after the election that the Party would be in power at last. He has regretted it every day since.

  • This is yet another ‘revelation’ I’ll be expected to explain whilst down the pub tonight as I’m a known Lib Dem supporter or rather I WAS a Lib Dem supporter but no matter how many times I say I’m an ex LD, the guys in the local never miss an opportunity to take the p1ss (but I suppose I should be grateful that’s all they’re doing, it could be a lot worse)

  • Robert C,

    “Both of these points (1) possible second election, (2) both Labour and Lib Dems broke are matters of record. I’m not sure why you are trying to deny them.”

    Why are you misrepresenting my words?

    (1) I never actually claimed that Cameron didn’t consider a second election. What I questioned was your assumption that the Tories would win an overall majority. Cameron very likely did consider a second election, and was advised that there was a serious chance that it would not lead to an outright Tory majority. That’s why he needed Clegg to prop his government up.

    (2) I was calling into question your use of the word “bankrupt” as a term of art. In any event, I am no so sure that either party, as unincorporated associations, can be made bankrupt.

    As I have said before, the case for the “coalition” was based on deceit. The deceit that the Tories would call a second general election and win an outright majority, the deceit that there was a sudden and catastrophic deterioration in the public finances over the weekend after the election, and the deceit that the Liberal Democrats would have real influence in the coalition.

  • Jonathon Wilson 13th Nov '10 - 5:18pm

    If we stuck to our principles we could have seen this out. We would simply have to say we would oppose any rises in tuition fees, Vince would have to have a different ministry and there would have to have been three party talks about finding a solution to University financing.

    With Labour and Tories in some agreement on Browne, a compromise position could have been found that would allow LibDem MPs and those others (Nationalists, Green and Labour rebels) to vote against the rise. Instead we have a Tory policy of triplng tuition fees voted for by our MPs who lied to us and the electorate.

  • Clegg knew he had no chance of winning the election outright. That’s why this promise – and the rest of the Lib Dem manifesto – was all pie in the sky. Face it, Clegg wasn’t being straight – and he knew it. That’s why there is now total uproar over this.

  • The young of this country are disallusioned with politics more now as they will see all politicians as liars. Clegg stole the student vote but will never get it back and present day students will remember. There is a campaign to get a track by Captain Ska to be number 1 at Xmas. See YouTube and Facebook, it is spreading fast. You may take comfort (but not much) in that the track not only attacks Clegg but also Cameron and Osborne.

  • @ Matt

    Thanks for proving my point for me:

    Quote from your link:

    “after four years in office Gordon Brown took out the country’s credit card and let rip. By the end of 2009-10 our annual deficit had ballooned to £170.8 billion”

    Exactly what I said. Sticking to the facts.

    @ Veeteen

    Labour did bad stuff, indeed. Like leaving a huge hole in the public finances, even during an unsustainable, credit-fuelled boom. To pretend that fact has nothing to do with the awful range of choices facing our current government is basically just a downright lie.

    New Labour was founded on a lie that we could have public services worth 40% plus of national income while taxing us at just 36% of national income. They never squared with people about where the money was going to come from – a little PPP here, a boom-time deficit there. The conjuring trick was all OK as long as the economy kept on growing, but once it stopped, the sh** hit the fan. That is the place we are in now.

  • John Fraser 13th Nov '10 - 6:12pm

    Must admit i agree with Stephen tall the facts ofthe article did not justify the headline. What i want to know is at what point DID the coalition negotiators ditch the pledge not to increase fees . The Tories had not campaigned on this at all and could probibly have been persuaded to freeze them or raise them with inflation.

  • Stephen Donnelly 13th Nov '10 - 6:43pm

    The headline is not justified by the story. No doubt it will sell newspapers to students, but along with Polly Toynbee’a use of words such a ‘cruel and ‘cataclysm’ to describe the cuts, it puts the Guardian on the wrong side of any movement to restore sanity in political debate. If Private Eye has not made the use of the threat impossible, I would be considering the cancellation of my subscription.

  • @ Anne
    Just looked at that track Captain Ska, brilliant, absolutely brilliant, Ive always liked Ska anyway but this this me back to the 80s and the protest songs that where so prevalent then

    (get this as xmas number 1)

  • Shameful stuff from The Grauniad. Using the word “pledge” in the headline (rather than “policy”, or “manifesto commitment”) and showing a picture of Nick Clegg holding up an “I pledge…” card below was bound to cause readers to think that the pledge in the picture (to oppose rise in tuition fees) is the same as the pledge in the headline (to abolish tuition fees over six years). The looks like a deliberate attempt to mislead.

    Ironic that an article accusing politicians of deception should itself be so deceptive.

  • @Tim Holt

    The Guardian make the point that:

    A month before Clegg pledged in April to scrap the “dead weight of debt”, a secret team of key Lib Dems made clear that, in the event of a hung parliament, the party would not waste political capital defending its manifesto pledge to abolish university tuition fees within six years.


    Clegg recorded a YouTube video for the annual NUS conference on 13 April in which he pledged to abolish fees within six years.

    Anyway, whatever your interpretation of the Guardian article, it is undeniable that, as you say, Nick Clegg signed a pledge to oppose a rise in tuition fees. Tuition fees are now tripling. He broke his pledge.

  • @ Nige
    Yes, it took me back as well but what a tragedy that we have gone backwards! All those protests I went on, all that campaigning against Thatcher and we have it all back with this coalition. At least I have hope now that protest amongst youth is still alive and kicking, Methinks the coalition have totally misjudged the situation.

  • Nige, Mrs B, Anthony Aloysius, others,

    Can we avoid a completely unnecessary split?

    You say you are leaving the party, for reasons which I completely understand. I am going to stay and fight the Cleggies from within, along with Sesenco and many others. Our objectives are pretty much the same. Our tactics at the moment are all that’s different.

    I really don’t know whose judgment is right. It may be that the only thing Clegg or anyone else will pay any attention to is mass defections, so, it is the defectors who are playing it right. Or, it may be that as Olly has commented, defections are what Clegg wants, so that he can shore up his position as a wholly owned subsidiary of the Conservative Party – in which case, it is the defectors who are playing it wrong.

    Nobody can be sure whose tactics are best. But we must surely stick together. What we all want – I think – is a centre-left government, without the illiberal aspects of Blair/Brown Labourism. None of us can be sure how best to get there. Let’s make sure we work together!

  • @Robert C
    To belatedly answer your question as to what I would have done. I would have told the Conservatives that in any coalition Lib dem MP’s would require the right to stick to their pledge. As far as I am aware there was no other issue that involved mass personal pledges. That may have meant that Vince Cable would have had to lead a different department.

    What I would not have done was to make my campaign to attract the highest proportion of student voters a shameful lie.

  • @Robert C
    “The only reason why the Lib Dems are losing votes is because of the brazenly cynical and opportunist position of the Labour party”

    Sorry just not true. The thousands demonstrating in London were not there because of Labour. Most of them felt lied to by the Lib Dem leadership. Not to mention the amazing conversion to Tory economic policies despite apparently having fully costed their own. In short if the Lib Dems continue to blame Labour without introspection then they will walk into an electoral disaster.

    You also seem to equate anyone who criticises the Leadership with Labour supporters. This is simply not true. A number of my friends, like me, voted for the Lib dems because we were promised something different. I expect nothing but lies from the Tories and Labour. Labour did some good things but nothing like the good they should have done with massive majorities. They also did a lot of harm and that is why we (the electorate) booted them out.

    But simply referring back to that harm without answering questions, as seems to be the current Goverment stance is not the way for a responsible government to behave. First answer the point, then round on the opposition. Simply trying to remind people of how bad Labour were will not win people over.

    As for cynical and opportunist, please take a look at the videos of Nick Clegg addressing students and ask how you would feel if you were one of them.

    I didn’t vote for the Lib Dems to be as bad as Labour, or slightly better than Labour. I voted for them to uphold the principles they campaigned on. I understand that they cannot implement their policies en masse but neither should they sell their integrity down the river.

  • @ Steve Way

    I personally wanted full STV, an immediate move to £10,000 personal allowance, a hike to 40% in capital gains tax, bigger taxes on banks, no student fees – the list goes on and on. Single Transferable Vote was also a “matter of principle”, yet had to be given up. Does that too mean someone should give up on the Lib Dems?

    The point is, negotiations can only take place on the basis of the relative strengths of the parties involved. The Lib Dems were in a very poor position, with just 8% of MPs.

    Assuming they did negotiate the best overall deal possible under those circumstances, where would you have had them make more concessions in order to stick to this particular principle? No electoral reform at all? “Renegotiation” with Europe? No tax cuts for the poor? Immediate renewal of Trident?

    @ Matt

    Resorting to abuse just shows you have lost the argument. Stick to the facts you said, so I did. Labour left office with a huge structural deficit, leaving other people to sort out. FACT. Sorry you can’t deal with that, but it’s true.

  • @David Allen
    Nobody can be sure whose tactics are best. But we must surely stick together. What we all want – I think – is a centre-left government, without the illiberal aspects of Blair/Brown Labourism. None of us can be sure how best to get there. Let’s make sure we work together!


  • Sunder Katwala 14th Nov '10 - 8:23pm

    All things considered, the complaint about a misleading report seems rather unconvincing, though there is half a point in it.

    The Guardian report shows us that the LibDems made the pledge a low priority. So, how clear was it that it would be a low priority?

    I would say that it was very obvious to party insiders (LibDem MPs, members of LibDem policy groups, highly informed activists such as the LibDemVoice team). And I would suggest that it was very far from obvious to, say, student first time voters in most of the campuses where LibDem MPs campaigned so actively on the pledge.

    There is a reasonable defence in principle that says don’t spend political capital trying to negotiate on something you won’t get, but this defence is itself misleading in this case for two reasons.

    (i) There is rock-solid evidence that the leadership did not believe in the policy in the pledge at the time they made it. Ex-Higher Education Spokesman Stephen Williams has been absolutely candid at how hard they tried to ditch the policy, because they didn’t believe it was right after 2005, not because of hung parliaments, etc.

    He thinks this makes breaking the pledge better; but I think most people would agree it makes making the pledge (particularly in the tone and style it was done) more cynical, not less.

    It really is a must-read post for anybody commenting on this issue, from any perspective

    (ii) The LibDem change of position goes beyond what the Coalition agreement demands.

    The LibDems have negotiated the ability to abstain: it is there in black and white in the Coalition agreeement. The frontbench don’t want to take it: they will vote for the government policy. There are arguments for and against this – for example, that the new policy is better than the old LibDem policy and they want to wholeheartedly back it. but it is a political choice; it is clearly not simply a product of Coalition circumstance.

  • I think that basically this is the last straw for long time Lib Dem members like me TBH. I was sceptical about the Coalition from the off, having fought Tories all my political life. But, in the interests of walking the walk on the issue of seeing an end to ‘tribal politics’ and the implementation of a more ‘grown up and consensual’ approach I accepted the decision. But gradually over the last 6 months I see little remaining of the kind of politics I support, with virtually every policy and position being watered down to the point of non-existence.

    What Clegg has failed to realise was this was only worth it if he could have enhanced his reputation and that of the rest of us. But instead we have simply burned up all our political capital in one huge bonfire of the vanities. The Tories must spend their entire time laughing at how stupid Clegg, Cable, Laws and Alexander were to sign up to take all the hits with not a shred of payback. I fear it is all too late now, but the party needs to stop being a bunch of hand wringing apologists over this issue – and others – and get the leadership to start taking a stand on some issues. We may just salvage a sliver of credibility from this car crash.

  • Dear Stephen,
    Of course the Guardian wants a good headline on their paper.
    It remains (at least to my mind) that many Lib Dem MPs signed a pledge to vote against increased tuition fees, and that some of these MPs are now planning to vote in favour of them, or to abstain. Thus they are purely and simply about to break their pledge. This, coming on top of the general U-turn, is simply adding insult to injury. I realise the Lib Dem have to make compromises because they are in a coalition. I understand that the “secret documents” were part of a range of contingency plans. But since the Lib Dem were always likely to be in a coalition, rather than having their own majority, why did they make wild promises that they already knew they could not fulfil? It would have been more honest to admit that these promises could only hold if Lib Dems had a majority, because this episode has cast doubt on Lib Dem intentions. If they had won a majority, would they have acted any differently? I am not so sure anymore. And, yes, I know Labour defaulted on their pledges in the past, as many forum users remind us. That’s no excuse for what Lib Dems are doing. In fact it’s precisely why I am so gutted – I had hoped the Lib Dem were more honest. It seems many people in the Lib Dem, including MPs, members and supporters, are against the increase in fees. The Lib Dem really need to listen to their own supporters on this before they loose what remains of their credibility.

  • Grammar Police 16th Nov '10 - 10:49am

    @ Paul Martin and DaveN – that’s the worst kind of short-sightedness if you do vote against AV, but believe in electoral reform.

    Mainly because electoral reform to get a system that leads to more proportional results will mean fewer Tory Governments. I guess you deserve everything you get if you think you are “punishing” the Lib Dems by this.

  • Grammar Police 16th Nov '10 - 10:56am

    @ Emma – I agree with you almost completely, but I don’t think that it is about ‘honesty’. Even The Guardian reports that MPs planned to stick to their (NUS) pledge pre-election. This is about breaking their pledge on the basis that they feel they can get something better by engaging with it. They’ve been quite honest about that. Whether it would have been better for them to refuse to engage with it and simply to vote against/abstain is another. That’s the difficulty of coalition.

  • Like so many who voted Lib Dem I hoped that they would usher in a cleaner type of politics. I have now abandoned the party in disgust as everything I have seen over the last few months has just astounded me. If they don’t change leader immediately they are will be wiped out at future elections. It’s time for Lib Dem MPs to wake up and seize back the party and its principles. Maybe then disaffected electors like me might come back. Clegg is truly awful.

  • By the way, Stephen Tall, before you start criticising the Guardian on this remember that the story has not been really challenged by Lib Dem leadership and the Guardian story is fully confirmed by an interview Rob Wilson did for Sky. Also look back over Clegg’s pronouncements last September and you’ll realise he was never fully commited to this policy. That didn’t stop him making that pledge and giving a speech to students in Oxford in April saying that the basic policy hadn’t changed. Clegg has really sunk to new depths.

  • The fact is, a lot of young people, voting in their very first election, voted Lib Dem because of the tuition fees pledge. A generation of new voters now feel they’ve been lied to and used, and for what? A Tory government in all but name, which they would never in a million years have voted for, with a worse deal on tuition fees than they would ever have imagined when they all jumped on the “I agree with Nick” bandwagon.

    You can moan about the Guardian’s coverage all you like, but it won’t change the reality of a generation of young voters lost to the party, as most of them have now pledged never, ever to vote Lib Dem again.

  • Er… Fiona. I hate to disagree but if the policy’s system of student loan repayment were applied retroactively I (and a lot of other people) would be better off on a month-to-month basis than under the current system so this ‘worse deal than they could have imagined’ seems to be putting it on a bit thick.

    @Stephen – The problems here are two-fold (a) given it was forseen by the leadership that we would have to renege on our tuition fees position under either of the possible coalition options it was foolhardy in the extreme to sign the NUS pledge (especially, though not merely, given the fact that NUS is a de facto wing of Labour and not inclined to do us any favours on the best of days) (b) LibDem MPs and minsters are still not being open about their misgivings about the policy because of some outmoded and debauched notion of collective responsibility. If ‘New Politics’ means /anything/ it has to mean an end of lying in the face of PR. Saying “I think this is great” when in fact what you really think is that it was the best you can get in the political situation you find yourself in is a lie and the more politicians lie the more they justifiably increase public cynicism about politics. Say ‘no’ to collective responsibility, say NO! to lying. If we can be honest about out misgivings we can be trusted when we say that the income-contingent repayment scheme is much more progressive than the status quo and is in fact a graduate tax in all but name except that a graduate tax would force you to pay more because it would lack a sunset (any graduate tax would have to be enforced by loan arrangements if it were to be enforced on foreign students or e.g. on Scottish students if the Holyrood government decides to introduce one).

  • Breaking a promise is not a ‘u-turn’. It is breaking a promise. Not keeping to that promise means that a lie was told. This is an issue of morality.

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