Jo Swinson MP writes on tuition fees

Today the Government has outlined its response to the Browne review, and the future of higher education funding. This is arguably the most challenging issue for Liberal Democrats in the coalition so far.

Our party has long prided itself on its commitment to education as the great leveller; the best way to create social mobility and equality of opportunity in society. The flagship “penny on income tax for education” was one of the reasons I joined the party in 1997. My first conference speech was in a debate about student funding, as we passed our policy to abolish tuition fees. Abolishing tuition fees remains Liberal Democrat policy.

I still believe that university tuition should ideally be funded from general taxation. Yet today, we’re facing a situation that is far from ideal. Labour left us with £1 trillion of national debt, and an urgent need to tackle the deficit – we are currently spending £120 million a day on debt interest alone.

Accordingly, the CSR outlined difficult cuts across Government, including in the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, which until now has spent 70% of its budget on universities. By protecting science and arguing the case for further education which form most of the rest of BIS spending, the 25% reduction in the BIS budget has resulted in a £2.9 billion cut to the higher education teaching grant.

Without a way to replace this funding, our universities and students would suffer. Mass university closures, slashing of student numbers, severe reduction in teaching quality… not a tempting prospect. The alternative is to make up the shortfall by asking graduates to contribute more.

Of course, in the coalition agreement Liberal Democrats had negotiated an opt-out – an opportunity to abstain on the issue. We could have left it to the Conservatives to present plans for unlimited fees, with no regard for a progressive repayment system, and no requirements for top universities to do better on access for poorer students. Instead, we got involved to make a Liberal Democrat difference, and create a fairer system. That’s what Vince has delivered.

Under the government’s proposals, upfront tuition fees will be abolished for part-time students. Universities will be able to charge up to a £6,000 annual cap, which will replace most of the funding lost through the CSR. For those who wish to charge more, they will have to meet tough requirements on access for poorer students, and there will be an absolute cap of £9,000.

The graduate contribution system will be progressive, based on ability to pay. No graduate will have to start paying back until they are earning £21,000, and they will not accrue any real interest on their loan until then.

As their income rises, so will the interest rate they are charged, meaning that higher-earning graduates contribute more. If their income falls back below £21,000, for example because of maternity leave, their repayments and the interest accrual will stop. Richer people who want to repay their loan early will pay a penalty.

After 30 years, any outstanding debt is written off, which will apply to 60% of graduates: only the top-earning 40% will pay back in full. The bottom 25% will be better off under the new system than the current one. We are taking Labour’s flat rate poll tax for students and replacing it with a fairer alternative.

We didn’t win the election, so we can’t deliver on everything we promised to do as a Liberal Democrat government. On higher education funding, that means that rather than being able to increase government spending on universities, we have had to work for a fairer system.

I know that many members will find this difficult, but I hope it will also be understood that there is no easy answer to the unenviable choices we have to make. Cut higher education or further education? Or science? In the end, science has been protected in cash terms, and we have shielded further education from the worst.

Universities will still continue to have secure funding, but graduates will contribute more when they are earning more. We have improved the situation for part-time students, poorer students and poorer graduates. That’s a fairer system.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • You can attempt to justify our party’s u-turn as much as you like.

    But it’s nonsense. No-one disagrees that the deficit has to be reduced but there are various theories as to how this should be accomplished. We went to the electorate saying that wholesale slashing of public spending was not the answer. Instead we have adopted misguided tory policy. We also pledged not to raise tuition fees. We said we were different.

    Instead we’ve hoodwinked the future of our party’s support and been the same as every other politician by saying “we don’t want to do this but it’s someone else’s fault”.

    Every one of our MPs complicit with this should resign.


  • Did you sign the pledge? Are you going to break that? Can anything you say, if that is the case, ever be believed? NO

  • So you campaigned based on policies you now acknowledge were completely unworkable under the circumstances the economy was in.

    Is it too much to ask that a party actually believes in their manifesto?

  • Jo, I am sorry but there is no way we can justify this policy. There is an alternative and we all know what it is, raise Taxation and pursue those who fail to pay. Free University Education is this Party’s Policy and we are demeaning ourselves if we do not oppose the Government’s Policy.

  • Grace Goodlad 3rd Nov '10 - 7:25pm

    This stance is appalling and shows utter and contempt and disdain for your members, helpers and voters. Shame on you all. Any of our LD MPs who supports this is an utter disgrace.

  • An indefensible and deeply dishonest U-turn that risks bringing the Liberal Democrats into disrepute.

    MPs are first and foremost legislators. If they willingly give a cast-iron guarantee on how they will vote on a key issue, it is pure hypocrisy to vote differently when there isn’t an election on.

    The notion that somehow we didn’t realise how bad the economy was when we gave detailed economic plans at the last election is extremely disingenuous. What, pray, is this new information which has come to light since then telling us the economy is in a worse state than previously thought?

    The spineless conduct of much of our parliamentary party on this issue is making me ashamed to be a Liberal Democrat.

  • “but I’m concerned that members in Scotland might think that the policy has changed up here.
    It has not– we debated the issue of a graduate contribution at our conference in Dunfermline 3 weeks ago and rejected it, with the support of the Holyrood front bench team”

    I was about to start one very long, very ill tempered rant but decided it would be better to go have a drink instead, of Gin that is, not Whiskey.

  • @Roger well said

  • How come our MPs are constantly having to justify why they reneged on their promises? I don’t see the Tories in the same position.

    I suspect they’re all laughing their way to the ballot boxes.

  • The fact is that if the vote against tuition fees fails the government is not going to make their 80% cuts to HE which save relatively littl eanyway.

    You lie to us and make this an obvious false dilema when you write ‘Without a way to replace this funding, our universities and students would suffer. Mass university closures, slashing of student numbers, severe reduction in teaching quality… not a tempting prospect. The alternative is to make up the shortfall by asking graduates to contribute more.’

    Even the Tories are not so spiteful that they would go through with the insane cuts to HE funding if the fee rise doesn’t pass. It just wouldn’t happen… the Tories would be forced to drop their cuts to HE funding, and a good thing too. If they tried to make the 80% cuts without replacement funding (which they wouldn’t) then I would at least hope that the Lib Dems would vote against that… but you can never be sure nowadays, can you?

  • Patrick Smith 3rd Nov '10 - 7:47pm

    I ask our L/D Education Team to hone in on the hinterland recognition and help in fairer funding to the post compulsory 16-19 year olds attending FE vocational training, as this 25% of Dept. of Business and Skills cluster of potential skilled young persons, have been traditionally languished in spending rounds.

    Some FE students choose to run the guantlet with the new higher education costs on enrolling on higher diplomas in business ,science or engineering .Others choose local FE Colleges as the place to study for specific tailor shaped courses over 1-2 years for employment in hotelling,tourism,building and construction and plumbing etc.

    Our Economy demands skilled post 16 trained apprenticeships and a trained young vibrant work force for private sector full-time employment.

    Parodoxically, FE Colleges have not received,to date, their pro rata funding from the previous Governments. Can FE students expect a fairer deal?

  • I don’t think our MP’s have a bloody clue how angry the membership is on this issue. Members who worked their arses off to get you elected because we believed that we belonged to a party that could be trusted. At the South Central regional conference this weekend a motion was passed calling on our MP’s to back the pledge – only 3 members voted against!
    Any Lib Dem MP who does not vote against the increase in fees will do great damage to the integrity of our party. Personally I will not lift a finger in the future to help any Lib Dem MP who supports this increase.

  • “The graduate contribution system will be progressive, based on ability to pay. No graduate will have to start paying back until they are earning £21,000, and they will not accrue any real interest on their loan until then. ”

    That is an absolute lie.

    Tuition fees are severely regressive from middle incomes upwards, e.g. those earning 100k will pay less of their salary over the loan period than someone on 25-35k. They may well be progressive between 21k and the middle income range, but to state that the contribution will be progressive is an unbelievable lie.

  • that should say “less of their salary as a percentage” – i.e. the definition of a regressive tax.

  • “that should say “less of their salary as a percentage” – i.e. the definition of a regressive tax.”

    It’s not just less of their salary as a percentage, it will be less of their salary. Full Stop.

    Even if there is some pain for paying back early, lower earns will ultimately still pay more money due to the interest rates.

    And anyone with wealthy parents who can pay their full fees immediately will not have to pay any interest at all.

    So all in all it is extremely regressive and unfair for everyone but the poorest 30%.

  • I think that the Coalition’s stance on tuition fees MAY be an improvement on the current system which already has a shortfall in HE funding.

    However, I must agree with many of the messages here in saying that the excuses for the U-turn are simply not credible. The severity of the economic situation was known beforehand, and, contrary to the common line, was not as bad as expected. And the commitment to vote down any increase in tuition fees, which so many candidates signed, was not conditional. To say that the state of the economy is the reason for the U-turn appears to me to be dishonest. I may be wrong and am willing to be convinced, but as it stands our leaders appear determined to spin (lie) their way out of their policy muddle than be honest. Now, that may be no big thing in the wider scheme of things, but surely this Party can never, EVER talk of broken promises from a position of moral authority ever again.

  • I still fail to understand how raising tuition fees will do anything to reduce the deficit in the short term. The policy will not be implemented until 2012 and students will not begin to pay back loans until 2015 at which time only those lucky enough to be earning over 21K, if they can find employment, will pay anything. So, where will the money come from to fund universities in the short term?

    This policy smacks more of ideology than deficit reduction, higher education for the rich only. Shame Shame Shame on any Lib Dem MP’s who support it.

  • okay, now i am really unhappy at what the parliamentary party is doing in our names, and it seems other genuine LD members here (ie not just labour trolls) are too.

    serious question – how do we take our party back ?!

  • .
    Ms Swinson: What you’re really saying is – to deal with the government debt the banks (who got us into this mess) will have to pay a 0.07% banking levy – whereas new graduates will have to pay 274% increase in tuition fees.

    You’re simply transferring government debts onto newly qualified graduates.

  • As I’ve posted elsewhere…

    This quote from Gove says it all in a nutshell: “Someone who is working as a postman should not subsidise those who go on to become millionaires” – narrow-minded, populist, divisive stuff.

    No recognition that a graduate engineer designed (and maybe maintains) the IT, letter-sorting equipment, etc, that the postie needs to do his job. No recognition that a graduate GP may be useful to our postie, or that a teacher may have some benefit to his kids and society. Nor that grads are rarely “millionaires” and may well earn less than non-grads (i.e. the mid-high £20sK of a postman). And very offensive to posties, singling them out as some sort of ‘anti-graduate’ (I’ve known a few graduate postmen)!

    To any LibDems (I’m just a voter) who are reading this and can influence things in any way: please do think where these and your other ConDem changes are leading us. OK, we need to pay down the deficit but, once that’s in train, do we want privatised HE? Significant further NHS privatisation? More and more neoliberal policies…?

  • “penny on income tax for education”

    Sounds like a damn good policy to me. A signed pledge without the money to pay for it is just a piece of paper. When do we get back to a politics that makes a clear relationship between what we want and how much we have to pay for it. The bankers need a good kicking but its fantasy that we can screw them for all the cash we need for seemingly unlimited spending on health, welfare education etc. The idea that we could expand access to HE, get rid of the tuition fees, clear up the deficit (and expand housing, health etc etc) without a substantial tax hike across the board was naive. I voted Lib Dem because I also wanted to end tuition fees, along with a number of other policies. Do I feel betrayed by this U-turn. No. I feel now that I was as naive to believe it possible as the party was to offer it, without spelling out exactly what it was really going to cost. The massive expansion of access to HE was always going to be born by the students unless substantial extra money could be found to pay for it. So, no to tuition fees and yes to a “penny on income tax for education” . Now that is a damn good policy.

  • If you make a promise and if only one person votes for you who would not otherwise have done so because they believe that promise, you must keep to that promise or resign. Shame on a party that I previously believed stood for truth and honesty.

  • Terry Smith 3rd Nov '10 - 8:29pm

    can I have my vote back please ?

    It was gained under false pretences – so it only seems fair.

  • Lib Dem Ben 3rd Nov '10 - 8:47pm

    Thios is about political will power. Realistically – we should have surrendered in 1940, we didn’t we had the will to see it through. The people who built universal education, health care and higher education in this country, didn’t do it by political magic.

    They had the will power to say we are one nation, that we were “in it together” and then they made things happen. Jo Swinson’s government can still afford to give billions of my taxes to bankers. QED it has the resources, but not the will, to provide free higher education based on ability not ability to pay.

    The leadership of the Lib Dems is mnostly privately educated. turkey’s don’t for Christmas, the privelidged don’t vote for a fair society. When the Lib Dems worry as much about the socio economic background of their candidates and MPs as they do about their gender, sexuality and ethnicity we will be in a position to start work on building a fair society.

  • The main reason I voted Lib Dem was thier position on tuition fees. I will now watch with some glee as their political base founders. Will they do the right thing and vote with thier manefesto when the bill comes before parliament, or as I fear sell their political integrity for the sake of shared power. The Conservatives are playing an astute political game and I fear their coalition partners will wither with internal wranglings. If you want us to vote for you in the future stick to your principles.

  • Sadly the Liberal Democrat 2010 manifesto has the potential to become a set text for GCSE English; pure fiction. I’m depressed by how much the party has sacrificed already to prop up the Tories. Lectures from Ms Swinson, when Scots students who she represents have a rather fairer deal, particularly stick in the craw.

  • paul barker 3rd Nov '10 - 8:52pm

    Mike Smithson has an interesting post on Political Betting asking if we only have ourselves to blame. We all knew about the state of the economy & the probability of a hung parliament, a bit of honest thought could have avoided this.

  • How does saddling Graduates with debts they can’t afford to repay solve the financial black-hole in the higher education funding? Graduate unemployment is at its highest level for years. The Browne report also advocates raising the earnings threshold at which graduates begin to repay student loans to £21K.

    How does any of this help the treasury recover the cost of higher education? For Jo Swinson or anyone to argue the “needs must” or “look at the state labour left the economy in” argument is utter rubbish! I want to call it “utter bullshit” but I don’t think the comment policy will allow it!

    If the Lib Dem commitment remains to make HE Tuition Fees free once again through general taxation, what are we telling students of today? YOU have to pay (and pay a fortune!) but if we get re-elected in 5 years times your younger siblings won’t have to pay a penny. HOW IS THAT FAIR?

    Or what? Are we gonna write-off all student debt just as soon as the public finances allows? Yeah right! I don’t think students would be that gullible.

  • And how many student votes would you have got with such honesty before the election ?

    Look at the lessons of New Labour, they relied on spin over substance. You’re going to break a pledge, that will make you a liar. You lied to the students whose votes you sought. Sorry strong words but true. You can avoid this by keeping to your word, you will upset some but re-gain the support of many more.

    And please stop the spin over the deficit. The amount of it that can be attributed to Labour financial management(as bad as it was) is far lower than £1 Trillion. Unless you really would have preferred the meltdown that would have accompanied the total failure of the financial sector in the UK, most of the debt is attributable to other factors.

    The Lib Dems were more than aware of the state of the nations finances before the election, after all apparently you had the only properly costed models. This change is ideological for the Tories and is already putting off potential students and will have further impact on sectors such as the housing market when young graduates cannot obtain a mortgage because of their debt.

    You have a choice when the vote comes, be true to your word or lose any chance of being believed at the next election.

  • One thing that has been annoying me hugely over the past few months is the sloppy or misleading use of statistics by politicians. I accept that some rounding in figures will occur, but it has to at least be somewhat reasonable.

    The Office for Budget Responsibility, in its pre-Budget forecast, said that national debt at the end of March 2010 was £772 billion.[1] I find it very lazy and sloppy therefore, for Jo Swinson to claim that “Labour left us with £1 trillion of national debt”. I’m not disputing that £772 billion is a lot of debt and the deficit certainly has to be tackled (though I agree with the pre-election Lib Dem approach rather than the Coalition approach), but I think we are being ill-served by our politicians if we let them get away with such distortions of statistics.

    On the more substantive point of the article, I’m not sure much more needs to be said. The Coalition has decided to stop funding many university courses from taxation and move to a market system. Why have you not gone back to your old policy of a penny on income tax? Would that extra revenue not be enough to make up for the cut in the teaching grant? If it was such a good policy back in 1997 that it prompted you to join the party, what’s wrong with it now?

    Any Lib Dem MPs who don’t want their “credibility shot to pieces” (Ming Campbell’s words for why he’s sticking to this pledge) should stick to their signed pledge and join the rebellion. Yes, the Government proposals will probably still go through. But at least, on this issue, they’ll gain a modicum of respect from the voters for sticking to what they promised in the election campaign.

    [1] page 36

  • Wanted to apologise for earlier (rightfully moderated) comments where I was somewhat too foreceful and, on refelction, quite rude. I’m not usually an angry person but I do get very angry about these betrayals, mainly because instead of coming clean about how this is a political necessity, we are fed a lot of infuriating rubbish about the financial situation being worse than expected. It makes me feel that not only as voters are we being betrayedl but we’re being lied to even more and treated like fools.

  • You might as well face it: the Liberal Democrats are finished as a political party in this country. Trust me – you will never be forgiven by this generation for duping them in this most shameful and comprehensive manner. Enjoy your ministerial cars and your comfy offices while you can.

  • Im sorry but while I know that being in government means having to make difficult decisions the Liberal Democrats in government have failed to achieve a fair settlement on tuition fees that is consistent with the principles and objectives that they presented to the electorate.

    In future our MP’s in government need to work harder to find solutions that can be agreed with the conservatives but remain true to the ideals and principles of the party.

  • TheContinentalOp 3rd Nov '10 - 9:37pm

    Great to see a lot of Lib Dem members speaking out on this. These are the people who give me hope this remains the party I have voted for during the past decade or so.

  • Vince Cable was on the Channel 4 News trying to defend the policy (not very convincingly, in my view), starting at 4:30:

  • It’s about trust.

    You can argue hypotheticals about whether unrestricted by the Liberal Democrat influence Tories would have ran riot and tripled tuition fees…. or er, something like that, but all the spin in the world about a fairer system simply will not work on the doorstep.

    Blaming the promise is even more pathetic.
    If a Party doesn’t advocate things they believe in and promise to enact them then election campaigns are pointless.

    “Vote for me because we don’t know what we will do and anything we do say we will do can be disregarded as rubbish.” isn’t exactly a votewinner, nor is “Vote for me and we will do the opposite of what we promised.”

    You have red lines and you stick to them.
    Turning almost every MP and the Party into blatant Liars is a red line and it’s a measure of Nick’s inexperience and how out of touch he has become that he still doesn’t realise this.
    For years to come and at the next election the public will tell us “why should we believe a word you say ?”

  • From….. “For those youngsters leaving school, university is getting more and more expensive. To get a degree, young people are saddled with thousands of pounds of debt when it is tough enough to get a job, get on the housing ladder and make ends meet. Liberal Democrats believe university education should be free and everyone who has the ability should be able to go to university and not be put off by the cost”

    Is it too much to ask to keep our policies on the website up to date?

  • Jo, when I read about how Scottish MPs such as yourself advocate such policies for English youngsters I can’t help wondering when this coalition will start to seriously examine the Mid Lothian question. I wonder if your conscience and promises would be so easily sold were your own votes at stake…

  • Why on earth should someone have to pay more because they pay back the loan early. If one person decides to prioritize paying off the loan early by not spending money why on earth should they be penalised?

  • Good article from Jo, this is very difficult for all of us but I believe in the context of all the other spending/funding decisions that are having to be made this is far better than it could have been.

  • AndrewM
    “One thing that has been annoying me hugely over the past few months is the sloppy or misleading use of statistics by politicians. I accept that some rounding in figures will occur, but it has to at least be somewhat reasonable.

    The Office for Budget Responsibility, in its pre-Budget forecast, said that national debt at the end of March 2010 was £772 billion.[1] I find it very lazy and sloppy therefore, for Jo Swinson to claim that “Labour left us with £1 trillion of national debt”. I’m not disputing that £772 billion is a lot of debt”

    It’s good news that you don’t like “lazy and sloppy” statistics.

    On that basis, you would presumably accept that the inherited national debt was £790 billion, not £772 billion.

    In the nearly 6 weeks between the end of March and the new Government taking office in mid May the national debt rose by around £18,000,000,000 – which says it all, doesn’t it.

  • LDV Bob is dead right.

    And to top it all – Lib Dem MPs like this author have made a strategic error in trying to justify this most blatant of retreats.

    When Clegg was saying “Oh it’s the toughest decision I’ve ever had to make” every single person who voted Lib Dem on the back of the manifesto pledge was thinking “we don’t believe you”. Jo’s article will be perceived as “we don’t care what you think we’re right”.

    There was an article on LDV t’other day which had the party bang to rights. It went along the lines of “we’re suffering now because we’re not setting the agenda anymore” – and this is yet another example.

    In the last 6 weeks, Cameron’s control over your party has grown and is now absolute. You’re following anything the Tories are perceived as owning – and it’s killing you.

    I think Tuition fees are just the thin end of the wedge – and your party will not recover. When Control Orders are maintained (as Channel 4 reported 2 days ago), reversing yet another LD commitment – it will be a sad, sad day for a party I once believed so much in.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 3rd Nov '10 - 10:07pm

    I see the Lib Dems are down to 9% in the latest YouGov poll.

  • Elizabeth Patterson 3rd Nov '10 - 10:09pm

    Jo Swinson MP,
    I am glad you support Vince’s deal.
    Vince had the courage and dignity to face parliament and admit he had been wrong. He did it with enough endearing humility to get away with it and I hope the rest of you, Huppert and Russell excepted can do the same.
    I find that I agree utterly with MIKE SMITHSON over at politicalbetting, how was it that you all foolishly signed that pledge?
    In the last parliament there was cross party agreement on Browne and the need to review university funding, and you should have seen it coming.
    I am very much against the idea of the taxpayer funding university fees.
    Why should those who have to do the lowly jobs of life, where they may be paid around £10-15,000, have to help pay in their income tax for those who can swan off to university for three years. The scandal is that the tax threshold is still so very low. That no-tax-on-the-first-£10,000 won’t be true until the last year of this parliament.

    And why should those who do their F/HE part time, and have to pay fees upfront, also contribute in their taxes to those who enjoy the full time university life. Where is the fairness there?
    I am very tired of that young man from the NUS who keeps popping up on our screens to demand we support him.

  • John Roffey 3rd Nov '10 - 10:13pm

    The Party is going to have to develop a new strategy which aims at softening the harshest elements of the spending cuts if at hopes to hold on to the majority, or even a minority, of seats it presently holds. These cuts are not set in stone – they can be changed.

  • Elizabeth, very well said and totally agree

  • “Why should those who have to do the lowly jobs of life, where they may be paid around £10-15,000, have to help pay in their income tax for those who can swan off to university for three years.”

    Vacuous drivel.

    So everyone that goes to university ‘swans off’ then? Has it ever occurred to you that people might work extremely hard to gain entrance to a university course and then spend three to five years studying whilst working part time to help support themselves whilst also not accruing income/savings/pension contributions? – because that’s what the majority of students do these days.

    Has it ever occurred to you that the wealth we have as a Country and our ability to compete internationally is derived from our education system and the fact that the postman enjoys the quality of life he does is due to other people’s education? Is it not fair that he pays a contribution given that he has received a windfall as a result of others hard work? Has it occurred to you that many graduate jobs (jobs for which it is necessary to have a degree) already pay less than low-skilled jobs? Many engineers/scientists/teachers with good degrees from good universities earn less than train drivers. As it stands, the incentive to go to university is already diminishing, but now it simply makes no sense. This move is anti-meritocratic, anti-aspirational and anti-genuine-wealth generation.

  • Rob has apologised for his earlier messages possibly having gone too far. I’d like to apologise for my earlier comment not going far enough.

    It’s this sort of deeply cynical and depressing piece which makes me, a lifelong activist, seriously consider resigning my membership in protest. I don’t like the idea of my membership subscription supporting these kinds of dishonest, incoherent, short-termist views.

  • Mike Smithson has an interesting post on Political Betting asking if we only have ourselves to blame. We all knew about the state of the economy & the probability of a hung parliament, a bit of honest thought could have avoided this.

    If I was a cynic, I would say that the party never seriously expected to be in government after the election. It had been in opposition for rather a long time. So people felt free to make promises they never expected to have to redeem.

    This is the first time in two generations the party has had a minister in office in Westminster. The transition is bound to be a little bumpy.

  • Besides, there is no bar to gaining an offer of a place at university. If the postman doesn’t want to pay his taxes to ‘support’ others then why doesn’t he go to university him/herself? If there is no material gain to be made out of working hard to achieve a good job then how does that incentivise people to push themselves harder to gain an education and a career that will contribute more to society?

  • Steve
    “If the postman doesn’t want to pay his taxes to ‘support’ others then why doesn’t he go to university him/herself?”

    I think you may be in danger of undermining your own argument there, Steve.

  • It is a stab in the back for all those who campaigned on local level for the LibDems to be elected. Over the last couple of weeks and months, we stepped back from so many promises we made before the elections – from social welfare issues (like a cap on housing benefits) to tuition fees for future students. Either we should not have promised thee things before the elections, or we have to agree to these issues but then needed a pretty damn good public relations campaign to highlight why first of all broke so many of our promises from before the elections, and secondly to highlight what the LibDems are actually influencing positively.

    And just to argue that the LibDems have to agree to coalition decisions just because we are part of the Coalition is not good enough. The LibDems have to highlight their influence on government decisions, or at least make clear why they can willy-nilly can vote against what they promised before the election. Make it plain to the people, they will understand, but stop that crap of blaming the state of the economy and the national debts and that we are part of the coalition that we can’t do anything but make clear the option we as LibDems have and how our MPs come to certain decisions. And stop undermining us who are fighting on local level day by day by making decisions which are 100% contrary to the promises we made before the election – regardless of how the national debts and the financial are looking like. Find the money somewhere else

    Best regards

  • .
    Mike Smithson and Elizabeth Patterson rightly question the wisdom of signing the pledge in the first place. The fact is LibDems did sign the pledge, whilst asserting that all their policies had been fully costed.
    It leads one to believe they are either:


    I don’t believe these are attributes voters look for when deciding how to cast their vote. The tuition fees U-turn, and the image of Nick Clegg nodding and back-slapping with Cameron and Osborne on the front bench every week, is forging an impression that will be hard to erase.

  • I think the damage has been done. Whether Lib Dem MPs vote for or against the proposal is immaterial. The promise was that the Lib Dems would stand up for students. They have patently failed to do this. There has been virtually no opposition to Cameron’s /Browne’s proposal. How Jo and other Lib Dem MPs can go through an unemotional, let’s-wait-and-see discussion of what is obviously going to happen is beyond me.

  • Stevie Wise 3rd Nov '10 - 11:26pm

    For someone who has campaigned so much on the right to free education, you ought to hang your head in shame. Indeed, I believe that one day in the next five years, you (and all those in your party who so have lied so outrightly and outrageously to students across the UK) will do just that.

    In my mind, a mandate is in any other sense, a job description. If any other person in any other job in the world failed to meet the requirements of their job description to the appalling degree that we are seeing from Lib Dem MPs in this matter, they would be summarily dismissed. Why should you be allowed to continue in this one?


  • I think also Lib Dems should read this article in the LRB – it’s obvious the changing the bulk of funding from govt grant to fees will change the style and role of university education. Maybe a consumer-led sytem will be better, but clearly it will be very different, and it seems that Lib Dems have been so concerned to rescue something from the idiocy of the NUS pledge that they just don’t think its important.

  • I have a lot of time for Jo Swinson but she is wasting her time trying to justify this policy. Time for all our MPs to stop – their contortions do them no good whatsoever. Our fees policy was never a viable policy for Govt. It should have been modified before the election. To make matters worse the leadership then tied us to the NUS pledge. A case study in political naivety.

    Browne was supposed to devise a long term funding method for universities but the outcome looks suspiciously short term. Once the unfairness for those on middle incomes – many our natural supporters, hit home the reaction may become even stronger. The cuts to university teaching budgets means that even fees at this level will not give many universities sufficient funds.

    We now have an urgent need to devise a new HE funding policy. Whatever our MPs in university seats may believe the ‘no fees’ policy is well and truly dead.

  • It would be nice for Jo Swinsom and other Lib Dems who use the same explanation to tell us how exactly the deficit and debt situation over the next 10, 20 etc years is so much worse now than they thought it was before the election?

  • John Fraser 3rd Nov '10 - 11:50pm

    @ Jo
    The bottom 25% will be better off under the new system than the current one.
    Doesn’t this mean that 75% of students will be worse off?

    Jo plaese take that coalition chip from out of your head . Its becoming like stepford Wifes (Or husbands) with Lib dem MPs . People formaly of sound mind are justifing things the never believed before with dangerously lame soundbites .

  • @Rupert Read
    As someone who is thinking of/close to leaving I will not be joining another party. Personally, I will not join Labour but for those of us not living in a Green univeristy centric enclave your party are even less of a viable option than Labour.

  • It’s worth reproducing Mr Smithson’s ‘wise words’ on the matter from his blog that many seem so inexplicably smitten by. Though the truth is, like with most or Mr Smithson’s output, it undoubtedly echos what George Osborne and most of his Party will be saying as they laugh themselves to sleep tonight.

    “Tough sh*t.”

    Serves us right for having policies that the Tories don’t like. Is that really it ?

  • Hmm seem like you are just not convincing people doesn’t it. You do yourself no favours trotting out the very tired and innacurate little line that seems to fall from every coalition pair of lips about once every 10 seconds.. …’Labour left us with £1 trillion of national debt’ – and you really cannot get away with that. Tell me, what improvements would you not have made – surestart? nursery places? better pay for teachers, nurses etc? getting rid of horrendous NHS waiting lists and stopping people lying for days on gurneys in corridors? oh I could go on – point is – even the Tories said until 2008 when the crisis hit that ‘ they would match labour pound for pound’ though they all seem to have collective amnesia on that now. even then – was Brown wrong to take the action he did that stopped a recession becoming a depression and a long term disaster? Was he?

    Isn’t it time LDs told the TRUTH that the main reason we have this deficit is because of the global financial crisis, and becuase of the behavious and greed of bankers and suchlike especially in the US and UK. That IS the truth and every time you let the Tory ‘blame Labour’ lie fall from you lips you lose a but more credibility. and at 9% in polls I would say you can’t really afford to be doing that.

    Who is there left who trusts you as a party and as individual MPs, apart from the core party faithful… damn few….

    The fees issue matters, first and foremost not because of your pledges – but becuase it is harming the educational and life chances of thousands of people a year – and introducing some very invidious and undesirable factors into education… but yes, the pledge matters to – because in case MPs had not yet grasped this point – we DEMAND more integrity than we have had in the past from you as a group – and you play fast and loose with that, and with our faith in you – at your peril.

  • Simon (ex-Lib Dem) 4th Nov '10 - 12:20am

    Family come from a poorer background. If I was going to pay even more than I did on tuition fees would never have gone university. Graduated last year ( 2:1 from a top 20 uni), still haven’t got a job. University, especially if you have to pay a whole heap on it, is only available for those who have money, or those whose family have connections. I regret going to university, as nowadays I spend my days applying for jobs at companies that don’t even take the time to get back in contact with me. I am in the same situation I was in at 16. I won’t EVER be voting Lib Dem again. I know others in my part of South London who won’t be doing it again, even if it means elected Conservative MPs. This doesn’t mean I’ll be voting Labour either.

  • James Smith 4th Nov '10 - 12:24am

    ‘Before Liberal Democrat MPs sell their souls in the division lobbies, they need to consider the longer-term consequences for British education and culture more generally of implementing the kind of reasoning on which the Browne report is based. What is at stake here is not primarily the question of whether this or that group of graduates will pay a little more or a little less towards the costs of their education, even though that may seem (particularly to those in marginal seats) to be the most potent element electorally. What is at stake is whether universities in the future are to be thought of as having a public cultural role partly sustained by public support, or whether we move further towards redefining them in terms of a purely economistic calculation of value and a wholly individualist conception of ‘consumer satisfaction’. For the rest of this lucid and insightful assessment of the REAL significance of this issue, see

  • I am curious …

    will the author be campaigning for the proposed rise in fees to be applied in Scotland as well ?

    Or is the devolved nature of funding for students her ‘get out of gaol free’ card in terms of any worries students might damage her fragile 4% majority.

  • @Jo Simmonds
    Let me explain. My comments may have come over as rather negative about the Green Party but that was really meant as an observation rather than a criticism. I have also made that same comment about my own party – we have gained easy pickings from a student/university vote and now the whole party will pay for the opportunism needed to support 4 or 5 seats.

    I live in a Labour heartland area so have spent a lot of my active political life in opposition to Labour. The reasons the Green Party is not an option is that you do not have a presence at all in this area and your policies do not resonate in the way they might in Norwich or Brighton. I am in an area where practical politics counts and is all that is accepted. Your policies on zoo animals are clearer than your policies on housing, the policy on GM crops more detailed than that on jobs. When those are reversed then I might take the same route as you and so would many other non Orange book Lib Dems. When I see the Greens out and about on a rough, tough estate in the North then I will pay attention.

  • @ Mark Goodge

    A deficit is the difference between what a government spends and what is takes in through taxation.

    One of the first things Osbourne did (entirely supported by the Lib Dems) was to lower the rates of corporation tax by 4%.

    Can you explain the logic of that move given the massive defecit the country faces?

    Would that lost taxation revenue not have been better spent on education rather than reducing the tax on profits of our corporate overlords?

  • I don’t want to get in to the detail of this issue, I just want to remind the party members on here that breaking the NUS pledge was in the coalition agreement. It stated Lib Dem MPs could abstain on the response to the Browne report – clearly this excludes the option to vote against the proposals.

    If people say this is a deal breaker for them now and a resignation issue, why didn’t they resign when the deal was made? If it is so bad that MPs should be publicly chastised and criticised for it, should not then the all but one members of the FE who passed the coalition also be called on to resign? Not to mention the hundreds (possibly thousands) of conference reps who voted to back the coalition.

    The Liberal Democrats are not, and never have been, a single issue party. If you enter a coalition, you win some, you lose some. That’s it. If tuition fees are such a big issue for you that you feel you must resign, then resign. If not, then deal with it and fight on for the party. The party is, and will remain, committed to fairer student funding, ideally excluding any tuition fees. And maybe, if we get more seats in the next election, we could enter a coalition to achieve that. But self-flagellation now will only help our opponents and leave the party worse off.

  • David Lawson 4th Nov '10 - 9:41am

    It was interesting to see George Osborne end the CSR by emphasising that the Tories would keep their promises to pensioners and protect their universal benefits. That is a party you can trust. It is also a party which knows its brand and its market place. It is a party which knows public finances are not so bad…

    And then there is the Lib Dems…

    And please, please no more rubbish about problems with public spending. Party members continue to believe what the bosses said in the Spring (it is only autumn after all) that the structural deficit need not be reduced by 100% over 4 years so that there can be tax cuts for Tory interest groups before the next election. It is just as credible – and better supported by economists – to reduce the structural deficit in any number of other ways – by 90% or do it over 6 years etc. That is the choice and for us no choice was possible because we went out of our way to tie ourselves to one particular answer.

    Lib Dems smashing up education is like Labour closing the pits or Tories bashing small business. It strikes body blows at the the heart of the party.

    Please learn this equation “The unknown extent of the problem with public finance = no more than the extra cuts required to destroy Lib Dem credibility”.

  • richard morris 4th Nov '10 - 9:58am

    @ Kev
    While you make a fair point, that hasn’t been the response of our MP’s. If they were all saying ‘Look, we’ve argued the case, we lost, so we’ll stick with the agreement and abstain’, then I would have some sympathy – even if I don’t like the policy.

    But they’re not.

    They’re actively supporting tuition policies despite having signed up to a pledge saying they disagree with them.

    There was no equivication on this; watch this You tube ( clip of Nick Clegg. He clearly states raising the cap on Tuition fees is wrong.

    Stick with the coaliotion agreement by all means. But that doesn’t mean voting for tuition fees.


    It isn’t as if the Lib Dems specifically targeted areas dominated by large universities and lied is it?

    Oh that’s right, they did.

  • @Mark Goodge
    Your three options are rather too stark. The reality is more nuanced. We have a leadership that is more economically liberal than substantial parts of the membership. We also have a leader who is very clearly comfortable with us as a centre/right party roughly similar to the German FDP. Almost every piece of economic evidence showed that in May the UK economy was improving. No-one outside of the Coalition has to my knowledge ever supported with evidence the assertion that ‘things were worse than we thought’. Some figures seem to indicate that it was actually slightly better.

    @ Kev
    We are certainly not a single issue party but our leadership allowed the fees policy to become one of our main identifiers. It was naive and over opportunistic. By abandoning this we signify to voters a lack of principle and a lack of readiness to govern. That’s what many voters are taking from this issue even when they are not affected personally by fees. We had a policy that could never be fulfilled and are now reaping the consequences.

  • Roy Claret's Army 4th Nov '10 - 10:16am

    Hi Jo,

    I see you spent some of last summer with VSO. I’d keep them in your contact book if I was you as you are going to need a new job in a few years time.

    You lied to the thousands of students in your constituency and their parents with your ‘fully-costed programme’ to abolish tuition fees and you said anything whatsoever to get their vote by promising to be better than Labour and Tories. If you vote for this proposal you will suffer severely and deservedly.

  • Integrity was what made our party different. No amount of weasel words can justify breaking the NUS pledge. I have worked for the party since the start of the SDP and it’s hard to express the level of anger and sense of betrayal I feel about a party I was once proud to belong to.
    Gareth is right – you have no idea the depth of anger at grassroots level.

  • Roy Claret's Army 4th Nov '10 - 10:27am

    Mark Goodge

    Your analysis is naive, perhaps touchingly so.

    How about some other propositions

    4. The leaders of your party have simply accepted that tuition fees are a price worth paying for some influence on government policies, particularly a referendum on AV which would be a step towards being kingmakers for the foreseeable future. Since the Conservatives were not prepared to back the entire Lib Dem fully costed proposals, something big had to give.

    5. The leaders of your party believed the policy was actually undeliverable, but knew that it was a vote winner amongst core LibDem voters. The manifesto was written when we expected a Conservative majority, so making the pledge was quite easy.

  • Roy Claret's Army 4th Nov '10 - 10:29am

    sorry I forgot one more

    6. The manifesto was never fully costed. Just a good soundbite and, hey, if it all goes tits-up simply blame Labour.

  • Jon, Former Lib Dem 4th Nov '10 - 10:29am

    How can you support something for England which you do not support in Scotland?
    How can you pledge one thing and do another?

    Why should I trust you or your party ever again?

  • Mark Goodge wrote: “It seems to me that there are three possible reasons for this:

    1. The entire Lib Dem leadership, without exception, is fundamentally dishonest, and will adopt whatever policies are most likely to keep them in government
    2. Since the election, the entire Lib Dem leadership, again without exception, has had a Damascene conversion to Thatcherism.
    3. The economy really is as bad as they’re telling us, and they’ve found themselves with no practical alternative but to adopt policies that, under better circumstances, they wouldn’t support.

    It seems to me that only the third of these is at all plausible.”

    It seems to me that there is a fourth option. That there previously held commitment to government spending was predominantly for positioning and electioneering. Not saying it is true, just that it is easily as plausible as option three.

  • @Mark Goodge
    4. The entire lib-dem leadership are Thatcherite and lied to the electorate about not being so and have, upon assuming office, created a Greek bogeyman/it’s all labour’s fault argument to cover their dishonesty with more dishonesty.

  • Chris Riley 4th Nov '10 - 10:55am

    I’m glad that nobody has really engaged with the normally-sensible Rupert Read’s absurd premise that, in calling the Browne Review, Labour were in some way behaving poorly.

    Labour (and the Tories) recognised a while back that university funding was going to be a bit of a problem. So, rather than make something up off the top of their heads – something Rupert appears to think would have been preferable, they put in motion an independent Review to look at the options. I don’t know about you, but, actually, that strikes me as the right thing to do.

    Now, unless Rupert is suggesting that Labour intentionally lost the election to stitch the Lib Dems up by forcing you to bear the consequences of the Review, then I’m not sure how you can really twist logic far enough to blame them. As we all know, the committee got interfered with politically, but that went on right up until October. The big elephant in the room that many of you are trying hard to ignore is that if you were stitched up – and let’s be clear, you were – then it was not by Labour. It was by your own leadership, and it was by your new ‘chums’ in the Conservative Party.

    As Mike Smithson and many others have rightly pointed out, Browne was hardly delivered by stealth. It was approved by a Select Committee headed by Phil Willis, so Rupert’s as well blaming him. Good luck with getting away with blaming him for that, Rupert. The blunt reality is that the Lib Dem leadership were shamelessly opportunist and are going to pay the consequences. Not as much as the young people who put misplaced trust in them, though. I don’t have any sympathy for Jo, and suggest that in 2015, when she’s looking for a new job (let’s not beat around the bush – she’s going to lose her seat with a majority of only 4,000 and the Lib Dems polling single figures in Scotland), she probably stays away from anything that involves students.

  • I saw on the BBC News last night that Greg Mulholland still intends to vote against the removal of the cap on tuition fees despite the additional concessions. One Liberal Democrat MP at least has some mettle. More must join him – if the party is to retain its credibility, that is.

  • I think the sentiments on this page should act as a warning on the party MPs that the they cannot just ignore party policy. I think that MPs who do not stick to their pledge should be deselected by their local constituency parties. Tuition Fees was a total red line which we should have stuck to completely. ALL Lib Dem MPs should vote against this. Our opinion poll rating was down to 9% today. WAKE UP MPs before it is too late!!!!!

  • Roy Claret's Army 4th Nov '10 - 11:16am

    Or maybe Greg Mulholland has no mettle and is simply reflecting that a quarter of his constituents are students.

    Looks like lots of LibDem MPs in University seats will be playing this Get out of Jail Free card.

    So far we have
    Ming Campbell (St Andrews)
    Julian Huppert (Cambridge)
    Jenny Willot (Cardiff)
    Greg Mulholland (Leeds)
    John Leech (Manchester)

    It will be interesting to see how many LibDem MP who don’t have a University seat oppose this (doff hat to Charles Kennedy, Rector of Glasgow University) or even more amazingly if a single LibDem backbencher who represents a University seats votes for it.

    Some people might consider you a party of opportunists, shysters and backsliders…

  • Roy Claret's Army 4th Nov '10 - 11:18am

    Mark “The manifesto pledge on tuition fees was never going to be sustainable in office, and can only have been made in the expectation of never actually being in office”

    Ah so your first point stands.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 4th Nov '10 - 11:19am

    “One Liberal Democrat MP at least has some mettle. More must join him – if the party is to retain its credibility, that is.”

    Apparently only three Lib Dem MPs said in the debate that they would vote against this – Charles Kennedy being one of them.

    However, the FT says that “his [Clegg’s] team are confident that they can limit the abstentions to almost zero and convince more than 40 MPs to vote yes.” In other words, they are expecting more than two thirds of the parliamentary party actually to vote in favour of raising fees, even though they have a specific opt-out that would allow them to abstain.

    The leadership is ghastly, but this is far from just being a problem with the leadership. It’s at least as a big a problem that the parliamentary party is such a spineless, venal, dishonest bunch.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 4th Nov '10 - 11:25am

    “The Labour and Conservative parties routinely break manifesto pledges made in opposition that turn out to be unworkable when faced with the constraints of office, and no-one is particularly surprised because we expect it to happen. The idea that the LibDem manifesto is in some way immune to realpolitik under the same circumstances is entirely unreasonable”

    This completely misses the point. We’re not talking about a manifesto pledge. We’re talking about signed personal commitments to vote against any rise in fees, made by individual parliamentary candidates to their constituents. Those promises applied to their actions as MPs if elected, whether in government, coalition or opposition.

  • Roy’s Claret Army,

    “Or maybe Greg Mulholland has no mettle and is simply reflecting that a quarter of his constituents are students.”

    At least none of them voted for the Iraq War, unlike MPs in a certain political party I can think of.

  • @richard morris

    You also make a fair point and I would agree that the position you have stated would be fine. I think in practice what is actually happening is the perfectly logical ‘We acceded the right to oppose this in the coalition agreement, so we could stand at the side and abstain, or we could get involved and try to make some difference’. I am a pragmatist of the highest order and I think it is the right thing to do, but I think it has been communicated appallingly.


    Fees have been a prominent issue, but it was not one of the big four consistently highlighted in the election, where it was made clear our education priority was early years and deprived children – the pupil premium which will be delivered. I also recall that around this time last year the leadership tried very hard to get the policy removed or weakened – with Clegg famously saying at the conference that we had to be realistic that our aspiration might not be affordable. As it happened, the party pushed back and the compromise was a spending plan in the manifesto to phase out fees over six years. You can see how much it would have cost in the manifesto and also some of the tax rises we would have introduced to pay for it – had we formed a majority government.

    The point I was trying to make was when party members come on sites like this and attack the leadership for painting the party in the corner, they should have the courtesy to remember the involvement of the wider party in the issue. It seems to me that many members like to trumpet the democratic values when things go well, and blame the leadership when things don’t.

  • tony butcher 4th Nov '10 - 12:35pm

    Lib Dems should celebrate tuition fee success –

  • Roy Claret's Army 4th Nov '10 - 12:48pm


    Thanks for that enlightened and germane comment. You don’t really think it gets your MPs off the hook on tuition fees surely?

    I respect the LibDem MPs for opposing the war. I don’t for a second believe they would have done so had Nick Clegg been leader at the time.

  • Norfolk Boy 4th Nov '10 - 1:01pm

    Charlie Brooker did a great peiece on Clegg the other day – it will make for painful reading for some on here though. Here’s a snippet:

    Governments around the world must be studying the coalition and working out how to get their own Clegg. He’s the coalition’s very own Pudsey Bear: a cuddly-but-tragic mascot representing the acceptable face of abuse. But unlike Pudsey, he actually speaks. Immediately following each unpleasant new announcement, Cleggsy Bear shuffles on stage to defend it, working his sad eyes and boyish face as he morosely explains why the decision was inevitable – and not just inevitable, but fair; in fact possibly the fairest, most reasonable decision to have been taken in our lifetimes, no matter how loudly people scream to the contrary.

  • dave thawley 4th Nov '10 - 1:12pm

    We are not liberal conservatives we are liberal democrats – all those who want to be conners should leave our party now and join the blues so the liberal dems can be run by lib dems again . What is happening is unforgiveable and digusting. I don’t think many of our supporters voted for Cameron so why has our party given the country over to him so that he can do what he likes without us having any inpact at all. I can’t bare this much longer so please Nick and the other conners who have taken over our party, please just go.

  • dave thawley 4th Nov '10 - 1:17pm

    @John says Jo plaese take that coalition chip from out of your head . Its becoming like stepford Wifes (Or husbands) with Lib dem MPs . People formaly of sound mind are justifing things the never believed before with dangerously lame soundbites

    This would be funny if it wasn’t so close to the truth

  • David Allen 4th Nov '10 - 1:30pm

    Mike Smithson has a point. When the NUS called on us to turn our policy on fees into a solemn pledge, we could have said “Sorry, we’re a bit busy.” We could have said “Thanks, but we prefer to organise our own campaign on this subject.” We could have said “Look, if we win outright we will scrap fees, but if we are the junior partner in a coalition, we can’t promise we will get our way on this.”

    But we didn’t. We signed the pledge. Our promises won votes and seats.

    We promised that this would be our touchstone issue, the first thing we were going to insist on. Like the Scottish Lib Dems did, successfully and to their credit, after devolution. We should now be going back to Cameron and making an offer, such as “Give us our way on fees, and we’ll let you scrap that AV referendum.”

    If we now break the pledge, we are advertising – loud and clear – that nobody should ever trust us, ever, again.

    John asks “how do we take our party back ?!” I think it will only happen when we replace our discredited leadership. That will only happen when real election results give our party a message it cannot ignore.

    Next May, many of us are preparing to go out and tell local voters – truthfully enough – that they have the opportunity to vote for good, capable local Lib Dem councillors who will get things done in their communities. Will a strong local campaign actually be a very bad thing for our future as a national party?

  • Roy’s Claret Army,

    Can’t you at least wait to see what the Liberal Democrat MPs do before you call them every name under the sun?

    Your party is in favour of tuition fees, remember? Or at least it was when in government.

    I don’t know what Clegg’s thoughts on Iraq were at the time, because he wasn’t yet at Westminster, but I do know that the only Liberal Democrat MP in 2003 who made even vaguely pro-war noises was Mark Oaten.

  • @Mark Goode

    The Laffer curve arguement about decreased taxation levels increasing taxation income only works on the pages of a textbook.
    The entire theory of supply side economics rests on arguements that have failed the real life 30 year long experiment here, and in the US. Do people honestly think our economic problems are to do with undercapacity in our economy? We have millions of people unemployed and empty factories and offices all over the place.
    When did the party of Keynes become the party of Friedman?

  • lloydgeorge 4th Nov '10 - 2:09pm

    My husband and I voted for our LIbDem MP based mainly on the tuition fees pledge which we fell very strongly about. We have been duped.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 4th Nov '10 - 2:39pm


    Correct me if I’m wrong, but the FPC didn’t instruct candidates to sign the NUS pledge, did it?

    And that pledge is a commitment to vote against an increase in fees. Letting an increase pass by abstaining would be just as much of a betrayal as voting for an increase.

  • Tony Dawson 4th Nov '10 - 2:45pm

    ” we can’t deliver on everything we promised to do as a Liberal Democrat government. ”

    This statement looks at the issue from completely the wrong end of the telescope. I presently live in a Lib Dem-Conservative seat but if my seat were a Lib Dem-Labour seat, or a University seat of any kind, I would be grossly angry at our Coalition Government MPs, not for any ‘managerial’ competence regarding the proposals for student fees but for sheer political ineptitude. The student fee promise was NOT an ‘if in government. . . .’ promise like the Manifesto commitments. It came over to the public as a personal promise from each MP involved, much along the “I am as likely to change my mind on this as stick my head in a concrete mixer’. Abandonment of such a ‘promise’ has political ramifications well beyond the particular subject matter/policy area involved

    Personally, i still think that funding university fees from general taxation would be fairer and cheaper/more efficient than any of the proposals put forward to date, especially if there were a culling of a number of courses,and even institutions, but that is not the point. The actions of the ‘leadership’ in going down a particular line on this non-Coalition-Agreement subject ,without having a major consultation within the party first, is at best naiive. I shall not use the ‘at worst’ option in a public forum.

  • Tony Dawson 4th Nov '10 - 2:56pm

    Posted 3rd November 2010 at 10:35 pm | Permalink
    “Why should those who have to do the lowly jobs of life, where they may be paid around £10-15,000, have to help pay in their income tax for those who can swan off to university for three years.”

    Vacuous drivel. ”

    Not only vacuous drivel but logically incorrect. The income taxes paid by the lower-paid are more-than-swallowed-up by services received by them. The University fees can be seen as something taken from the better-off income tax payers – indeed, if neccessary, the income tax should be increased specifically in this band (over 25,000 pa) to show where it’s come from and going to.

    The BIG question which goes unanswered is this: Given that the Deficit ‘crisis’ is actiually the result of policies of successive governments over decades, why should the new wave of students/graduates in particular be penalised for their studying with a severe burden while those of us (myself included) who graduated for nothing are required to pay nothing?

  • Gareth Epps 4th Nov '10 - 3:10pm

    Alix – it’s nonsense to say the policy was or indeed is dishonest or unworkable. It’s not.

  • Jonathan Featonby 4th Nov '10 - 3:14pm

    I may have missed something here.

    How does charging extra fees help the funding gap that has arisen out of the caps? We keep being told that graduates won’t start paying untilt they earn £21,000. So for most graduates that will be some time, meaning that no money will be being repaid.

    We are also told that after 30 years any remaining debt is cancelled, and that this will include most students. So again there will be a gap created between the money “loaned” to students for their studies and the amount they will pay back.

    if someone could explain this point to me, I might – might – be able to accept the points that are being raised. Although I remain highly sceptical that the entire thing isn’t anything more than a midguided attempt to bring in a major reform of university finance under the tagline of “but the previous Government left us with no money in the bank”.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 4th Nov '10 - 3:31pm


    Yes – the government would still be paying for part of the fees, because the majority of graduates would end up having some of their loans written off. But the government would be paying much less directly to the universities, so there would be a net saving in public expenditure. Obviously this would be covered by graduates in general paying more.

    On Browne’s projections, the universities would end up with pretty much the same amount of funding as they have now. I’m not sure what difference the modifications to Browne’s recommendations are expected to make, but I expect the picture will be broadly similar.

  • @Jonathan Featonby

    The Browne/Cable plan will transfer debt from the government’s balance sheet and onto the the balance sheet of individuals, and then in 30 years time, the government of the day gets hit with the unpaid debt,a la pensions time-bomb.

    Which rather goes against the mantra, “We have got to cut the deficit for the sake of future generations.”

  • Many people feel disconnected from politics, and nowhere is that more apparent than among young people. Addressing that will take a bit more than baseball caps and text messages. I argue that there is not a general lack of interest in politics, but rather a lack of faith in the political process and in us politicians to address the issues that people care about

    Recognise that? That’s from your maiden speech in parliament Jo – after this bumbling attempt at justification perhaps a bit of reflection from you now as to why young people do have this lack of faith.

  • @Peebee

    Well researched! That’s a knock-out!

  • Paul Kennedy 4th Nov '10 - 8:50pm

    Why is it OK to ask new graduates to pay 9% higher taxes than everyone else for the rest of their lives? How does that encourage future economic growth? And why shouldn’t older graduates, foreign bankers, premiership footballers and school-leavers-turned-millionaires be asked to contribute as well?

    And means-testing is not the answer. It simply creates further distortions with massive marginal disincentives to work, and polarises society into the resentful haves (who vote Tory) and equally resentful have nots (who vote Labour). That’s why Lib Dems have traditionally campaigned for universal benefits backed by fair but competitive taxes on the better off. Why have we abandoned this?

    Stick to your pledges and expose Labour and the Tories for what they are.

  • I agree with Andy that MPs who renege on this clear, explicit pledge should face deselection by their local party.

  • yes, i half despaired yesterday (and did so again after question time this evening, which was dire – since when has David Davis been more progressive than us?!!) but see that the beginning of the way out of this is in our own hands, since of course we the members are the party. Agree with David, Andy and Seth, deselection may be needed, ultimately alas. Truly hope we can avoid this, but if the parliamentary party want to begin to build bridges with their own membership they could start by ceasing to send us e-bulletins which insult our intelligence – eg the recent one from Vince on fees, which has really annoyed me! They could send apologies maybe, but not that nonsense.

  • Chris Riley 5th Nov '10 - 8:36am

    The reason why this whole policy is fatuous is simple, and Paul Kennedy gets to the point.

    In order to get the economy out of the hole people with a free education got it into, in order to, allegedly, ‘stop us loading our grandkids with debt’, the Lib Dem leadership have enthusiastically essentially said the following:

    “Young people of Britain. This country needs your help to rebalance the economy and put it on a sounder footing, thanks to the mistakes we made.

    However, we don’t want to pay for it. We want you to. So, could you please flog your guts out on our behalf, and pay a significantly higher tax rate than us, please? So, please go to university – although not too many of you – and make sure you’re loaded when you come out, or we won’t get enough repayment to actually keep the system afloat. Social sciences? Arts? Not economically important. No, we know that the UK’s creative and arts sectors are internationally important and hugely lucrative, we just think students should pay for it all, whilst we get the money. After all, it’s only graduates who benefit from university. Nobody else does. Obviously. But please go, because the economy needs you.

    Vote for us.”

    If only this was really a caricature.

  • When Jon Gaunt on Question Time is making a better intellectual argument than the Lib Dem spokesman on tuition fees you know its time to stop defending the indefensible…..

  • Sam Hansford 5th Nov '10 - 1:49pm


  • I apologise Jo – now that your fellow MP has explained that tuition fees have in fact been abolished I take it all back

  • Peter Chivall 7th Nov '10 - 10:09pm

    I’ve read (and commented on)many threads elsewhere on LDV which touch on this subject. I still think it was foolish and opportunistic for the leadership and candidates to sign the NUS pledge and our own manifesto policy on tuition fees should have been qualified by ‘if we form the Government’ (rather than be junior partners in a coalition). But if MPs signed the pledge then they MUST vote against the fees increase not just abstain. (even those in Government should abstain at the least).
    In this town (Peterborough) with no HE to speak of, and only a 30% participation rate, tuition fees might even be a blessing in disguise if it helps the local FE college to widen the range of courses on offer and also charge lower fees than elsewhere to allow HE to grow.
    But that doesn’t change the principle. Ill advised or not, the MPs signed the pledge and they must stick to it.

  • Apparently we have enough money to spend another 5 years sending our young people to kill and be killed in Afghanistan but not to send our young people to University.

  • You Lib-Dems worse than Tories, worse than labour spin doctors you knew the facts and figures going into the election yet PLEDGED not to increase tuition fees. Now you try and justify your dishonesty!

    Lib-Dem = LIAR

    Liar of the worse kind… the one who appears to be honest but will sell his soul and yours for power.

    I am glad my honest Lib-dem MP was not re-elected. It would be shameful if he had to support you lot of liars

  • Living in your constituency Jo, I don’t think you realise just how much people feel betrayed by you and your party. You have absolutely no chance of being re-elected in this constuency. Everyone I know who voted Lib Dem says they will never do so again. How can anyone ever believe a word that comes out of your mouth? You – and your fellow Lib Dem MP’s – lied to the electorate on this issue (among many others), it is a catastrophic breach of trust. As a Scottish MP you are a hypocrite for raising tuition fees for English students while still “supporting” free fees here. By the way, any word on bringing in that “promised” legislation for recalling MP’s? I think the constituents of East Dunbartonshire – and certain other seats in the UK – might find that very useful. Never mind Jo. Perhaps you could defect to the Conservatives. What’s the difference now anyway?

  • I am so angry at the Liberal Democrats and their complete hypocrisy. Their first opportunity at power will be their last because of their disgraceful support for these tution fees.; Shame on you.

  • Bobby Clarke 10th Dec '10 - 2:12am

    You have the students against you, the graduates against you, the Universities against you and all honourable people who believe in signed pledges and all for a policy that does not apply to Scotland. You (LibDems and you personally) voted for the VAT increase on 4 January. VAT on just about everything including petrol. According to one of your English colleges there is not another election for years. He obviously does not know about Holyrood May 2011. You clearly do not care what happens in Scotland. My vote will not be LibDem next year.

  • Patricia Marchand 2nd Apr '14 - 1:49pm

    If you, the lib. dem., are so committed to future work seekers why are you introducing legislation that would allow recruitment agencies to use our personal details in any way they want and for them to charge a fee when we are seeking for work?
    I now recall your legislative introduction:

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