Liberal Youth members fight NUS Liar Liar campaign by donating to Liberal Democrat campaigns to #trollNUS

The National Union of Students has spent £40,000 of its money on billboards urging people to vote against MPs who broke its pledge on tuition fees in 2010. This, it should be noted, was a pledge in which they did not believe themselves. When the Browne Review came out, they were calling for a Graduate Tax. The system implemented by the Coalition is not a million miles away from that.

It should also be noted that NUS is not endorsing those Liberal Democrat MPs who actually kept the pledge, either.

The whole point of a liberal youth organisation is to stand up against unfair, collectivist nonsense wherever it may be found. Liberal Youth’s response to the NUS is very creative. It’s encouraging people to donate to Liberal Democrat candidates to troll NUS. Some of them have been making a special point of donating to Nick Clegg’s campaign to annoy NUS to the max.

This is not to say that they totally endorse what the Liberal Democrats did on tuition fees. They know we made a big mistake, but they see the nakedly partisan NUS campaign for what it is. Where was their campaign against Labour MPs who introduced tuition fees and top-up fees when they said they wouldn’t?

Courtney Mower joined the Liberal Democrats in 2010 because of our stance on tuition fees. She left a few months later in disgust but is now back with us. In a post called “Pants on Fire” on the Liberal Youth website, she writes:

Yes, the Liberal Democrats did break their pledge. I will neither try to deny nor apologise for that. The fact that Labour also broke pledges on tuition fees still does not make it right. But the fact is, the NUS have been grossly hypocritical and biased in their campaign; they have ignored the context and they have let an entire party escape blameI believe that there are selfish reasons behind their ‘Liar Liar’ campaign that are outside the interests of the students that they claim to represent. Did they run a campaign against Labour MPs in previous elections for breaking pledges? NO! So before you all go and gather your pitch forks and get behind this latest attack on the Liberal Democrats, I urge you to step back and think about the motivations behind this campaign. The NUS may claim to speak for seven million students, but it’s never done anything for me as a student, and sure doesn’t speak for me.

Some of the participants of the #trollNUS told me why they were taking part:

It was Joseph Miles who came up with the idea:

I started “Troll the NUS Executive” since I have become consciously aware that the NUS is pushing an outrageous party political agenda at considerable cost to paying students. At least with this initiative I get to decide to which causes my own money goes. The fact that over a short space of time a significant number of people have signed up to this demonstrates that I am not alone in my sentiment that the NUS neither represents nor particularly cares to represent a lot of its members.

Hannah Bettsworth:

I’ve donated money to help Christine Jardine defeat Alex Salmond – unlike the NUS, she has made an effort to oppose SNP student support cuts.

Eleanor Sharman:

Two years ago, I managed a campaign for Oxford to disaffiliate from the NUS. Some of our reasons were that the NUS was incessantly partisan, entirely unrepresentative, and remarkably bad at improving students’ lives. It’s so heartening to see that they’ve changed.

David Browne:

This just goes to show yet again that the NUS has absolutely no interest in representing students and instead prefers to pretend that the views of its remote leadership actively speak for us. After deciding to officially oppose UKIP it has gone one step further in its partisan grandstanding by spending our money on petty smears.

And Courtney noticed that students who weren’t Lib Dems were getting involved:

It’s great to see non-Liberal Democrats get involved with this campaign and acknowledge that the NUS does not speak for all students, it speaks for a small minority of those who hope to make careers in the Labour party.

On Twitter, Liberal Youth’s Kevin McNamara noticed a potential devastating and surely unintended consequence of the campaign:

If you want to join in the fun, donate to any Liberal Democrat campaign. You can even tackle two birds with one stone, you could #trollNUS while putting yourself in with a chance of winning dinner with John Cleese. The Cleese offer ends today, though, so act fast. Once you have donated, you take a picture of the receipt and post it on social media using #trollNUS. You can also visit the campaign’s Facebook page and post your picture there.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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89 Comments

  • So Labour broke a manifesto promise; name a party that hasn’t? A manifesto is a ‘wish list’ made up by a ‘committee’…

    I really don’t believe that you can’t see the difference between that and breaking a pledge personally signed by individual MPs, and touted from venue to venue….

  • Gosh, you Lib Dems really hate the NUS for having the temerity to feel sore about the broken pledges in 2010, don’t you? What an extraordinary article and campaign.

    You try to justify it by dismissing the NUS as “partisan”, but this is hogwash – the NUS enthusiastically endorsed Lib Dem candidates at the last election :-

    http://www.nus.org.uk/en/news/lib-dem-and-labour-mps-would-vote-together-to-oppose-tuition-fee-rise/

    “This, it should be noted, was a pledge in which they did not believe themselves. When the Browne Review came out, they were calling for a Graduate Tax.”

    Which Browne and the government flatly rejected. There is virtually no resemblance whatsoever between the NUS’ proposals at the time and what the coalition went on to introduce.

  • “It should also be noted that NUS is not endorsing those Liberal Democrat MPs who actually kept the pledge, either.”

    Not true – they have a page on their website, linked to from the main “Liar Liar” campaign page, showing a roll of honour of Lib Dem MPs who kept the pledge :-

    http://www.nus.org.uk/news/lib-dem-mps-who-voted-against-the-plans-aka-kept-the-pledge/

    The NUS are being vastly more fair and unpartisan about this than you are. Their campaign will obviously focus more on Lib Dems because of the 39 MPs who broke the pledge, 36 of them were Lib Dems. This is hardly the fault of the NUS.

  • Caron, the NUS are quite rightly annoyed at being betrayed by the Liberal Democrats at the last election. Nick Clegg specifically sought their endorsement and support against Labour, with whom the NUS are more traditionally aligned.

    The question is, why are you bothered? The NUS are fairly useless, and serve mainly as a training ground for future politicians in how not to do things and to learn the occasional dirty trick.

    They aren’t really going to affect the outcome of the next election, as student rich seats tend to be in areas that are strongly Labour anyway, the few exceptions being Oxford and Cambridge, and in the latter Huppert has set himself against his own party enough times to keep at least some student support.

    The only seat where the student vote could have a significant impact on the election is probably Sheffield Hallam, therefore it seems odd that you’d want to antagonise them further…

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 17th Apr '15 - 2:50pm

    G, I don’t consider NUS to be representative of students.

  • @Caron

    “It should also be noted that NUS is not endorsing those Liberal Democrat MPs who actually kept the pledge, either.”

    That’s simply untrue, as per Stuart’s link. There’s even a commenter writing how they were “very proud of voting for Stephen Lloyd”.

    I really do suggest you amend the article accordingly and remove the line. It’s not true – and thus damages the credibility of your article.

  • Caron, perhaps I’m wrong but wasn’t it the “The NUS Vote for Students pledge” that read:“I pledge to vote against any increase in fees in the next parliament and to pressure the government to introduce a fairer alternative”, that LibDems were so keen to sign?

    Those signing the NUS pledge included the following parliamentary candidates:

    Nick Clegg (Lib Dem), Sheffield Hallam, Liberal Democrat Leader
    Vince Cable (Lib Dem), Twickenham, Liberal Democrat Shadow Chancellor
    Sir Menzies Campbell (Lib Dem), North East Fife

  • Jane Ann Liston 17th Apr '15 - 3:38pm

    It should be noted that several of the Scottish universities are not affiliated to NUS. Glasgow, for example, has never been a member and St Andrews was only in for a few years in the mid-70s, leaving in 1977.

  • Jane Ann Liston 17th Apr '15 - 3:40pm

    Oh, and Sir Ming voted against the increase, by the way. As did Charles Kennedy.

  • Jane Ann Liston 17th Apr '15 - 3:42pm

    In fact most LibDem MPs did not vote for the increase.

  • @Jane Ann Liston 17th Apr ’15 – 3:42pm

    That’s true.

    21 Lib Dem MPs kept their pledge.
    28 Lib Dem MPs broke their pledge.
    8 Lib Dem MPs were absent or abstained.

    What was a revelation to me was that I hadn’t quite realised how committed to the pledge the party as a whole had been – which perhaps illustrates the NUS’s particular ire at the party. The following numbers of parliamentary candidates signed the pledge:

    531 Liberal Democrat
    265 Labour
    17 Conservative

  • Nick Collins 17th Apr '15 - 4:10pm

    If I remember correctly, the pledge was to vote against any proposal to increase tuition fees ( is that correct?), in which case the 8 who were absent or abstained were also in breach. No prizes for cop outs then.

  • Jane Ann Liston 17th Apr '15 - 4:17pm

    It’s interesting to compare the reaction to the LibDems’ broken pledge with that to the treatment of the SNP with their pledge to replace council tax with a local income tax. Putting aside the fact that it was to be set centrally in Edinburgh, so was anything but local, the SNP simply said ‘There was no consensus in parliament’ and dropped it. That was when they were a minority administration of course; since then there has been a deafening silence on the subject, apart from a few recent noises about looking again at the council tax. Maybe we should have used the same words ‘There was no consensus in parliament’ about the tuition fees.

  • @Bolano
    “21 Lib Dem MPs kept their pledge.
    28 Lib Dem MPs broke their pledge.
    8 Lib Dem MPs were absent or abstained.”

    Bearing in mind that the pledge was to vote against any increase in fees, the 8 absentees can be included in the “broke their pledge” category. That gives us :-

    21 Lib Dem MPs kept their pledge
    36 Lib Dem MPs broke their pledge

    @Jane Ann Liston
    “In fact most LibDem MPs did not vote for the increase.”

    Which has to be one of the most misleading statistics in recent political history. As I’m sure you know, had Chris Huhne not been stuck in Cancun he would have voted for the increase – taking the total voting for to more than half (instead of the 49% it actually was). Of those who did vote, well over half voted in favour.

  • Glenn Andrews 17th Apr '15 - 4:22pm

    Stuart – Which has to be one of the most misleading statistics in recent political history. As I’m sure you know, had Chris Huhne not been stuck in Cancun he would have voted for the increase – taking the total voting for to more than half (instead of the 49% it actually was). Of those who did vote, well over half voted in favour.

    He was in Cancun vote paired with Martin Horwood who would have voted against.

  • Nick Collins 17th Apr '15 - 4:26pm

    “He was in Cancun vote paired with Martin Horwood who would have voted against.”

    Because, as Stuart said, he would have voted in favour had he been there.

  • @Stuart 17th Apr ’15 – 4:18pm

    Having checked the wording – you’re right. I stand corrected.

    36 Lib Dem MPs broke their pledge.

  • Glenn Andrews 17th Apr '15 - 4:33pm

    Good point Nick – but as a Cheltenham Libdem my primary motivation there was to emphasise the position of the guy I’m defending.

  • @Glenn Andrews 17th Apr ’15 – 4:22pm

    “He was in Cancun vote paired with Martin Horwood who would have voted against.”

    Which, following Stuart’s accurate rendering of the pledge, means they both broke it.

  • Nick Collins 17th Apr '15 - 4:49pm

    Sorry, Glen, I had forgotten that Martin Horwood was a LibDem.

    By the way, when was the last time, before that, when two MPs in the same Party were “paired”? Is that not a bit bizarre in itself?

  • I don’t understand why anyone at Lib Dem Voice would want to publish an article for people to comment on what Liberal Democrats MP did regarding their pledge on tuition fees during this general election.

    It is a very long time since I was a student and a member of the NUS, but it was democratic then and having looked at their constitution or Articles of Governance and Rules it still seems to be democratic with its National Executive Council elected in the same way as we elect our Federal Committees. It uses AV and STV for its elections and I expect it would within its constituent members. I would also expect it to be more representative than Parliament because of its use of PR.

    I just don’t understand why this article exists so someone can point out that of our 57 MPs only 21 kept their personal pledge. And so I can also point out that we as a party didn’t ensure that keeping the pledge was in the coalition agreement. When I read the coalition agreement I thought wrongly that the tuition fee pledge must have been not to vote to increase tuition fees, but it was to vote against any tuition fee increase.

    It doesn’t matter that the current system is better then the previous one. It doesn’t matter if we had kept our pledge we would have had to have found cuts from somewhere else. The only important thing is unlike a manifesto promise all our MPs had signed a personal pledge to vote a certain way on a certain issue and only 21 managed to do what they had promised to do.

  • Caracatus

    “It is quite obvious from the Government own figures that most people will not reply their tuition fee loan, which rather begs the question, why are we charging them for it?”

    Because those who earn well will repay it all so better to get back more from higher earners, than to get back nothing and have the burden fall on taxes which should be allocated elsewhere (health, other bits of education).

    Not that this makes signing and breaking the pledge ok. The problem was the pledge should never have been signed. Why a middle class benefit more important than other bits of the manifesto that have a greater impact on helping poorer people or produce greater economic returns to the economy.

  • Peter Watson 17th Apr '15 - 6:40pm

    A week before the 2010 election, Nick Clegg made a very blatant appeal to students:

    Labour and the Conservatives have been trying to keep tuition fees out of this election campaign.
    It’s because they don’t want to come clean with you about what they’re planning.
    Despite the huge financial strain fees already place on Britain’s young people, it is clear both Labour and the Conservatives want to lift the cap on fees.
    If fees rise to £7,000 a year, as many rumours suggest they would, within five years some students will be leaving university up to £44,000 in debt.
    That would be a disaster. If we have learnt one thing from the economic crisis, it is that you can’t build a future on debt.
    The Liberal Democrats are different. Not only will we oppose any raising of the cap, we will scrap tuition fees for good, including for part-time students.
    We can’t do it overnight, but we can start straight away with students in their first year – that way means anyone at university this autumn will have their debt cut by at least £3,000.
    Students can make the difference in countless seats in this election.
    Use your vote to block those unfair tuition fees and get them scrapped once and for all.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/election-2010/7641956/Lib-Dems-target-student-vote-with-tuition-fees-warning.html

  • @Peter Watson
    Thanks for that quote. A reminder that what Clegg did should not be euphemistically downplayed as “a mistake”, as we keep hearing these days.

    This article is very unpleasant – one might almost call it “victim blaming”. The NUS never forced anybody to sign their pledge. Lib Dem candidates did so willingly, indeed enthusiastically, or so it seemed. Whoever is to blame for the political damage done to the Lib Dems since, it sure as heck isn’t the NUS. So for Lib Dems to suggest that people should have “fun” by “annoying NUS to the max” comes across as nasty and vindictive. It certainly makes all those apologies seem very insincere…

  • Peter Watson 17th Apr '15 - 8:18pm

    I think this article and Courtney Mower’s blog are based upon a false pretext. The NUS did oppose Labour’s introduction of tuition fees and protested against them. That is what led in 2010 to the NUS “Vote for Students” campaign which included a pledge for parliamentary candidates to vote against increasing fees. Unlike Labour’s previous manifestos, surely MPs would not break publicised and personally signed promises. Lib Dems courted the student vote by exploiting that anti-Labour (and anti-Tory) sentiment on the issue of tuition fees. This current NUS campaign is an inevitable reaction to those MPs who broke the promise they made.

  • Philip Thomas 17th Apr '15 - 8:35pm

    Did Tim Farron keep the pledge?

  • Jane Ann Liston 17th Apr '15 - 9:10pm

    How come everybody seems to have forgotten Labour’s lapse, then? Remember they had an absolute majority, so could do what they liked, unencumbered by a coalition partner.

    It’s all a bit short-sighted: if students in England are being urged to ‘punish’ LibDems for breaking a pledge, for whom are they being encouraged to vote instead? Labour, who as we have said, introduced them in the first place, and were willing to accept the Browne recommendations as they stood, e.g.. no cap on fees? Conservative, who were so intent on increasing fees that we could not shift them? Both these parties backed increasing fees and, although Labour has announced that it will cut them to £6K, that will still be double what they were in 2010, and will not benefit the least well-off, as has been shown elsewhere on this site. They could always vote Green, but I fear they won’t be enough to change anybody’s policy, and I don’t expect UKIP have much sympathy for students. The phrase ‘out of the frying-pan into the fire’ comes to mind.

    I would love to see no fees for students, but with the announced intention that 50% of all school-leavers should go to university, it would take several years to bring that about, even supposing the public would accept the tax increases necessary to achieve it. It’s a far cry from when only 7% went to university, which was relatively east to fund. The problem is that there has been an impetus to increase student numbers without increasing the funding to match; result, a mismatch between aspirations and hard cash.

  • Peter Watson 17th Apr '15 - 9:27pm

    @Jane Ann Liston “Labour … were willing to accept the Browne recommendations as they stood, e.g.. no cap on fees”
    Really? Any evidence for that?

  • Peter Watson 17th Apr '15 - 9:30pm

    @Philip Thomas “Did Tim Farron keep the pledge?”
    Yes.
    (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-11964669)

  • Philip Thomas 17th Apr '15 - 9:38pm

    Thanks Peter.
    Apart from that salient point for the future, I don’t really see the point of arguing which of Labour or Lib Dems is worse on tuition fees, especially when Blukip would probably remove the cap on fees altogether…

  • “Yes, the Liberal Democrats did break their pledge.”

    See, the thing is, the Courtney Mower article starts with a lie: some of the Liberal Democrats broke their pledge – but not the Liberal Democrats en masse. What I find most interesting in these kind of articles is that the defenders of breaking the pledge always seem to go along with the lie that the Liberal Democrats broke the pledge en masse – for whatever reason. It’s as if they’re trying to direct attention away from the 21 who kept their word – MPs like Ming, Huppert, Farron, Charles Kennedy, Sanders, Lloyd.

    I’m mean the MPs like these, who kept their promise, aren’t stupid, aren’t inexperienced, and don’t have super-powers. So how did they manage to keep their honour when the rest so easily lost theirs? And why isn’t their honour on this appreciated within the party?

  • Peter Watson 17th Apr '15 - 10:07pm

    @Philip Thomas “Blukip would probably remove the cap on fees altogether…”
    Lib Dem loyalists tell us that only the wealthy would benefit from Labour cutting fees, so does that mean only the wealthiest would pay more if fees were increased?

  • Philip Thomas 17th Apr '15 - 10:16pm

    Supporters of the party line on tuition fees will tell you that only the wealthy benefit from Labour cutting fees, yes. The truth is that it is not the really wealthy but those on middle incomes who would benefit. Raising fees would mean the wealthier would pay more. It would also increase the apparent debt burden, thereby discouraging more from university.

  • Philip Thomas 17th Apr '15 - 10:28pm

    Of course, from a student point of view, most students would want to be earning more than enough to pay off their fees, hence the higher the fees the worse for students.

  • Peter Watson 17th Apr '15 - 10:28pm

    @Philip Thomas “It would also increase the apparent debt burden, thereby discouraging more from university.”
    Isn’t the Lib Dem line (post-2010) that the apparent debt burden does not discourage more from university, it’s not a debt, etc. etc.?

  • Peter Watson 17th Apr '15 - 10:30pm

    @Philip Thomas “from a student point of view, most students would want to be earning more than enough to pay off their fees, hence the higher the fees the worse for students.”
    So would Labour’s £6000 be better for students?

  • Philip Thomas 17th Apr '15 - 10:35pm

    Peter Watson: Yes, best would be no fees at all. Of course, we’d have to raise the money somewhere else, but I would be prepared to see a general increase in income tax.

    I’m sure someone who believes in the official line will be here shortly, but (as you’ve probably realised by now), they won’t be me!

  • Peter Watson 17th Apr '15 - 11:22pm

    @Philip Thomas “I’m sure someone who believes in the official line will be here shortly, but (as you’ve probably realised by now), they won’t be me!”
    🙂
    The official Lib Dem line seems to be a dotted one!
    It used to be that Labour was wrong to introduce fees, they were unfair and should definitely not be increased (certainly not as high as £7000), and should be scrapped.
    Then a graduate tax was unworkable, fees were fair but Labour was still wrong to introduce them, the details of the existing scheme were tweaked (repayment thresholds, interest rates, etc.), and fees would be £6000, only reaching as high as £9000 in exceptional circumstances. And now it was “effectively” a graduate tax. But still involved repayment of a loan, just like before.
    But less than half of the Lib Dem MPs voted for this.
    Then £9000 was the right level and £6000 is too low.
    But Lib Dems still aspire to scrap fees.
    Except for the ones that don’t.

  • It was always about personal integrity, those who broke their pledge are, in my opinion lacking it.

  • A Social Liberal 18th Apr '15 - 12:57am

    Let’s scotch this ‘only pay on fees when earning over £21g’ rubbish.

    For instance – a nurse beginning her career after doing a nursing degree will be on slightly over £21,000 – beginning the repaying of his/her fees straight away, despite not gaining the average wage for four years. It will be the at the culmination of her/his career that she/he might actually get into the higher tax band.

    So, nurses (and many other public sector workers who gain degrees) will earn well below that of most graduates and yet will still be paying off their tuition fees. Their salary will increase much more slowly than if they chose other professions and at the top of their tree will be earning, on average, much less than if they had chosen other careers.

    No wonder it is so hard to recruit graduates into the public sector now.

  • Caron, you really want to rake over tuition again? Its not a graduate tax. A graduate tax would be levied against all who had studied or completed studies, not just that tiny proportion who attended university after a specific time. When Clegg waved this through, he cut off the Lib Dems from a supply of new activists and young supporters for at least 5 years and possibly longer. Labour brought in Tuition fees but Clegg ensured that the Lib Dems take the blame.

  • Philip Thomas 18th Apr '15 - 7:08am

    Unfortunately, tuition fees are here to stay for the moment. Labour’s change is a relatively small one, and in many constituencies the best way of getting that change is to vote Lib Dem, meaning one less Tory is returned to Westminster and you get a party with a known record for compromising over tuition fees in order to enter coalition.

    For me, the issue is not of vital importance: my studies are over and I have no children. I’d prefer to concentrate on all the other excellent reasons to vote Lib Dems (especially where the alternative is a Tory).

  • Simon McGrath 18th Apr '15 - 8:50am

    @Caractacus: On the one hand : ” people on lowest incomes tend to get more back in benefits and services than they contribute in tax, on the other hand: “Most of the tax system is a way of the majority subsidising the rich and very rich”

    Its almost like you set out to say the most idiotic thing possible

  • It is surely fair that there are consequences for individuals who break a signed pledge aimed at winning votes. Manifesto promises are collective and aspirational.
    The sad thing is that the 60% non-students are almost forgotten. The current scheme appears to be putting the Government in hock for a big chunk of unpaid loans on behalf of the angry students

  • This thread is not about fees; it’s about the ‘disgrace’ that the ‘nasty’ NUS (who don’t represent students) should have the temerity remind their members that the majority of LibDem MPs broke a solemn promise to students…

    You try and further the argument by falsely claiming that the NUS is not endorsing those Liberal Democrat MPs who actually kept the pledge, when, in truth, the NUS is showing photographs and details in support of the 21 who kept their word….

    To actively promote “Trolling” is hardly the action of anyone representing a supposedly serious political party…

  • @Bolano
    “I mean the MPs like these, who kept their promise, aren’t stupid, aren’t inexperienced, and don’t have super-powers. So how did they manage to keep their honour when the rest so easily lost theirs?”

    Good point. There’s a page on the Lib Dem website (sarcastically titled “Tuition Fees: Get The Facts”) which claims that Lib Dems “were unable to carry out our promise”. Nick Clegg keeps saying that “it was not possible” to keep the pledge.

    This is of course a blatant lie, because the actions of the 21 honourable MPs you refer to prove that it was entirely possible to keep the pledge. When you see people actually doing something, you can’t claim that it is impossible!

    If only it were possible for me to write the election result – I’d have those 21 all keep their seats, and the rest booted out.

  • Peter Watson 18th Apr '15 - 3:51pm

    @Pete Salmond “students used to be about idealism and seeing the bigger picture, now they seem to be about just voting on a single issue (a past issue) that affected them and enacting revenge”
    If this is a Lib Dem view, then it is an incredibly hypocritical one. At the last election Lib Dems actively courted the student vote on this single issue, just witness the speech by Nick Clegg quoted above.
    I think students have always mobilised around single issues, but Lib Dems are largely to blame for the current big issue being one of financial self-interest rather than global idealism.

  • @Philip Thomas 17th Apr ’15 – 10:35pm
    “Yes, best would be no fees at all. Of course, we’d have to raise the money somewhere else, but I would be prepared to see a general increase in income tax.”

    Absolutely right. We all benefit from the education of others, we all should contribute. It also would mean that those who benefitted in the past from a free education (like MPs) would be seen to be making a contribution, too.

    It isn’t just that the 36 broke their pledge – it’s that the 36 financially benefitted from breaking their pledge.

  • Peter Watson 18th Apr '15 - 8:01pm

    @Peter Salmond “this issue is only fixed by looking into the long term and putting your ‘idealist’ hat on”
    The NUS could argue that this campaign is an idealist one: they believe they are shaming politicians who lied to students in order to secure votes. That most of these “liars” were Lib Dems is not the fault of the NUS, and they do highlight those politicians who kept their promise. Honesty in politics is an important issue, and on tuition fees in particular one which Lib Dems used to castigate Labour in 2010. Perhaps, as far as students are concerned, such a campaign is one from which the Tories deserve to benefit since at least with them we get what we expect (no matter how much we don’t want it!). Those named and shamed by the NUS pledged to do one thing and then did another, so perhaps an idealistic campaign like this is one from which they and other politicians will learn. While criticising the NUS for a lack of idealism, you appear to be suggesting that they should abandon the idealism of wanting honesty in politics for the pragmatism of avoiding another Tory government.

  • Philip Thomas 18th Apr '15 - 8:53pm

    Avoiding another Tory government is pragmatism in the same sense that avoiding a head-on collision with a lorry is pragmatism, even if it means steering in a direction you’d rather not go.

  • @Caractacus

    “There is no logic as to why people should pay for university tuition but not for A levels.”

    Well as education is compulsory up to 18 there to demand payment for an activity which the government make compulsory would have no logic.

    There would be a case to say why was undergraduate previously free (and in recent years capped) when post grad was not. But education to 18 is entirely logical.

    It can be logical to pick an arbitrary level of education and make that free but why university education and not any form of training sub post grad? The reason of course was that it was the route in life token by most politicians and media folk so it got special treatment.

    As Simon McGrath point s out you appear confused on the financials so you probably want to revisit that.

  • stuart moran 18th Apr '15 - 11:12pm

    Psi

    Education has been compulsory up to 18 only since very recently so why should those who left at 16 in the past have had to pay for those who decided to stay on?

    Are you saying that if something is compulsory then it shouldn’t have to be paid for – can I please then have a free passport if I have to go abroad and a free CRB check if I work with children?

    This is not an argument that holds water at all – and in fact weakens it

    It is as poor a reason as the ‘it is so unfair that those who don’t go to university have to pay for those who do’ – shame that I, as childless, am not exempted from paying for the education of those feckless people who have children. Or it would be if I didn’t believe in society and see the benefit it gives us all.

    What you really should say is what the reasons are – higher education is something that for whatever reason is seen as a ‘privilege’ and the bulk should be paid for by the individual . The decision has been made that it is better for students to borrow the money than for the Government to do it, even though the Government can borrow money at a much cheaper rate and just means that the balance between personal and public debt changes. The overall burden for funding is the same it is just the balance of who pays for it!

    The last sentence is in fact not right though because the Lib Dems currently sell the message that actually most will never pay it off so it is not so bad – in this case it passes on to future taxpayers to fund when it is written off.

  • @ Pete Salmond
    “we get an honest apology from Nick Clegg”

    There are some people who believe that it was not a real apology. That Nick Clegg doesn’t understand the difference between breaking the pledge and not implementing the policy in the manifesto. There are even people who think he made the pledge in bad faith because he didn’t believe in the party’s policy and had unsuccessfully tried to move it towards supporting fees.

  • Stephen Hesketh 19th Apr '15 - 9:10am

    Bolano 18th Apr ’15 – 3:55pm
    [[@Philip Thomas 17th Apr ’15 – 10:35pm
    “Yes, best would be no fees at all. Of course, we’d have to raise the money somewhere else, but I would be prepared to see a general increase in income tax.”]] “Absolutely right. We all benefit from the education of others, we all should contribute. ”

    I agree with you both. Perhaps those benefiting from apprenticeships should also pay towards their training – after all many will earn similar incomes to many graduates.

    Why should a graduate chemical engineer pay but an equally skilled apprenticeship-route chemical engineer not?

    Treating graduates and the vocationally trained equally sends an important message regarding the value of training rather than the route.

    Lib Dem policy regarding education and training should be equitable and consistent. Highly skilled and well educated people tend to be happier, healthier, to be able follow an occupation of their choosing, in a place of their choosing and be more empowered to contribute to society as individuals and as earners and tax payers.

  • Peter Watson 19th Apr '15 - 3:26pm

    @Stephen Hesketh “Lib Dem policy regarding education and training should be equitable and consistent.”
    I agree entirely with your sentiment but not your use of chemical engineering as an example.
    Engineering in general, and chemical engineering in particular, is a genuine graduate level career. It is more than just a “skill” to be learnt and practised: engineering is a truly academic discipline requiring understanding of mathematical and scientific theory as well as its application. It is too often perceived that an electrical engineer is a man (sadly, rarely does anyone imagine a female engineer) who fixes the telly, a mechanical engineer fixes the car, a chemical engineer unblocks the drain, and a civil engineer is anyone in a boiler suit who is polite. In this country, the word “engineer” is rarely accorded the status or respect that it deserves, perhaps because it is associated with “engine” rather than “ingenious”.
    A little embarrassed, I’ll now climb down from my hobby horse … 🙂

  • Stephen Hesketh 19th Apr '15 - 3:35pm

    Following on from my earlier post, perhaps individuals might have training/retraining or straightforward learning/FE grants?

    Few would argue that well educated citizens are not an advantage to society, as such it could be justified that the state could pay a proportion of the costs with the individual and or employer paying a further proportion. This might also encourage employers to take on and train additional young people.

    Removing the snobbery of degree versus apprenticeship would be a Liberal and enlightened outcome.

  • stuart moran

    “Education has been compulsory up to 18 only since very recently so why should those who left at 16 in the past have had to pay for those who decided to stay on?”
    And we are discussing the position now, not when the end of compulsory leaving was 16, 15 or 14 so you may want to rake over history but we are discussing the situation now not when most people left school at 14. We are already a bit off topic you appear to want to go way off.

    “Are you saying that if something is compulsory then it shouldn’t have to be paid for – can I please then have a free passport if I have to go abroad and a free CRB check if I work with children?”
    Well you don’t have to have a passport, you have to have one if you want to go abroad and come back, so it is optional. There are many jokes about how many people in the US don’t have them so your suggestion that they are compulsory is ridiculous. The same goes for working with children, it is not compulsory so the price of a CRB check is not relevant. Attending school id not optional for children, if you can’t see the difference you really have a problem.

    “The last sentence is in fact not right though because the Lib Dems currently sell the message that actually most will never pay it off so it is not so bad – in this case it passes on to future taxpayers to fund when it is written off.”
    Go back and read the comments it follows.

  • @Stephen Hesketh 19th Apr ’15 – 9:10am

    Agreed. It is one of the key dishonesties of the right to unhook education from society, to try and claim it is all about the individual. All the benefits of society are from education; all the structures that allow both health service and free market, exploration and the arts to function stem from it – of course we should all pay.

  • @Bolano but post 18 the benefits to the individual are far greater.

  • Philip Thomas 19th Apr '15 - 10:56pm

    TCO. Really? Lack of primary school education wouldn’t damage an individual’s chances in life at all, then?

  • @Philip Thomas if the state deems education is compulsory then it should fund education. Post 18 education is not compulsory and the individual gets a massive personal benefit (on average) so the state should not have to meet the cost.

  • Philip Thomas 20th Apr '15 - 12:04am

    But it isn’t compulsory to be educated by the state. I wasn’t…why should my taxes go to fund the primary and secondary education of others?

  • Alex Sabine 20th Apr '15 - 2:08am

    It isn’t compulsory to be educated by the state: private schooling and home schooling are both legal. But the state imposes on all parents a legal obligation to ensure that their children receive a full-time education from the age of five. Having imposed this obligation, the state – as a matter of practical necessity as much as equity – must not make the ability to discharge it dependent on financial means.

    If parents choose not to avail themselves of the schools provided by the state, they are perfectly entitled to make that choice (and should not be criticised for doing so by politicians, especially since many of those politicians in all parties exercise the same choice). If they choose to educate their children privately, they are fulfilling their legal obligation in a manner that they deem appropriate; but they are not thereby excused from the need to contribute to the financing of the wider school system. They might – or might not – resent ‘paying twice’ (overlooking the tax break on school fees for a moment) but they have made that choice with their eyes open and ultimately most accept that tax-financed universal education is part of the social contract.

    This principle holds whether or not the state owns or runs a single school. In practice it usually will be a major provider. But the nature of the obligation is simply that the cost of compulsory education should be met by the state. It would apply just as much if we had a system of universal school vouchers and the distinction between state and private schools were to wither away.

    Clearly higher education is a different animal by virtue of not being compulsory as well as for other reasons.

  • Philip Thomas 20th Apr '15 - 3:39am

    Answering my own question, because it directly benefits me to have fellow residents educated.

  • @ Philip Thomas. What Alex Sabine said.

  • Philip Thomas 20th Apr '15 - 7:17am

    What about generational unfairness? My parents had the full benefits of free university education and maintenance grants. I had to pay less fees than are paid by today’s students (and I paid them off so do not face an ongoing charge).
    Is it not unfair to load this burden on the youth of today?

  • Philip Thomas 20th Apr ’15 – 7:17am
    “….What about generational unfairness? My parents had the full benefits of free university education and maintenance grants. ”

    Philip, I am of the same generation as your parents. What you say here may be true of your own parents but in reality it was not true of the whole generation. Fewer than 10% of my age group went to university (or in my case a Polytechnic).
    90% of my age group got neither free university education nor maintenance grants.

    I have no complaints other than my complaint about the circulation of the myth that my generation were feather bedded by free university education.
    The vast majority of my generation never went near a university; they went to work and contributed through taxation to the very rapid increase in the availability of university places in the early 1990s that your generation has been lucky enough to benefit from.

  • David Evans 20th Apr '15 - 8:28am

    Philip Thomas. There are those who believe in the state costing as little as possible so that the rich have to pay as little tax as possible. Thus they argue things that are not compulsory should be paid for by the individual. In the past they would have argued that education post 16 should not have been paid for by the state. Of course they lost that argument many years ago even in the conservative party (which was a one nation party at the time), and it was funded out of general taxation, as was higher education through grants and payment for tuition. As you say it was considered that the benefit to society was paramount and it was considered to be self funding with the extra income tax paid by graduates’ higher salaries being the main element.

    Margaret Thatcher broke and Tony Blair and Labour finally smashed that old consensus. Sadly, Nick chose to support David Cameron and carried it even further. We are in a bad place because of the unwillingness of politicians to face up to raising tax to pay for what they want. They would all rather pass it on to the next generation. PFI, Gordon Brown’s toxic legacy is another example.

  • Stephen Hesketh 20th Apr '15 - 8:50am

    Peter Watson 19th Apr ’15 – 3:26pm
    Pete Salmond 19th Apr ’15 – 7:47pm

    Peter and Pete … my actual words were: “Why should a graduate chemical engineer pay but an equally skilled apprenticeship-route chemical engineer not?”

    Setting aside semantics about mechanics, mechanical engineers, chemical engineers, technicians, technologists, chemists etc and also the fact that very few of us are afforded the social status, or remuneration, of those working in say the law, media or economics.

    I would like to illustrate my point, I am an old style day release non-graduate but professionally qualified chemist. For most of my career I have earned more than many of my graduate chemist colleagues working at a similar ‘responsibility’ level. Today they would pay back fees once their salary hit circa £20,000 but I wouldn’t. This was intended to be the main point; those undertaking study via the University route pay whilst those effectively funded by an industrial company plus government-funded training body do not. Because I was also working I also gained greater practical insights and experience at an earlier age placing me at a subsequent advantage.

    We should be working to level the financial and social standing playing field – within and between professions and socially valuable occupations such as caring.

  • Stephen Hesketh 20th Apr '15 - 9:09am

    David Evans 20th Apr ’15 – 8:28am
    “There are those who believe in the state costing as little as possible so that the rich have to pay as little tax as possible.”

    David, total and absolute agreement. Part of the Thatcherite legacy.

  • @Philip Thomas if you’re talking about generational unfairness, why is it fair that generations where a far lesser proportion went to university pay for one where 50% go?

  • @Stephen Hesketh:  Because I was also working I also gained greater practical insights and experience at an earlier age placing me at a subsequent advantage.

    However you also generated economic value for the company who paid for your training which helped to offset their investment in you.

  • David Evans 20th Apr ’15 – 8:28am………………..Margaret Thatcher broke and Tony Blair and Labour finally smashed that old consensus. Sadly, Nick chose to support David Cameron and carried it even further. We are in a bad place because of the unwillingness of politicians to face up to raising tax to pay for what they want. They would all rather pass it on to the next generation. PFI, Gordon Brown’s toxic legacy is another example……………..

    Considering that Thatcher endorsed Blair as her heir no surprises there….However, much as I dislike Blair, PFI was introduced by Major in 1992 and forced on Blair by the treasury who considered it essential (for obvious reasons)….

  • @David Evans you say that in the past higher education grants and tuition was funded through taxation.

    Grants have not been funded since the early 1980s and tuition fees since the 1990s. Under Labour both costs had to be paid as incurred, unless a student loan was taken out, at commercial interest rates.

    However the fundamental difference is that when the state paid for student fees and living costs, the percentage of young people going to University was c10%. Now it is 50%.

  • Peter Watson 20th Apr '15 - 2:36pm

    @TCO “Under Labour both costs had to be paid as incurred, unless a student loan was taken out, at commercial interest rates.”
    As far as I recall, under Labour student loans were repaid at an interest rate that was below commercial interest rates (and the loan would not increase in real terms since the rate was not more than RPI), and it is under this government that the interest rate was increased to RPI + 3% (and applied sooner).

  • Peter Watson

    I think what is being referee to is that when Labour introduced fees at £1000 they didn’t increase the loan available, assuming students or their families had a spare £1k.

    They did correct that when they raised fees to £3000.

  • David Evans

    “Of course they lost that argument many years ago even in the conservative party (which was a one nation party at the time), and it was funded out of general taxation”

    Out of interest who is/was “they” who were advocating charging for 16 to 19 education? Names and evidence would help.

  • Stephen Hesketh

    ” This was intended to be the main point; those undertaking study via the University route pay whilst those effectively funded by an industrial company plus government-funded training body do not.”

    Well if government subsidy is equal for both options then that is fair. I think we should celebrate private businesses funding / subsidising people’s training, they do it out of self interest so the training is likely to be very important to give the return. If anything I find businesses complaints about the lack of certain skills annoying as they never acknowledge their responsibility to fill the gap.

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