Opinion: Cable may do enough to deserve our support

The coalition government is busy reading through Lord Browne’s report into higher education funding. He has recommended lifting the cap on fees, currently set at £3290 per year. All Liberal Democrat MPs were elected on the understanding that they opposed any rise in fees. But is the level of fee the critical issue here? And why is a graduate tax more popular?

I joined the Liberal Democrats back in 2001, whilst an undergraduate at the University of Warwick. I joined because of opposition to tuition fees. Back then, the tuition fees I opposed were set at just over £1000 and were payable up front. Asking the student to pay before they started their course was hugely regressive. The fees were means-tested but based on family income, not graduate earnings.

When top-up fees were brought in, an improvement was made so that the maximum fee of £3290 per year was made by after graduation, not by students. But the payments start immediately for most graduates, when earnings reach £15,000. The Labour Party model of tuition fees is a graduate poll tax, afflicting all who earn a modest income. Browne recognises that this system of payments is grossly unfair. Graduates are purported to earn an extra £100,000 on average over their lifetimes, but many earn much less and others more. Surely tuition fees, like taxes, should be based on a graduate’s ability to pay? To hear David Blunkett condemning the libdems for even looking at Browne’s recommendations is like taking childcare advice from Herod.

So what has Browne recommended, and should the libdems support it, abstain, or vote against? As well as the headline-grabbing increase in fees, Browne has proposed a more progressive mechanism of payment. Fees will only be paid back after earnings of £21,000. This would allow the poorest 20% of earners to pay less under the proposed system, as they will never pay off their tuition fees, which will now expire after 30 years.

Another radical departure from Blair’s tuition fees is that the level of payment could be directly linked to a graduate’s ability to pay. This could be in the form of a higher rate of interest for higher earners. Vince Cable, who has the unenviable task of formulating the coalition’s detailed policy on fees, has added that there should be penalties for early payment of fees, to prevent richer graduates (or parents) from avoiding interest payments.

The proposal from Lord Browne is remarkably similar to a graduate tax. In fact, under a simple graduate tax, payments would be made for life and would cease if graduates moved abroad, major disadvantages. So the question is: when is a rise in tuiton fees not a rise in tuition fees? When it is a means-tested, post-graduate, variably-taxed tuiton fee. The poor pay less, the middle pay the same and the rich pay more. Isn’t this something that progressives should consider supporting?

If a Liberal Democrat majority government is elected in May 2015, tuition fees should be scrapped. But they are with us for the moment. I haven’t made my mind up on Browne’s proposals and will spend the evenings reading the detail. But if Cable can achieve a more progressive tuition fee, increasing funding for our universities whilst reducing the payments made by low income graduates, then he deserves our support.

Dr. Ben Johnson is a Liberal Democrat member in Bermondsey and Old Southwark and a Research Associate at Imperial College London

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  • Bill Kristol-Balls 15th Oct '10 - 12:41pm

    Isn’t any discussion of a graduate tax utterly meaningless unless the rate is specified so as to allow a proper comparison of the overall cost to the student?

  • You dont mention the fact that we made a pledge Ben. does trust in politics mean nothing to you ?

  • If a Liberal Democrat majority government is elected in May 2015, tuition fees should be scrapped. <– Is that a joke?! Not in a million, billion years will we be elected after all the broken promises.

  • Grammar Police 15th Oct '10 - 12:49pm

    @ Andy, you mean like when the Labour Govt (with a large majority) introduced top up fees in 2004, despite what they said in their 2001 manifesto?

  • You guys better be hoping that this is inaccurate:

    Vote against fees and you destroy UK research, vote for fees and you destroy the chances of the less well off getting a university education.

    Tories have played a blinder if that report is true, either way you get the blame.

  • Sorry Ben, but I think that you are deluding yourself into believing that Vince Cable deserves support – he does not. It is fundamentally wrong to saddle graduates in “the middle” with huge debts of several tens of thousands of pounds regardless of when and how fast they pay them off – all the time the graduate is earning less than £21,000 the amount they owe will be rapidly increasing due to the added interest. And if they don’t manage to pay it all off after 30 years then some other graduate (who is most likely only marginally better off) will have to subsidise them (since the whole point of the exercise is to raise money, so someone will have to pay).

    The Browne Report is fundamentally flawed and unfair from beginning to end. (For example, why does it think it fair that of two similarly qualified graduates (with similar personal wealth) entering equally paid employment one may have a huge debt to repay whereas the other may have nothing to repay?) Anyone who endorses the Browne Report believing it to be ‘fair’ has either been hoodwinked or is incapable of interpreting it correctly! Consequently, the Report should be rejected in its entirety, and all Liberal Democrat MPs (including Messrs Clegg, Cable and Alexander) should honour their pre-election pledges and vote against any attempt to implement this iniquitous and regressive proposal.

  • Exactly what we’re doing wrong, @Grammar Police. Labour Labour Labour blah blah blah. They’re not in power, we are. If the only way we can justify these decisions is to pout and go ‘Yeah – BUT LOOK! Labour blah blah blah’ then we’re not even making an argument. It’s old politics. It’s shoddy argument. And it’s wearing thin.

  • Ben, you make an interesting point, and Cable may do well. But, and it is an important but, the Pledge did not concern a Liberal Democrat Majority Government, the Pledge concerned was to vote against fee increases in any Government.

  • If UK research is so valuable to the country as a whole, why not pay for it out of general taxation?

    If it is not so valuable, why mention it?

  • Geoffrey Payne
    I have given a third solution

  • @Andy So you actually don’t want a party against fees in a majority government?

  • Ben – in politics its far, far too easy to back down, believing its the right thing for your party loyalty.

    Every single Lib Dem MP publically signed a campaign to oppose this. Every single one.

    To say its fine to reverse now – is unforgiveable.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 15th Oct '10 - 1:25pm

    “You guys better be hoping that this is inaccurate:

    I don’t understand that at all. The universities are saying that on the basis of the Browne report they would face cuts of £3.2bn in direct government funding for teaching. But obviously the increased fees would compensate for that.

    They say that the measures for increased fees won’t be in place until 2012. If so, why should they assume on the basis of the Browne report that the direct funding is going to be cut earlier than that? It doesn’t make sense.

  • @Voter: The Labour Party argued vigorously for 10 years that it was unfair to ask the working class, who rarely go to university – to pay for the tuition fees of the better of middle class, who usually go to university. What’s your answer to that?

  • If the working class benefit from good UK research, then they may be willing to pay for it.

    If the working class do not benefit, why are we so keen on it?

  • @ Anthony Aloysius
    – I might be wrong about this, but my reading of this article (which I was about to link!) is that they read between the lines in order to deduce what figures Browne used to base his proposals on – assuming that he was given a preview of Osborne’s plans (which is likely). It looks as if the university teaching budget will be cut by 79%, with different disciplines affected differently. Arts/Humanities/Social sciences might face a 100% (!!) cut, meaning that they’d be entirely reliant on student fees.

    @ Ben
    Among all the nay-sayers, I’d like to say that I welcome your contribution. I think whatever side we are on in this dispute, it’s important to look exactly at what is being proposed. I think it’s going to be tough politicialy whatever happens (a pledge is a pledge!), but I think beyond that, we have to see what these proposals mean – and I think your comparison between the Brown model and a pure tax makes for interesting reading. It would certainly not be a good idea to go for a tax purely for political reasons (i.e. in order to be able to say that the pledge has been kept), and in the process actually land people with bigger payments….

  • The issue is simple. Any discussion supporting raising fees is advocating betrayal.
    The election offered vote benefits to the libdems gained by a press storm of a pledge to oppose any increase in fees, and a manifesto declaration to do away with fees.

    The entire party is morally bound to oppose fee increases. The signed pledge was made , and bandied about as a vote grabber long before any agreements to serve the Tories. It should have precedence. It may not , as sadly the honourable route does not lead to cabinet and ministerial positions.

    Any compromise on raising caps means one thing and one thing alone to most of us, betrayal. People voted libdem as a statement they were sick of tories and Blairites.

    Any libdem support for increasing fees at all is a huge banner declaring libdems cannot be trusted.

    I think the coakitiion and the present parliamentary lib party will damn the party to decades in a political wilderness where Libdem means the same as liar.

    Polls tend to suggest this may well be so in the eyes of others. The actions of the current job hungry parliamentary libdems is not just a deciding factor on whether many will vote for them. The issue the libdems face is whether people will view them as having any credibility as a political entity. At the moment the BNP might well seem more credible as a party (god help us all) . As depraved as we might feel tthem to be, at least we can be certain where their despicable policies really lie.
    If we applied the apparent libdem approach to manifestos and pledges we would have to assume the BNP actually want open and unrestricted immigration for anyone from anywhere.
    Many would say that comparison is ludicrous. Sadly , that is how ridiculous this is.
    And how fundemental it is. Many will be writing the libdem party off as a minor ‘also ran’ never to be taken seriously again becuase it allowed its integrity to stumble over the obstruction of ambition..

    As for the mutterings that the leaders did not know just how bad things were…please. In tthat case why are such incomppetent, clueless , individuals standing for public office.

  • Some posters are getting totally tied up in detail here when there is a huge change underway for university funding which will radically alter future finances for them.

    While we get bogged down in discussing how and who should be paying the increased fees we are losing sight of the coalition government move to slash public university investment which before long may totally disappear – I noticed a blog earlier that said our government is putting less finance into universities than done by Chile. I can’t confirm that this is the case but, if so, it is scary for us but well done Chile yet again.

    So the real argument here is how should we be funding universities – once that is decided we can start working out who pays and if it is students or graduates either paying a portion or the majority of the total costs then we obviously need a fair system which doesn’t leave university education as the preserve of the rich.

    As an aside I would take issue with the Pupil Premium paid to schools for those getting free school meals – is this money that will just be swallowed up by the general school budget to make good on the cuts coming from the Spending Review as there doesn’t seem any commitment that the money will actually be spent on the poorer children.

    I note the £7 billion is just for England so is there going to be a corresponding award to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?

  • Grammar Police 15th Oct '10 - 2:25pm

    @ Andy, my point which you’ve failed to grasp, was not an attack on Labour, nor a justification of the Government’s response to the Browne review based on what Labour have done.

    I am merely pointing out that a Labour Government, with a huge majority (so no need for messy coalition compromises), u-turned on this issue despite a clear commitment in their 2001 manifesto and went on to win the 2005 election. Your original point was about the likelihood of winning an election following the Browne review.

    On the more substantive issue, I would like to see Lib Dem MPs voting against lifting the fees cap (or abstaining at the worst). I would also like to see them voting in favour of the loan repayment proposals in the Browne review and the improvements hinted at in Cable’s statement – and things like removing the requirement for part time students to pay fees up front.

    We all knew that Browne was going to recommend removing the cap. That is why Gordon Brown set up the review, and what was pretty much written into the terms of reference. So why are we suprised? The Coalition Government is not implementing the Lib Dem programme, so why are we suprised that money can’t/won’t be found to phase out fees over 6 years? Let’s also not forget the hundreds of Tories on the Government back-benches too – compared to 57 Lib Dems.

    If the announcement today on the ‘fairness’ premium includes money to support the poorest students, then we could effectively be seeing the end of fees for such students too.

    It’s anything but ideal, but it’s not all bad. Tuition fees are what got me involved in politics – but I am a liberal because I believe that democracy and government is messy and compromised. I CAN understand the conflict between standing firm on this issue, and realising that a majority of the Commons wants higher fees and doing what you can to make the system as good as it can be.

  • I have just looked at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-11550619 which was mentioned by an earlier poster.

    This makes absolutely grim reading.

  • Laurie Eggleston 15th Oct '10 - 2:41pm

    Great article Ben.

    One of the main obsticles to university entry is a lack of places – even if it was free to go, it would be no good if there aren’t enough places. Increasing fees will allow universities to expand, widening access for all. This is a good thing as it will end the madness of clearing and convince people from poorer backgrounds that there is a place for them. Schools in weathy areas spend years prepping well-off kids on how to complete personal statements and sell themselves to gain a precious uni place. Wealthier people will always get a disproportionate amount of places as they’ve spent their lives being coached in getting them.

    Similarly raising the threshold for repayment to £21k will make a big difference, as will the promised increasing of support in grants on a sliding scale for households earning up to £60k. People from really poor backgrounds would dream of earning £21k – it would make university truly aspirational for them as if they get a degree but then still can’t get a high paying job, then they haven’t lost anything. Don’t forget the minimum wage is only around £12k.

    We need to get round the idea that tuition fee debt isn’t like other debts, such as credit cards. If you can’t afford it, you don’t pay it. If you can afford it, you do. Isn’t that progressive?

    We should accept that fees will rise, and campaign vigorously now for as a high a threshold as possible, and a writing off of any remaining fees debt (by government) after as early a time as possible. That’s a battle we can win on.

    I know our MPs pledged not to increase fees, but let’s be honest they did so at a time they never expected to have to honour that pledge.

    I will add my voices though to those criticising the way the leadership has arrogantly handled this issue.

  • The government is implementing a Lib Dem programme merely by virtue of being in coalition.

    And I suspect you are comparing apples with oranges. The relative weakness of the opposition to Labour allowed them in.

    The Lib Dem campaigned on a different type of politics. Going back on a pledge does not entirely fit in

  • @Grammar Police

    And did Labour make tuition fees a clarion call? Did every Labour MP sign a public pledge against tuition fees? It’s funny how you say tuition fees are what got you into politics. Yet you are so sanguine about this betrayal of the electorate.

  • Richard Morris 15th Oct '10 - 2:53pm

    @ Laurie. The argument that the MP’s signed the pledge never expecting to be in a position to implement it just won’t wash. Firstly, polls for a good couple of years before the election regularly indicated that a hung parliament was a likely scenario – and the Lib Dems were always likely to be the party helping form a coalition. And secondly, what are we meant to say in 2015 – “we’re saying whatever we like becasue we expect to lose?” I don’t think so.

  • Laurie Eggleston 15th Oct '10 - 3:06pm

    @Richard Morris

    Indeed. I don’t think scrapping fees was ever a prospect though to be honest, even if we had won a majority, and we shouldn’t therefore have promised it. If we are going to expand access to uni then we have to increase funding – the public wouldn’t accept the increase in taxes that would be needed to pay for it (regretably). So if we were going to scrap fees, we’d have to limit access. This is a lesson for the party in promising things we can’t deliver.

  • Increasing fees to over £500 for humanities degrees would be heinously unfair.

    Students do not each get £5000 worth of teacheing or facilities.

    University fees are, at the moment, being mainly used to pay for university research.

    The government removing its subsidy of fees would mean that students would be paying mostly for university research, not the value of their course.

    Teaching skills and hours are already atocious in many universities, asking students to cough up more for no improvement is deeply immoral.

    Perhaps students should fund the cost of their course (except perhaps science students), whilst the government should fund the cost of research.

  • I emant £5000 in my first sentence above*

  • If graduates pay different amounts of income-linked contributions for a fixed period AND are not obliged to clear the “debt” if it is not paid after 30 years AND are not obliged to pay until they hit a threshold income AND cannot pay off the “debt” in advance … why are we calling this a fee and not a tax? It seems to walk like a tax and talk like a tax!

    Or even if Vince doesn’t want to use the “T” word, can’t we just abolish tuition fees and create a time-limited student contribution scheme in the way described above and, in that way, be able to stick to the election pledge?

  • @Rob – Tuition fees are mostly spent on the salary of teaching and administrative staff.

    The salary of research staff and equipment costs comes from grants awarded by the Hefce and Research Councils UK, which is paid for by general taxation, not undergraduate student contributions.

  • Ben Johnson 15th Oct '10 - 3:25pm

    I wish the money was there to fund universities through general taxation, but it is not.

    The practical consequences of the Browne review is that tuition fees are de facto scrapped for poorer graduates (if their earnings don’t go over £21000, something Cable asked Browne to look at). There will also be more money for grants, and indeed the new student premium announced today may cover living costs or fees for poorer students (related to the pupil premium manifesto commitment).

    The headline fees have gone up, which I oppose. But overall the new fees will be more progressive than we had before (according to the IFS). This is the libdem influence on the coalition.

  • @Laurie

    “We should accept that fees will rise, and campaign vigorously now for as a high a threshold as possible, and a writing off of any remaining fees debt (by government) after as early a time as possible. That’s a battle we can win on.

    I know our MPs pledged not to increase fees, but let’s be honest they did so at a time they never expected to have to honour that pledge.”

    Are you serious? Are you really going to say that because Nick Clegg and all them other Liberal Democrat MPs who signed declarations declaring that they would vote no to ANY GOVERNMENT that tries to introduce raising tuition fee’s.
    Because they didn’t truly believe that they would be voted by the electorate to form a coalition government, They only signed these declarations to court the student’s vote.
    And now they find themselves in unanticipated coalition, That they should be allowed forgo on those election promises/pledges?

    This is absurd.

    I am also tired of hearing Con/Lib say that they where unaware just how bad the deficit was before they came in to power.
    Utter Rubbish, The deficit is now less than what was anticipated at the start of the election campaign and less than the figures that where provided to the Tory and Liberal Democrat party in order for them to write and cost their election manifesto’s.

    I would also like to hear from Libdem’s if they fully support the conservatives plan to totally remove the Budget deficit over this parliament?

    If they do fully support the conservatives on these savage and deep cuts that will hit the poorest and most vulnerable in society as well as the middle income earners, Then maybe they would like to also explain the following.

    When labour won the election in 1997 they inherited a budget deficit of 42% of GDP ran up by the Conservative Government. Labour managed to pay down that deficit to 29% of GDP by 2002 from 2002 onwards there where small increases year on year to the deficit. However look at the vast improvement that where made to the NHS, Education etc.

    By 2008 the deficit was still only 39% of GDP (less than what was inherited from the Tories in 1997) but we vast improvements to public services to show for it.

    from 2008 onwards the banking crisis began and the government was forced to bail out the banks and pump vasts amount on cash in to the economy to prevent the collapse.

    Our Deficit is now what 64% of GDP and that is due to the costs of lending to the banks.

    Do people really expect to Tories not to run a budget deficit considering the 42% it had ran up till 1997?

    And do you really expect the Tories not to destroy our public services that WE HAVE ALL WORKED so hard for in the last 13 years?

    Get Real

    Liberal Democrats need to start asking themselves the question. Are they really acting in the National Interest by dropping their core beliefs and supporting this coalition government and savage cuts to public spending.

  • Ben Johnson 15th Oct '10 - 3:27pm

    Totally agree with Ed.

    It is a grad tax in all but name. Indeed, it is only for a fixed-term, so it is better than a grad tax!

  • Laurie Eggleston 15th Oct '10 - 3:29pm

    Hmm… perhaps Vince should have been more savvy in how the package is branded. i.e: “we’re scrapping fees! But replacing them with variable earnings-linked repayments…”

  • And if Liberal Democrats are still unwilling to heed my warnings on the Tories intentions.
    To overtime destroy the Liberal Democrats into Insignificance, so that they can dissolve parliament and go to the polls again and win a majority government. Then I suggest you read this http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/blog/

    Conservative Home has two new Constituency polls conducted by Populus for Michael Ashcorft and looking at the constituencies of Nick Clegg and Chris Huhne.
    Full tables are on Lord Ashcroft’s website here and here.
    Taking Eastleigh first, Chris Huhne’s seat is a Con/LD marginal. In 2005 it was an ultra-marginal with only 568 votes in it, in 2010 Chris Huhne extended his majority to 3864 (7%) – the shares of the vote were LD 47%, CON 39%, LAB 10%. Lord Ashcroft’s poll has currently voting intention in Eastleigh at CON 42%(+3), LAB 21%(+11), LDEM 31%(-16) – suggesting the Lib Dem vote collapsing towards Labour and letting the Conservatives through.

    Moving onto Sheffield Hallam, this is currently a pretty safe Lib Dem seat for Nick Clegg, with the Conservatives currently in a distant second place. The topline figures for general voting intention in the Populus poll are LDEM 33%(-20), LAB 31%(+15), CON 28%(+4): an even bigger collapse from the Lib Dems to Labour, but as Labour start off in third place Nick Clegg narrowly holds on.

    Isn’t it time Liberal Democrats asked themselves WHY IS LORD ASHCROFT conducting polls on his own supposed coalition partners.
    Is it possible he is testing the temperature and to see if it is time to recommend to the Conservatives to pull out Coalition and steal Liberal Democrat seats?

    I wonder!!!!!!!

  • It has been clear for some time that universities in this country coud not feasibly be provided with the funding they deperately need without substantial contribution from graduates. The real mistake the Lib Dems made was to maintain right up to the election a thoroughly unrealistic policy on tuition fees in an attempt to garner student votes.

    Now that we are in government (and we should have realised there was every possibility that we would be this time) let’s ensure that never again will we put forward in opposition policies that we must know we will not be able to deliver in government.

    What bothers me is that our Federal Policy Committee has just met and reiterated the complete phasing out of tuition fees as longer term party policy. The next election is some years away. If anyone thinks we can get away with campaigning in that election on a policy of NIL tuition fees they need their head examined.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 15th Oct '10 - 4:09pm

    “indeed the new student premium announced today may cover living costs or fees for poorer students (related to the pupil premium manifesto commitment).”

    As noted on the other thread, this additional money can only be around 15% of what Browne already recommends should go into maintenance grants for students from lower-income families, so it’s not going to make a major difference to anything.

  • Yes I agree what Browne proposes is not all bad, and in fact is probably the best we are going to get (well, after Vince has done the tweak to stop early repayment buying you out of interest).
    We cannot get away from the fact that this was a pledge. Vince is stuck with supporting the legislation. So probably is Nick. The rest of the ministers should take the terms of the coalition agreement and abstain. And the backbenchers should vote against. End of.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 15th Oct '10 - 4:14pm

    “I note that despite the terrible impression that the party has given the electorate this week, we still held a seat on Winchester City Council yesterday comfortably.”

    It’s also interesting that the party’s rating in the daily YouGov polls is unchanged at 11-12%, so perhaps the sound and fury in the blogosphere that followed the announcement was a bit misleading.

  • Grammar Police

    I am merely pointing out that a Labour Government, with a huge majority (so no need for messy coalition compromises), u-turned on this issue despite a clear commitment in their 2001 manifesto and went on to win the 2005 election. Your original point was about the likelihood of winning an election following the Browne review.

    Labour didn’t break their 2001 manifesto commitment, tuition fees were not introduced until the 2005 parliament and Labour won the 2005 election with people knowing tuition fees would be part of the next parliament if Labour won.

    Now it was definitely a case of spin and people were unhappy about it, that’s why the legislation for that next parliament only just about passed, despite Labour’s huge majority.

    Yes Labour did do a U-Turn, but they did go to the country before the changes were implemented, had they lost the 2005 election, opposition parties would have scrapped the legislation.

  • I believe there is a fundamental difference between a paragraph in a manifesto to which party candidates collectively endorse and a pledge signed individually.
    I believe there is a fundamental difference between a paragraph in a manifesto which party candidates endorse collectively and a pledge signed individually.
    Sorry but I just can’t accept that Nick, Vince and the rest of the high quality economists on our opposition front bench were unaware of the magnitude of the debt. All made speeches about it. In any event, with the exception of Vince’s warnings about personal debt, I can’t recall any measure involving labour Government expenditure other than identity cards proposals which was opposed by our Party in opposition! Perhaps you can put me right on that. We were certainly vociferous in supporting the bail-out of the banks and would have bailed out Northern Rock months earlier!

  • Philip Ling 15th Oct '10 - 7:02pm

    In a coalition you need to work to a coalition agreement, the agreement for the current parliament did not include a firm line on tuition fees and pretty much said it’d be Tory policy. I myself signed the pledge on tuition fees but also campaignd heavily on the 4 key things the Lib Dems wanted to deliver:

    1. Raise the income tax threshold to £10k, taking 4m out of tax altogether
    2. Introduce a pupil premium for children from the poorest backgrounds
    3. Focus the economy mroe on manufacturing and green technology and sort out the banks
    4. Get rid of first past the post and clean up politics.

    Clegg himself (in better days) said they were 4 key things to remember. I went round campaigning on them. Tuition fees was yes we want to get rid of them but we knew in a coalition (with any of the parties) that it was the above 4 we needed to negotiate on. We have done and slowly but surely they are being implemented.

    I completely want to get rid of tuition fees, and sometimes people are prepared to accept our proposal on tuition fees, like the Lib-Lab coalition government in Scotland. In fact we don’t believe in power over principle, shown again in Scotland where we would not work with the SNP due to some of their demands. In the instance of the Tory -Lib coalition for the UK we got so much out of it Paddy Ashdown said “Fuck it! Let’s do the deal”.

    We didn’t win the general election or we’d implement as much as we could of our manifesto. As it is we’re introducing a lot of things and as Lib Dems we need to keep reminding people of what we’re doing that they voted for, rather than be treated as a punching bag.

  • @philip

    “as Lib Dems we need to keep reminding people of what we’re doing that they voted for, rather than be treated as a punching bag”

    And as Voters we need to keep reminding Libdems that they are implementing policies that we didn’t vote for.

    We did not vote libdems into office to agree to such deep and savage cuts to public services, welfare and Education !

  • @Philip Ling

    But philip if you’d signed the pledge prior to the election then it would be your duty to only go into government with a partner that would allow you to vote against a rise in tuition fees.

    Did you sign a pledge on any of the other policies? No

    It was your fault, and Nick’s, for signing that pledge in order to steal votes… and it transpires some MP’s seem to have had no intention of honoring their word.

    IF you had thought that you would ahve to comrpomise on this issue, then you shouldn’t have signed te pledge, simple.Lib Dem Mps would have had to have been extremely stupid not to realise that this would be an issue when negotiating a deal.

    Now that you’ve probably won most of the student vote through making this promise, this pledge, which you are bound to keep… sInce Lib Dem Mps are breaking their part of the contrac,t can Lib Dem voters break their’s and take back their vote.

    THis pusillanimus excuses and drivel mean nothing to lib dem members and voters, Lib Dem MP’s made their bed so must lie in it. Either vote against a fee rise or resign.

  • Forgive my spelling etc, I am dyslexic and it only seems to get worse when I’m angry, who would have though eh?

  • I think the most disgusting thing about this government, and all British governemnts… is that they behave like little children divorced from the real world. When you are in the real world it is simply not enough to say ‘sorry, we were wrong’, that doesn’t cut it, you have the country in your hands and your power is granted by the people, therefore you serve them. If you make a mistake, if you lie to the eletorate, you must be punished- sacked, removed from office. Just like, in the real world (with lower stakes), if you lied at work you would be held accountable and sacked.

    These poltiicains seem to think they are accountable to no one, and are behaving as such. THe correct thing to do would be for them to resign, as they would be sacked for this kind of behaviour in any other job.

    I suppose this sense of entitlement to power and lack of responsibility for your actions can only be reared in the most expensive public schools and the most elite of universities.

  • I’m a bit suspicious of what’s going on, as I said earlier, Labour tried to spin their way out of their U-Turn, the Lib Dems ran smack bang middle into owning up, if we had a Lib Dem government, I’d put it down to them being naive, but we have a coalition government and surely the Tory machine are experienced enough to know that the fallout would be bad if they didn’t dress it up as working towards a better solution, something feels amiss about this whole episode.

  • Just a small point about the overall wisdom of changing to an American style free market Higher Education system.

    What was at the heart of the Credit Crunch ? Massive Debt.
    What values are we passing on to future generations with this U-Turn ?
    You must be willing to get yourself into huge debt to better yourself.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 16th Oct '10 - 12:21am

    “Should he try to get the best deal he can for students, even if that means breaking his pledge? Or should he withdraw from working for that deal, make a symbolic vote against the rise in tuition fees, and thus allow a worse deal for students to pass into law?”

    I don’t understand this. The Tories don’t have a majority in the House of Commons. You seem to be assuming that if the Lib Dems honour their pledge the Tories will punish them by doing something worse. But how can they, without a majority in the Commons?

    Of course, if the cuts/savings aren’t made here, and if the Lib Dems are going to persist with the cuts agenda, then they’ll have to be made elsewhere. But wasn’t that always the logic of the pledge? In fact, wasn’t that the whole point of it?

  • George Kendall, the problem with your critique of those who oppose the cuts agenda with their alternative solution of raising taxes is that there is that many of the measures being proposed or taken by the coalition amount to targeted tax rises on specific groups. If implemented, the Browne proposals will be very telling in this regard. The proposal to retrieve the loan from pay at the rate of 9pence in the pound for up to 30years is in effect a tax, stopping child benefit is removing a benefit that could be retrieved by increasing tax by less than the overall cost to those who will lose it, stopping tax relief on pension contributions at the higher rates is also effectively a tax rise. They all have the same effect of reducing the diposable income of those particular groups.
    If it is considered too damaging to raise taxes by 9% for all people in order to resolve the deficit then why is it not damaging to effectively tax those who happen to be graduates for the bulk of their working lives at 9% on top of the basic rate? Why is it that the coalition and you think that if you tax someone on the basis of some particularity then it will not be damaging to the economy but if you tax that same person on the equal basis of their income then it will?

  • @George

    “The same, of course, is true for those who don’t agree with immediate cuts.

    If they want to go with the Labour plan, with the deficit reduced more slowly, then the cuts would just be delayed, That delay could mean more cuts, because the extra debt caused by having the deficit for few more years would mean higher interest payments, which would increase the deficit”

    People are still failing to remember that the bulk of the deficit is owed to us by the Banks and due to the Vast amounts of money that is still being supplied by the Bank of England in these Austerity measures.

    If the banks where forced to repay the monies that are owed to us WITH INTEREST we would not be needing to make these savage and deep cuts to public spending.

    If the banks repaid all the monies it cost us to bail them out in the banking crisis. Our Budget Deficit would be 39%of GDP which is less than the 42% of GDP that we inherited from the conservatives in 1997.

    I still fail to see why the public seem to be rolling over and thinking it is ok for these banks to owe us these vast amounts of money, whilst as a result we face savage cuts to public services.

    If we have a loan, over draft, credit card with the banks we are charged ridiculously high Interest Payments. And if we make Minimum Monthly repayments of that debt we constantly incur higher interest that doesn’t even service the debt. (Why is the Government, not applying the same standards to the bank)?

    If the banks made monthly repayments to the government to repay this debt, we would not be having such massive cuts.

    But NO, not only are the bankers still paying themselves huge bonuses with OUR TAXES, it is thought that the banks are going to need another bail out in 2011.
    After examining Bank of England data, New Economics Foundation (NEF) thinktank said that British banks may require another State bailout next year as they appear to face a “funding cliff”.

    The NEF said that the banks’ borrowings could reach £25bn a MONTH in its report.

    The NEF’s report outlined that banks have a deadline of January 2012 to repay £185bn borrowed from the Bank of England against £287bn of illiquid assets – most of which are residential mortgage backed securities.

    People need to wake up and see things for how there really are.

  • George Kendall, surely there has to come a time when you stand up for a principle and stop hiding behind ‘parliamentary arithmetic’. There is no difference between raising taxes by 9% on existing graduates and other non-graduate high earners than there is in raising them for future graduates. All of the scare stories about how the economy will go to hell in a handcart if you tax the wealthiest apply equally to rich future graduates as to presently existing ones. So why aren’t present income taxes being raised? The whole of the deficit could be settled with a one off tax of the wealthiest 10% of less than 5% of their worth, it has 74% approval rating as a policy according to one researcher that appeared on Newsnight a couple of weeks ago. Why isn’t it being considered? There are many alternative routes to take out of the current problems and your analysis that a delayed repayment of the debt only holds up if growth is the same or lower than that achieved under the current policy, most analysis I’ve read say that growth would be higher and unemployment lower. Your macro-analysis doesn’t take employment into account at all. Slower cuts with lower unemployment mean a huge difference at the bottom of the pile, not so much at the top. Osbourne’s parrotted comments that slower cuts could mean deeper cuts may be true, highly unlikely but maybe, but for those at the bottom the real life effects could be entirely the opposite. Work or no work, a roof over the head or out on the street, capped benefits for your five children or a wage packet to support them.
    I read a comment from Alan Budd I think. He had worked on the economic policies of the early Thatcher government. He lamented that he hoped the honest work he had done would not be used as a justification to create vast unemployment as a pool of available labour and flexibility just so that the wealthiest could use it in order to become vastly more wealthy. Yet if we look at history that is exactly what happened, unemployment up from 700,000 in 1979 to 3,500,000 by 1983 and left to hover around 3,000,000 until 1996 when it started to drop and was vastly reduced for the next 13 years. The Lib Dems should be constantly on guard that they are not going to be this governments patsy in justifying the ideological shift back to high unemployment and starved public services.

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