Opinion: The Four Boxes – why the student occupation should be denounced

There is a rather American saying which runs along the lines of “We have four boxes with which to defend our freedom: the soap box, the ballot box, the jury
, and the ammo box. In that order”.

It becomes a good way of putting Wednesday’s violence in context, particularly for those that are trying to argue some similarity between the suffragette movement and student fees. That movement had no choice but to resort to violent occupation because the very thing its members were campaigning for was access to the ballot box.

But rather than the entire NUS executive distancing themselves from the action and denouncing it as the work of a few extremists, one NUS National Executive member is calling for even more of the same and a letter is circulating, signed by various NUS and Student Union figures, claiming that the occupation was not just a small group of extremists. The letter claims it as a “good natured” occupation, but Laurie Penny was there and described it as a riot.

Yes, there was anger at fees but the anger about “betrayal” of those that voted for the Lib Dems was manufactured by the National Union of Students and as Lib Dem canvassers will have realised quite quickly, an accusation of “betrayal” on the doorstep is code for “I voted Labour”. It was, as we know, the Unions that elevated Ed Milliband to the leadership of the Labour Party, someone whose policy is not to attack
the Conservatives but rather make the Lib Dems extinct.

And yes, there was anger at fees but there was anger at Blair’s Wars too. Up to 2,000,000 people marched over Iraq, but there was no violent occupation and
few arrests despite being over ten times larger than the NUS march.

Where was this anger when Labour introduced fees and then president of the NUS (future Labour Councillor, special advisor to Labour Deputy Mayor of London and Labour PPC for Milton Keynes North in 2010) called
on the Labour government to conduct an independent review? Hardly strong stuff.

And where was the anger when Labour increased fees to £3,000? That time, the NUS President managed a little better, getting between 10,000 and 31,000 at a rally and calling on Labour ministers to “do the honourable thing”. She went on to become special advisor to Labour MP Tessa Jowell and perhaps the lack of appropriate humility in the face of a Labour government then cost her a shot at the parliamentary seat granted to 7 of her 8 Labour predecessors.

Returning to the ballot box from our opening and to quote a line that’s starting to get a little tired: If you wanted LibDem policies, you should have voted LibDem and not, as your cries of “betrayal” reveal, for Labour. There may be debate within the party on the topic of fees and I, along with many, disagree with the current position of the parliamentary party leadership on this. But this only came about because we’re junior partner in a coalition. I have no doubt that if we were in power on our own, this would not be happening.

The only winners from the march are those planning on going on to future political careers. Many students stand to gain anyway, as the proposals will actually reduce fees for many. But for those who really wanted to campaign for fees, the partisan rhetoric that was such a major part of the march will just have served to alienate wavering MPs of the one party that might have done something about it: the Lib Dems.

* Zoe O’Connell is a Lib Dem member and blogs at Complicity.co.uk.

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  • Tony Greaves 14th Nov '10 - 2:26pm

    So why did the Labour Party Government set up the Brown review when it knew perfectly well what it would recommend?

    And what is the sense in tryingto “decapitate” LD MPs and get instead Tories who would go for unlimited fees and who would not have put in a lot of the protections for poorer students and graduates?

    It’s time the NUS grew up.

    Tony Greaves

  • This article makes me angrier than anything I have ever read on Libdemvoice – and I am strongly opposed to the violence.

    After the election I had several discussions with sensible Lib Dem members about why it was unlikely that people like me, who would consider themselves Labour supporters but who live in Con / Lib Dem marginals and have almost always voted Lib Dem, would not do so in the future. Several asked thoughtful questions about what would persuade me to change my mind. Maybe I would have relented in the end (there are many areas where I strongly disapproved of the actions of the last Labour government) but articles like yours confirm that first view.

    You have adopted two typical tory practices. Firstly, you effectively dismiss as liars anyone who says that they a Lib Dem and who feels betrayed by the fees u-turn, claiming they are all Labour voters. Does this include the party president? Secondly, you use the worst Daily Mail stereotyping to smear your opponents – Ed Milliband was not elevated by the unions to the Labour leadership and well you know it. So much for ‘the new politics’.

    Incidentally, if you really want to know why we feel betrayed, look up the word pledge in the dictionary. My disgust is not about the abandonment of policy by a party – it is about the abandonment of a personal commitment by individuals.

  • Joe Anderson 14th Nov '10 - 2:33pm


    LDs used the NUS and its pledge to get themselves elected. I think the NUS are rightly annoyed that they will go back on their word (which was to vote against any rise; remember Labour and Tory MPs signed it even though it wasn’t party policy, so it was a personal promises). LDs shouldn’t be able to get off scot free by blaming everything on the party they chose to enter Coalition with.

    The Browne Review was set up by the previous government, but its recommendations didn’t have to be accepted and I think lots of MPs in Labour would have voted against it had Labour tried to implement what this Government is doing.

    Zoe, I agree with Mike and think you’re in denial. I know a lot of people who voted Lib Dem for the first time in 2010 and have said ‘never again’; there is a genuine sense of betrayal, its not some narrative just invented by the Labour Party or NUS. You’d think polling at 10% from receiving 23% of the vote would make that clear to you.

    It’s pathetic you’re trying to attack the entire NUS over the actions of a few militants. It’s classic Tory strategy to attack unions to distract people from the issues students/workers are facing. It’s truly pathetic, especially when you consider how many seats the NUS pledge and Vote for Students helped the Lib Dems win.

  • Richard Smith 14th Nov '10 - 2:35pm

    I voted Lib Dem, I feel completely betrayed, I am certain that I have been lied to. Which bit of that can you spin away in this childish manner? You have sold the vulnerable in society for some nice offices and official cars, you are beneath contempt. Nothing washes that stain away, certainly not what Mike rightly calls ‘infantile obfuscation’.

  • You are mistaken, i genuinely did vote LidDem for the first time, I photographed my ballot paper & emailed it all MSPs & local Councillors in Scotland, so that fact can’t be disputed. I despise the Conservatives and everything they stand for, I feel personally betrayed by the LibDems for taking my vote and running to them with it.


  • I Voted Labour it’s true, but only because of the constituency in which I find myself Living There was a slim chance of Keeping the Tories out, but in my constituency a Lib Dem vote would be utterly, utterly wasted, Previous to this, in a different constituency I had voted Lib Dem for three elections in a row, two of the three times successfully voting in a Lib Dem MP. To say that accusing the Lib Dems of betrayal is code for I voted Labour is rank self serving intellectual lazyness, trying to distract From an actual betrayal.

    A lot of students (and I am not one, but used to work in an educational establishment, and encountered many students and their parents who had been attracted to the LibDem cause by the firm commitment that had been made to the cause of removing fees. To find out that the party heirarchy had been planning to throw students and their concerns under the bus in a shabby run for power is a betrayal however you try to sugar coat it.

  • The anger regarding “Betrayal” was not manufactured by the student union. Do you really think that students are that gullible. Lib Dems pounded the floors at universities courting the student vote with what turned out to be a false pledge.

    Yes we can all accept that the full policy on fees cannot be implemented, that is the price of coalition. But candidates made personal pledges that they are going to break. They are the architects of their own problems.

    As for the violence it should be roundly condemed. There is a difference between a sit in in a public area and one where you need to break plate glass windows. The first is legitimate the second criminal…

    And please what does this have to do with Labour betrayals ? That’s why they were booted out by the electorate, if the Lib Dems keep using the “we’re only as bad as Labour” defence they really will be in for a shock come the next election.

    @Tony Greaves Perhaps the reason for targeting the Lib Dems who break their pledge is that they feel they have ended up with Psuedo-Tories anyway. If they don’t want to be targeted they just have to choose the division that reflects their personal pledge. It’s all about integrity.

  • John Richardson 14th Nov '10 - 2:48pm

    There hasn’t been a vote yet. So far nobody has been “betrayed”. Many Lib Dem MPs have already said they will vote against it. If you have a Lib Dem MP express your view to him directly. If you don’t have a Lib Dem MP then you have no idea how your local candidate would have voted. You have no business calling him a liar.

  • Joe Anderson 14th Nov '10 - 2:53pm

    John, I have a Lib Dem MP, my friends voted for him (I thank heavens didn’t). Even though he went on about how outraged he was about Labour’s introduction of tuition fees, in the local media, he’s only talking about a possible abstention; he’s not fighting loudly for his constituents. The betrayal has begun and will become even more evident after a vote.

  • Richard Smith 14th Nov '10 - 2:54pm

    John Richardson – I contacted my Lib Dem MP 2 weeks ago to remind him of the pledge he signed. So far no reply…
    How many Lib Dem MPs do you think will rebel? Like every other time – a number between nil and zero. People like Hughes and Cable have shown themselves to be utterly spineless.

  • I really wish people understood this policy. It’s really not a big deal seeing as no graduate that never goes on to earn much money is going to be burdened by this in any way.

    I personally don’t have a problem with this policy as I’m an economic liberal, but the Lib Dems should never have signed the pledge, it was just asking for trouble.

  • John Richardson 14th Nov '10 - 3:23pm

    Sam, quite so. Many students, particularly the poorest, will be much better off under the proposed system. In many ways I don’t understand the NUS’s position. They are not against a progressive graduate contribution system; they did, after all, campaign for a graduate tax. I think the big hurdles to acceptance for this policy are not the practicalities but the psychological effects of the terms ‘fees’ and ‘debt’. Students would do well to sit down with a pen and paper and see how it will really effect them. A lot of the rhetoric coming out of the NUS that it will put a stop to the poor attending university at all is demonstrably nonsense. It makes them sound like ignorant idiots, which I’m sure they are not.

    If Lib Dem MPs veto these measures an alternative will have to be found. I dare say, at best, it will be a stay of execution until after the next election. At which point something similar will be introduced by the governing party. Until and unless there is ever a majority Lib Dem government tuition fees will be here stay. It is not the policy of any other party to abolish them.

  • I read this and wondered if it was satire. All those who claim to feel betrayed by a Lib Dem u-turn on tuition fees are actually Labour voters? All NUS presidents are Labour plants, simply looking to please their masters and land a cushy job? Ed Miliband: the union puppet out which is relevant because the NUS is a union?

    Then I realised it wasn’t comedy and was serious which is quite perplexing.

    You start the article off with the perfectly valid and understandable objective of denouncing the occupation of the Tory HQ by a breakaway group of protesters from the march. By the end, after turning your article into a logical fallacy bingo card, you seem to denounce the entire march. One NUS executive is a bit of an idiot and condones the violence, therefore the entire is probably the same (presumably because they’re picking on the Lib Dems, the big old Labour meanies). The entre march is also apparently nothing more than a few people trying to further their political career.


  • @sam

    For graduates that will earn under £21,000 for their entire life, I’m sure it will be fine but the minute they stick their head above the parapet, it starts to be a very big deal. For a start we have the change to the interest rate put on this loan which at present stands as something in line with inflation but will change to something 3% above that. That means students could be looking at an interest rate of nearly 5%. Unless they land themselves one of the few incredibly well paying jobs in the hypothetical job market and are able to pay of this debt quickly, they will end up paying off far more than their course cost. Plus this debt will hang over them for 30 years before it’s finally cancelled (which is of course be another financial time bomb waiting to happen go off). A graduate will be 50 before they can stop worrying about paying back their student loan. This, of course, on top of pension payments and mortgage payments. Considering how the idea of it being ridiculously unfair to burden the young with the debt is being used to justify the whole deficit reduction programme, I find it bizarre how easily people seem to find it to say it’s okay to do just that for students.

  • “an accusation of “betrayal” on the doorstep is code for “I voted Labour”

    Un-bloody-believable, perhaps if you take your head out of the sand and looked up you’ll see just how wrong that statement is, not to mention insulting.

    (If that is code for ‘I voted Labour’ why didn’t Labour win a landslide victory? they certainly should of done if your assumption is correct)

  • @Zoe
    The Labour-NUS link is as old as the hills. It really is not worth getting so worked up about. It’s just not important enough.

    I can assure you feeling betrayed is not code for Labour voting. If you had actually been canvassing you would realise that on the doorstep there is a lot of negativity towards the Lib Dems and this ranges from scepticism to strong hostility. We are really struggling to persuade members to go out on to the doorstep at the moment. That said a group of us did just that this morning and there seems to have been a bit of a shift. Less negativity towards us individually but much more towards Clegg. It maybe that he just performed poorly e.g. PMQ and that has attracted attention or it could be that he is becoming the lightning rod for voter unhappiness. This may be our best bet – the Party survives but the leadership doesn’t.

  • It’s a good article, Zoe. You’re spot on in your analysis, and it’s clearly struck home as the straw men put up in the comments show.

    A couple of observations:

    If students can’t work out that under the new proposals they will be better off than they were under the existing scheme, then they’ve probably not bright enough to be going to university in the first place. If they draw their opinions from only what the national media / NUS / the Labour party have said on this issue, they’re probably not intellectually rigorous enough to benefit from going to university.

    There have been no ‘lies’ told that could or should excuse the amount of vitriol generated by this issue. Yes, some Lib Dem MPs will go back on a personal pledge – which is a matter of integrity for them as it would be an MP of any party who made such a strong pledge on an issue – but it really isn’t some sort of personal slight against voters.

    Please everyone calm down – I worry that you’ll drain yourselves of bile and get indigestion!

  • “This may be our best bet – the Party survives but the leadership doesn’t.”

    However sad that statement sounds, I think your absolutely spot on

  • .
    I’ve just sent off a cheque payable to the “National Union of Students.”

    ‘Funding Our Future Campaign’
    NUS HQ
    4th Floor
    184-192 Drummond Street
    NW1 3HP

  • I disagree with the points you make, but thanks for the link to Laurie Penny’s article: I found that made a strong case against your arguements, in a beautiful and moving way.

  • Right, let’s sort this out.

    Everyone who is arguing FOR this raise in tuition fees seems to see things ONLY from the perspective of the student, ie how it will make things better for them because they’ll probably end up not really paying all, or even any, of the fees charged.

    Let me ask this: Where will all that money to pay the loans to universities come from? How long will it be before the country starts seeing any of that money back in repayments, given the lack of graduate jobs and the vast flooding of graduates into the market? Who will end up filling the inevitable funding black hole?

    Not only that, but the student loans service is not considered to be public funding therefore doesn’t count towards the Government’s budget cut figures. They’ll cut public services, but quite a large chunk of the funds freed from those cuts will not go to servicing the debt, but to servicing the financial black holes in other areas that the Tories will leave. Gideon didn’t do his homework.

    Yes, I am a Labour supporter. No, I’ve never been a University student. But I know many Lib Dem voters and supporters who, because of the actions of their party in being complicit in the Tory shafting of this country, will no longer vote Lib Dem. Well done, you’ve successfully killed your party.

  • Boris Johnson and David Cameron are quite right to condemn students who vandalise private property except of course if they happen to be wealthy Oxford undergraduates who belong to a club with a tradition of vandalising private property.

  • LabourLiberal 14th Nov '10 - 4:20pm

    What a bizarre article.

    No, not all student protestors are merely trouble-making Labour voters. I’m a student, and I voted Labour. But I understand, and sympathise with, the very genuine sense of betrayal amongst many friends of mine who voted Lib Dem on the basis of their pledge to a “NO” vote on any rise. That Labour backtracked on their manifesto claims on fees is irrelevant: firstly because two wrongs don’t make a right, and secondly because the Lib Dems went so much further in their campaigning anyway. They didn’t just put some stuff in their manifesto, they went to the trouble of committing all their MPs, in writing, to that particular policy – note they didn’t sign a pledge on STV, or nuclear power, or any other policies – thus making it the cornerstone of their campaign, in university constituencies particularly. And they compounded this by campaigning on a “new politics” stance, whereby the U-turns and backtracking of previous elections would become a thing of the past. All of which adds up to make this U-turn much more substantial. And explains why so many of my LD-voting friends feel the way they do: yes, their feeling of betrayal is lessened by the fact that the party membership generally disagree with the policy, and that many LD MPs – including the one in my university constituency – are preparing to rebel. But that’s small comfort whilst the party leaders continue to support the policy.

    And then the author gives another airing to the old fallacy of: “I have no doubt that if we were in power on our own, this would not be happening.”. You don’t say? Voters aren’t idiots. They’re all very well aware that if the LDs had a majority, the pledges would become irrelevant, because there wouldn’t be a vote on tuition fees – the LDs would put their policies in place instead. It was perfectly apparent, when the pledges were signed, that they were only relevant if the LDs held a minority of seats in Parliament, and therefore one of the other majors parties proposed a fees rise. The implication was that, in such an instance, the LDs would become the voice of those who opposed such a rise, in the ensuing debates. Because of the U-turn, voters holding that view are now left without a voice in Parliament – hence the “betrayal”.

    Incidentally – you’re right, the NUS does have a long history of supporting Labour. Which is why it was such a coup for your party to woo their support in the recent election. Surely you don’t seriously believe that NUS’s backing of the LDs was just a front, so that they could become an attack dog in the following months and finish off the LDs for good? That’s ridiculous. The support the NUS gave to the LDs was entirely genuine, based on the belieft that their traditional allies were no longer the party which best represented students’ views. The LDs enthusiastically played up that image. That the NUS has now returned to Labour isn’t indicative of some secretive long-standing ploy; merely the fact that the LDs have failed to live up to that image.

  • @Alex

    “If they draw their opinions from only what the national media / NUS / the Labour party have said on this issue, they’re probably not intellectually rigorous enough to benefit from going to university.”

    Yes, that’s right Alex, because clearly only the opinions of yourself and the enlightened few are worth paying attention to. Everyone else is wrong, thick, manipulated, a troll – take your pick and repeat ad nauseum, or until the Lib Dem vote collapses, whichever comes first.

    Your response is as unbelievable as Zoe’s original piece.

  • LabourLiberal 14th Nov '10 - 4:33pm

    @ Sam

    “It’s really not a big deal seeing as no graduate that never goes on to earn much money is going to be burdened by this in any way.”

    Correct. If they don’t earn enough, they don’t have to repay their loans. What I haven’t yet seen answered is where does the money come from, in those instances? Until it’s answered, then the policy has a rather large black hole.

  • @Zoe

    The reason why the NUS is targetting specific lib dem MP’s is because those same lib dem MPs signed a pledge to vote against a rise in fees made out to the NUS .

    SInce no Labour or Tory MPs, at any election, ever signed pledges out to the NUS, they were never targetted specifically by the NUS. Get it? Otherwise if, as you try and portray, the NUS is doing this out of party politics they would also target Tory seats.

    The whole article was a mendacious and clearly tendentious piece designed to whitewash the fact that Nick Clegg and other Lib Dem MPs in question here made a clear pledge out to the NUS to vote against a rise and fees. No ifs, not buts. The NUS would be doing its members a disservice if it just forgot about the people who are about the break a signed pledge made out to it as an organisation.

    “Yes, there was anger at fees but the anger about “betrayal” of those that voted for the Lib Dems was manufactured by the National Union of Students and as Lib Dem canvassers will have realised quite quickly, an accusation of “betrayal” on the doorstep is code for “I voted Labour”. It was, as we know, the Unions that elevated Ed Milliband to the leadership of the Labour Party, someone whose policy is not to attack”

    Well as someone who has only ever voted Lib Dem, and is a member of the Lib Dem party, I certainly feel betrayed… and so do a lot of the people I convinced to vote Lib Dem at the last election… and many friends who decided to vote lib dem of their own accord.

    This article, as well as the behaviour of some of the leadership, is really beneath contempt.

  • @LabourLiberal.

    Spot on, exactly what I’ve been thinking. What I want to know is why nobody has brought this up at any stage in the discussions, because all that loan money, with maintenance fees on top as well let’s not forget, has to come from somewhere until the money begins to be repaid.

    I know exactly why the constant argument from the Coalition is “we didn’t know it was this bad”, or “Labour left us a right mess”, it’s because instead of preparing in advance of the election when all the figures would have been available about the state of the country’s finances they focussed their efforts not on policies, but on doing nothing more than getting Labour out of power.

  • @Alex

    “If they draw their opinions from only what the national media / NUS / the Labour party have said on this issue, they’re probably not intellectually rigorous enough to benefit from going to university.”
    Shall we compare IQ scores, grades, universities and courses then Alex? No?

    I am afraid anyone who could write such a stupid thing must clearly not be intellectually rigorous enough to have their opinions considered at all.

    If being intelligent meant that you always have the ‘right’ point of view then there wouldn’t be any academic debate would there?

    Not to say you have the right point of view because you are clearly not clever enough to provide a cogent argument for it.

  • LabourLiberal 14th Nov '10 - 4:43pm

    @ Alex

    “If students can’t work out that under the new proposals they will be better off than they were under the existing scheme, then they’ve probably not bright enough to be going to university in the first place.”

    Since the proposals don’t affect any current students, then they won’t be better or worse off, they’ll just be graduates. The protestors aren’t looking at it out of self-interest, they’re looking at from the point of view of future generations – and future generations will undeniably be worse off, as a whole. A minority of future students will be better off, thanks to increased aid for the poorest cohort. But the overall annual student debt will be much, much higher. Which is what people are opposed to.

  • @Dave Page

    “So will the NUS denounce the people who break their pledge by opposing a fairer student funding system, by opposing the higher education proposals which mean that richer graduates pay more so poorer graduates pay less?”

    But the poorer pay less line is just a lie. People haven’t even attempted to analyse this claim.

    To start with 30% people paying less totally would not in itself make this proposal more progressive than the current system, it would just mean that some people pay less totally.

    Yet it is not even true that 30% of people will pay less totally . It is only true that poorer people will pay less on a monthly basis.

    Over the course of their lives every student, rich or poor, will be paying more than under the current system, only the poorest 30% will have their monthly payments reduced (but under the current system the vast majority of these people would clear their debt relatively quickly within, say, 10 years and they would not pay interest).

    In total the poorest 30% will be paying more than they are now.

    So every time people like Cable bandy this claim about, it is a deliberate attempt at misrepresentation of the reality.

  • John Richardson 14th Nov '10 - 4:48pm

    For those asking about funding issues the full text of the Browne Report is available here: http://www.bis.gov.uk/assets/biscore/corporate/docs/s/10-1208-securing-sustainable-higher-education-browne-report.pdf

    These are not Osborne’s calculations but those of Lord Browne and his panel.

  • John Richardson 14th Nov '10 - 4:54pm

    Yet it is not even true that 30% of people will pay less totally . It is only true that poorer people will pay less on a monthly basis.

    ALL graduates will pay less on a monthly basis. Since the amount repaid is simply 9% of the marginal income over £21K whereas now it is 9% of the marginal income over £15K.

    The IFS modelling says that 30% of students would pay less totally as well as monthly, whilst only the highest earning 30% would pay back the full amount.

    From the IFS:

    Those in
    the bottom 30% of lifetime earnings would actually pay back less than under
    the current system, while only the highest-earning 30% of graduates would
    pay back the full amount of their loans. The resulting spread of repayments
    would be more progressive than under the current system
    , in the sense that
    lower-earning graduates would pay less and higher-earning graduates would
    pay more.


  • LabourLiberal 14th Nov '10 - 4:56pm

    @ Steve

    Exactly. The policy needs a large lump sum of start-up cash, to provide the first batch of loans until the repayments start coming through and (presumably), the interest rates on those repayments provide the cash to supply the next generation of loans and so on ad infinitum/until the scheme collapses. I’m sure the Govt could get access to that lump sum, through their own loans (albeit building the deficit up again in the process). But the repayment of those national loans – the ones required to finance the student loans – is dependent on a burgeoning future economy, riding on the back of a new generation of graduates who benefit from what will be, so the economic liberals claim, a tertiary education system whose standards are improved from imparting more of a “free market” system. The problem for me is that I think those economic liberals are wrong; I don’t think opening out the universities onto the free market will mean better education and an improved workforce. The supposition is reliant on 18 year-olds choosing the courses which will be of most benefit to the future economy, and I don’t think they will. Apart from the fact that even economists can’t be certain which courses most help future GDP, sixth formers aren’t encouraged to think like that – careers advice isn’t “choose what you think will help you make most money”, it’s “choose what you think you’ll enjoy”. And a free market system becomes sod all use, if the country finds itself desperately needing civil engineers, but struggling with a huge surplus of journalists and psychologists, because the “consumers” liked the sound of the journalism and psychology courses better. Or, for that matter, vice versa.

  • Foregone Conclusion 14th Nov '10 - 4:57pm

    I’m no friend of the NUS, but I was on the march on Wednesday and there was a lot of anti-Lib Dem sentiment, none of it stirred up by the NUS or the Labour Party (in fact, apart from a small SWP presence and one ‘ohmygodnickcleggisawful VOTE LABOUR!!’ placard, it was remarkably non-party). To pretend anything other than that this is going to be a massive let-down for a lot of our voters is just stupid.

  • It is a big deal

    Do you believe in fairness and Progressive Policies?

    Do you believe that someone from a rich family should be able to pay tuition fee’s upfront and not incur any debt or interest?

    Do you think it is progressive for a graduate who goes on to earn a modest Income of £40k should have to pay interest at 3% above inflation for 30 years

    Whilst someone who goes onto earn £100k a year, would be able to pay off fee’s much quicker and not incur as much interest of saddled with 30 years of debt.

    Do you think it is progressive to change current policy, where a student pays 0% interest on a loan, to 3% above inflation.

    It is not the fairer alternative that Liberal Democrats keep banging on about,

    The only fairer part of the policy, is that Part time students will no longer have to pay up front fee’s

    And thats not worth voting yes for, or even abstaining.

    The Pledge is being broken, simple as that

    Matt & Veeten, someone earning £25,000 per annum is only going to pay £60 a month. That isn’t that much when you’re earning that much.

    When graduates start earning £41,000 they’ll start paying 3% above inflation interest and that will rise as their wage rises.

    Unless you’re a socialist then I don’t see how these tuition fees can really be regarded as such a big problem.

    I don’t usually read the Daily Mail, but it makes me chuckle how posh these rioters are http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1328920/TUITION-FEES-PROTEST-Hardcore-leaders-student-mob-unmasked.html

  • @John Richardson

    That claims that the additional burden on the Government to provide funds is nonexistent. That is wrong.

    Plus, reports are often idealistic, and don’t take into account the way things actually work. The black hole from funding the extra cost of loans will become evident after 3 years, when effectively the Government will have funded six levels of £12,000 loans to half a million people for each level.

    Year 1:

    First year students get the expanded fees. (level 1)

    Year 2:

    New first year and last year’s first years going into second year get the expanded fees (levels 2 and 3)

    Year 3:

    New first years, and the second and third years starting their new years (levels 4, 5 and 6).

    But then, what about the medical graduates who will be studying much more than the 3 years of a degree before graduating? They could end up with between £60,000 and £80,000 debts and they’re not guaranteed to get a well-paying job for a very long time. Would you go to uni under those circumstances?

    Anyway…question for all those who voted Lib Dem…if you knew before the election that the Lib Dems would drop their core election pledge, would you still vote for them?

  • @Alex
    Some students will repay less under the proposals that is true, but they won’t be “better off”. They will in fact be the lowest earning graduates. But whilst their debt will be cleared at some point (50 ish on average) until that time they will have a very real, large and growing debt. The difference between this and, for example a graduate tax, is that there is no debt to be taken into account by mortgage lenders or banks.

    Then there are the rich who can pay fees up front with no penalty charge. This leaves those in the middle with relatively good incomes (25 – 50K). These will be worse off. Take a look where most graduate wages are.

    As for dissenters being straw men, well perhaps us straw men expected the party of “no more broken promises” to actually keep their word every now and again! And we go down the route of accusing me of being a Labour Troll or perhaps reminding me the Lib Dems did not win the election please listen to Nick Cleggs words on the subject. He promised to campaign and work against any rise in fees irrespective of result, the video is all over youtube. He also signed the personal pledge he has already stated he will break by voting for the measures. Therefore he is a liar. At least my 1st Class BSc(Hons) thinks so, but maybe I just don’t have the intellect….

  • Foregone Conclusion 14th Nov '10 - 5:09pm

    At the same time, I didn’t hear students and young people shouting ‘hooray for Ed Miliband and the Labour Party!’ Just because they’re angry with us (and they are), it doesn’t mean they’ll come flocking en masse to the red flag.

  • LabourLiberal 14th Nov '10 - 5:10pm


    “Matt & Veeten, someone earning £25,000 per annum is only going to pay £60 a month. That isn’t that much when you’re earning that much. ”

    The old trick of breaking a big number down into small numbers. Never mind what it is per week, or per month, or whatever, at whatever point in time. The blunt fact is that graduates have to pay off debts of ~40k, over a span of 30 years, and that’s not progressive by anyone’s measure. The only exception are low earners, in which instance the money just disappears into thin air; but we’ve covered that problem.

  • Foregone Conclusion 14th Nov '10 - 5:17pm

    Final comment. Abolishing tuition fees was not our ‘core electoral pledge’. We had four key pledges: fairer taxes, green and fair economy, better education, clean up politics. Tuition fees (this actually surprised me) was not even a sub-pledge of the better education pledge. Yes, it was in the manifesto, and it was at the forefront of campaigns in student areas, and it’s historically been one of the single most identifiable Lib Dem policies. But to be fair to the leadership, we didn’t push as hard on tuition fees as in 2005, and even in student areas we weren’t campaigning solely on tuition fees.


  • John Richardson 14th Nov '10 - 5:18pm

    That claims that the additional burden on the Government to provide funds is nonexistent.

    Don’t forget the HE budget is being cut by several billions. Money that is available to pour into the loans system. TBH, I’m not well read on the ins-and-outs of how this will be funded but I have not read anything from any respected institution that says HE funding is going to collapse because of Browne.

    They could end up with between £60,000 and £80,000 debts and they’re not guaranteed to get a well-paying job for a very long time. Would you go to uni under those circumstances?

    Yes, why not? The only thing that would concern me is the repayments and they are capped. If I don’t get a job I’m never paying off that debt and unlike real debt there aren’t going to be bailiffs knocking on my door demanding my stuff.

    question for all those who voted Lib Dem…if you knew before the election that the Lib Dems would drop their core election pledge, would you still vote for them?

    I’ve always voted Lib Dem and can’t see that changing anytime soon. In the context of me, myself, and I, tuition fees was not a ‘core election pledge’. I’m in favour of abolishing fees altogether but it’s not an issue that will sway my vote.

  • @Foregone Conclusion
    Spot on. Labour cannot count on the students vote or on gaining back some of the votes their shambolic government lost.

    This whole episode will probably only benefit the Tories. That’s why they always have a Lib Dem on hand to take the blame. Look at the numbers in some marginal seats they don’t need to vote for anyone else just staying away will cause problems.

    Add in the VAT rise and the speed of deficit reduction and its clear to me the Tories are setting up the Lib Dems for a big fall. Their supporters are quite happy with the majority of policies so will stick with them.

  • LabourLiberal 14th Nov '10 - 5:25pm

    Foregone Conclusion, John Richardson;

    If tuition fees was not a core election pledge, why get every MP to sign a specific pledge on the issue, something they didn’t feel it worthwhile doing for any other policy? If the “pledge” was never intended to be top of the agenda, that suggests it was no more than a hollow stunt.

  • Foregone Conclusion – your core election pledge was to vote no on raising tuition fees. Remember all those signed PERSONAL PLEDGES, as well as Nicky boy’s assertion to the NUS that the party were committed to voting against any rise in tuition fees? Remember him claiming that a rise in fees would be disastrous?

    That pledge turned a lot of students into Lib Dem voters, and whether you consider their voting policy to be right or wrong, you have to admit that to do what they have has completely alienated so many people who voted in good faith for the party that wanted to be the one to keep its election promises.

  • @John Richardson

    In order for the burden of debt to work, banks have to be persuaded to waive their lending policies of not lending to people who already have sizeable debts, going against responsible lending agreements. So that debt, whilst it may be easy to repay, will become a massive financial burden when it comes to people wanting to get mortgages or any other financial products. It’s a backwards system, not a progressive system. And still people argue based on it being fair for students.

  • Foregone Conclusion 14th Nov '10 - 5:34pm


    Because the NUS asked all candidates from all parties to do so, and most of ours did. I don’t think the party ‘got’ our MPs to sign the pledge – there wasn’t any memo from Cowley Street, they did so of their own accord because (a) they believe in it and still do, and (b) it would have been a bit odd to contradict party policy.

    I should also say that the literature I delivered outside of student areas did not stress abolishing tuition fees very much at all.

  • John Richardson 14th Nov '10 - 5:38pm

    In order for the burden of debt to work, banks have to be persuaded to waive their lending policies of not lending to people who already have sizeable debts, going against responsible lending agreements.

    I’m not convinced by this either. Responsible lending means taking all reasonable precautions to ensure that future repayments will be met. Given that student loan repayments are a known quantity and will, in fact, be lower than they are now I dare say the proposed system will actually allow graduates to take out larger mortgages.

    Oh yes, the VAT rise. Didn’t the Lib Dems pledge to vote against any increase in VAT?

    No, they didn’t. Vince Cable repeatedly refused to rule it out. There was only a poster saying that if the Tories got into power VAT would go up. It turned out to be true. 🙂

  • LabourLiberal – it’s called perspective. If you put things into perspective then it’s not that bad. That’s mainly the point I’ve been trying to make.

    The only people who will be put off going to uni because of this policy are the people who only read the New Statesman or the Guardian and believe they’re gonna have to fork out £40k upfront. Hopefully though most kids will have it explained to them that the tuition fees are nothing to worry about.

  • So when Nick Clegg urged people to vote Lib Dem to prevent a Tory VAT bombshell…did he not take into account, once again, that his plans wouldn’t work in a minority Government? Perhaps if Clegg had been honest before the election the outcome would have been different. But then, the Lib Dems wouldn’t have got the votes they did.

  • Where to start.
    “at the top of the hole sit a privileged few
    making mock of the vermin in the lower zoo
    turning beauty into filth and greed.”

    “Theres a hole in the world
    like a great black pit
    and the vermin of the world inhabit it
    and its morals arnt worth what a pig could spit
    and it goes by the name of”.. The House of Commons. (Sweeney Todd, Sondheim and Wheeler, 2007)

    I voted libdem at the last election and become switched on to politics enough to join and get out on the streets helping out. I feel that this is a catastrophe. The cuts are unjust, unnecessary and unfair and no mealy mouthing is going to get around that. You may have convinced the Sun readers and the Mail readers of your mission but not us. The argument that we were near bankrupt has been shown by the treasury select committee to be specious. The leadership pre-election had access to enough information to know the financial situation of the country. I cant take the lies any more.

    Add it up and see whether you might become a little less reasonable.
    The pre-election expenses scandal where politicians were claiming too much “housing benefit”,
    then the banking crisis and the trillion pound payout and million pound bonuses remain untouched,
    average FTSE 100 boss on £4million. Politicians using the caymans to avoid tax. Then Being told
    by the multi-million pound cabinet….That the country is in a state and the poor cost too much.
    IF you were a young person from a less well off family,
    perhaps already struggling to make ends meet, perhaps
    needing benefits to get by, the young person getting the EMA
    which makes all the difference and they can see that is their is a way out
    to higher education but that looks unlikely with cuts to funding and massive
    loans to make up the difference. If every paper in the country carries the line
    that all people out of work or on benefits are scroungers and cheats and work-shy scum.
    When faced with such a barrage could many reasonable person remain so? SO when it feels like society is turning against you, would you turn back against it? You might well deplore their methods but if you are not willing to understand their motives what right to you have to judge, much less lead? It wasn’t just a few it was hundreds and then there was the 1000s outside cheering them on. It wasn’t just a few anarchists and 50000 middle class students either. There were young and old, rich and poor, lGBT and straight, multi-ethnic, teachers and students and we were all in this together. The next day every newspaper in the country with the same image all carrying similar headlines almost like it was orchestrated to keep the rabble in its place. Go home, shut up and do what you are told was the subtext. Blogs like this are merely perpetuating those disgraceful myths. You are either part of the problem or part of the solution.

    Before this government came in books like the “spirit level” and people like Prof Danny Dorling were saying the wealth inequalities in this country were as bad as the 1930s and this has taken health, education, alcohol and drug abuse with it. The Times rich list stated that last year the richest 1000 got almost 30% richer. The money is there but this government as with the previous turns a blind eye, hobbling the HMRC and taking it easy on the tax havens.Today The Graun reports they are likely to take too much from the bankers bonuses so need to revise and take less. We need well paid jobs not cuts to benefits. I believed in the manifestos and promises, i believed that if the Libs went in with the Cons then it would be for the best. This is far, far from that. This is a catastrophe.

  • .
    @ Foregone Conclusion

    You’ve been caught trying hoodwink people, by re-writing Lib Dem literature. You’ve changed the wording. It doesn’t say “better education,” – it says “A fair start…”

    Here are the four priorities. Note that phasing out tuition fees * is * included in the second priority on the launch of the Four Priorities (see link below):

    > …phase out tuition fees over the course of six years…


    Let me tell you what you’ll try to argue next: it wasn’t on *some* leaflets. However, having been caught red-handed replacing words, I doubt anyone will believe you.

  • Zoe O’Donnell.

    “the one party that might have done something about it: the Lib Dems.”

    And could still do something about it, if all our MPs vote it down.

    Will they? We’ll see.

  • Lib Dems need to wake up that it’s not about Labour, it’s about people who voted Lib Dem feeling betrayed over their promises, especially now we learn that the Lib Dems planned to ’bout turn even before the election.


    Secret documents show Liberal Democrats drew up plans to drop flagship student pledge before election

    A secret document by Danny Alexander, dated 16 March, indicated that the party would stand by its commitment to oppose an increase in the cap on tuition fees. But the Lib Dems were so isolated from Labour and the Tories on the issue that they agreed in private that they would have to forego their pledge to abolish the fees within six years.

  • Benjamin,

    You are assuming that Labour will support the government, I take it?

  • Zoe
    I too voted Lib Dem and in fact you have insulted me by saying that the accusations of betrayal on the doorstep are from Labour voters. It sounds to me that either you are fearful for your own political career in that there may be no political future for you if the party collapses or perhaps you are trying to creep round the Lib Dem Leadership in order to gain a political advantage over dissenting Lib Dems. Is it either or both? You sound rather desperate.

  • Benjamin,

    “Those on the left (or just coalition-skeptic) flank of the party need to get through their heads that Labour are not our friends.”

    Sorry, I don’t need to be lectured to about the Labour Party. I was a member of the Labour Party for 6 years and I left it to join the SDP. I know exactly what the Labour Party is like – in fact, I was hauled before a Labour Party court for the crime of defending Jim Callaghan. I suggest you go and clue yourself up on the Conservative Party – even less our friends than the Labour Party – before you end up on a heap of discoloured chalk boulders next to a lighthouse. That’s where Clegg is taking us.

    “they are not going to do anything to help us.”

    I’m sure they won’t. But they might want to curry favour with students and prospective students. Being in opposition and all that.

  • @Benjamin
    “as much as I’d like Lib Dem MPs to honour their pledge, there are only 57 of them. Even if they did all vote against this bill, it would still pass”

    That’s as maybe but to my knowledge all 57 pledged to vote against the fees and should keep their word. Irrespective of the result, if they do not they will be forever labelled as liars.

    “Labour are not our friends” Maybe not but neither were the Tories. If the current level of emnity continues voters will believe that a Lib Dem vote is synonomous with a Tory vote. At present their tactics will be anti Lib Dem, after all Nick Clegg and the “ruling” Orange Book gang have pretty much made it clear they will never work with Labour.

    “We must either beat them or be beaten by them ” Not a great advert for any type of electoral reform. Th eLib Dems have always talked about the advantage of 3 party politics. What will happen if Scotland again looks like a hung parliament ? If it’s kill or be killed then you have just ruled out working with Labour in Scotland or Wales.

  • “Those on the left (or just coalition-skeptic) flank of the party need to get through their heads that Labour are not our friends”

    For crying out loud!
    This isn’t about Labour, it’s about Lib Dem voters and members who feel betrayed by the party leadership and the sooner people like you “get through (it) their heads” the better. this continuing obsession with Labour and what they are doing/would of done/or thinking of doing is just deflecting from the fact that the party up sh*t street without a paddle.

  • Zoe
    “And where was the anger when Labour increased fees to £3,000?”

    I was very opposed to fees and could not understand why there were not more protests but after the Thatcher years there was a lot of apathy, Do you think it may be happening now because since then those pesky working class went to university and became educated?
    If you look at one of the photographs of the breaking of the windows you will see a semi-circle of photographers and one person kicking the window, seemed rather stage managed. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-11728003u
    Beware the media, was all this encouraged and by who, were there provocateurs? I hope there is a proper enquiry into that.

  • Andrew Suffield 14th Nov '10 - 8:40pm

    I photographed my ballot paper & emailed it all MSPs & local Councillors in Scotland, so that fact can’t be disputed.

    I would like to remind everybody that this is a crime, and a serious one. Making copies of ballot papers in this manner is very strongly prohibited.

    After the election I had several discussions with sensible Lib Dem members about why it was unlikely that people like me, who would consider themselves Labour supporters but who live in Con / Lib Dem marginals and have almost always voted Lib Dem, would not do so in the future.

    So your plan is to vote Tory then?

  • John fraser 14th Nov '10 - 9:04pm

    Until recently I was a iberal democrat member Zoe for 20 years plus . i have not been to Universtity for that long either . I feel totally betrayed zoe and have never yet voted Labour. the premise of your article is wrong and your article is tribalist (Something the Lib dems accuse Labour of being ) . If you were or are a student it would surely be marked as a fail.

  • Dave Parker 14th Nov '10 - 9:06pm

    Hmm, a few dozen students smashing some windows, versus a government that’s seeking to withdraw basic subsistence from millions on the back of orchestrated lies and contrary to both constituent parties’ election undertakings mere months ago… which am I more anxious to criticise? My, it’s a toughie.

  • @ Zoe O’connell

    “And yes, there was anger at fees but there was anger at Blair’s Wars too. Up to 2,000,000 people marched over Iraq, but there was no violent occupation and few arrests despite being over ten times larger than the NUS march.”

    Your piece is incredibly naive. When you start taking money off people that they don’t think you have the right to take they turn nasty. That’s why the Poll Tax riots were so violent but the Anti War March wasn’t.

  • @Dave Page

    Stop trying to split hairs, and pledges. It was on pledge, two parts yes, but one pledge. As it stands the only honourable thing for Libdem MPs do is to vote against the policy. In doing so they will be fulfilling both parts of the pledge. Nowhere in the pledge does it say that LibDem MPs would be obliged to vote for ‘fairer reforms’. The obligation was to persuade the government to introduce a fairer system. So it can be said that the second part of the pledge has been fulfilled. For the pledge, as a whole, to be fulfilled, any MP who signed the pledge has to vote against the policy, as a whole.

  • Andrew Suffield

    “So your plan is to vote Tory then?”

    No, my plan is to see whether the Labour Party is offering acceptable policies at the next election. If so, I will vote Labour and if not I will vote green. Unless of course you have become so disgusted with the leadership that you have replaced Clegg and his cronies, in which case there is a whole new discussion to be had.

  • @Benjamin
    I agree Labour are not our friends and we are not theirs. However we do need to be able to be in a position where a. we survive as a significant force and b. where we can work, if the situation arises, with Labour locally and nationally. The way the coalition was constructed by Clegg’s allies and by the Tories makes both more difficult. As does the cheerleading for every Coalition policy however far removed that is from our own policy.

  • @ Zoe O’Connell

    “The first, and the one I had in mind when I wrote this, was a commentary on the tactics of an apparent minority – many possibly not students, almost certainly not LibDem-voting – who engaged in the occupation and those who later, via the letter on the Indymedia site, claimed it as a majority view.”

    Except we now know that the 23 year old arrested for the extinguisher incident was in fact a student. And we’ve seen many students admit on TV they took part in the occupation. And we know from the letter there is NUS support for the occupation. And we also know that students have a long history of using occupations as a form of protest. And we know from studies that LibDems received overwhelming support from students in this 2010 election – more than for both Labour and Conseravtive combined.

    But, none of this suits your agenda, You offer no evidence. No reasoning. And no logic. Only blind prejudice.

    Opinion Poll: Students Love Lib Dems:

  • I am not quite sure what on earth to make of Zoe’s piece.

    I am a Lib Dem Councillor in Oxon who benefitted from a full grant at University (and no tuition fees then either). I am thoroughly cheesed off by the Leadership, and believe that the Student Fees Issue should have been sorted out during the Coalition Talks – that was the time to sort it out. If we agreed a compromise then, that is what we will have to stick to, though I believe a vote against, rather than a namby pamby abstention policy is what we should have stuck to our guns for.
    A trebling in fees is totally unacceptable. I won my seat however from the Tories here in 2007 by ONE Vote, and I have no intention of walking away from this party – it is MY Party – I have been a member of it for a lot longer than Nick Clegg, even though I am only a couple of years older than him. I Fundamentally disagree with the U turn on Tuition Fees, and I will fight to maintain our pre GE policy. Also I am proud that my son and 22 of his 6th Form friends went on the NUS march in London last week even though THEY will not have to pay the increased fees, though their siblings will. I DO NOT condone violence, but neither do I condone members of the Bullingdon Club smashing up restaurants in Oxford in the early 80’s and getting their rich mummies and daddies to pay for the repairs !! perhaps they should have been arrested and put in front of courts – I think it’s termed Criminal Damage ??!!

  • I really really did vote LibDem. I honestly did not vote Labour. I am furious that you promised things and then did the opposite. I voted for new politics, what I got is a very very dodgy old-style politician in Clegg. The LibDem leadership is rotten. Brown was a disaster, now it’s Clegg and his (rich) boys and Cameron and his (rich) boys. No it was not Labour who (this time) said one thing and did the opposite, it was the LibDems, they deceived – big time. The Liberal Democrats are desperate and with good reason, Clegg and his Tory boys will destroy you – with lots like me – sick of your lies and excuses never voting for you again. And yes I am annoyed.

  • TheContinentalOp 14th Nov '10 - 10:54pm

    I don’t agree with the NUS’ ‘decapitation’ strategy and they should really see the colour of Labour’s money before acting in such a directly party political manner. The one lesson that has to be learnt by the NUS from the whole pledge debacle is not to let themselves be wooed again by any of the mainstream parties.

    However, there is a certain tribalist element among the wider LD membership which seems intent on committing political suicide. Crazy stuff.

  • @Dave Page
    “I pledge to vote against any increase in fees in the next parliament and to pressure the government to introduce a fairer alternative”

    Sorry you make no sense. There is an AND in the middle of the pledge not an OR. The only way to do both is by voting against the rise in fees.

  • If the party wants to end up as an obsolete right-wing husk then articles like this one are certainly the best way to go about achieving that goal.

  • LabourLiberal 15th Nov '10 - 1:56am

    @Stephen W

    Not quite. Certainly the NUS WERE a bit of a running joke among students, but more for being hopelessly ineffectual, absurdly PC (viz the fiascos over debating societies inviting BNP speakers), and a bit of a closed shop, than for being particularly party-aligned. But a common cause unites, and the one thing the protests have undeniably done is make the NUS more popular amongst its members, and a bigger part of student life. In essence, after years of pointlessness, it’s becoming a representative voice again, albeit a single-issue one.

    And you’ve got the other bit the wrong way round. One or two NUS officials at individual universities have broken rank in support of the Millbank violence, but the union’s official line is still very firmly that anything other than a peaceful march was very bad indeed. But the ground level students who were at the protest, far from having “nothing but contempt” for the “vandals” and “trespassers”, actually have a sneaky admiration for them. They would never have the nerve to pull such a stunt themselves, but they’re loathe to criticise those who did, criminals or not. It’s that youthful rebelliousness coming out again.
    Of course, there’s many thousands of students in the country, and not all share the same opinions. Plenty of students are Conservative and support the policy anyway, for a start. But of those students who were on the march, the mood isn’t exactly condemnatory towards those who took it further; whereas it is at the NUS.

  • Well written article. Nice to see there are some ‘Dems that haven’t lost their minds.

  • It’s fun to point out that Labour were also hypocritical on fees with what Blair did and it no doubt makes a few under fire Liberal Democrats feel a bit better. But the fees promise is going to haunt Nick and everyone in the Party and this kind of article, while a valuable release valve for some, is not going to make the anger go away.
    And anger it is.
    We can and should condemn violence but pretending there isn’t huge anger out there at breaking the pledge is complacency that will come back to haunt us.
    There has to be a better way of dealing with the issue than just blaming Labour or blaming the pledge because those two definetely aren’t working and the promise is going nowhere as a lightning rod for public dissatisfaction.
    I’ve no idea what could work admittedly, but to be fair Nick doesn’t seem to either.

    It’s worth watching which Liberal Democrat MPs vote against the fees and what their majority is for a crude measure of how worried the Leadership should be.

    It might be tempting to dismiss the ‘decapitation’ strategy aimed at Liberal Democrat MPs as mere student ‘high jinx’ but that march was far bigger than expected and still overwhelmingly peaceful. So I would caution against those who saw the wrecking of the conservative Offices at Millbank as vindicating some kind of simple minded caricature of those who oppose the fee rises. That would be hugely counterproductive.

  • @Steve W
    “They are all a disgrace and deliberately attacking democracy and the rule of law.”

    Not really fair. Only a few protesters attacked the rule of law. It would be the same as tarring all the countryside protesters as breaking the rule of law because a few stormed parliament. I disagreed with some of their points but repested they had the legal right to protest. Those who broke the law should face the appropriate penalty.

    As for an attack on democracy… Personally I see being represented by people who then cynically break their promise on what they will do when elected as being a parody of democracy.

    Remember the slogans about damaging Tory cuts, disasterous rasing of the level of fees and Tory VAT bombshell. Where’s the democracy in how the Yellow part of the coalition has acted in those policies, ALL central planks of the Clegg election campaign.

  • Stephen W:
    “On the day of the protest 99% of students were doing what they should have been doing, being at their universities working and studying hard”

    As with Zoe’s original piece, Stephen W suggests that he is criticising the violent minority of Millbank but ends up condemning the actual march itself. Clearly the agenda is not to condemn the actions of the minority but to undermine ANY students that dared to criticise coalition policy by going on a march when they ‘should have been at their university working and studying hard’.

    Stephen and Zoe – please be clear – do you condemn the violent minority at Millbank or the march itself? In which case, you both need to make that clear. Stephen in particular – was it wrong for students to be on a march when they ‘should have been at their university’? If you think they had a right to peacefully demonstrate you need to apologise to the majority of students on the march that were not violent.

  • I’m a Lib Dem and I feel betrayed. I’m not a student but I supported abolishing tuition fees because I am happy to pay taxes to support education Just as I was willing to pay 1p more in the pound.

    Wake up for God’s sake. This article is utter rubbish.

  • I’m sorry, but can someone quickly explain to me how paying £9k a year is better than paying £3k a year?

    No matter how and when you spread it, £9k is more than £3k.

    Zoe, people must laugh at you when you speak. I most certainly did.

  • patricia roche 15th Nov '10 - 10:56am

    thank goodness students were aware that they had the power to protest peacefully. 50 odd thousand of them did. They did it for my lovely 13 year old grandaughter who comes from a home where mum works full time, does homework with her and was helping her to go to university later to be a vet. She will never be able to go now. Clegg said he regretted making the pledge. He had already decided that my grandaughters future loss was a price worth paying for power. This is what it really comes down to.

  • Liberal Neil 15th Nov '10 - 10:58am

    @Alex & @John Richardson and others

    I didn’t work so hard to get Lib Dems elected at the election because I wanted to see a system that would save a minority of students a bit of money in comparison with the current very unfair scheme.

    I campaigned for the Lib Dems because we had a far more progressive policy of funding higher education through general taxation, a progressive, fair, sustainable and long term policy.

    To me it is completely unfair that graduates who end up on middle incomes will ed up paying a much larger proportion of their income than those on high incomes, and it is completely unfair that fuure graduates will pay an extra 9% marginal tax rate while those of us who have already grdauated pay far less or nothing at all.

    Being slightly fairer than the current system simply isn’t good enough, and Nick & Vince shouldn’t pretend that it is.

    (And I am a Lib Dem voter, and will continue to be, but am mightily peed off over this.)

  • When I chose to support the party entering a coalition with the Tories I didn’t not expect them to abandon their Liberal Democrat principles. Maybe I was totally naive but I expected my MPs to argue against proposals like tuition fees, free schools ect, I didn’t expect my leader and others to turn into nodding dogs at every vicious proposal from a right wing Tory Chancellor. Tripling student fees does not make them fairer for all, so stop talking nonsense and wake up. It was Nick who said that early and deep cuts would lead to social unrest, well in that I agree with Nick.

  • @Zoe O’connell

    “I have no doubt that if we were in power on our own, this would not be happening.”

    No. You haven’t got a hope now of ever being in power on your own because fewer people than ever trust you. If you hadn’t formed the coalition with the Tories tuition fees would not have been trebled.

    If the Tories were governing on their own in a minority government the Lib Dems and Labour together could have neutered them and prevented them from destroying any form of social support or collective provision. As it is the latest YOUGOV poll shows the Tories are at 39%, Labour 41% and the Lib Dems at 10%. Apparently Clegg’s approval rating is at minus fourteen. There are two words which are making people angry. One of them is Lib Dems. The other is Clegg. How’s that for an achievement?

    And there’s worse to come.

    On the 1st October the payment rate for support for mortgage interest was almost halved. This is a benefit paid to people on income support, jobseekers’ allowance or pension credit who have mortgages of less than £200,000. Aparently the maximum interest rate the government will cover has been cut from 6.08% to 3.67%. This is well below the actual interest rate thousands of unemployed homeowners have to meet. It is estimated that thousands of unemployed homeowners who were protected by the last government will be forced out of their homes in the next few months. And you haven’t hit rock bottom yet!

  • @ContinentalOp.

    Actually your figure is wrong. On last year’s student record (you can look it up yourself if you have the HESA data), 31.6% of undergrads (including non-UK) were part-time, 34.9% of UK domiciled undergrads (at all undergraduate levels) and only 18% of UK-domiciled first degree students – those on three year courses or longer. Most PT undergraduates are studying diplomas or foundation degrees which are shorter than standard Bachelors qualifications and who won’t be incurring the same debt anyway.

    I rather suspect that you’ve obtained a figure for all students regardless of level. That’s misleading, because of the relative prevalence of part-time study amongst taught postgrads, and should not be quoted. There are actually slightly more PT postgrads than FT and, I guess, when the Coalition comes up with some policies for them, your figures might be a little more helpful.

  • @Stephen W

    “legitimate and peaceful protest” is ok. Yet you disapprove of the march – which was legitimate and peaceful – and suggest that anyone who attended it should have been at university.

    You disapprove of the violence. We get that. Most people agree. But you also seem to disapprove of the march itself. If you think “legitimate and peaceful protest” is ok, why do you condemn the majority of students that did just this, by dismissing their protest with the comment that they should have been studying or working.

    It’s quite simple:

    1) Do you agree that the march was legitimate and peaceful? Not the break-off group – the march. Yes or No
    2) Do you agree that students had a right to attend the march to voice their opinions? Yes or No
    3) If yes, why did you say that they should have been at university studying or working?

  • .
    The Observer has put together a nice little slide show, “The 10 best mass protests.”


  • @ Zoe
    Why would you expect people to be polite if you betray them … you must expect some anger .. we can talk about levels and appropriate limits of expressing that anger but you seem more interested than peopel being polite than obtaining justice and fairmness .

  • Hi All,
    What is wrong with politics!
    We cannot trust a mainifesto – All parties go back on manifestos!
    We cannot trust a word that comes out of a politicians mouth. They all lie!
    We cannot trust a word they write in the newspapers
    And now (if they vote against) we cannot trust a signed pledge!
    Do the politicians know what they are doing to our democracy!
    If we cannot trust anything, If we cannot depend on a signed Oath then there is no democracy only anarchy!
    Wake up before it is too late!

  • “It is the kind of person who will use words often unprintable and delivered with considerable invective.”

    Are you saying then that only Labour voters talk like this? How dismissive of your voters and how prejudiced, I think you have lived in a bubble. It is those who have voted Lib Dem that are the most angry , like me and I post on here because my local party, national party and MPs never reply even though I am very polite. Who are the ignorant ones?

  • Chris Riley 15th Nov '10 - 1:10pm

    Ooops, sorry, I chided the wrong poster. Not ContinentalOp, who I would not have expected to make such a mistake, but ContentedLibDem.

    Sorry Op, sorry about that. Mea culpa.

  • Chris Riley 15th Nov '10 - 2:21pm

    @ContentedLibDem: “obviously one of you must be right”

    It’s me.

    Anyway, unfortunately, the other issue is that it might be (nearly) correct for shorter NVQ4 courses, but an awful lot of those are employer funded anyway. Difficult to tell, but it could be nearly 40% (looking at other HESA data).

    So, in fact, rather than alleviating the burden for students, a lot of this will actually find its way to employers paying for UG diplomas and foundation degrees, as this is the group *most likely* to be employer funded. Now, personally, I’m all for employers being encouraged to help their employees get extra qualifications. But it does give the impression that the measure is as least as much about not putting off employers from funding diplomas (and a good thing it’s been considered) – that also goes hand in hand with some of the statements Willetts made pre-Browne. I expect that will compensate for the serious cuts that are also being made to FE colleges.

    But the fact of the matter is that this measure helps less than 20% of those on standard BA/BSc courses. Good news for those it does, of course, but it’s a small minority.

  • When our politicians court our vote by saying they will do one thing but end up doing the opposite, that is indeed a betrayal. If our politicians lie to us on a continual basis (as the Lib Dems are doing) and go against the will of the people who put them there, then what use is the ballot box?

    In most situations I abhor violence. Yet when the ballot box becomes ineffective, our wishes are ignored and peaceful protest achieves nothing, then sometimes direct action is all we have left.

    The two biggest jokes in this country right now are your party and especially Nick “no more broken promises” Clegg. This is your poll tax, this is your Iraq. You’ve gone against your voters’ wishes and you will reap what you’ve sown.

  • Stephen W,

    You clearly agree with the late John Tyndall, who said that universities should be places of learning, not left-wing revolution, and the late Aubrey Melford Stephenson, who dealt with rioting students by locking them up. How about kicking them round the parade-ground for six months? That would go down well with our new-found “partners”!


    It’s stretching it a bit to compare university tuition fees with an illegal war that killed hundreds of thousands.

  • The so ‘called riot’ at Milibank by a handful of students and the protest itself was not only about the rise in tuition fees they were also about the abolition of the means tested Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA), this is paid to over 640,000 students between the ages of 16 to 19 from the poorest households in the country.

    The coalition itself has concluded, based of a report from National Foundation for Education Research, that about 12% (54,000) of students would be deterred from FE when EMA is abolished, the NUS says the figure is closer to 60%. whichever figure is correct the coalition are willing to sacrifice the education of AT LEAST 54,000 students from the poorest backgrounds in society.
    Hows that for fairness and the concept of ‘social mobility’ eh?

  • Sesenco
    “It’s stretching it a bit to compare university tuition fees with an illegal war that killed hundreds of thousands.”

    The same lies, The same lack of integrity, The same gut feeling we have been taken for a ride. A good comparison I think.

  • @Sesenco
    “It’s stretching it a bit to compare university tuition fees with an illegal war that killed hundreds of thousands.”

    My point was that people are just as angry about this as they were about the poll tax and Iraq. Of course Iraq was much worse in terms of human lives. But don’t underestimate how angry people are about the Liberals going back on their promises, especially the left of centre voters Clegg and co. actively courted in the election. The anger and hostility towards Clegg should not be underestimated. People are more angry with him than Cameron, as we expect this crap from the Tories. But we never once thought, before the coalition was formed, that the Liberals and their proud traditions of social justice and fairness would be dropped so quickly for a sniff of power. We never thought we’d see LibDems propping up the most rightwing and cruel government for decades.

    So when people like Clegg tell us one thing but then do another, it is actively undermining democracy. And when the ballot box and peaceful protest and the wish of the electorate is ignored, what other choice is there but direct action?

  • The article is clearly flawed. When the Labour increased the tuition fees to 3,000 pounds, they did so to provide increased resource to the Universities, of which the students were beneficiaries in the end (perhaps through improved facilities, more satisfied and better quality lecturers etc.) However, the present increase has been proposed to offset the cuts in public expenditure. The two are not comparable. While a great many students could have gone along with the Labour’s measure, they rightly feel betrayed by the present proposal. So, please don’t say that they were ok with Labour, why not us? Your analysis is skin-deep.

    The Browne review panel came up with many recommendations which are good in many ways. There is no need to undercut them. The Government is free to adopt all the good measures (support for part-time students, increased payment threshold etc.) But the Browne review did not say that the Government should stop all funding for University teaching. That is an independent Government decision, a shameful one at that. This is a Tory agenda that the Ministers have chosen to buttress. It is not a liberal cause. The liberals would do well to stand along side the Labour in denouncing it.

  • @Zoe O’Connell,

    Before you start slating other parties for supposedly being the ones who are behind all the troubles for your party, perhaps you should consider some of the facts and figures.


    YouGov’s figures clearly show that a massive number of people who voted Lib Dem at the election would not do so again right now, indeed the actions of Nick Clegg has managed to force a lot of Lib Dem supporters over to Labour. This is because they see Clegg as having forced the party too far to the right of centre by actively supporting a lot of the Conservative proposals.

    33% approve of the Government’s record, while 50% disapprove
    39% think Nick Clegg is doing well as party leader, while 53% think he is doing badly
    28% think the party was right to go back on its election pledge to oppose tuition fees while 64% think it was wrong.

    The figures don’t lie. If anyone in the private sector had those kind of figures they would be out of a job the next day.

    Lib Dems overall approval was down to 9% in an opinion poll last week…is that acceptable, or is that the fault of Labour “stooges”?

    Whoever edits this site should probably look at this article and force Ms O’Connell to explain her statements in more detail.

  • Yeah, yeah, yeah. The NUS is not 100% perfect in everything it does. Correct. The Labour Party is far from 100% perfect in everything it does. Correct. So Zoe McConnell, that proves that the Lib Dems must therefore be 100% perfect in everything they do, right?

    Same old cant, same old cant, same old cant.

  • @Tony Greaves – The NUS is opposed to growing up on principle. I’m pretty surprised they’ve announced Bath to be one of their 4 decapitation targets. Can’t they even check wikipedia to see who the second place party is?

    The reason that there wasn’t as much NUS aggression directed at the Labour government when they introduced tuition fees is that the NUS is a branch of the Labour party. That’s not to say they never oppose Labour party policies, but obviously Wes Streeting wasn’t going to pass out leaflets calling for a ‘Demo-Lition’ when he hopes to be working for them. I’m sceptical about the NUS decapitation policy given that then-NUS President Wes later went on to represent the government which introduced top-up fees and launched the Browne report in the election so I can’t see how opposing LibDems would be anything other than business as usual for most of the folks at NUS. I hope if nothing else the party has learned it’s lesson not to play with them in the future and not to sign any of their pledges.

    @Ally – I am genuinely sorry you feel betrayed. What I would say is that first, promises made before the election are subject to the political reality at the time. We were calling for late cuts but when the Greek economy collapsed no one except Ed Balls (who lives in a fantasy land) denied that significant early cuts were needed to prevent British Government bonds being devalued to the point they would destroy the financial sector (if they dropped below a -B rating). Similarly with tuition fees, while it’s all well and good for the likes of Ming and Charles Kennedy to vote ‘no’ if a significant number of the LibDems opposed it, including the government ministers, either those ministers would have to resign with no LibDems to take their place (leading to an all-Tory government and government collapse) or the coalition would break down leading to… government collapse. Either you would have a Tory minority able to do whatever it wanted under the thread of holding fresh elections (a risk somewhat mitigated by the coalition’s 55% dissolution requirement) or else fresh elections outright which only the Tories are in a financial situation to fight, leading almost certainly to a Tory majority. Nick had to choose between accepting the Brown report or triggering the collapse of the government. In the fact he choose to call for changes to be made to it to the point that if you actually look at the repayment figures most people end up paying less per month than under the current system. Now with the concessions of a fairer system being one from the Tories again he either has to back that or trigger government collapse. He will back it to avoid the worse outcome and in so doing he acts 100% consistently with liberal principle. At every stage so far Nick has acted in a manner 100% consistent with what he ought to do as a liberal; it just so happens that the political reality has forced him to make some very, very tough choices.

  • Duncan :- You just do not get it do you!
    It was not some wooly promise on a manifesto!
    It was not some verbal crap in a debate!
    It was not some political spin!
    It was a personal signed Oath!
    The same old defence of “The ends justify the means” does not wash with the public.
    It is not the students who are our problem! I am 46, never went to university and a top rate tax payer.
    I am in despair at the destruction of our party!
    Oathbreaking was never one of my liberal principles. Is it one of yours!

    As far as progressive is concerned it is blatantly not. I have no problem, I can afford to pay upfront for my childrens fees as and when they are required, as I do now (sorry but that was a personal pledge I made after my experience of state education). But why should I get away with it! Tax me please!

  • I think before anyone supports or denounces the actions of a small minority of students they should be asking themselves to look at what happens when people simply sit back and do nothing.

    As you article points out, 2 million people took to the streets of London to oppose a war in a peaceful demo. The end result was for the government to simply ignore them. The result is the deaths and maiming of our service personnel and the deaths and maiming of tens of thousands of civilians.

    I believe that when the NUS made it clear they support a political party, they made a mistake. Regardless of how stupid that was, it was the Lib Dems who decided to change their minds about tuition fees. Up until the demo in London the campaign against tuition fees was peaceful. The end result of that peaceful campaign seen the Lib Dems become like any other political party, untrustworthy and changed their minds from no increase to agreeing that fees should go to between £9,000 a year.

    I don’t believe violence, whether it is a demo or a war should ever be the first thing. What MPs and the public in general have to ask is if all peaceful means fail, when should other forms of protest be used and are they always unjustified? MPs can’t have it both ways. They can’t simply ignore peaceful demos and then complain when people get fed up with their peaceful demos getting ignored and take over their buildings.

    Nobody forced the Lib Dems into a coalition. They could have decided to base their support on an issue by issue basis. Instead of doing that they were so determined to know what it is like to be in government, they decided to simply give up things people had campaigned for and ignore the fact that their members have now betrayed the people who voted for them.

    I am not saying the students were right or wrong in their occupation (although I think the lad with the fire extinguisher should be locked up for what he did), but I think it is incredible 2 faced to denounce something when all other means have been tried and failed. What else was left to do? Run a campaign? Tried that, end result £9,000 in fees. Get support of MPs and a political party? Tried that, end result £9,000 in fees, try demonstrating without occupying buildings? I think you can guess where I am heading on this.

    Before you ask people to denounce something people did, you might want to look at why they resorted the the tactics they used.

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