Opinion: Tuition fees not the crime of the century

GraduationMany years ago, before self-imploding, I studied Land Management at University. It was more like Beer Management as I drank several pints of weak ale a night, using my luxuriant 100% grant.

This week I found myself back at University. I was there as a parent learning about student finance. How times have changed. Now, of course, graduates have to cough up 9% of what they earn above £21,000 after university. (Maria Pretzler, mind you, has pointed out that the taxpayer will pay more under the new system than originally predicted).

It seems a fair and reasonable system to me. The Sutton Trust part-funded a recent report by the Institute of Fiscal Studies. There is nothing in that report to frighten the horses. It’s worth reading the details in full here, but one of the IFS’ s conclusions is:

Higher-earning graduates, meanwhile, pay back substantially more under the new system than under the old one, making the new system more progressive (on the basis of graduates’ lifetime earnings) than the old one.

The UCAS website states that there were 495,595 accepted University applicants under the new system in 2013, the highest figure in the years shown since 2008. There were 34,241 accepted applications in 2013 from the most disadvantaged areas (Polar 2 quintile 1), the highest figure for the years shown since 2007.

All of that makes it rather baffling that tuition fees are still venomously chanted as part of the indictment against Nick Clegg.

It suggests a rather blinkered approach, especially when you also consider that, in the same area of youth education/training, this government has created 1.8 million apprenticeships.

But all that gets swept aside in the headlong rush to beat up Nick Clegg.

He broke a promise but he did so because he had to compromise in a coalition government. He produced a reasonable alternative instead.

It is not the Crime of the Century which some make it out to be. If he had broken up the coalition because he’d signed a pledge about tuition fees, then it would have confirmed suspicions that the LibDems were not ready for government.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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280 Comments

  • “He broke a promise but he did so because he had to compromise in a coalition government. He produced a reasonable alternative instead.”

    This is simply untrue. Clegg and Cable adopted an alternative because they chose not to fight for their promise in coalition negotiations. As a result today’s students will still be paying off their student loans when their own children go to university.

  • Jack

    I am not sure either of us can say for certain what happened in the coalition negotiations. How can we know that Clegg didn’t go all out to not increase tuition fees but the Tories threatened to call the whole deal off on that one sticking point?

    “Paying off their student loans” – but it is a strange loan, is it not? What loan have you ever had that was linked to your salary and which didn’t have to be paid back if your salary was below a certain level? And what loan have you ever had for which repayment is taken straight out of your pay slip and which you have thirty years to pay back and which, if you don’t pay back after thirty years, the loan expires without you having to pay the remainder left?

    If we didn’t have this system the alternative would probably be all taxpayers paying for students fees. So under the alternative, why should taxpayers, many of whom didn’t go to university and whose family haven’t or won’t go to university, be paying for student fees out of their taxation right up to retirement and beyond (let alone when their children are university age)., while rich graduates earn thousands without paying a penny? It is simply not fair.

    And the key thing to remember is that the graduates repaying the “loan” are paying a rate related to their ability to pay. In other words, “progressive”.

  • I totally agree with Paul Walter. Basically people wanted lots of “free stuff” without having to pay for it, pretending that tuition costs could be paid from “taxation generally” – whatever that is. Our mistake was in pandering to this notion that there was somehow a pot of free money, when there is not. One way or another, the cost has to be shouldered by someone.

    @ Jack

    “Clegg and Cable adopted an alternative because they chose not to fight for their promise in coalition negotiations.”

    So what are you saying they should have given up instead? The £10,000 personal allowance, the pupil premium perhaps? Where should the money have come from?

  • Paul: much of what you write is fair comment. Clearly financial resources are limited and if taking the lowest earners out of the tax bracket has priority over students, there is clearly a Liberal defence.

    But why do we not hear the argument from the leadership clearly and often? Cable, Clegg, Laws and Alexander are not advocating the case. They could be forcefully telling people that the possibilities in a coalition were restricted. They wanted to come up with a graduate tax. Its direct implementation was not workable so the present system is the nearest workable version of a graduate tax, making it fairer than before.

    I am not so happy with the solution, but I can see that the system can be defended, so why do we hear so little from the leadership. It is utterly unfair to leave this argument to the footsoldiers.

  • “He broke a promise but he did so because he had to compromise in a coalition government.”

    Can’t you see that the more you try to defend the breaking of a written promise (which was accompanied, surreally, by a high-profile promise that there would be no more broken promises) as just a normal and inevitable part of political life, the less people are going to trust anything you say in the future?

  • “Basically people wanted lots of “free stuff” without having to pay for it, pretending that tuition costs could be paid from “taxation generally” – whatever that is. Our mistake was in pandering to this notion that there was somehow a pot of free money, when there is not.”

    Right. Essentially, you’re saying it’s the electorate’s fault that you made a promise and they believed you.

    Well, that’s easily remedied.

  • @Paul Walter
    “I am not sure either of us can say for certain what happened in the coalition negotiations.”

    So how can you assert that “he broke a promise but he did so because he had to compromise in a coalition government”?

    “How can we know that Clegg didn’t go all out to not increase tuition fees but the Tories threatened to call the whole deal off on that one sticking point?”

    Well, we could ask the people who participated in the negotiations. But don’t you think your scenario sounds rather unlikely? Given the nature of the pledge, don’t you think the Lib Dem negotiators should have insisted on day 1 that this would be one of their (very few) red lines? And if they had done so, does it seem remotely plausible that the Tories would have scrapped the entire coalition deal over what was a relatively trivial matter?

    And if sticking to the pledge was an impossibility – how come quite a few Lib Dem MPs managed to do it, to their credit?

    @RC
    “Basically people wanted lots of ‘free stuff’ without having to pay for it, pretending that tuition costs could be paid from ‘taxation generally’ – whatever that is.”

    There are two problems with that view.

    First, it now appears that the new system is going to cost the general taxpayer more than the old one. This has come about through incompetence rather than design (the idea was to save money). So if affordability is a concern to you, you should be urging to government to go back to the previous system immediately.

    Second, as David Willetts pointed out the other week, students will on average pay vastly more in tax over their lifetimes than if they didn’t go to university. So what you call “free stuff” I would describe as a worthwhile investment. See :-

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-27763112

  • You know how deluded Tony Blair sounds every time he stands up to defend Iraq…

  • David Howarth 27th Jun '14 - 9:33am

    The full history of the fees debacle has yet to be written, but the idea that it had to be done because of the financial situation at the time is simply wrong. There were plenty of other possibilities consistent with the Coalition’s deficit reduction targets. The policy was designed to save a mere £1.6bn a year (see BIS, Interim Impact Assessment: Urgent Reforms To Higher Education Funding And Student Finance (Nov 2010) p. 20). By way of comparison, in 2010-11 the government cut corporation tax by £5bn a year. The decision to break the fees pledge was a deliberate political choice, taken because keeping it was not a high priority, or even a low priority, for our leadership.

  • Peter Watson 27th Jun '14 - 9:42am

    @Paul Walter “The UCAS website states that there were 495,595 accepted University applicants under the new system in 2013, the highest figure in the years shown since 2008.”
    We have to bear in mind that over this period entry to nursing became entirely via a university degree and nursing is now the most popular degree subject. Additionally, tuition fees for nursing are paid by the NHS. Thus the figures for applications to university, and perhaps claimed evidence of improvements in social mobility within those figures, are inflated by a factor which is unrelated to tuition fees.

  • “Which is why I am always surprised that many of those who claim to be “left wing” oppose a system that means that high earning graduates pay more.”

    How many times, Simon Shaw, how many times?

    1. High earning graduates pay less as they pay less interest because they pay their loans off earlier.
    2. High earning graduates pay less as a proportion of their income over their lifetime compared to lower earning graduates, meaning that tuition fees are regressive – the opposite of paying for HE through progressive taxation or a progressive or proportionate graduate tax.

  • Peter Watson 27th Jun '14 - 9:49am

    @Dave PAge “the £6k cap (which can only be raised to £9k if the University makes extra provision for students from the poorest backgrounds)”
    We should remember that tuition fees above £6k were meant to be an exception but they were immediately the rule. Also, it looks like a lot of this provision for poorer students ends up being a bursary or fee waiver which effectively refunds part of the £3k over the notional £6k barrier.

  • Peter Watson 27th Jun '14 - 9:56am

    @Simon Shaw “The only explanation I can think of for that is that low earning graduates are now to pay less than they did before. Can you think of any other?”
    The new scheme was not intended to cost more than the old one. If the assumptions upon which it is based are wrong then it probably means that higher-earning graduates will pay less than planned or that there will be more low-paid graduates.

  • Peter Watson 27th Jun '14 - 10:04am

    @Paul Walter ‘“Paying off their student loans” – but it is a strange loan, is it not? ‘
    Strange, but still a loan. And like any loan, wealthier people with assets can avoid it or pay it back early to reduce their costs. Big winners under the new scheme are those with the wealth to pay fees up front and expectations of high salaries upon graduation (http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/students/should-i-get-student-loan “You pay the fees, your child earns big bucks, Result: You Gain Up To £26,000”).

  • Jonathan Pile 27th Jun '14 - 10:06am

    “It seems a fair and reasonable system to me.”
    I went to polytechnic and got a grant from Hertfordshire County Council. I feel it is immoral for politicians who benefited from such good fortune to now pull up the drawbridge. I also think investment in graduates is a capital investment in our country’s future. I also think that free access to universal higher education is a human right that was and ought to have been a cornerstone of our party. It was. Then Nick Clegg came along and took the votes of students in Sheffield and then immediately broke his promise. Many students now hold all of politics in contempt because of this. Of course, Nick Clegg’s breach of promise over tuition fees is small compared to Tony Blair’s lies over IRAQ.
    But the point is that the students and the public held us to a higher standard with Labour. The tragedy is that 1,500 councillors, and 11 MEPs have lost their jobs because of this breach of promise . So no Paul – it was the “Political Lie” that will stay in the history textbooks and will rightly feature in Clegg’s political obituary. The party is deciding now whether Clegg’s damaged leadership can continue is actively looking for an alternative leader who is untainted by lies.

  • David Howarth 27th Jun '14 - 10:08am

    @Simon Shaw
    You are assuming that there were only two options, but that’s not so. There were many ways available of making the system fairer. Why choose one that broke a pledge made by nearly every Lib Dem parliamentary candidate? The answer can’t be money, because there was far more money for corporate tax cuts. It can only be that this is what they wanted to do.

  • @Simon Shaw
    “The only explanation I can think of for that is that low earning graduates are now to pay less than they did before. Can you think of any other?”

    Actually the reason is that there are more low-earning graduates than the government thought there would be. I trust you do not find this development a welcome one.

    “what’s your objection?”

    I don’t actually have an objection to more HE finance coming through general taxation. I think you’ll find it’s the supporters of the new system who object to that.

    Peter Watson is absolutely spot on. A well off and well connected student, who knows he’s almost certainly going to be earning considerably more than £21,000 in his career, can get M+D to pay the £27,000 up front and save a fortune in the long run. Poorer students will find that their loans are ballooning in size even while they are studying (the debt goes up by inflation + 3% while they are at university), so that by current rates at the end of three years the original £27,000 debt will already be more like £28,700, and will carry on growing in real terms afterwards. The only way he’ll be able to avoid this debt will be to earn low wages – which isn’t very enticing. None of this will bother the rich student.

    As Einstein said, compound interest is the most powerful force in the universe. The previous system was interest-free in real terms, whereas the new one is much more punitive. This feature of the new system is never mentioned by its apologists.

  • Peter Watson 27th Jun '14 - 10:29am

    @Simon Oliver ‘I do not agree that any promise was broken – the full NUS pledge is hardly ever quoted nowadays, but it should be remembered that the second half of it was “to introduce a fairer system”’
    The word that linked the two parts of the pledge was “and“.
    Also, the last word of the pledge was not “system”, it was “alternative”, implying it was a “fairer alternative” to “any increase in fees”.

  • Everyone trying to find a way that the fees decision was understandable, but the fact is we were sold out by the leadership who didn’t believe in it and weren’t prepared to fight for it. At all. And who were comfortable to turn us all into liars in the eyes of the public. We’re being ‘rewarded’ by (sometimes very low) single figures in the polls, approaching asterisk territory.

  • I’m a student that started university last year, the first with the 9k fees, and I have a few comments regarding it. Sorry for the bluntness but I feel that although your article covers the things that look good on paper, it’s doesn’t appear to work like that in practise. I apologize for the bluntness of this, but the minimum earning means that a large portion of students going to university under this new system plan to have the time of their life for 3 years at the expense of the large fee and maintenance loan, and then go back to working in retail or apprenticeships which may never actually reach 21k. This means that yes, lots more people are applying, and ‘lower band’ universities are getting lots more applicants, and that’s the reason. The job market for graduates was saturated before we had this influx of ‘more students’ and that’s unlikely to get noticeaby better, but if people are now having the time of their lives for 3 years and then doing what they would have done anyway, that seems to defeat the point of going to university does it not? Also @steve, I’m afraid your first point is wrong. The percentage we pay + inflation on our loans is massive, and running the numbers gets some horrific results, here’s an example: Someone studying for four years, getting 9k fee and 4k maintenance, then starting at 25k and progressing as would be expected, this graduate would be deemed successful. However, in the 30 year pay off period, from his actual loan of just under 50k, the graduate will NOT have paid off the full loan+interest, so at this point it will be written off, which seems fine. However, by this point this person has paid 150k back. If you just Google student loan calculators you can play around with the numbers. But here’s my bitter view as a student in this system, the graduates really wanting to get somewhere in life are paying a far greater price, by the end of the pay off period we’ll be 50+ and yet most of us won’t be able to get a mortgage, especially with an extra 100k – what could have been a sizeable deposit – being gradually sucked out of our earnings. It may look good on paper, but in practise it’s screwing over the people who actually want to make a career from uni, all so that they can say “oh but look, lots more people went to uni”. Again I apologize for my cynical tone, but I would say I’m the first line of ‘victims’ who had to pay the same price for our first year than the previous students would have paid for their whole tuition, and don’t even get me started on the fact that the university itself doesn’t get any extra money, so there’s been no effort to ensure that the people paying 3x as much get any better value for it.

  • Peter Watson 27th Jun '14 - 10:42am

    In the IFS report to which Paul Walter links in his article, the assumption that underpins the assertion that “Higher-earning graduates, meanwhile, pay back substantially more under the new system than under the old one, making the new system more progressive (on the basis of graduates’ lifetime earnings) than the old one.” is:

    We assume that they make repayments from earnings according to the repayment schedule (that is, 9% of earnings above the repayment threshold, with no evasion and no early repayment)

    Since the new scheme involves a significant interest rate in real-terms, then there is a strong incentive to reduce the cost of the loan by repaying it early which was not in the previous scheme. Early repayment is obviously easier for those with the incomes or wealth to find the funds, so it would be interesting to see the effect on progressiveness (is that a word?) if that is factored in.

  • Peter Watson 27th Jun '14 - 10:45am

    @Stuart “A well off and well connected student, who knows he’s almost certainly going to be earning considerably more than £21,000 in his career, can get M+D to pay the £27,000 up front and save a fortune in the long run.”
    The sad thing about this for me is that it it raises the depressingly inescapable fact that the party is led by such people.

  • Tsar Nicholas 27th Jun '14 - 10:49am

    The levels of student debt engendered by the new scheme post-2012 is not in any way equivalent to a graduate tax.

    It is a debt which accumulates at the rate of RPI plus 3% (benefit claimants increases are linked to the much lower CPI) and will affect a graduate’s ability to obtain a mortgage in the post-MMR (Mortgage Market Review) world.

    You can either go to college and earn a degree, or you can buy a house, but you can’t do both, and to hear Lib Dems defending this state of affairs is sickening.

  • @Paul: “If we didn’t have this system the alternative would probably be all taxpayers paying for students fees. So under the alternative, why should taxpayers, many of whom didn’t go to university and whose family haven’t or won’t go to university, be paying for student fees out of their taxation right up to retirement and beyond (let alone when their children are university age)., while rich graduates earn thousands without paying a penny? It is simply not fair.”

    The entire principle of taxation is to provide for all. It’s no more unfair for someone to pay tax to provide the public good of university education than it is to pay for cancer treatment for other people or public schools when they send their children to a private school. And, of course, rich graduates will pay more through the normal system of progressive taxation so it’s simply not the case that they won’t pay a penny.

    But my primary objection to tuition fees lies not in the objectionable burdening of the next generation with loans or the incompetent manner in which it has been done likely leading to a minimal benefit to the public purse but in the impact it has on university education and the fundamental absurdity of trying to marketise education. Students are ever increasingly encouraged to view themselves as consumers paying for a product rather than students participating in their own education but, by definition, no-one choosing their university course can make an informed decision about what they are paying for because they have yet to acquire the knowledge that would let them make that choice. And without the ability to make informed choices the market can only ever drive down quality.

    On the issue of whether it was fought for, I am going on various news reports reporting from anonymous sources on how it was conducted. You can believe that or not.

  • The whole thing was a glorious cock up, I still do not know why the Lib Dems did not abstain en block as per the coalition agreement. Seems to have been a complete failure by someone who was leading a political party.
    Having said that I do not have strong feelings about Tuition Fees, the money has to come from somewhere.
    Can I say that I never went to University but hold a Law degree at Graduate and Masters Level. I did these in my spare time whilst working full time in a managerial position in the allotted time span for such degrees. The small costs involved were significantly supported by my employer
    To me the radical changes that are necessary in higher education affect other issues than Tuition Fees. Why is a University course over 3 years, why are there such lengthy holidays, what are the staff doing half the time, to me there seems so much wasted expenditure. Make degree courses 2 years, cut out the deadwood of long holidays both for the students and the staff and get Universities operating effectively and efficiently, certainly not as they do now.
    I am far from being the brightest but if I could do it just in my spare time, evening class and correspondence course, then our brightest young things should all waltz through in 2 years.
    I do not accept the argument that University life is important in maturing people and three years is about right because of that, even if it was correct it is no justification for the expense involved. All I can say when it came to job selection we found that those who had not been to University but had worked already since 16 or 18 were invariably selected because they had the appropriate skills, experience and therefore could be relied, it was not a shot in the dark, as taking a graduate on their first job.`
    For those of us who got our degrees “the hard way” as some say, the current system is laughable and needs a complete overhaul. It is an unnecessary drain on the country and individuals.
    Now about the leadership!!!!

  • David Evershed 27th Jun '14 - 11:01am

    Given a Government deficit of £150 billion per year and weak university finances, the pledge

    “………… to vote against any increase in fees in the next parliament and to pressure the government to introduce a fairer alternative”

    should never have been made.

    Lib Dems should be careful not to make the same mistake again with a government deficit which is still £100bn pa. and an accumulated debt level threatening to be unsustainable.

    One problem is that the way Lib Dem policies are proposed and approved in silos rather than as a full programme. The party could face the same position as in Californian referenda where people vote separately to cut taxes and at the same time to increase spending.

    The way we approve new policies should take account of trade offs between priorities. For example if we want free tuition we should say how much income tax has to be raised to pay for it.

    Our manifesto for the general election must be a cohesive programme and to recognise the necessity to cut the deficit may have to conflict with some individual policies agreed by the membership.

  • @Martin
    “Also @steve, I’m afraid your first point is wrong. The percentage we pay + inflation on our loans is massive, and running the numbers gets some horrific results, here’s an example: Someone studying for four years, getting 9k fee and 4k maintenance, then starting at 25k and progressing as would be expected, this graduate would be deemed successful. ”

    With respect, I’m not wrong, but that’s because you haven’t understood what I meant by a high earning graduate. Yes, I completely agree that the percentage ‘you’ pay is massive, but what you are describing is in fact a middle income earning graduate. They are the ones that get hammered. Those who earn much higher salaries pay less by paying their loans off early and pay a smaller proportion of their income over their lifetimes – i.e. tuition fees are regressive above middle-incomes and progressive below middle incomes. I am right and I have been saying this for four years on here – those graduates on middle incomes get hammered by a massive marginal tax rate that is higher than those on high incomes and those on low incomes. The system is grossly unfair. Conor Ryan from the Sutton Trust agrees with me (from Paul Walter’s link):

    “The new system will benefit graduates who earn very little in their lifetime. But for many professionals, such as teachers, this will mean having to find up to £2,500 extra a year to service loans at a time when their children are still at school and family and mortgage costs are at their most pressing. With recent revelations about the proportion of loans unlikely to be repaid, it seems middle income earners pay back a lot more but the Exchequer gains little in return. We believe that the Government needs to look again at fees, loans and teaching grants to get a fairer balance.”

  • Peter Watson 27th Jun '14 - 11:03am

    @Paul Walter
    It’s great to have a break from the “Clegg: should he stay or should he go” debate, but couldn’t you please have chosen something other than tuition fees? 😉

  • “The only explanation I can think of for that is that low earning graduates are now to pay less than they did before. Can you think of any other?”

    Do you really not understand even the most basic facts about this new system you’re defending?

    The whole point is that total university funding hasn’t remained the same. It has increased significantly. In no way does an increased cost to the government imply that graduates will pay less.

  • The previous Martin is a completely different martin, one that could do with some help with paragraphs.

    Strictly speaking middle income (implying a median?) are significantly better off. Those that get pay the most will be, at an approximate guess those between the 70th to 90th percentiles.

    Steve is right to point this out. The consequence is that in future the 45% tax for the highest earners (£150k +) will not really be much different to the effective tax for those on half their pay. In fact this policy is effectively bringing in the equivaalent of a 45% tax in the future for those earning much less than £150k (but still doing pretty well).

    Steve’s point underlines a reason why the top rate tax bracket needs to be preserved.

  • Malcolm Todd 27th Jun '14 - 11:40am

    Wow. A whole article about tuition fees. Because otherwise, some people might have started to forget why they had resolved never to trust or vote for the Lib Dems again. I always thought you were a critical loyalist, Paul Walter, but I see now you must be some sort of fifth-columnist!

  • Matthew Huntbach 27th Jun '14 - 11:46am

    Stuart

    “How can we know that Clegg didn’t go all out to not increase tuition fees but the Tories threatened to call the whole deal off on that one sticking point?”

    Well, we could ask the people who participated in the negotiations. But don’t you think your scenario sounds rather unlikely?

    I have to say, no, not at all.

    The one thing that has to be considered is that not increasing taxes,especially taxes on the rich, is the Tories’ red line. It is the thing they stand for more than anything else. It is at the very heart of what it is to be a Conservative that you believe unearned income is sacred, and so to tax it is an outrage. So I can quite see that they would put their foot down on any proposal to increase taxes to carry on subsidising universities just as hard as the Liberal Democrats would in the other way. And the Tories had 5 times as many MPs as the LibDems, and the LibDems would be the biggest losers had coalition negotiations collapsed and another general election called.

    If one is engaged in difficult negotiations, one does not go out immediately after reaching a deal and blab out what the exact points you made were and how the other side resisted it and what they did to force you to compromise and so on. If you do that, you can be sure next time you are in negotiations with the same people you blabbed about, they will be much harder on you. Especially if they are in a position of power and you are not.

    People have said “How can you be so sure that the LibDems would have been the biggest losers in an early general election?”. Well, come on. The party was already on a downward slope in the 2010 election, emerging with a much lower share of the poll than anticipated, all the gains it seemed to be making at the start gone. It had no money left to fight another general election. Another general election would have been put down as due to the intransigence of the Liberal Democrats, this party with less than one in ten of the MPs putting the country in peril at a difficult time by refusing to participate in the only stable government that could be formed. Labour and the Conservatives would have been united (as they were in the AV referendum) on stating that we need a clear one-party government with a majority, it is obvious that party is not going to be the Liberal Democrats, therefore electing a LibDem MP will just put us back at square 1 in trying to form a government to run the country, therefore don’t do it. Who was going to counter that by cheering on the Liberal Democrats for making a brave stand? If the Liberal Democrats want to make a brave stand against something the Tories are passionate for, to get support for that stand they have to look outside to people in the country who have leftish views to say “Good on you LibDems, for standing up for that”. However, that hasn’t happened, has it? Once the coalition as formed, the entire political left in the country, orchestrated by Labour, took the point of view “Nah-nah-nah-nah-nah, you jumped into bed with the Tories”, and therefore the national response to EVERY attempt by the Liberal Democrats to stand up to the Tories has been for the Tory right and the right-wing press to attack it in their usual twisted way, and for everyone of leftish views who was not a signed up member of the Liberal Democrats to totally ignore what the Liberal Democrats were doing and just carry on with the “Nah-nah-nah-nah-nah” stuff.

    So the Liberal Democrats were in a wretched position. That has been made even worse by Clegg’s poor handling of it in so many ways, painting it as some sort of triumph and not building into party promotional material the sort of defence that would be needed against the inevitable attacks a junior coalition partner is bound to get. Instead Clegg has acted throughout as if he had carefully thought through what those attacks would be and how they would work – and said and done all he could to make sure those attacks would work in the most damaging way possible. It is as if someone going out on a dangerous boat journey were to make a point of wearing lead boots rather than a lifejacket.

    The whole of the Liberal Democrats should not be blamed for the tuition fees fiasco, although that is what keeps happening with the continuing use of “Nah-nah-nah-nah-nah” comments in this sort of discussion aimed at all of us. Sure, this is a policy we wanted, but we did not say it should be singled out with the “pledge” in that way. Most of us who have been involved in practical politics understand the idea of negotiation and compromise, and that therefore if a coalition is formed it must involve that, and that therefore one should only make absolute promises that can absolutely be kept. If you can’t be absolutely sure that every potential coalition partner will agree to it, put it in the manifesto, yes, as what you would do if you had a majority, but have an escape clause for if you don’t and have to negotiate about it. It was Clegg and those around him who chose to promote this policy with the “pledge”, and it was they too who insisted it was all costed. Those of us campaigning for the party in 2010 took this point about the manifesto being costed at its word and so therefore went ahead with campaigning on that basis – don’t blame us when Clegg comes back and tells us it couldn’t be paid for, instead see party members as victims of him as well.

    Which is why (sorry Peter Watson), Clegg should go. It’s not the formation of the coalition that’s the problem – as I’ve argued that was a sad necessity. It’s the completely incompetent way he had handled it, combined with his continuing arrogance and bias towards the right of the party and refusal to make any considerations towards those members who are unhappy with his performance.

  • @ Simon Shaw. Your comment exemplifies the typical arrogance of politicians. “Surely the key question is whether it was fairer than the previous system. If it was (as I believe to be the case) then surely it was right to support it.” No. You promised people one thing. You deliberately did not give them that thing. They blame you. You tell them you know better because you believe that your new thing is fairer. Do you really not see where this leaves you? A good, old fashioned, I know best, paternalistic, Labour or Conservative politician.

    Until you get that, you will remain part of the problem for the Lib Dems.

  • David Howarth 27th Jun '14 - 11:47am

    @David Evershed
    To repeat: the policy adopted was aimed at saving precisely £1.6bn (a cut of about £2.4bn in the universities’ teaching grant, offset by higher default and admin costs) compared to the cost of the status quo. The pledge implied maintaining the status quo plus a bit more for the ‘fairer system’ aspect. Was that affordable? Of course it was. At the same time as tripling fees we were, for example, cutting corporation tax by £5bn a year. If we could afford those corporate tax cuts, we could have afforded to keep the pledge with billions to spare. The policy had nothing to do with the deficit reduction targets.

  • Paul Walter

    “this government has created 1.8 million apprenticeships”

    Please could you tell me how you know this? In the last couple of weeks I have seen the figure 400,000, 1 million, 1.4 million and now 1.8 million quoted. Where does the figure come from? And what does it mean the government create them?

  • Mark Blackburn 27th Jun '14 - 12:13pm

    People on the doorstep get it far better than a lot of political apparatchiks, clearly. 1) You base your whole election campaign around the ‘new politics’, and behaving differently to the two parties in the status quo. 2) Once in government, one of the first and most public things you do is break a pledge. 3) When you finally get round to apologising, you do it for making the pledge in the first place, not for the sin you committed, i.e. breaking it. 4) You’ve damaged the party brand, lost the public’s trust, and pushed open the door a little wider for UKIP.

    Yes, of course we’ve made significant contributions in coalition but let’s not be deluded as to the (justified) public perception of our values and the massive task in front of us in rebuilding our credibility.

  • “Surely the key question is whether it was fairer than the previous system. If it was (as I believe to be the case) then surely it was right to support it.”

    So if it seems like the right thing to do at the time, people should break the promises they’ve made, even if they’ve put those promises in writing and signed them?

    Do you really behave like that in your everyday life, Mr Shaw? And if you do, does anyone trust you? And hasn’t it ever got you into legal difficulties? (Because in the real world, when people sustain loses as a result of signed promises being broken, they have a legal remedy.)

  • “If we didn’t have this system the alternative would probably be all taxpayers paying for students fees.”

    You do remember that that’s precisely the policy the Lib Dems campaigned on at the last election, don’t you?

    Do you not think politicians have any obligation at all to support the policies they were elected on? Can they just turn round to their electors and say “Sorry, I’ve just decided it would be a lot fairer to do the opposite of what I told you before the election?”

    I’m afraid there’s still a very strong element of “not getting it” in what you are saying.

  • See the Barnet Colindale result. Another ghastly, awful, dreadful result, what more evidence do we need for change?

  • Jonathan Pile 27th Jun '14 - 12:35pm

    @ David Howarth
    To repeat: the policy adopted was aimed at saving precisely £1.6bn (a cut of about £2.4bn in the universities’ teaching grant, offset by higher default and admin costs) compared to the cost of the status quo.
    David makes an important point – scrapping the pledge was nothing to do with the coalition negotiations and that the cost of the status quo pre-2010 was affordable. In order for our party to reconnect with those students now, will take a pledge to abolish tuition fees alltogether and wipe all student debts – a cost of £xxx billions. All avoidable. All Clegg.

  • @Matthew Huntbach
    I don’t buy your argument at all.

    For one thing, the new tuition fees scheme is a tiny part of government revenues, and was always intended to cost money in the short to medium term (in fact it’s now expected to cost much more), so the suggestion that the Tories needed to do it to avoid tax increases just doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

    Also, the idea that not increasing any taxes is a “Tory red line” is frankly ludicrous, as anybody familiar with the numerous tax increases and new stealth taxes brought in by the 1979-97 government knows very well.

    There is nothing more important to the Conservative Party than being in power – yet they were prepared to jeopardise their chances of ever having sole power again by making concessions on electoral reform. Compared to that, freezing tuition fees for five years would have been a trivial thing for them to agree to – if the Lib Dems had insisted on it.

    As for the coalition negotiations being some kind of big secret… Well, at the time the Lib Dems were perfectly happy to make it known what their other red lines were (e.g. electoral reform). Also, I understand that some of the major players have since written books about it. They must be pretty thin books if it all has to be kept secret.

    The overriding impression I have (and I suspect most interested voters have) is that those who say Clegg never wanted to keep the pledge are correct; and that whereas the Lib Dem leadership were prepared to draw red lines on issues that they hoped would increase their political power (electoral reform, HoL reform), they were much less interested in drawing a red line that would enable them to keep their single specific promise to voters. All of which gives a pretty bad impression.

  • I find @edna ‘s four lines above the best summary here.

    It’s nonsense that our pledge not to increase fees wasn’t affordable. We’ve made far more expensive decisions in Government. It’s nonsense that we allowed ourselves to run the proposing department. It’s nonsense that we voted for when the coalition agreement allowed us to abstain. It’s nonsense that we speak of reducing debt at a national level, but insist on piling it on working people at an individual level. It’s dumb that we’ve ended up with a policy with all the difficulties of collecting debt afterwards (there’s always been an issue with keeping track of people who move overseas.) It’s a betrayal of trust in our party and policy-making process.

    In terms of fairness, I don’t see any argument not to charge for state education if we charge for university education. If the education benefits society as a whole, and our economy as a result, it’s right that the state provides for this. They’ll do well in return from higher taxes and availability of e.g. doctors, engineers as a result.

    This was the biggest national issue on the doorsteps in our ward, and cost us plenty of former supporters. One of the reasons I listened to the people calling for Nick Clegg to stand down is that I think he has shown a leadership failure on this issue; not just in breaking the pledge, but in failing to move the party on in any way. He still has much he needs to do on this issue if he is to regain credibility.

    In terms of alternatives, I’d have been prepared to defend reducing places rather than increasing fees. At the bottom end of the market, university qualifications are not providing the boost to the economy, there are students who are not well suited to university life, and courses we would not miss. We’re still tied to Blair’s silly 50% target. Given our commendable work on providing 1.8 million apprenticeships, we should have refused to increase fees but made savings by restricting places to those who would not benefit.

  • Thank you all for your very stimulating comments.

    I will respond to a few of those comments:

    @Chris 27th Jun ’14 – 9:16am
    “Can’t you see that the more you try to defend the breaking of a written promise (which was accompanied, surreally, by a high-profile promise that there would be no more broken promises) as just a normal and inevitable part of political life, the less people are going to trust anything you say in the future?”

    Yes, of course, Chris. My point is that if Clegg had implemented a mechanism of the devil in place of his pre-election promise then that would be terrible and would justify all the venomous criticism. But he didn’t. He implemented something that is reasonably fair.

    @Stuart 27th Jun ’14 – 9:24am
    “So how can you assert that “he broke a promise but he did so because he had to compromise in a coalition government”?”

    Because it is obviously what happened. Or are you saying he waltzed into the coalition negotiations and immediately ceded student finance to the Tories without any negotiation? It was part of a negotiation that gave us coalition policies which were judged to be of higher priority than avoiding a solution which has turned out to be relatively fair anyway.

    “…don’t you think the Lib Dem negotiators should have insisted on day 1 that this would be one of their (very few) red lines?”

    No, I certainly do not. Why make a red line out of something for which the alternative, eventually implemented, is relatively fair and progressive, while taking some of the burden off the taxpayers?

    “And if they had done so, does it seem remotely plausible that the Tories would have scrapped the entire coalition deal over what was a relatively trivial matter?”

    No, but it was all part of a deal which covered scores of items. So fine. A judgment was made that the tuition fees promise would be sacrificed for a policy alternative which is relatively fair and progressive. I think that’s sensible, acceptable and fair. You don’t. Fine. We disagree.

    “And if sticking to the pledge was an impossibility – how come quite a few Lib Dem MPs managed to do it, to their credit?”

    The ones that did vote in favour presumably shared my view that the alternative policy, now implemented, is relatively fair and progressive. That is a principled stand.

    @Caracatus 27th Jun ’14 – 9:26am
    “The broken promise had nothing to do with being in coaliton and everything to do with Nick Clegg not supporting the policy. We know he had tried to change the policy before and failed, we know he got Vince to produce plans to fund the policy and ignored them, we know that the new policy costs more up front and has nothing to do with deficit reduction and is routed in a tory belief that people has to pay for everything they get.”

    Well, I think Clegg was pursuing a relatively fair and progresive policy here. As long as the system is related fairly to the ability to pay, as it is, I agree with the Tory view here and I think it is quite liberal – to shift some of the cost from the taxpayers to the graduates who reap the rewards of their university education.

    “We know Lib dems had the option not to vote for the policy and yet he still did and we know that Clegg has not apologised for breaking his pledge – merely for making it in the first place.”

    Well, I think that is because he believed in the eventual policy because it is relatively fair and progressive. I think that is a fair, reasonable and liberal stance. You don’t. Fine. We disagree.

    “And yes we know that other parties break their promises and change their policies but perhaps they don’t raise such false hopes that there will be”no more broken promises” as Clegg did.”

    Agreed. That was a mistake.

    “to turn the policy on its head and say when I said abolish tuition fees I really meant treble them is political suicide.”

    Yes, it probably will turn out to be, in part. But I think that course of action is rooted in a principled belief in the eventual system, which is fair and reasonable.

    David Howarth 27th Jun ’14 – 9:33am

    Thank you very much indeed for your contribution, David.

    @Peter Watson 27th Jun ’14 – 10:04am
    “@Paul Walter ‘“Paying off their student loans” – but it is a strange loan, is it not? ‘
    Strange, but still a loan. And like any loan, wealthier people with assets can avoid it or pay it back early to reduce their costs. Big winners under the new scheme are those with the wealth to pay fees up front and expectations of high salaries upon graduation (http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/students/should-i-get-student-loan “You pay the fees, your child earns big bucks, Result: You Gain Up To £26,000″).”

    That’s strange because there is also an article on the MoneySavingExpert which is titled “Beware paying uni fees upfront – Many may end up wasting £20,000+”

    http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/students/should-i-get-student-loan

    Martin Lewis has said on a video explanation: “It is probably not worth anybody paying this off up front…based on the maths there is no reason not to take the loan”.

    @Jonathan Pile 27th Jun ’14 – 10:06am
    I don’t agree that this is immoral because there is the aspect of removing some burden from the general taxpayer and shifting it to the graduates based on ability to pay, which is fair. I don’t agree it was a lie. It was a broken promise. That is not the same as a lie where someone says something they genuinely know to be untrue at the time of saying it.

    @Simon Oliver 27th Jun ’14 – 10:07am
    “I do not agree that any promise was broken – the full NUS pledge is hardly ever quoted nowadays, but it should be remembered that the second half of it was “to introduce a fairer system.
    As that is exactly what has been done, the more substantive part of the pledge has been met”

    Very well said, Simon.

    @Peter Watson 27th Jun ’14 – 10:29am
    “@Simon Oliver ‘I do not agree that any promise was broken – the full NUS pledge is hardly ever quoted nowadays, but it should be remembered that the second half of it was “to introduce a fairer system”’
    The word that linked the two parts of the pledge was “and“.
    Also, the last word of the pledge was not “system”, it was “alternative”, implying it was a “fairer alternative” to “any increase in fees”.”

    Because of the reform of the system which went with the tuition fee increase I think it is a fairer system than simply increasing tuition fees without any reform of the overall system.

    @Martin 27th Jun ’14 – 10:41am

    Martin, thank you very much indeed for that heartfelt contribution which has made me think again.

    @Tsar Nicholas 27th Jun ’14 – 10:49am
    “You can either go to college and earn a degree, or you can buy a house, but you can’t do both, and to hear Lib Dems defending this state of affairs is sickening.”

    I would quote this from MoneySavingExpert:

    http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/students/student-loans-tuition-fees-changes

    “Many believed the new higher tuition fees in 2012 would make it a nightmare for getting a mortgage – this isn’t true. In some ways, they are an improvement.

    If we contrast student loans for those who started in 2012 with to their predecessors from the year before, it’s actually swings and roundabouts. If you’re a 2012+ starter, you’ll have higher disposable income than 1998-2011 starters (you only pay 9% over £21,000, while they pay 9% over £16,910), so mortgages are actually more affordable in the first years after university for new starters.

    Yet it means you’ll be repaying long after current graduates, so at that point you’ll have less disposable income.

    Overall, both in my view, and that of mortgage brokers I’ve discussed it with, it’s likely to even out – and it’s certainly a negligible issue compared to building a substantial deposit.”

    Bear in mind that graduates pay £540 less in repayments per year than under the old system. So they have more disposable income to make mortgage repayments. The Council of Mortgage Lenders agrees, says Martin Lewis in a video explanation, that the system does not make that much difference.

    @Jack 27th Jun ’14 – 10:50am

    Very good point, well made.

    @Steve 27th Jun ’14 – 11:01am
    “”We believe that the Government needs to look again at fees, loans and teaching grants to get a fairer balance.””

    Agreed.

    malc 27th Jun ’14 – 11:56am
    “Paul Walter
    “this government has created 1.8 million apprenticeships”
    Please could you tell me how you know this? In the last couple of weeks I have seen the figure 400,000, 1 million, 1.4 million and now 1.8 million quoted. Where does the figure come from? And what does it mean the government create them?”

    It was in this press release yesterday, which includes a link to the detailed numbers behind it:

    Liberal Democrats deliver 1.8m apprenticeships – Birtwistle

    Liberal Democrats have helped create over 1.8m apprenticeships since coming into Government in 2010.

    Figures released today show 314,000 people started an apprenticeship in 2013/14. It means that 1.8m apprenticeships have been created since the coalition took power.

    This takes the Government close to achieving their target of creating 2m apprenticeships in this Parliament.

    Commenting, Liberal Democrat Business Spokesperson Gordon Birtwistle said:

    “All young people should have an opportunity to get on in life and apprenticeships are a great way to deliver that. Liberal Democrats have been the driving force behind boosting apprenticeships and I am delighted that since May 2010, we have created more than 1.8 million apprenticeships.

    “We set ourselves an ambitious target of delivering 2m apprenticeships by the end of this Parliament and we are on course to meet that. Creating apprenticeships for young people helps to build the stronger economy that Liberal Democrats are helping to deliver in Government.

    “As part of our reforms of vocational education we have focused on raising the quality of all apprenticeships to world class standards, so that the programme is rigorous, responsive, and meets the changing needs of the future economy.”

    ENDS

    Notes to Editors

    You can find the latest statistical data on apprenticeships here:

    https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/learner-participation-outcomes-and-level-of-highest-qualification-held

  • @Jonathan Pile
    “All Clegg”. Well no actually, there was a big chunk of Cable in there! Oh, but wait, he’s one of your knights on a white charger isn’t he? Oh dear.

  • “Because it is obviously what happened.”

    No. Of course it’s not obvious that “he had to compromise” on tuition fees. He and his MPs had signed written promises to vote against any increase in fees. If there was only one “red line” then keeping fees unchanged should have been it.

    We know which “red line” Clegg actually chose to insist on – the demand for a referendum on a voting system which wouldn’t be proportional and which Clegg didn’t believe in (“miserable little compromise”), but which he thought would be of electoral advantage to his party. But fortunately the electorate turned out to be not quite as gullible as he’d hoped.

  • Who is this article intended for? I don’t think anyone thinks it was the crime of the century, it’s simply that the public don’t trust him because he is currently the best political analogy for political dishonesty. This article does nothing to address that, rather Paul said that he had it really good, never paid anything for his education but also thinks the current system is fair and reasonable. That’s pretty confusing; he doesn’t seem to have any issue with fighting a general election on a policy, and then doing the complete opposite in power. It’s as if he doesn’t understand what it means to the public at large.

    We’ll be discussing this for years to come because some don’t understand that breaking public trust after the expense scandal was the straw that broke the camels back. It can’t be fixed, repaired or forgiven, we either move on and get a new leader or stay trapped in it’s negative light indefinitely. Paul has made it clear that he wants to hang around for the Extinction Level Event, good luck to him, but it’s hard to take a commentator seriously that chooses annihilation instead of reparation!

  • David Allen 27th Jun '14 - 1:19pm

    Cable, like most governing politicians, has a chequered record, a mixture of success and failure, of good and bad judgment. The successes include being one of the few people who saw the crash coming and proposed policies which would have helped, and persuading a reluctant Conservative party to take at least some action to stimulate the economy, revive employment and tackle the worst aspects of zero-hours contracting.

    What success has Clegg ever achieved?

  • “What success has Clegg ever achieved?”

    He was elected leader of the Liberal Democrats.

  • James Thompson 27th Jun '14 - 1:46pm

    @ Paul Walker

    “why should taxpayers, many of whom didn’t go to university and whose family haven’t or won’t go to university, be paying for student fees out of their taxation right up to retirement and beyond (let alone when their children are uiversity age)., while rich graduates earn thousands without paying a penny? It is simply not fair.”

    Ok then

    This year I have not been to see the doctor or used the NHS. Why should I fund the NHS out of my taxes that I earn. Is this principle not the same. Ridiculous comment.

    We all benefit from a society where we have graduates that lead to doctors, engineers, nurses, teachers, dentists, etc, etc, so shouldnt taxpayers fund it. At least that was the principle I voted for when I voted LibDem last time (for the last time).

    Clegg, etc also said they had a fully costed plan to fund tuition fees. Again this was believed and in fact peddled round university campus after university campus. Then all of a sudden – there was no plan. This was not a compromise. This was Clegg asking for votes with his fingers crossed behind his back. I know it. You know it and so does everyone else.

  • David Allen 27th Jun '14 - 2:18pm

    David Howarth certainly points out clearly that the policy was designed to save only £1.6bn per year, a comparatively small and affordable sum. It now appears that the actual saving will turn out close to zero:

    http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/news/cost-of-new-fee-regime-may-soon-exceed-the-old/2012146.article

  • Paul, judging from the appalling polling, both actual votes received and opinion polls there are seven words?
    Very, very, very minor party in coalition.
    You and the MPs know the answer,need I say more.

  • theakes 27th Jun ’14 – 3:19pm
    ” …..Very, very, very minor party in coalition.”

    Or in 300 days time — ” very, very few MPs for minor party once in coalition”

  • Nothing about being forced to vote for it, nothing about coalition compromise, nothing about claiming to prefer the existing party policy – but a simple statement of what Nick thinks – he actually prefers the policy of £9000 tution fees.

    So really it’s completely wrong to say “He broke a promise but he did so because he had to compromise in a coalition government”.

    What happened was that he had been forced to compromise by his own party and had therefore adopted the policy of abolishing tuition fees, but the coalition was his pretext for reverting to the policy he had really believed in all along.

  • Matthew Huntbach 27th Jun '14 - 3:52pm

    Stuart

    I don’t buy your argument at all.

    I think I have made no secret of the fact that I am not a Clegg fan, and have no particular reason to defend the man. I am simply trying to consider from my own knowledge and experience how things would have worked out behind the scenes and responding to your suggestion that explanations that have been given about why it was not possible to keep the tuition fees pledge are “unlikely”.

    For one thing, the new tuition fees scheme is a tiny part of government revenues, and was always intended to cost money in the short to medium term (in fact it’s now expected to cost much more),
    so the suggestion that the Tories needed to do it to avoid tax increases just doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

    I suspect that you have never had to go through a large scale budget item by item and have to match expenditure against income. I have done, during my time as Leader of the Opposition of a London Borough Council. It’s easy for those outside to give hand-waving arguments that some big expenditure item is easy-peasy to meet, rather harder if you do have to give argument about how it would be met. When I was Leader of the Opposition I always made the point of considering what I would do if I was leading the council before opening my mouth in condemnation of cuts etc.

    If you think it would have been easy-peasy, how would YOU, Stuart, pay for complete subsidy of universities? The costs of the entire higher education system across the whole country are not that negligible in the way you are suggesting.

    Sure, in the end the new tuition fees system is disguised government borrowing paid for by what in reality is a disguised graduate tax. But I think your suggestion that the Tories intended it to be that way and that expensive is wrong. One could say the Liberal Democrats undermined the scheme from within by making the terms so generous in this way.

    Also, the idea that not increasing any taxes is a “Tory red line” is frankly ludicrous, as anybody familiar with the numerous tax increases and new stealth taxes brought in by the 1979-97 government knows very well.

    So, what taxes would YOU have increased to pay for it? If you read what I wrote I said it was in particular taxes on the rich that the Tories would never agree to – things like higher inheritance tax, other forms of tax on property and the like. So, would you settle for it to be paid by taxes which hit poor people more? Or more cuts?

    Remember the one tax increase that was tried – a sensible removal of tax allowance for older people? It proved impossible to do that because it was condemned as “granny tax”, even though in reality cutting this allowance and using the money raised to increase state pensions was a good equitable move (tax allowance benefits only those with enough income to make use of it).

    Now, if someone could show me the costs of the tax allowance increases Clegg and the Cleggies are boasting about (and falsely claiming was a manifesto promise met – it wasn’t, because the manifesto promise was to shift taxes not to cut them), and put that against the costs of continuing with the previous subsidy of universities, if that would have paid for it I would very much agree that it would have been FAR better to have foregone those tax allowance increases in order not to have the tuition fees system.

    I’m not joining the Cleggies in saying what we ended up with was the best thing ever. They KEEP on doing this and so damaging the party by undermining the argument that what comes out of the coalition is a compromise. All I am saying is that I can see how this might have arisen as the best compromise the Tories were willing to concede to.

  • Matthew Huntbach 27th Jun '14 - 3:57pm

    Caracatus

    Nothing about being forced to vote for it, nothing about coalition compromise, nothing about claiming to prefer the existing party policy – but a simple statement of what Nick thinks – he actually prefers the policy of £9000 tuition fees.

    Indeed. This is why I have dropped out of active support for the party. The sort of arguments I would be willing to give to defend it – as I have given here – are being undermined by its own leader. It is like, as Geoffrey Howe put it, going out to the crease only to find your bat has been broken by the team captain. I cannot play for a team whose captain destroys its bats. Geoffrey Howe couldn’t either, and his words apply now and should be followed up on in the Liberal Democrats as they were then in the Conservative Party.

  • Two things.

    1 You broke a specific pledge, made independently of the manifesto. Why should the electorate ever trust anything the Lib Dems say again?

    2. Politically doing the above was stupid. Every graduate between now and forever with the unavoidable debt the fees have placed on them, and the fact they are unlikely ever to be able to own a home outright, will blame Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats for their situation. Graduates vote. They make up half the electorate. They are unlikely to ever for Lib Dem because of this. Do you think once they graduate they will forgive you?

  • “I just don’t buy that. I mean, it’s fantastic stuff. Sort of entering Nick Clegg’s head and imagining what he thought. Brilliant stuff. But I simply don’t believe it is what happened.”

    Certainly, feel free to believe just you want to believe. But if it’s as inconsistent with the evidence as what you wrote above, don’t expect anyone else to believe it.

  • “The ones who have the ability and the will to understand simple finance will have no reason not to, concerning this policy.”

    Again, Paul, you may be quite happy to support politicians who feel free to break their word to the electorate -even if they’ve written the promise down and signed it – but don’t expect other people to do so.

  • @Paul: “So will graduates ever vote LibDem again? Yes. The ones who have the ability and the will to understand simple finance will have no reason not to, concerning this policy.”

    Because anyone who thinks paying back £50 a month for thirty years instead of £100 for ten is clearly an idiot. That graduates are better off under the new scheme is a particularly disingenuous argument.

  • Paul Walter

    As I have written above it is avoidable (you can earn less than £21,000 and the “debt” expires after 30 years) and it isn’t “debt” in the normal sense.

    So your solution is to remain poor. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. You’d be better off not going to university under this argument. Incidentally, the £21,000 cap is not increasing with inflation and income…

    And Martin Lewis and the Council of Mortgage Lenders say that the new policy doesn’t make much difference to mortgage lending because the new policy actually gives graduates an extra £540 a year in disposable income which makes it easier for them to pay off a mortgage.

    This isn’t true anymore. Mortgage lenders are now factoring in tuition fee debt to calculations. Also, where did you pluck that £540 figure from?

  • David Evans 27th Jun '14 - 4:32pm

    @Paul Walter – “So will graduates ever vote LibDem again? Yes. The ones who have the ability and the will to understand simple finance will have no reason not to, concerning this policy.” Except for the fact that Nick broke his pledge to them. Hence, they don’t trust him or the Lib Dems.

  • Tsar Nicholas 27th Jun '14 - 5:12pm

    @ Paul Walter.

    You bring out an article from Moneysavingexpert to cast doubt on the negative effect of student debt on the ability to get a mortgage.

    Please clarify whether this article was written before or after the results of the Mortgage Market Review (MMR) were announced and introduced by the Financial Conduct Authority in April 2014. I think you will find mse’s advice is now out of date.

  • Richard Allanach 27th Jun '14 - 5:24pm

    Actually it might be the UKs political crime of the century.

    Many people would have seen the political process as a choice, expressed at elections, between alternative programmes.

    Now a party leader who campaigned on an end to broken promises breaks a prominent pledge he made to the electors in his constituency within months of being given the keys to the ministerial limo. He is joined in this by many of his senior colleagues. A practice redolent of eighteenth century politics.

    The consequences:

    – a growing distrust of the democratic system;
    – the rise of the distasteful UKIP anti-party;
    – the death of our oldest political party (taking the form over legal substance view that the LibDems were a continuation of the old Liberals)

    Can anyone think of a worse political act to have occurred in peacetime in the UK in the last one hundred years?

  • “Now a party leader who campaigned on an end to broken promises breaks a prominent pledge he made to the electors in his constituency within months of being given the keys to the ministerial limo.”

    But of course the party decided that the the pledge would be broken within only a few days of the election, because the coalition agreement made no provision for Lib Dem MPs to vote against an increase in tuition fees.

  • Stephen Campbell 27th Jun '14 - 5:47pm

    It’s quite breathtaking, the lengths some loyalists will go to defend the indefensible (breaking direct promises to the electorate). Some defenders of the broken pledge sound as if they actually hold the electorate in contempt and act as if they think the electorate are stupid as well. Which is not surprising, seeing how this Party has acted since being in coalition. Even after the expenses scandal, it seems the political class don’t get it. What part of promising “no more broken promises” and then immediately breaking a promise do they not get? Even if all Liberal Democrat MPs had been noble and abstained or voted against tuition fees, it still would have passed. In fact, as I keep saying, Liberal Democrat MPs have been more loyal when it comes to voting for Tory policy than many Tories themselves have been. The voting record is there for all to see. Further, this pledge was made mainly to people who were first-time voters. How do you think it feels to vote for the first time, being young an idealistic, and then have that promise broken? You talk about engaging more young people in politics. And once you’ve engaged them and got their votes, you discarded them as if they didn’t matter. Yes, I know this is a coalition and your party could not get all it wanted. But it could and should have fought its corner harder (and more openly), especially on a PROMISE. What part of this do you not understand, and how can anybody in this party not understand how you look to the electorate? Well, the electorate have been telling you exactly how they feel. And yet it’s still “steady as she goes, no change captain!”

    Myself and many people I know who used to vote Liberal Democrat did so because we believed you to be an honest, trustworthy, principled lot who didn’t automatically kowtow to big business. Now you look just the same as Labour and the Tories: willing to do anything for power, even breaking actual promises to the electorate. And when people complain about this, we get the usual politician speak, all wrapped up in nice PR terms about “difficult decisions” (which always hurt the weak and rarely, if ever, the strong).

    No wonder the electorate by and large hold all three main parties in contempt and are flocking in droves to alternatives such as the Greens and UKIP. People are sick of the managerial, PR-speaking political class right now. There’s hardly much difference between the three main parties anyway. There was a time when Labour, Tory and Liberal all offered vastly different policies. Not now. There is no reason for me or anyone else to trust the Lib Dems and even less reason to ever believe a word that comes out of Clegg’s mouth.

  • Peter Watson 27th Jun '14 - 5:52pm

    @Paul Walter “That’s strange because there is also an article on the MoneySavingExpert which is titled “Beware paying uni fees upfront – Many may end up wasting £20,000+””
    Indeed. Many could end up wasting money and Martin Lewis seemed to be advising parents and grandparents that paying their children’s fees could be unwise. But it does not contradict his observation and calculation that those who can save most are those with the most cash before university and the best prospects after. Others who want to hedge their bets can also do well by taking the loans but paying off early if they land a good job. None of this sounds as progressive or fair as it is often painted. The assumption that underpins the IFS figures is that everybody takes up the loan and pays it back according to the schedule, but it looks like the wealthy and the well-paid have ways to avoid that.

  • Peter Watson 27th Jun '14 - 5:57pm

    @Paul Walter “How many more do you want?”
    I can’t believe you forgot about Labour’s introduction of top up fees for university students despite saying they wouldn’t. Lib Dems used to really lay into them about that one.

  • Thank you Peter!

  • Bill le Breton 27th Jun '14 - 6:59pm

    Our main European competitor in the Global Race is thought to be Germany. Why are university fees in Germany on or below 1,500 euros? Why are they phasing out even those fees?

    It says a lot about our commitment to the knowledge economy.

  • “How many more do you want?”

    Just out of interest, can you give us any other examples of politicians making a written pledge about how they would vote on a particular issue, and then breaking it?

  • Paul in Wokingham 27th Jun '14 - 7:25pm

    @Bill – why is a football season ticket so much cheaper in Germany? Why does nobody there have a credit card? Why is it so cheap to visit a dentist? Why is home ownership so low compared with the UK? Debt is a much more acceptable concept to UK consumers of political parties than to their German counterparts.

  • “As I have written above it is avoidable (you can earn less than £21,000 and the ‘debt’ expires after 30 years) and it isn’t ‘debt’ in the normal sense.”

    This is an odd argument. Quite apart from the fact that spending your life on low wages isn’t all that tempting (it’s like telling someone they can “avoid” paying road tax by not having a car), in fact pretty much any debt can be avoided by the simple method of being unable to pay it; it’s just that the alternatives (bankruptcy, prison, or in this case a life of poverty) tend to be less attractive than being able to pay off the debt.

    “So will graduates ever vote LibDem again? Yes. The ones who have the ability and the will to understand simple finance will have no reason not to, concerning this policy.”

    The people who defend this policy don’t seem to have much of a grasp of simple finance. A much bigger loan with a much higher rate of interest but longer payment terms is not generally regarded as a good deal. That’s why most people would rather pay £500 for a TV from Amazon or Curries than £2,500 for the same TV from Bright House (with “low monthly payments”). The government is basically conning people with this.

  • A Social Liberal 27th Jun '14 - 7:50pm

    Paul Walter opined that :-

    “Labour rogering the economy up to 2010 for starters./Margaret Thatcher destroying whole swathes of economic activity across the country./Callaghan and “crisis what crisis?”/Wilson/Callaghan bringing British industry almost to a standstill with strikes and overly lax union laws./Blair invading Iraq – which was in peacetime because no war was declared./Heath and the three day week/Margaret Thatcher stopping free school milk/The poll tax/Vat on fuel by the Tory government in the early 1990s”

    Indeed Paul, any of all but the first of the above might well be a crime of the century – but the 20th century and not the 21st. As for Labour screwing up the economy – I rather thought that it was the banks that did that, and not just in this country but the largest part of the economic world.

  • David Allen 27th Jun '14 - 8:04pm

    Paul Walter’s quote from MSE said:

    “Many believed the new higher tuition fees in 2012 would make it a nightmare for getting a mortgage – this isn’t true. In some ways, they are an improvement.

    If we contrast student loans for those who started in 2012 with to their predecessors from the year before, it’s actually swings and roundabouts. If you’re a 2012+ starter, you’ll have higher disposable income than 1998-2011 starters (you only pay 9% over £21,000, while they pay 9% over £16,910), so mortgages are actually more affordable in the first years after university for new starters.

    Yet it means you’ll be repaying long after current graduates, so at that point you’ll have less disposable income.

    Overall, both in my view, and that of mortgage brokers I’ve discussed it with, it’s likely to even out”

    OK. So MSE finds that the new deal is marginally better in the first few years, but far worse in the longer term. Why then does MSE conclude that the new deal makes mortgage access no worse?

    Because, I suggest, it is the early years which are most critical, when people are stretching hardest to get onto the housing ladder. In later years, as and if people’s professional incomes rise, they may be able to trade up. By then, it’s a question of how big a mortgage increase is feasible, and that’s not quite such a big issue as whether or not young people can get mortgages at all.

    So – MSE are probably right – But, the new deal does mean a bigger debt which takes much longer to repay. So – although MSF are right, this in no way excuses the Lib Dems from breaking their promise and voting for a massive increase in fees and debts.

  • What is concerning me as a parent of two paying off loans is the sell off of the loans book. When I wonder will the rules change to enable the privateers to raise the percentage of the loan to be paid, reduce the salary level, put up the interest rate or even call the loan in? After all this is what the shareholders will want and their puppets in government will allow. I can also envisage them chasing the parents for the money. We after all had to complete forms as well. It is bad enough now being chased by The Student Loan Company when working abroad as one of my children is. Their letters are dreadful and are timed to give very little time to complete. I dread to think how it will be with the private loan sharks. I presume the LibDems supported this as well? Please enlighten.

  • Richard Allanach 27th Jun '14 - 9:33pm

    @ Paul Walker

    The poll tax.

    I now see that Paul and I have a fundamentally different view of the role of political parties in the UK political process, As I pointed out earlier it seems to me this is about presenting different programmes in general elections to provide a choice in a democratic system.

    In the 1987 general election the conservatives promised to bring in a poll tax. They did so. Thatcher behaved honourably in implementing the conservatives commitment. This was a commitment to the nation as a whole rather to a constituency. Otherwise it can be directly compared to Nick Cleggs commitment to his electors.

    Paul appears to believe that Thatcher should have ratted on her party’s commitment and Clegg was not wrong to break his personal commitment.

    An article by Paul on what he believes the role of general elections in a liberal society should be because I think his ideas must be different from the consensus view.

  • @A Social Liberal
    It was Labour who presided over the bank mess but calls for deregulation came from Tories and Lib Dems so none of the 3 parties can claim to be clean

  • My kids will study outside of the UK if this system is still in place or I will pay upfront. How anyone can be proud of extending “Rip off Britain” to education and forcing indebtedness on an even younger agegroup is beyond comprehension. Ditto the idea that we should be proud because this acts like a tax. Why would anyone want to tax a person improving their life chances? Many of the promises made about this, its not a real debt, it wont be taken into account in mortgage caclculations, only a few institutions will charge the top rate, these proved to be false. Why Paul wants to draw attention to this cock-up is beyond me. When I was at University, Land Economy was a subject for amazing gifted athletes who the University hoped to represent them in sporting contests who might otherwise not have been able to get in. With the logic on display in this article I can only assume the author was in his younger days a cross between Pele and Usain Bolt.

  • Denis Mollison 27th Jun '14 - 10:31pm

    Much of this discussion strays from the one point that matters.

    In a time of distrust of politicians we had a reputation for honesty, and we lost it.
    Our MPs promised publicly “to vote against any increase in fees in the next parliament”, and many of them, including our leaders, broke that promise, and in doing so took from us our good name (*). Overnight we went from the party of choice for young people to pariahs, and quite right too.

    And all for what? As David Howarth explains, for very little in the scale of public expenditure. Moreover, playing cynic, my recollection is that Labour supported higher fees, so Cameron would probably have got them through even with all our 57 MPs sticking to their promises.

    (*) – from Othello –
    Good name in man and woman, dear my lord,
    Is the immediate jewel of their souls.
    Who steals my purse steals trash; ’tis something, nothing;
    ‘Twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands;
    But he that filches from me my good name
    Robs me of that which not enriches him,
    And makes me poor indeed.

  • @Paul Walter “It seems a fair and reasonable system to me. ”

    If it seems perfectly reasonable to you, then I think you should personally calculate how much you would have had to pay if your 100% grant had been a student loan, after taking in to consideration inflation and interest, and pay that back to the treasury.

    Unless you do this I cannot see how you can think it is fair and reasonable.

  • Paul Walter

    Just been doing a little research into government funded apprenticeships. While I think most would agree it is an excellent service I was just wondering why the LibDems seem to think they deserve most of – if not all – the credit for the scheme. The National Apprenticeship Service was introduced by the last Labour government and has continued under the coalition. Surely all three major parties deserve the credit, Labour for starting it, Geoge Osborne for providing extra funding and Vince Cable as the minister responsible for overseeing it . A great service but it’s down to all the three parties not just the LibDems.

  • Paul Walter

    If only we could take you back in time and remove your “luxuriant 100% grant” and then charge you 9 grand a year for your university education. I wonder if your “It seems a fair and reasonable system to me. ” opinion would change.

  • I can’t believe that anyone can say “All of that makes it rather baffling that tuition fees are still venomously chanted as part of the indictment against Nick Clegg.” If Paul stood for election and became a councillor and he had promised to vote a certain way on an issue but he voted the other way would he be baffled that his voters held it against him? Would he be baffled because those you voted for him no longer trusted what he said on any issue?

    Paul Walter wrote, “He broke a promise but he did so because he had to compromise in a coalition government. He produced a reasonable alternative instead.” He may have supported a reasonable alternative but this misses the point. His pledge, his promise to vote against all increases to tuition fees is not the same as the policy we had in our manifesto. Of course the voters can accept that we couldn’t get the Tories to agree to our policy on tuition fees but all our MPs could have voted against the government’s proposal and the old system would have to have carried on. This might have meant that cuts had to be made elsewhere to finance it, but the public would have understood that more than an elected representative breaking their personal promise.

    @ Paul Walter
    If the Tories wouldn’t have agreed to all our MPs voting against all increases to tuition fees, then we would be able to say to the public. We promised no more broken promises and we kept that promise because we couldn’t agree to be in government if we had to break our personal promises to the public.

    There is no policy gain that can our weigh the broken promises on tuition fees. The broken promise is a trust issue. The public have been unhappy about the broken promises and the untrustfulness of their politicians for years. We always had an answer to that. WE were not the same. Now we are. Now our MPs break their personal promises and now we can’t be trusted.

    What I don’t understand is why any party members can’t understand that the broken pledge is about trust and not about a policy in the manifesto. It is at the heart of the relationship between a political party and the voters. Trust is the issue and it doesn’t matter how many times we say but the policy we supported is a very good policy, we are not addressing the trust issue.

    @ Simon Oliver
    The pledge was “I pledge to vote against any increase in fees in the next parliament and to pressure the government to introduce a fairer alternative” This can only mean that any alternative can’t be one that includes higher fees.

    @ Matthew Huntbach – “The whole of the Liberal Democrats should not be blamed for the tuition fees fiasco”
    The whole party has to take the blame. Firstly because at the Special Conference we didn’t state that we couldn’t support going into government if he meant our MPs had to break their promise by abstaining on tuition fees. Secondly by not writing to our state party to get those MPs who broke their pledges removed from the party because they had brought the party into disrepute. So, yes as a party member I have to take some of the blame. I didn’t go to the conference and I didn’t check the agreement against our tuition fee pledge and I didn’t asked for all those English MPs who failed to vote against to be removed from the party. And for that I am personally sorry. Even as an ordinary member I should have done more. I might have failed, but I didn’t do anything and I am sorry.

  • Bill le Breton 28th Jun '14 - 7:22am

    Paul in Wok – 23rd June 7.25 pm : indeed. Did you listen to the Analysis Programme on Monday 23rd on Varieties of Capitalism? You can get to a podcast here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/analysis/all

  • Bill le Breton 28th Jun '14 - 7:51am

    Paul Walter, I hope your weekend commitments are going well. I also wish your young man or women is inspired by at least one of the universities s/he visits and hope they do not necessarily choose one near home for financial reasons. Many now do.

    The effect of the very large debt they commit themselves to have strong psychological impacts, regardless of how the system is explained to them. My experience is that the pressure it creates is greater than a parent may imagine. They begin to bite as the course goes on and as course work and exam results build up. I think you will be surprised at the obsession with marks that now dominates a student’s days and nights.

    My daughter who graduated 2 years ago gained a higher class of degree by 0.2% after three years of course work, dissertation and exams. A computer programme that keeps them in constant contact with where they are and what they need from future grading will become key part of their life if our experiences are anything to go buy.

    Nor do parents necessarily understand the impact of that very high interest rate that will be clocking up.

  • Richard Harris 28th Jun '14 - 8:06am

    @Paul Walter

    Thank you for writing a truly entertaining article that left my and my wife laughing our heads off. We needed some light relief given that we have three children, all doing well academically, but we know that we could not possibly afford to help them through university now that a total of £81,000or more has been added to the costs – not including living expenses. This is more debt than the family has ever had before. And it certainly helps us to know that the people that “negotiated” this “compromise” could pay this off in the blink of an eye for their children from their own funds.

    But your responses after the article are even better.
    You quote university websites and the Council of Mortgage Lenders as proof that the increased debt of students won’t count against them when applying for a mortgage. Glad to see you are using sources without a vested interest in students taking out the loans!
    We loved the argument that, in order to make a mortgage more attainable, graduates should keep their incomes below £21k, therefore avoid repaying the loan. Brilliant! What kind of house can you buy on a mortgage supported by a £21k income? You are certainly painting a bright future for my kids.

    Oh, and you are missing the point about Clegg compromising in government. It was a “promise” to get votes (mine included) – if you can’t keep it don’t make it on the first place. That’s what annoys people. There is no explanation required.

    The only good news is that judging by the number of comments on this site, people have not forgotten Cleggs cynical change of heart at the last election and the electoral effect looks like it will be as big ever.

  • Richard Harris 28th Jun '14 - 8:15am

    For all those that keep banging on that mortgage lenders have promised to ignore the graduate debt….
    Why would it be in any way good to have a situation where lenders voluntarily ignore personal debt because it is politically convenient? And on what basis? You could argue that someone that takes out a £20.000 loan to buy a car is improving their earning potential, so should we write that off too? Or what about £20k to build an extension on a house (arguably a quicker return than a degree)? How about the debt due to living expenses while at uni (you have to eat while you study after all) – presumably that is part of the investment too so should also be written off? All nonsense.

    Of course it shouldn’t and won’t be ignored. It will influence graduates finance in the future and pretending otherwise is not doing anyone a favour.

  • David Evans 28th Jun '14 - 9:17am

    It is clear that society is split into two groups on this. Group One, The Cleggites – “We know best. It’s not a problem. Indeed barely a blip.” Group Two – The rest (including most Lib Dems) – “You have fouled up. Your apology is worthless. You are totally responsible for the Lib Dems demise. Go now.” Sadly for the Cleggites and the Lib Dems sadly still attached to them, the split is something like 6% to 94%.

  • Tony Dawson 28th Jun '14 - 9:25am

    I am pleased to announce here that Zoe Elizabeth Dawson was this week awarded a First Class Honours Degree in Law at Manchester University. I hope she will forgive this little bit of ‘proud fatherhood’ (but I doubt it!)

    Zoe used to be a member of the Liberal Democrats. She was signed-up by Jeanne Crossland in Westmorland when she was young. She learned early the fine arts of leaflet delivery. She accompanied her father to election counts. She wants a stronger economy and a fairer society but who does she trust to deliver this? I can only tell you who she does NOT trust. 🙁

    Zoe was sickened by the broken Pledge. Not because she doesn’t understand that kids from lower-paid households like herself would end up better off (she has AS-level maths) but because, as someone required, in her chosen profession, to hair-split on the meaning of words, she understands what the word ‘Pledge’ means.

    In terms of the Student fees, the word ‘pledge’ was used as a verb. It might be more apt for Nick Clegg, given what has happened since, to consider the word ‘pledge’ as used in Law as a noun:

    “A thing that is given as security for the fulfilment of a contract or the payment of a debt and is liable to forfeiture in the event of failure

    The students of England thought their Lib Dem Parliamentary candidates had effectively contracted that promise on tuition fees in exchange for the certainty of their votes. The forfeiture has been the Party’s – and how! Not (yet) Nick Clegg’s.

    I believe the OED has just announced a new word; the word ‘Cledge’. This is an unbreakable solemn promise which….er… isn’t. 🙁

  • Jonathan Pile 28th Jun '14 - 10:06am

    @ Paul
    The point about tuition fees is that what we have put in place might well be the best thing since sliced bread with complex mechanisms to address problems yet the basic fact is that we pledged in a very direct and public way to abolish them and then immediately went back on that promise. To see this in all it’s graphic and shaming deta listen to Nick Clegg’s promise to Dermot O’leary which won us 30% of the 18-25 and then see how angry students call him a liar a year later. People will never forget or forgive this kind of thing.

    http://libdemfightback.yolasite.com/nick-cleggs-wall-of-shame.php

  • Paul in Wokingham 28th Jun '14 - 10:10am

    @Bill – no, I hadn’t heard that programme but I listened to it over breakfast. Very interesting, thanks. The phrase “cargo cult economics” was ringing in my head as I listened to the early sections – I don’t believe we can just cherry pick bits of other economic models and expect them to yield the same results here – so it was encouraging to hear him move away from that idea towards the end and move towards the notion of adapt, not adopt.

    I’d make two points: Firstly, Denmark actually did have its Richard Branson – his name was A. P. Møller and he owned Maersk shipping. Quite a colourful character.

    Secondly, I found myself wondering whether there is sufficient commonality between people who seek to adopt Asian tiger economic models and those who look to adapt Northern European economic models to even co-exist within the same political party. Am I consciously uncoupling from economic liberalism?

  • Bill le Breton 28th Jun '14 - 12:20pm

    Paul pleased you found the Analysis prog interesting and thanks for reverting me to the cargo cult notion. A mental note to think about that had vanished.

    You ask, ‘am I consciously coupling fron economic liberalism?’ Are there any clanking sounds coming accompanying any lurching sensations?

    If so, I suggest you are. As economic liberalism is built on the mythical existence of homo oeconimicus you will find yourself in a world where people use Exchange to communicate and not necessarily to maximize utility. You will find yourself in a world of people. It is strange at first but I am confident that you will soon get used to it.

    But watch out for ships on the horizon bringing strange goods.

  • David Howarth has it spot on.
    However there are two important aspect missing from the blog.
    Firstly the act has brought politics into stark disrepute. Failing to deliver a manifesto promise is fundamentally different from a signed pledge of voting intent The betrayal of trust confirmed all the cynicism in our electorate thereby damaging the democratic process. People who are not political nerds like us don’t need much of an excuse to dismiss the whole process and Lib Dems in particular.
    Secondly it branded our party as dishonourable. Clegg et. al had no right to do this to us.

  • Paul in Wokingham 28th Jun ’14 – 10:10am
    “………………….Denmark actually did have its Richard Branson – his name was A. P. Møller and he owned Maersk shipping. Quite a colourful character.”

    So the character in Borgen was not entirely fictional ?

  • Tony Dawson

    My mother used to clean other people’s houses when I was small. I distinctly remember that ‘PLEDGE’ was a 1960s aerosol polish used to make things shine.

    I expect that there is a zero-hours cleaner who arrives at about 6am in the Cabinet Office every morning to use some PLEDGE on the very big and imposing desk of the Deputy Prime Minister.

  • The huge leap in LD support at the last general election came overwhelmingly from young adults and students in particular. We instantly threw our principles out of the window and kicked them in the teeth. The decline in LD fortunes have been in a straight line ever since. Clegg should resign for that bizarre lack of political nous alone … but the real reason he MUST go now is that his position is irretrievable. He is toxic. He is leading us over an electoral cliff. End of.

  • Tony Dawson 28th Jun '14 - 4:14pm

    @Yolly

    ” The decline in LD fortunes have been in a straight line ever since. ”

    Not quite, Yolly.

    There was a massive decline (pretty much straight line) from a few months after the Coalition to the summer of 2011. There was then pretty much a flat-line till March 2014. After that, there was the Euro campaign led by Nick Clegg and a further decline (straight line-ish) for a couple of months during which we lost about one quarter to one third of our much-decreased support levels. That is nation-wide, of course. In some parts of Britain (about a dozen constituencies) we are still doing rather well in real elections.

  • paul barker 28th Jun '14 - 4:22pm

    I am not sure where to put this but its relevant to the question of how badly we are doing.
    I looked at the vote changes in recent Council Byelections & the good news is that we come second, behind UKIP of course. Our average vote change was a fall of 1%. The Tories come third with a fall of 2% & Labour a poor fourth with a fall of 6%.
    The bad news is that we stood both times in slightly less than half the contests where a change is given. I dont see how we can blame that on our Record in Government or Nick Clegg, its down to you & me.

  • Peter Watson 28th Jun '14 - 4:40pm

    @paul barker “I looked at the vote changes in recent Council Byelections & the good news is that we come second, behind UKIP of course. Our average vote change was a fall of 1%. The Tories come third with a fall of 2% & Labour a poor fourth with a fall of 6%.”
    OK, I’ll take the bait. “Our average vote change was a fall of 1%”, but a change from when?
    Many recent by-elections seem to be based on a change since 2011 (or 2012). This was a pretty low point for Lib Dems in local elections, so how can a fall of 1% from that be considered good news?

  • David Evans 28th Jun '14 - 4:48pm

    Paul, it is down to you, supporting Nick Clegg. In my area we held everything and were the only district in England that got a majority for our Euro Candidates. So you in your area, Yes. Nick in all those areas that have given up in disgust, Yes. But don’t blame those who have identified the problem and have solved it by distancing themselves as far from Toxic Nick as possible.

  • Paul Walter makes a rational defence of the decision that was taken with respect to the vote tuition fees. I have used many of the same arguments on the doorstep in recent years myself.

    As a parent with a child doing ‘A’ Levels and entering university as the new settlement was due to come into place, I shared a vested interest with many other parents in the pledge against any increase in fees.

    However, knowing what the likely recommendations of the Browne report were likely to be and seeing that the party leadership had displayed no real enthusiasm for the policy, I declined to sign the pledge as a PPC. I was uncomfortable that such a principled stance might prove credible in the dire economic circumstances Had I been elected, I expect I would have been among those MP’s who voted for the compromise position developed by Vince Cable.

    However, if I had been among those that had given the pledge, then that pledge would have to have been honoured at whatever cost. As Michael BG notes above”…the broken pledge is about trust and not about a policy in the manifesto. It is at the heart of the relationship between a political party and the voters. Trust is the issue and it doesn’t matter how many times we say but the policy we supported is a very good policy, we are not addressing the trust issue.”

    I hope that the party leadership, the policy making bodies and we, the rank and file members, will have learned lessons from this episode i.e. seek to under-promise and over-deliver.

    Like Macbeth and his Lady , it can be said “The deed is done, the doers undone .” However, just as George Dangerfield was premature in predicting the demise of Liberalism in his 1935 book “The strange death of Liberal England’, so too should we consider the experience of coalition and the tuition fees affair an interlude (if somewhat damaging one) in a century long recovery, perhaps even a catalyst, to re-establishing social liberalism at the heart of the party and as a force for radical change in British politics.

  • Richard Kennedy 28th Jun '14 - 5:27pm

    No, it isn’t; but breaking a freely given promise or pledge most certainly is!
    RK

  • Tsar Nicholas 28th Jun '14 - 8:23pm

    Here’s a radical suggestion.

    The inherent power of credit creation of the bank of England should be used to do an asset purchase from the Student loan Company.

    The entire debt should be purchased at zero per cent interest over a hundred year term. The cost to the BoE would be far less than the asset purchase programme called quantitative easing, which has not benefitted the real economy, merely allowed commercial banks to reckless gamble on risky investments.

    If the inherent power of central banks can be sued to finance unpleasant things like world war one I cannot see any reason why it should not be used for socially useful ends such as writing off student debt.

  • John Roffey 28th Jun '14 - 8:58pm

    @ Jennie

    “In a time of distrust of politicians we had a reputation for honesty, and we lost it.”

    As I think has been pointed out – it will be impossible to keep how this happened a secret – unless some one can convince YouTube to remove this – if NC is to remain leader:

  • Thanks very much indeed for all the further stumulating and high quality comments.

    I will reply below to some of them.

    Peter Watson 27th Jun ’14 – 5:52pm
    “@Paul Walter “That’s strange because there is also an article on the MoneySavingExpert which is titled “Beware paying uni fees upfront – Many may end up wasting £20,000+””
    Indeed. Many could end up wasting money and Martin Lewis seemed to be advising parents and grandparents that paying their children’s fees could be unwise. But it does not contradict his observation and calculation that those who can save most are those with the most cash before university and the best prospects after. Others who want to hedge their bets can also do well by taking the loans but paying off early if they land a good job. None of this sounds as progressive or fair as it is often painted. The assumption that underpins the IFS figures is that everybody takes up the loan and pays it back according to the schedule, but it looks like the wealthy and the well-paid have ways to avoid that.”

    I have gone back and re-read the relevant article from Money Saving Expert.
    http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/students/should-i-get-student-loan

    I repeat that the whole article is entitled: “Beware paying uni fees upfront – Many may end up wasting £20,000+”. It details out three screnarios:

    SCENARIO 1:
    YOU PAY THE FEES, YOUR CHILD NEVER EARNS ABOVE THE THRESHOLD

    RESULT:
    YOU LOSE £27,000

    SCENARIO 2:
    YOU PAY THE FEES, YOUR CHILD HAS AVERAGE GRADUATE INCOME

    RESULT:
    YOU LOSE UP TO £25,500

    SCENARIO 3:
    YOU PAY THE FEES, YOUR CHILD EARNS BIG BUCKS

    RESULT:
    YOU GAIN UP TO £26,000

    In the original comment about this, only Scenario 3 was quoted, not scenario 1 or 2, or, indeed, the title of the whole article.

    Chris 27th Jun ’14 – 7:05pm
    ““How many more do you want?”

    Just out of interest, can you give us any other examples of politicians making a written pledge about how they would vote on a particular issue, and then breaking it?”

    Yes. Here’s one. The 2001 Labour party manifesto, of which around a million copies were distributed, I understand, said on Page 20: “We will not introduce top-up fees and have legislated to prevent them.” But most of their MPs, who had been elected on that written manifesto, voted for top-up fees or “variable” fees in a House of Commons vote held on 27 January 2004.

    Alistair 27th Jun ’14 – 9:52pm
    “My kids will study outside of the UK if this system is still in place or I will pay upfront. How anyone can be proud of extending “Rip off Britain” to education and forcing indebtedness on an even younger agegroup is beyond comprehension. Ditto the idea that we should be proud because this acts like a tax. Why would anyone want to tax a person improving their life chances? Many of the promises made about this, its not a real debt, it wont be taken into account in mortgage caclculations, only a few institutions will charge the top rate, these proved to be false. Why Paul wants to draw attention to this cock-up is beyond me. When I was at University, Land Economy was a subject for amazing gifted athletes who the University hoped to represent them in sporting contests who might otherwise not have been able to get in. With the logic on display in this article I can only assume the author was in his younger days a cross between Pele and Usain Bolt.”

    I once was praised on “not letting our team get further behind” in an inter-House back stroke relay. That was the summit of my athletic and sporting achievements at school. I was known as “Disco” because I was dis-coordinated and could not even throw a call, let alone catch it. And it was Land Management, not Land Economy. But thank you for the kind implications about my intelligence.

    Bill le Breton 28th Jun ’14 – 7:51am
    “Paul Walter, I hope your weekend commitments are going well. I also wish your young man or women is inspired by at least one of the universities s/he visits and hope they do not necessarily choose one near home for financial reasons. Many now do.

    The effect of the very large debt they commit themselves to have strong psychological impacts, regardless of how the system is explained to them. My experience is that the pressure it creates is greater than a parent may imagine. They begin to bite as the “course goes on and as course work and exam results build up. I think you will be surprised at the obsession with marks that now dominates a student’s days and nights.

    My daughter who graduated 2 years ago gained a higher class of degree by 0.2% after three years of course work, dissertation and exams. A computer programme that keeps them in constant contact with where they are and what they need from future grading will become key part of their life if our experiences are anything to go buy.

    Nor do parents necessarily understand the impact of that very high interest rate that will be clocking up.”

    Thank you for that, Bill. As I said earlier to the student who commented, I am thinking again. With such an onslaught of ridicule (not from you) and passion, how could I not think again?

    Richard Harris 28th Jun ’14 – 8:06am
    “@Paul Walter
    Thank you for writing a truly entertaining article that left my and my wife laughing our heads off.”

    Richard, I am delighted that you and your wife had fun at my expense.

    “But your responses after the article are even better.
    You quote university websites and the Council of Mortgage Lenders as proof that the increased debt of students won’t count against them when applying for a mortgage. Glad to see you are using sources without a vested interest in students taking out the loans!”

    Richard – did you not also see me quoting Martin Lewis and linking to his video where he talks about this and says that his opinion is that the new system “will not make that much difference” to mortgage lending? Is he a “vested interest”?

    “We loved the argument that, in order to make a mortgage more attainable, graduates should keep their incomes below £21k, therefore avoid repaying the loan. Brilliant!”

    You are misconstruing what I said. I did not say “graduates should keep their incomes below £21K”. A commenter said that the “debt” is “unavoidable” and I was simply pointing out, in reply, that it is literally avoidable. That is all.

    Richard Harris 28th Jun ’14 – 8:15am
    “For all those that keep banging on that mortgage lenders have promised to ignore the graduate debt….”

    I don’t think anyone has said that they have promised to “ignore” the graduate debt. They can ask potential borrowers about it and such borrowers have to respond honestly. This is explained by Martin Lewis in the video I linked to. But what the Council of Mortgage Lenders said was that it is “highly unlikely” to impact graduates ability to take a mortgage. Martin Lewis explained that this was due to the fact that all graduates are paying £540 less under the new system because of the increase in the income threshold for payment, thus giving them more disposable income.

    Jennie 28th Jun ’14 – 8:36am
    “And we keep reminding people about it by producing articles like the one above. Madness.”

    Who is the “we” in that sentence Jennie? The article above was written by me and me alone. It was an honest and sincere viewpoint based on working through the finances as a parent with a teenager going through the process of applying to universities. (And I can hardly be accused of not following it through in the comments thread. And I am not naive enough to have not expected such a furore, and indeed cleared my diary in advance of publication to respond to it!). I submitted it to the LDV editorial team like anyone else (even though I am photo editor on the team) and it was published with the “Opinion” title by another member of the team.

    Are you saying I should have kept quiet? Or are you saying LDV should not have published my article? Or are you saying am I mad? I certainly plead guilty to the third one. I must be mad to knowingly face this shitstorm and actually enjoy doing so! 🙂

    JohnTilley 28th Jun ’14 – 12:57pm
    “Tony Dawson
    My mother used to clean other people’s houses when I was small. I distinctly remember that ‘PLEDGE’ was a 1960s aerosol polish used to make things shine.
    I expect that there is a zero-hours cleaner who arrives at about 6am in the Cabinet Office every morning to use some PLEDGE on the very big and imposing desk of the Deputy Prime Minister.”

    No, they use Mister Sheen nowadays. “Mister Sheen shines umpteen things clean!” 😉

    JoeBourke 28th Jun ’14 – 5:16pm
    “Paul Walter makes a rational defence of the decision that was taken with respect to the vote tuition fees. I have used many of the same arguments on the doorstep in recent years myself.”

    Thank you Joe. At least someone thinks I am rational!

  • “Yes. Here’s one. The 2001 Labour party manifesto”

    No, that is a manifesto. A manifesto is different from a pledge

  • @voter

    Why? It is written and it is, I thought, meant to be “solemn and binding”.

  • Jonathan Pile 28th Jun '14 - 11:41pm

    The Commitment on abolishing tuition fees – was in Our 2010 manifesto, our 2005 manifesto, and our 2001 manifesto. Also our 2010 manifesto had the words “trust” and “honesty” a total of 18 times – more than any previous manifesto. Ironic no?

  • When did ‘manifesto’ ever have the meaning ‘solemn and binding’ ?

    A Manifesto has ALWAYS been just ‘what we;d like to do’.

  • @Paul Walter:

    “Mister Sheen shines umpteen things clean!” 😉

    Doesn’t he just leave 500 deposits behind? 🙁

  • “It is written and it is, I thought, meant to be “solemn and binding”.”

    You thought party manifestos were binding? Really?

  • Why? It is written and it is, I thought, meant to be “solemn and binding”.

    It’s not so much that a manifest is different from a pledge, as that that pledge was made as part of a campaign of ‘no more politics as usual, no more broken promises’.

    So the person making the pledge had specifically pointed out that previous governments had broken their promises, and wasspecifically standing on a platform of being different.

    And then went and did the exact same thing.

    Maybe it wasn’t the crime of the century. But it was perpetrated by someone who, at the same time as they were perpetrating it, was claiming to be different to all those other criminals.

    That’s the problem, you see. To point out that it was just the same as stuff every other party has done is to miss the point that it was done by someone who was claiming to be different to every other party.

    That is why people don’t trust the Liberal Democrats. Not because in the event they turned out to be no worse than every other party, but because they claimed that they would be better.

    They have been hoist by their own high standards.

  • Paul Walter

    Nobody believes manifestos these days, hardly any of the public even read them. However, a personal pledge on national television from a party leader is something else. Especially from someone who promised a new type of politics with no more broken promises. It’s the type of thing in days gone by that honourable men used to resign about, but there again this is a very weak man we are talking about so no chance of that.

  • @Paul Walter
    According to the IFS students from the poorest 30% of households will pay more under the new system than the old. Do you approve or disapprove of this feature of the new system?

  • Labour’s manifesto of 2001 on tuition fees was not their finest hour. However, when you write a manifesto, you have to make plenty of statements about your intentions, and then hope that you can live up to most of them. You won’t manage it every time. Famously, the Tories said there would be no big top-down reorganisation of the NHS. That wasn’t their finest hour, either.

    As Tim points out, the Lib Dem “not quite crime of the century” was much worse than either of the above transgressions, for two reasons. First, Lib Dems including the Leader raised the stakes by making a “pledge”, not just a statement of current intentions. Secondly, they berated their opponents for their broken promises, and made it a central part of their appeal that they would clean up politics and insist on higher standards. Then they noisily did the exact opposite.

    Now we see Lib Dems determined to direct more attention to what they did, determined to seek public approval for it, determined to keep on arguing about it, determined to undermine the half-apology their leader eventually made. Guys, if you must commit political suicide, wouldn’t jumping off a bridge make less of a mess?

  • It’s very unfair to Nick Clegg to expect him to live up to his own stated standards. If we expected that of every politician, where would we be?
    As for the so-called “pledge,” a pledge is nothing more or less than a promise, and how can you break a promise you never intended to keep in the first place? After all, a promise that’s broken before it’s made is never truly made in the first place. I think we can fairly say that Nick Clegg never had any intention of voting against tuition fees in the first place, so there was no promise for him to break. That’s just logic.
    As to the voters who can’t follow this clear and transparent logic when it’s explained to them, it’s just too bad for them if they don’t get the privilege of keeping Nick Clegg as Deputy Prime Minister for another five years. Nick Clegg doesn’t need them anyhow; he’s got another job waiting.

  • @ Paul Walter
    I am disappoint that you didn’t respond to my first paragraph about if you were elected as a councillor and didn’t vote the way you said you would vote when campaigning to get elected.

    @ Voter – ‘A manifesto is different from a pledge’
    @ Paul Walter – ‘Why? It is written and it is, I thought, meant to be “solemn and binding”.’

    Do you really think that a pledge to vote a certain way on an issue is not a promise and is different from what is in the manifesto, which is the programme for government?

    I suggest that the public expects a political party to enact MOST of its manifesto if elected but doesn’t get upset if some things are not enacted. The political party can explain why circumstances changed so they couldn’t do what they wanted, or they still want to do it and so carry it into their next manifesto.

    Also if you look at the context in which the pledge was made, it was clear it wasn’t just part of the manifesto, it was an add-on, it was something special, it was why the public could vote for the person making it, knowing they would vote against all increases to tuition fees and would support a fairer alternative to tuition fees, whether their party was in government or not.

  • @Paul Walter
    Actually, I find it distasteful to make cheap political points by throwing around large numbers of deaths and attributing them to Tony Blair personally. Let’s place those mortality estimates in some context. The estimate you quote is of the same magnitude to the excess deaths in Iraq (mostly children) widely quoted in the 90s as resulting from the UN sanctions following the first gulf war of 1990-1991. So, the 2003 war ended an excess death rate equivalent to the excess death rate it supposedly created. We should also take into account other excess deaths from Saddam Hussein’s rule, in particular, the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988) which resulted in the deaths of somewhere between 200,000-600,000 Iraqis, but also the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians that died as a result of Hussein’s massacres. At what point in the future are you still going to be blaming Tony Blair for people fighting each other in Iraq? – 20 years? – 50 years?

    The point about Iraq and the reason the electorate detests Blair is that he grossly distorted the case for going to war based on the most incredibly spurious reasoning that didn’t stand up to the most basic of scrutiny. The claims being made about Iraq’s WMD capabilities were absurd. That’s why I opposed the conflict in the months preceding it. The electorate hates being treated with contempt and the sense of being lied to. That’s why people get angry about Blair and Iraq every time he pops his head above the parapet to defend his ego. I regard a comparison with Clegg and tuition fees as particularly apposite. It isn’t a question about the number of deaths, it is a question about the integrity of the relationship between political leaders and the electorate. Besides, we can’t tell if the 2003 invasion led to more deaths than it prevented but we do know that tuition fees will affect millions of people in this country directly.

  • Bill Le Breton 29th Jun '14 - 9:45am

    Morning Paul, I think just above here at 4.04 am you wrote that Clegg did not expect to be in Coalition. I really don’t think this is likely. In December 2009 when I finally thought there was a likelihood of a balanced Parliament, I rang Andrew Stunell to ask if preparations for such an eventuality were in hand. He told me not to worry, that they were and that he was in the negotiating team. I relaxed having worked with Andrew in the 80s and 90s with many council groups finding themselves in such a position for the first time.

    Then there are the published comments from the Tory team and the civil service that they were impressed that when our negotiators arrived for the first session they were able to table a sophisticated document with our analysis of the two manifestos and our opening positions.

    Finally, Paddy and Blair had fairly detailed plans about how they would work together after the 97 election should the result be either inconclusive or should Labour have a small majority. Following their long and unplanned meeting while Brown entertained the queen at the opening of the Supreme Court building, I am sure Clegg , Cameron and their teams will have similar ‘conversations’ prior to and perhaps even during the election, as happened in 97. This would explain the rather slick choreography between the two on the Friday following polling day. We shall have to wait for autobiographies in a few years time to see whether I am right.

    None of that has been my beef about what happened. I wrote immediately after the 2010 election about how Disraeli had exploited a similar coalition within the Tory party to reform British politics . Cameron needed us to complete his transformation of his party. Between the two of them, both leaders squandered that opportunity which led directly to massive distrust and loss of support for our party, the alienation of a generation of young people from the political system, the loss of electoral reform part I, the placing in jeopardy our future in Europe and a damaging increase in inter community strife.

    It really doesn’t matter why Clegg is distrusted and a ‘turn-off’ to our former supporters; it only matters that this is the case and that we can’t’ take marginal improvements to our electoral support until he steps down.

  • @Paul Walter
    “If we instead examine the implications of the proposed reforms by students’ parental income, we see that the proposed system including the scholarship enables graduates from the poorest 30% of households to pay less, on average, than under Lord Browne’s system, but still significantly more, on average, than under the current system. ” page 8,
    Higher education reforms: progressive but complicated with an unwelcome incentive

  • No, it’s not fair and it’s not logical. He did not expect to find himself in coalition.

    No, he expected to find himself in opposition. The pledge would have been easy to keep in opposition, for by definition which way you vote on a bill while in opposition is irrelevant (unless there’s a huge government rebellion, which was unlikely on education policy).

    Upon finding himself in government (and surely you’re not suggesting he expected to find himself in a Liberal Democrat majority government), he immediately abandoned the pledge.

    The message thus sent was, ‘we will promise anything to get your votes so long as we don’t have to deliver, but if we do then we will be exactly like every other political party’.

    In fact that was the aim: to end the image of the Liberal Democrats as a party who would say anything, promise anything, even contradictory things in different bits of the country, and replace it with an image of a party whihc made serious choices: a party of government, that is, rather than a party of protest.

    The problem is it’s ended up as the worst of both worlds: the people who voted idealistically for the party of protest, the party of ‘no more broken promises’, of ‘let’s do politics differently’, are disillusions and hate the Liberal Democrats for (as they see it) breaking their promise. While those who are looking for a serious party see that the Liberal Democrats did exactly what they always suspected them of doing: they made extravagant promises to get votes, hoping that they would never have to actually deliver.

    I think the word is, ‘Whoops.’

  • Peter Watson 29th Jun '14 - 12:31pm

    @Paul Walter “In the original comment about this, only Scenario 3 was quoted, not scenario 1 or 2, or, indeed, the title of the whole article.”
    And ….
    I agree that Martin Lewis points out that most of us would would be compelled to take out the loan, but why don’t you address the point that there is a scenario where the most wealthy and highest earning people can save money under a scheme you describe as “fair and reasonable”, and “progressive”?

  • Doesn’t matter you think the new system is ‘fairer’ or ‘more progressive’ or whatever else. It’s for the voters to decide what they think of it, that is how democracy works.

    As far as your core voter base is concerned this is not what was promised, the MPs broke personal pledges to them and lied. If the Liberal Democrat party can’t even get their heads around this then the party is in real trouble.

  • Peter Watson 29th Jun '14 - 1:05pm

    @Paul Walter “accepted applicants increased in 2013 and the most disadvantaged areas of the country had more accepted applicants than for several years”
    There are a number of issues raised by this interpretation of the impact of tuition fees on university applications and social mobility within those figures:
    1. There is also a concurrent impact due to changes in entry to nursing. UCAS applications for nursing increased hugely as entry to it became via a university degree. Tuition fees are paid by the NHS and the demographics are likely to be different for what was not exclusively a degree subject a few years ago.
    2. Children have been preparing for university throughout their school careers (mostly under a Labour government it has to be said). At the point it increased fees the Coalition did not offer them a new alternative, and for many careers there is no alternative, so there was always going to be a lot of inertia in the response of school-leavers to the changes.
    3. It has been reported that applications by mature students have declined significantly, and outside UCAS (Open University, Birkbeck) I hear that student numbers have dropped since fees increased (despite a hope that it would be an attractive alternative to a traditional university route for young people). Together this might represent a reluctance by older people to take on debt, but also, many are not entitled to a loan because of age, earnings, previous qualifications, or extent of part-time study so the huge increase in fees is an upfront cost.

  • Thank you very much, AndrewR.

    I see that relates to parental income rather than graduate lifetime incomes, of which it says:

    “We see from Figure 1 that graduates in the bottom two deciles (on average) are better off than under the current system regardless of how the current repayment threshold is indexed. Across all graduates, we calculate that 24.3% of graduates would be better off compared to the current system assuming no up-rating of the current £15,000 threshold; while 22.9% would be better off if the current threshold was linked to inflation (see Table 3). This is because fixing the current threshold in cash terms makes it less generous to graduates, and therefore makes other policy options seem relatively more generous in comparison. Nevertheless, the Government’s proposed system is more progressive among graduates than both the current system and the one recommended by the Browne Review. The highest earning graduates (those in the top two deciles) would pay more on average than under the proposals made by Lord Browne, while graduates in the other income groups would pay back less.”

  • @Paul Walter
    Yes, if we are going to evaluate the fairness of the new system isn’t parental income one factor we would want to take into account? Bright kids from poor families will on average pay more under the new system.That will impede social mobility. I think that is a bad thing. You haven’t made it clear whether you agree or not.

  • @Peter Watson 12:31pm

    The April 2014 IFS report I linked to appears to assume no early repayments from what I can see. I don’t see any explanation of why they made this assumption.

    So, if these very wealthy graduates are able to pay off their “debt” early and then earn vast sums, they are comparatively better off under the scheme, says Martin Lewis. They are still paying off the capital of the loan. They don’t pay the interest over the years. The interest rate is RPI plus 3%. I’m assuming that any calculation here would need to take into account the “present values of £”. I can’t offhand find the rate the government currently loans money for. But I think it is more than 3%. Perhaps you can enlighten me? If the government borrows money at more than 3% (A) then they are losing money over the years on the tuition fee “loans” and early payment therefore helps the government’s finances in this regard. If the government borrows money at less than 3% (B) then they will be losing the bit of usuary profit they are making on the loans for these very wealthy people who earn vast sums and decide to pay off their “loan” early.

    But, here’s the thing. Whatever loans are paid off early, the burden of those who can’t pay off early is unchanged. They still pay 9% a year for money earnt over £21,000 a year with the loan being written off after 30 years. Any early payment doesn’t make any difference to those graduates on low salaries. So I therefore don’t think the effect outlined above will effect the fairness or otherwise of the overall scheme.

    Of course, what would happen in scenario B above is that more money would be paid into the scheme by general taxation. So, it is unfair on general taxpayers in that respect but not on lower earning graduates in the scheme.

    Apologies for the discursive and tentative nature of the above.

  • Tony Dawson 29th Jun '14 - 3:10pm

    @Paul Walter :

    ” some (emphasise:some) people grasp hold of this issue with such vitriol is because it is a convenient stick with which to beat Clegg, because they hate him ”

    There are three posters on this forums who keep conjuring up the idea of people ‘hating’ those they find to be useless or a significant handicap to the Party. One can only think this is a clear example of ‘projection’ by those who will not address the real issue.

  • AndrewR 29th Jun ’14 – 2:53pm
    “@Paul Walter
    Yes, if we are going to evaluate the fairness of the new system isn’t parental income one factor we would want to take into account? Bright kids from poor families will on average pay more under the new system.That will impede social mobility. I think that is a bad thing. You haven’t made it clear whether you agree or not.”

    I am not sure it will impede social mobility because there is no upfront payment required. So, repayment is after graduation and therefore not related to parental income but related to the amount the graduate earns, at 9% for everything earnt above £21,000, like everyone else.

    Also, please bear in mind that the report you are using from the IFS was a brief one from 2010. The one I have linked to in my article is from April 2014 and is a good deal more comprehensive in its apparent study.

  • @Richard Morris

    Richard

    (a) If I pledge to someone that I will give them an apple but instead give them a live genade which then blows up in their face and kills them, then that is terrible.

    (b) If I pledge to someone that I will give them an apple but instead I give the a pear then that is not terrible. It’s a fairish subsitute. – The fairness of it we can argue about it.

    So I believe we are in scenario (b) and it does actually matter what the substitute is.

  • @Bill le Breton

    Good afternoon Bill. And thank you for that comment – fair points.

    A number of people (not you) are elaborately speculating as to what went on in Nick Clegg’s brain. I don’t we will know until his memoirs come out and I think I’ll be keying into that great WordPress in the sky by then. I don’t think he is a naturally calculating and conniving character. He is relatively straight forward in his thinking. And I tend to go by the watchwords of the late great Baroness Nancy Seear:

    “If it’s a choice between cock-up and conspiracy, I usually find that it is cock-up”

  • @Paul Walter
    I’m from a poor background. 20 years ago I was homeless. I’m now affluent, a higher rate taxpayer, and mortgage free. Free university education is what enabled me to escape the circumstances of my background. I couldn’t have saved enough for a house deposit or to fund myself to undertake further professional qualifications if I’d had the burden of 50 or 60 grand of debt. So please don’t tell me that the new fees system will not impede social mobility or airily dismiss the barriers it has erected against people from my kind of background because frankly, and I mean this as politely as possible, I don’t think you know what you are talking about. Not only has marketising higher education put a huge downward pressure on standards it has also handed another huge advantage to the offspring of the upper middle class.

  • I don’t think he is a naturally calculating and conniving character. He is relatively straight forward in his thinking.

    That’s just what he wants you to think. 🙂

    But I’m sure your Nancy Seear quotation is at least as applicable to Nick Clegg as to most leading politicians.

  • “…………speculating as to what went on in Nick Clegg’s brain”

    Just very brief speculation then.? 🙂

  • Not a Cleggite 29th Jun '14 - 5:45pm

    The crux of the issue is that the Lib Dems have a leader who is opposed to major parts of Lib Dem policy decided by members and who does not share mainstream Lib Dem views on many important issues.

    The Lib Dems set out a very clear philosophical difference with Labour and the Tories on tuition fees. Arguing that access to higher education should be free is the same fundamentally as arguing that access to education at school or medical treatment on the NHS should be free. Society in general benefits from this approach and many voters valued having a main stream party offering a different choice to the Tories and Labour on this issue.

    Nick Clegg and his supporters in the parliamentary party have long argued that it is unaffordable to abolish tuition fees and they have tried to undermine Lib Dem party policy on this. At the last Lib Dem autumn conference, Cleggites tried to stop the party keeping tuition fee abolition as a long term aim:

    http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/news/lib-dems-back-fees-but-still-aspire-to-abolition/2007457.article

    Cleggites had no problem supporting reductions in Corporation tax and higher rate income tax that could have been used to fund tuition fee abolition. It seems trying to poach business and individuals from other countries is more attractive to Clegg and like minded folk in the Tories and Labour than investing in training scientists, engineers etc to create new wealth and intellectual capital in the UK and reduce the need to poach graduates from third world countries.

    It is not just the dishonesty of Nick Clegg pretending to the electorate that he supported party policy by signing a pledge on tuition fees when he clearly didn’t believe in it; he has previously been exposed as supporting the break up of the NHS and replacing it with an insurance based system, views which would be at odds with the vast majority of Lib Dem members. We are now hearing stories that people in Clegg’s inner circle have been arguing for profit making schools:

    https://www.libdemvoice.org/forprofit-schools-some-evidence-of-why-im-far-from-convinced-41196.html

    Nick Clegg’s views are also at odds with majority party opinion on many other issues such as his support for: secret courts, bedroom tax, welfare cuts, war with Syria, Halal meat….

    The majority of the electorate have seen through the contradiction of the Lib Dems having a leader that does not share party policy on many major issues; party members are rapidly coming to this conclusion too.

    The question for Paul and Clegg supporters is do they still believe in our policy as decided by party members at conference or what Nick Clegg decides is our policy?

  • @AndrewR

    Very passionately put. So shall I just shut up and not express my opinion?

    The new system means all graduates pay £540 a year less in repayments so it releases disposable income and therefore makes it easier to pay a mortgage not harder, or makes it easier to pay for professional courses.

    And if someone starts on a low income after University, say £21,000, then they don’t have to pay anything.

    So please explain to me in numbers why people from lower income parent families are worse off. And it would be handy if you could support your arguments with back-up from the latest IFS report on the subject, rather than one that is four years old.

    I sympathise because I can see the psychological barrier of the large “debt” can be over-powering. But try not to see it as a traditional “debt” but see it in terms of the repayment scheme. Martin Lewis is very articulate on this point in the video I linked to earlier.

    I realise I come across as sanctimonious, but I am just trying to rattle out the truth here.

  • daft ha'p'orth 29th Jun '14 - 6:45pm

    @Paul Walter
    Oh, stop with the £540/year. If I sold you a sofa using the line “Hey, good news, instead of paying £350/year for three years you only need to pay £200/year for the next thirty years of your life!”, you wouldn’t go “Yay, what a wonderful deal! I’ll take two!” would you?

    Also, yeah, some numbers are going up. Other numbers are going down. From this we learn that this system has strengths and weaknesses. Should it be problematic to admit that? If one were really interested in ensuring that the system worked for everybody, one would be as interested in tackling the weaknesses of the system as in trumpeting stuff that makes the system sound good. I see no interest from LDs in doing this, just lots of defensive nonsense about how people just don’t understaaaaaaaand.

    Bill Le Breton linked to a podcast that discusses the interplay between culture and economics. That spoke to me. I don’t like what this type of system says about England, English culture and English priorities. Frankly, I’m not surprised that the Scottish are looking longingly at the door marked ‘Exit’.

  • But paying for sofas is not normally linked to ability to pay (salary level), the debt for sofas does not normally expire at a point in time, and the debt for sofas does not get excluded from your credit files.

  • daft ha'p'orth 29th Jun '14 - 6:58pm

    @Paul Walter
    It’s still money. You can flap all day about how this money is special but it’s still money. You can either save up for a mortgage deposit or you can pay for this, but if it goes into this it is not going into a mortgage deposit, now is it?

  • daft ha'p'orth 29th Jun '14 - 7:00pm

    Also I note again that you’re not interested in discussing the ways in which this system is broken and does fail people. This reminds me once again that you’re not really interested in helping students; you’d rather persist in attempting to justify the actions of Team LD.

  • daft ha’p’orth 29th Jun ’14 – 6:58pm
    “@Paul Walter
    It’s still money. You can flap all day about how this money is special but it’s still money. You can either save up for a mortgage deposit or you can pay for this, but if it goes into this it is not going into a mortgage deposit, now is it?”

    But less money than had to be paid back under the old system. £540 less.

  • If I pledge to someone that I will give them an apple but instead I give the a pear then that is not terrible. It’s a fairish subsitute. – The fairness of it we can argue about it.

    Sorry, but this is the kind of nonsense that brings politics and politicians into disrepute.

    We’re not talking about promising to give people apples and then giving them pears. We’re talking about promising to vote against any increase in tuition fees and then voting to treble them. In those circumstances, saying “Oh but we’re giving you longer to repay the loan” is going to impress no one. In fact, it’s adding insult to injury.

  • daft ha’p’orth 29th Jun ’14 – 6:58pm
    “@Paul Walter
    It’s still money. You can flap all day about how this money is special but it’s still money. You can either save up for a mortgage deposit or you can pay for this, but if it goes into this it is not going into a mortgage deposit, now is it?”

    But less money than had to be paid back under the old system. £540 less per year. And it’s linked to salary… Whatever I say I’m just going to annoy you even more aren’t I? Why not listen to that Martin Lewis video if I am too self-righteous for you?

  • daft ha'p'orth 29th Jun '14 - 7:16pm

    Indeed, I do find this thread annoying.

    But it is a useful thread, nonetheless.

  • @Paul Walter
    “But paying for sofas is not normally linked to ability to pay (salary level),”

    Of course it is. Rich people will buy the sofa for cash. Less well off people will get a sofa on reasonable credit terms. Much less well off people will end up somewhere like Bright House paying huge amounts of interest. There are more similarities with tuition fees than dissimilarities.

    “the debt for sofas does not normally expire at a point in time”

    Of course debts can expire. People can go bankrupt. Many creditors write off debt if they don’t think they’ll ever get it back. Lots of people struggling to pay for stuff will end up being told they can get away with paying only half of it.

    Besides, all these glib assertions you keep making about how the payment terms of the new scheme aren’t really that bad are based on the assumption that said payment terms will remain the same. In fact this or future governments will be able to change key parameters of the terms (including the all-important interest rate) pretty much at will.

    At the end of the day, Paul, you don’t really believe that bigger debts with higher interest rates paid off over longer terms represent a good deal – because if you did you’d buy all your major household items from one of those “low monthly payments” stores, and I’m willing to bet that in fact you don’t do that. Or do you?

  • I think I’ll leave this thread for a few days and then come back to see if I can usefully and constructively add anything to the debate. I am just repeating myself and annoying people at the moment.

  • Paul In Wokingham 29th Jun '14 - 7:53pm

    This thread is a handy guide for how the debate will play out every time The Pledge gets mentioned during the GE campaign.

  • Matthew Huntbach 29th Jun '14 - 9:22pm

    daft ha’p’orth

    Oh, stop with the £540/year. If I sold you a sofa using the line “Hey, good news, instead of paying £350/year for three years you only need to pay £200/year for the next thirty years of your life!”, you wouldn’t go “Yay, what a wonderful deal! I’ll take two!” would you?

    But this is nonsense. I have put this point to you before, and I note you had no answer, so why do you persist now?

    You are writing as if the ACTUAL cost of higher education has been tripled. It has not. The tuition fees only pay the actual cost. If it was not paid by tuition fees it would have to be paid by government subsidy. That government subsidy would have to be paid by higher general taxation, or by state borrowing now which would have to be paid back by higher taxation later. So there is STILL the extra payment to be made. It ISN’T £350 a year and that’s it, it’s £350 year plus taxation to pay the balance which would otherwise be the £200 a year for the next 30 years.

    I’m not saying this because I think the tuition fees and loan system is wonderful. I’d rather it was paid in full by state subsidy. But you are pretending the state subsidy and hence the higher long-term taxation does not exist. So you are not making an honest argument.

    OK, so can I ask you the question I asked before? How would YOU pay for subsidy of university education now, with the limitations that it must be a way that 300+ Tory MPs could be got to accept. You’ve claimed it’s easy-peasy and the LibDems could easily have got the Tories to agree to whatever it is, so what do you think it is?

  • Matthew Huntbach 29th Jun '14 - 9:38pm

    Paul Walter

    No, it’s not fair and it’s not logical. He did not expect to find himself in coalition. And the policies set out before an election are those to be implemented if a party gains full power as the party with an overall majority.

    But this is nonsense. The possibility that neither the Labour nor the Conservative Party would have an overall majority was always there, particularly with the Liberal Democrats on line for 50+ seats. Give that LibDem leaders are forever asked about what they would do in that situation, to suggest it was so unexpected that Nick Clegg had not even thought about it just doesn’t work. Unless the man is completely and utterly incompetent. Thinking through the possibilities of the various outcomes and what would be done on each of them is basic forward planning that anyone in a business or with some sort of executive responsibility should do naturally.

    Also, the “pledge” was to vote AGAINST something. That only makes sense in the context of a coalition or support for a minority government. If it was just about what would be done if the LibDems had a majority it makes no sense, as government propose things and vote for them they don’t vote against. Oppositions routinely vote against government policy, so why single out a particular issue to vote against as a “pledge”?

  • Richard Harris 29th Jun '14 - 9:44pm

    @ Paul Walter
    “Richard, I am delighted that you and your wife had fun at my expense.”
    How at your expense? We are not mocking you personally but at any attempt to defend this absolute shame of both policy and political management. Just don’t try to defend it. Even Clegg has said sorry.

  • daft ha'p'orth 29th Jun '14 - 10:06pm

    Matthew, I do not believe in lies or subterfuge or shady deals behind the bike shed or pulling wool over the eyes of the public. I also don’t believe on attempting to place the cost of education on the individual even when it is done in such an incompetent manner that the state, grumbling, will end up with most of it on its balance sheet in the long run anyway, and even when you say that it is actually intentional that the state pick up most of the cost and that really this is an elaborate scam, in which the English voters and taxpayers of the future are the butt of the joke, because obviously that makes it so much better…

    Personally, I voted for a party that claimed it had the answers you are looking for, but it was clearly way out of its depth. Still, if you insist on your customary little digression from the plot as you always do, I wll tell you what I always tell you. No funding fiddle will make money appear out of nowhere and it is nonsense to pretend that it will. I do not believe that nonsense is an acceptable basis for the economy of the future. It has not worked out well in the past. I have told you in the past that education is overpriced in some cases and in some respects, and that I believe we could deliver it more cheaply. I’d rather save five percent of real money (and I think that economy of scale could save a lot more than 5%). I don’t think the education sector should grow indefinitely. I don’t think that that’s good for anybody, including the sector itself, which has been overheated for some time. I think we can provide education fairly cheaply and that this education will be adequate for purpose, and I base that on experience; I’m dead cheap, but my students still seem to learn something.

    Me, I would’ve gone with a percent or so of yearly reduction over the lifetime of the Coalition, which forces efficiencies without any Free Money From Magic Finance nonsense. And how your LDs would’ve dealt with ensuring that no massive reduction in university funding would’ve occurred is up to your LDs. Are they politicians or not? If yes, they should be able to find a way to make a sudden Tory-led 2/3 reduction in funding of the university sector a politically unacceptable option. If not? They need another day job. As far as I’m concerned: end of story.

  • Yes, as Nick has said sorry, but in an interesting way. What he said was “I shouldn’t have committed to a policy that was so expensive when there was no money around. Not least when the most likely way we’d end up in Government was in coalition with Labour or the Conservatives, who were both committed to put fees up. I know that we fought to get the best policy we could in those circumstances. But I also realise that isn’t the point. There’s no easy way to say this: we made a pledge, we didn’t stick to it – and for that I am sorry.”
    So there was no money, but there was money to cut top rate tax from 50% to 45%. An interesting definition of no money. And a problem was making a pledge and then being in coalition with others who wanted to put fees up: but that didn’t mean we had to vote in favour. Indeed we could still have voted against. Even the coalition agreement said Nick could abstain, but he didn’t. He voted in favour.

    Yes, as Nick has said sorry, but in an interesting way. What he said was “I shouldn’t have committed to a policy that was so expensive when there was no money around. Not least when the most likely way we’d end up in Government was in coalition with Labour or the Conservatives, who were both committed to put fees up. I know that we fought to get the best policy we could in those circumstances. But I also realise that isn’t the point. There’s no easy way to say this: we made a pledge, we didn’t stick to it – and for that I am sorry.”
    So there was no money, but there was money to cut top rate tax from 50% to 45%: An interesting definition of no money. And a problem was making a pledge and then being in coalition with others who wanted to put fees up: but that didn’t mean we had to vote in favour. Indeed we could still have voted against. Even the coalition agreement said Nick could abstain, but he didn’t. He voted in favour.
    Finally, he was very careful with his words. He said he was sorry for “We made a pledge, we didn’t stick to it.” So did he apologise for breaking it, or for making it? To me, with all the preceding stuff he mentions about it being expensive and there being no money around, it sounds like apologising for making it, not breaking it.

  • Sorry. Duplication of my first two paragraphs. My fault. Now that is an apology.

  • Chris said, quoting Paul Walter.

    ” “I don’t think he (Clegg) is a naturally calculating and conniving character. He is relatively straight forward in his thinking.’

    That’s just what he wants you to think. :-)”

    Yes indeed. It strongly reminds me of:

    “I think most people who have dealt with me think I am a pretty straight sort of guy, and I am,”

    That was T Blair, 1997, in response to the Bernie Ecclestone donation scandal. It was the first time that Blair’s clean-cut image had taken a serious knock, so Blair’s riposte may have convinced many of his audience. At the time, anyway.

    There are other similarities. Clegg, like Blair, likes to answer questions rather quickly, almost boyishly, with apparent candour, in a seemingly careless manner. The general impression given is “I’m not bothered about making the most polished response, I’ll just tell it like it is.” It is a way that can be used to fake sincerity, to pose with a simple-nice-guy image. It should not be trusted!

  • daft ha'p'orth 29th Jun '14 - 11:52pm

    @Simon Shaw
    No doubt the public will look back at the Nick Clegg Apology Song, think ‘awww, poor man’ and vote for him out of pity. The catch-phrase will be ‘I Sympathise With Nick’.

  • daft ha'p'orth 30th Jun '14 - 12:14am

    @Simon Shaw
    My point is, they may well be aware, but this does not imply that they feel any particular inclination to act in a given way as a result.

  • daft ha'p'orth 30th Jun '14 - 12:36am

    @Simon Shaw
    I’m so sorry that you failed to catch the implication, but I’m afraid that I was in fact not entirely serious with my prediction that the LDs would win a landslide due to Nick Clegg’s new-born Pity Chorus. I’ll provide sarcasm tags next time, for clarity.

  • Matthew Huntbach 30th Jun '14 - 2:13am

    daft ha’p’orth

    And how your LDs would’ve dealt with ensuring that no massive reduction in university funding would’ve occurred is up to your LDs. Are they politicians or not?

    Yes, and so when they did it you complain that it is “lies or subterfuge or shady deals behind the bike shed”.

    Sorry, I have read your reply to me and it is just full of contradictions, first you vaguely wave your hands in one way then you vaguely wave them in another, and finally you hint that there would be big cuts in university funding if you had it your way.

  • MichaelBG

    I have been a councillor for seven years. I didn’t make any pledges. If I was a councillor again I wouldn’t make any pledges.

  • @Richard Harris

    Of course I will go onto defending the bits I feel deserve to be defended. Why don’t you answer the two points I made to you above? Unable to do so perhaps? Or is it easier to just try to silence someone by saying; “Just don’t try to defend it”. That doesn’t tend to work on a liberal website. And Clegg apologised for the pledge, not the policy.

  • David Evans 30th Jun '14 - 7:36am

    @ Paul Walter – Of course David Cameron did make a pledge in the run up to the 2010 election. He said that the Conservatives would not cut pensioners’ free travel or winter fuel payments, and despite being in a coalition, and despite there being “no money around,” he has stuck to it. Who would you trust to do as he says?

  • David Evans 30th Jun '14 - 7:44am

    @ Simon Shaw – I have given no definition of “no money.” I was simply pointing out that Nick’s use of that term did not accord with what most people would understand. Your final sentence “I’m sorry, but your definition is invalid.” is simply a red herring.

    However you do raise an interesting point. If there was so much extra cash from cutting tax loopholes, why didn’t Nick get it to be used for keeping tuition fees down? I sit because David Cameron had already told him that he had bagged it for OAPs’ winter fuel payments?

  • Paul Walter, David Evans etc
    Surely the point about the pledge was, not that the Lib Dems could guarantee it could happen, but that they would vote against tuition fees. The argument advanced by Nick Clegg later, under his “apology” was that there was “no chance of Labour or the Tories voting with us” was irrelevant, all our MPs under the pledge should have voted that way. NC has absolutely no excuse, because the party had made clear its copper-bottomed opposition, as I have said before, in amendments at the Birmingham special conference. Paul should already know this well, as it was, among others, his former MP and Parliamentary candidate, David Rendel, who probably made the strongest speech at that conference to ensure our MPs’ voting in Parliament reflected the pledge and democratically expressed party views.

    Everyone out there knows that you can’t win a vote if sufficient others oppose, but the pledge needs to be reflected precisely there, in our MPs’ votes, and in the instructions given them by Whips. David Evans mentions the Tory pledge on pensioner benefits – had the boot been on the other foot, and the Tories had less votes, I am sure the vast majority of their MPs, including front bench spokespeople, would have voted to protect those benefits.

    As for your “pledge not to make pledges”, Paul, I am sorry, but this is just the sort of wriggling which has in recent years given politicos a bad name. We all know that to set down with absolute precision what you will or won’t be able to do in several years time is a hostage to fortune, but you need to give an open and honest statement of your beliefs and what you will work for. I do not intend to discuss money and budgets here, which is a minefield, of course!

  • daft ha'p'orth 30th Jun '14 - 10:08am

    @Matthew Huntbach
    “And how your LDs would’ve dealt with ensuring that no massive reduction in university funding would’ve occurred is up to your LDs. Are they politicians or not?”
    Yes, and so when they did it you complain that it is “lies or subterfuge or shady deals behind the bike shed”.

    What they did was, according to you, an elaborate deception, and according to you I am supposed to admire the LDs for that. I don’t. In fact, I reject your suggestion that this is in any way clever, not least because politically it was a massive own goal.The LDs allowed themselves to be painted into a corner.

    I’m sorry that you think that seeking to deliver HE more cheaply is hand-waving, compared to the naturally far more feasible approach of ‘let’s pretend that we can hide this mountain of money in personal debt and then have the state repay it after all, when it turns out not to have worked out like we hoped’. It seems our financial differences are irreconcilable.

  • Matthew Huntbach 30th Jun '14 - 10:46am

    daft ha’p’orth

    What they did was, according to you, an elaborate deception, and according to you I am supposed to admire the LDs for that. I don’t. In fact, I reject your suggestion that this is in any way clever, not least because politically it was a massive own goal.

    No, that is not what I am saying. That is why I balanced my comment made against you yesterday immediately with one made (at 9.38pm) against Paul Walter. I don’t think the tuition fees pledge should have been made in the way it was, but having been made I think the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Party should have stuck with it regardless. What I am actually saying, if you could be bothered to read it, and goodness gracious, I’ve explained it to you often enough in these terms, is that I can see how rationale behind what was done even if I would not have supported it had I happened to have been a LibDem MP at the time. As I’ve argued with you agains and again, underlying there is not so big a difference as is painted and that is because you have used the immature argument of supposing that what is paid for by state subsidy is “free” and ignored that it has to come from taxation. The political left is failing in this country because mostly this is what it does – leaving the political right free to use its equally misleading line that supposes taxes are only taken in order to be vindictive. That ends up with the left painting itself in a corner, because the people have been led to believe state services can be provided without the balance of taxation, and so the people will accept the political right’s line on taxation and refuse to agree to what is necessary to pay for those services.

    Your juvenile way of thinking was exposed so clearly in your sofa analogy, which worked only if you completely ignored the fact that if university education is to be subsidised, that must be paid for by higher taxes. It is just this sort of juvenile way of thinking that leads politicians into what you call “subterfuge” because it is a way of thinking that expects politicians to achieve the impossible and refuses to think in realistic terms.

    To be sure it was a massive own goal. I have never said it wasn’t. It is a sign of Clegg’s incompetency. I’ve been saying that repeatedly.

    I’m sorry that you think that seeking to deliver HE more cheaply is hand-waving,

    Well, you seem to be taking the same approach as the Tories do to the NHS “cut their funding and let them sort it out”. I have already seen the deleterious effects of the cuts that have taken place in Higher Education, so I don’t agree with your argument that it would be easy-peasy to make more. But anyway, thanks for giving support to the argument that I have been making on this issue: that the LibDems were faced with two alternatives, which were either to support the loans system, or to agree to big Tory cuts in Higher Education. You go along with the big Tory cuts. Fine, I’m glad you finally came out honestly and admitted that.

  • daft ha'p'orth 30th Jun '14 - 10:56am

    @Matthew Huntbach
    No, I go along with one percent, two percent cuts. I do NOT go along with “cut two-thirds and laugh all the way to the loan shark”.

    I work in HE, ffs. I know full well that there is a tendency for the system to expand and then weep and moan til the govt gives them the funding to pay for it. I know what gets spent on real estate and other feathering-of-one’s-nest. And, sure, I’ve seen the ‘deleterious effects of the cuts’, but I have also seen the ‘deleterious effects’ of the new funding system and frankly I would rather have dealt with the cuts, because
    a) in the longer run the cuts will inevitably happen anyway
    b) now we have an entire new class of private-sector competition, hooray
    c) the new funding system has locked out a proportion of students, which to me is unforgivable.

    HE is not without sin and it will waste money with gay abandon given half a chance. HEFCE was historically in a position to limit that, although of course now it no longer has significant influence and probably won’t have again.

    Look, if you want to save money, the only solution is to spend less money. You can, I suppose, look for private-sector funders to make free money appear, and that’s what Labour pushed for years with very little success. But other than that, no, the money fairy won’t bring it. In this case, we aren’t saving money; we’re spending as much or more, so we failed to save money AND we got a duplicitous system into the bargain, so it pretty much failed at every hurdle. Congrats.

    If we’re going to throw around words like ‘immature’, just how ‘mature’ is it to pretend that credit card debt is free? If you can’t afford those lovely new HE trainers,don’t buy them.

  • daft ha'p'orth 30th Jun '14 - 11:07am

    @Matthew Huntbach
    Oh, and regarding the sofa analogy, that was made to outline the difference between ‘the amount I pay per year has gone down’ and ‘this costs me less overall’. Y’all seem to think that ‘cheaper per year’ is preferable to the borrower than fully paying off a debt in a shorter period of time, which is a bizarre assertion. End of.

  • @Simon Shaw
    You don’t seem to understand what the pledge actually said. This is the full wording :-

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

    The “fairer alternative” was supposed to be a fairer alternative to any increase in fees. Clearly, by definition any such “fairer alternative” cannot possibly include the trebling of fees.

  • @Simon Shaw
    “Logical inconsistency”?

    Just to check I’m understanding you correctly, are you saying that in order to make tuition fees fairer, it was logically necessary to increase them?

  • Michael BG 28th Jun ’14 – 4:36am

    “I can’t believe that anyone can say “All of that makes it rather baffling that tuition fees are still venomously chanted as part of the indictment against Nick Clegg.” If Paul stood for election and became a councillor and he had promised to vote a certain way on an issue but he voted the other way would he be baffled that his voters held it against him? Would he be baffled because those you voted for him no longer trusted what he said on any issue?”

    Michael, I have been a councilor for seven years. I was elected twice, in 2000 and 2003. In both election campaigns I did not make any pledges or promises to vote a certain way. If I stood for election again I would also not make any pledges or promises to vote a certain way. If you take the most obvious and frequent example in local government, planning applications, most councilors know that you cannot make prior commitments on voting because it simply and formally disbars you from taking any part in the relevant committee meeting part for that application, thereby taking away any power you had in the first place to influence the decision on behalf of residents.

    I think I have made the following clear elsewhere. But I repeat it. It was very foolish of Nick Clegg to sign a pledge written by someone else about tuition fees. Yes, many voters will never forgive him or the party for reneging on it. And yes, many people will feel they can never trust Nick Clegg and the party ever again. Of course. And I agree it is dishonourable to break one’s promises, which is why I wouldn’t make any promises about which way I would vote and didn’t in the seven years I was a councillor and in the election campaigns before I was elected. I also agree that it was dishonourable that Nick Clegg broke his pledge. However, I am a great believer that the honourable thing to do, when you get something wrong, is to apologise. Nick Clegg has apologised for making the pledge which he felt he couldn’t keep when he got into coalition. So I believe that he has done the honourable thing there by apologising. (I really don’t think he could have apologised for the policy he implemented, instead of the one he made the pledge about, because it would have been illogical. How can you sincerely apologise for something which you have just implemented in full possession of your faculties and knowing the current set of circumstances which have not changed between implementation and the time of the apology?).

    I also believe that part of honourable behaviour is accepting people’s apologies when they make them sincerely, and moving on. So I accept Nick Clegg’s apology in this instance and have moved on myself. Others might not have accepted the apology and might not have moved on. That is their right and I respect them for it and understand and have great sympathy for their position.

    Tim13 30th Jun ’14 – 8:11am

    “As for your “pledge not to make pledges”, Paul, I am sorry, but this is just the sort of wriggling which has in recent years given politicos a bad name. We all know that to set down with absolute precision what you will or won’t be able to do in several years time is a hostage to fortune, but you need to give an open and honest statement of your beliefs and what you will work for. I do not intend to discuss money and budgets here, which is a minefield, of course!”

    Giving an open and honest statement of beliefs and what you will work for is not necessarily “promis(ing) to vote a certain way on an issue” – which was the text of the question which Michael BG asked. I wrote about a “pledge”. I think it is quite clear what that means. The dictionary definition is quite clear.

    I have answered comments here at more length than any previous author of any post on LDV. (I stand to be corrected on that but I have read most of the posts, certainly the ones with large amounts of comments). I have not answered every comment. I did not respond to Michael BG’s comment originally. I am sorry. But I have also not responded to about 80 others. I’m sorry I missed those as well.

  • Paul, I admire your willingness to engage (although I think you are over-reliant on Martin Lewis for your defence) but I wondered if you could address two issues raised by other posters which may have been lost in the comments.

    1. The accuracy of the claim that student numbers have increased. The numbers cited appear to include nursing students whose fees are paid. What is the real situation when funded degrees are removed?

    2. The dire situation of mature students, and the lack of steps to address the acknowledged steep decline in numbers. As Peter Watson has pointed out, many mature students are not eligible for a loan and cannot meet the upfront costs of a degree.

    I must confess a personal interest. The latter situation affects me (I am attempting a mid-life career change, but am precluded from using the SLC due to a previous qualification), This is something I have raised with Ministers, via my MP to be informed that there are no concerns, and no plans to change the status quo.

  • @Simon Shaw
    What you are saying does not make any sense. As I’ve already tried to explain to you, the “fairer alternative” referred to in the second part of the pledge is a fairer alternative to increased tuition fees, so it’s impossible for a trebling of fees to comply with part 2 of the pledge. According to you, increased fees can be a fairer alternative to increased fees!

    Try reading the pledge again :-

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

  • Matthew Huntbach 30th Jun '14 - 4:18pm

    daft ha’p’orth

    Look, if you want to save money, the only solution is to spend less money. You can, I suppose, look for private-sector funders to make free money appear, and that’s what Labour pushed for years with very little success

    Why are you arguing with me as if I am a Cleggie? Once again, please try reading what I wrote.

  • Simon Shaw seems to think that the implied object of the second part of the pledge is something like ‘the current system’, so the pledge in full read something like: ‘I pledge to vote against any increase in fees in the next parliament and to pressure the government to introduce a fairer alternative [to the current system].’

    However, this would require the second part of the pledge to be referring to something completely outside its scope, which would violate the contract of contextuality by which we speak and understand the English language (and indeed all languages), where listeners cannot be expected to simply infer out of thin air something which it completely outside the scope of the communication.

  • Matthew Huntbach 30th Jun '14 - 4:34pm

    daft ha’p’orth

    If we’re going to throw around words like ‘immature’, just how ‘mature’ is it to pretend that credit card debt is free? If you can’t afford those lovely new HE trainers,don’t buy them.

    QED.

    You are proving the very point I was attacked for making last time we discussed this issue. Back then, I argued that the Liberal Democrats were in the position where the only way the Tories would agree to them keeping their pledge was to agree to massive cuts in the university system. I was attacked for that, by you among others, I was told I was only saying that because I was a mad keen Cleggie desperately looking for an excuse to defend the Dear Leader. I was told that finding another way of paying for universities was easy-peasy and all it would involve was the LibDems pushing a bit harder. But now here you are admitting that your favoured alternative the compromise system we now have IS just what I said it was then – massive cuts to the university system.

    As I’ve already said, SEVERAL TIMES, I don’t agree that the system we have now is a good one. I don’t take the Clegg line that the compromises made under the coalition are so wonderful that they are even better than what was in our manifesto. So can you please stop attacking me as if I do?

    I’m not pretending that “credit card debt is free”. Throughout I’ve been saying the opposite – that if there was just a successful vote against tuition fees rising, and no balancing rise in taxation, it would be at the cost of increased national debt, and so increased tax payments in the future anyway. So that was my point all along, either way the debt has to be paid off, the big difference that people are going on about isn’t there. Now, FINALLY, you seem to be agreeing with me on that, while attacking me as if I had taken your original position and you had taken mine.

    You are daft, aren’t you?

  • daft ha'p'orth 30th Jun '14 - 4:42pm

    Dear, angry, frustrated, shouty, rude @Matthew Huntbach

    There is a big difference between a small cut (which the university system can stand; Labour handed us enough of them for us to have preexisting experience of that) and a massive cut which the system cannot stand.

    Get it?

  • JJones 30th Jun ’14 – 2:22pm

    Let me do some research and then I’ll come back here with what I can find. And yes I plead guilty to being a Martin Lewis fan but I am sadly without his communication skills!

  • @Simon
    You appear to be seeing something that is not there. Here is the pledge again :-

    I pledge to vote against any increase in fees in the next parliament and to pressure the government to introduce a fairer alternative.

    You seem to be reading it as if the words “than the current system” are tagged on the end. But they aren’t – you are making it up.

    The NUS made it crystal clear at the time that the main purpose of the pledge was to oppose a rise in tuition fees (see link below), so it really does come over as sophistry when you try to argue that the trebling of fees is somehow compatible with the pledge.

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

  • No, you are not understanding me correctly. The logical inconsistency arises from there being two parts to the pledge.

    I gave the example that fees could treble (which conflicts with part (i) of the pledge) but if only (say) 5% of students ever repaid any part of their fees then the new system could be regarded as fairer (complying with part (ii) of the pledge). That’s the logical inconsistency.

    You’re saying you could comply with part (ii) of the pledge while breaking part (i). Even if that were the case, it wouldn’t be a logical inconsistency in the pledge. The pledge is a promise to do both things. The fact that it would be possible to do one and not the other is neither here nor there.

    Perhaps a simple example would help. Suppose Simon Shaw promises to wear (i) an orange tie and (ii) black shoes on Thursday. Of course, it would be possible for him to substitute a blue tie and still wear black shoes. But he’d be breaking his promise. And I don’t think anyone would be impressed if he tried to claim there was a logical inconsistency in his promise, because he had been able to keep one part of it and not the other!

  • @JJones

    The UCAS Age analysis is here:
    http://www.ucas.com/data-analysis/data-resources/data-tables/age

    Accepted applications for 25-39 year olds in 2013 were 40379 which was about the same as 2008 and 2011, up on 2012 and down on 2009 and 2010.

    Accepted applications for 40+ year olds in 2013 were 10665 which was up on 2012 and 2011 but down on 2009 and 2010 and slightly down on 2008.

    The subjectival breakdown showing nursing is on individual year pages which I have linked below. The nursing accepted applications by year are:

    2008 21839
    2009 25117
    2010 27079
    2011 24587
    2012 23836
    2013 24700

    http://www.ucas.com/data-analysis/data-resources/data-tables/subject/applications-choices-acceptances-and-ratios-subject-group-2013

    http://www.ucas.com/data-analysis/data-resources/data-tables/subject/2012

    http://www.ucas.com/data-analysis/data-resources/data-tables/subject/2011

    http://www.ucas.com/data-analysis/data-resources/data-tables/subject/2010

    http://www.ucas.com/data-analysis/data-resources/data-tables/subject/2009

    http://www.ucas.com/data-analysis/data-resources/data-tables/subject/2008

    I will now look for funded degrees.

  • JJones

    I can’t find any UCAS breakdown of the numbers showing “funded degrees”. Although I note that the numbers for nursing, which was mentioned as the main contributor here, have not trended dramtically up or down over the last six years.

    As for mature students I admit to total ignorance in this area and bow to your knowledge and experience in it and greatly sympathise with you.

  • Paul. Thank you. It does appear from your stats that mature student applicants were on a roughly upward trajectory before fees, and a roughly downward one now.

    The particular problem of mature students wishing to retrain will be a growing one, particularly as the retirement age continues to rise. A qualification gained at 21 may need to be supplemented by another a couple of decades later – but at the moment those students are denied access to loans. While a retraining applicant in the past would probably find it bearable to have to find £9k fees upfront over the degree, they now have to pay £27k – completely prohibitive.

    Another hidden issue is that the additional allowances for particular groups which were much trumpeted by the Lib Dems at the time fees were tripled have been quietly scaled back. For example childcare grants were cut back last year to the extent that only single persons completely reliant on benefits prior to university can meet the qualification criteria. I understand that disabled student grants are facing a similarly brutal chop in 2015. So it seems that the Lib Dem promises to put mitigating measures in place to protect vulnerable groups were reneged on as well.

  • Points taken.

  • daft ha'p'orth 30th Jun '14 - 7:29pm

    @Paul Walter
    You might find http://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/highereducation/Documents/2013/PowerOfPartTimeExecutiveSummary.pdf useful as regards part-time enrolment (mostly women and mature learners). Bear in mind that it comes from Universities UK, so it is fundamentally a plea to give the uni system as much money as possible as rapidly as possible, but the stats are relevant.

    “Following a decade of slow decline, the numbers of students recruited to undergraduate part-time courses in England suddenly fell by 40% in two years (2010–11 to 2012–13): equivalent to 105,000 fewer students. Indications for 2013–14 are that the level of decline will not be stemmed.”

    Access to institutions like the Open University can be so important in allowing people to retrain. Even a bit of mostly mail-order education really can transform peoples’ lives. The current tuition fees have made that inaccessible to many, if not most. With such a high (up-front!) price tag on education, education is not accessible enough for people who need to change career directions, which is a problem that is only going to increase with time.

    I have heard some noises from Willetts about relaxing ELQ legislation for STEM, which is excellent news for JJones if it has translated into practice. It saddens me deeply (sincerely) that the LDs left resolution of the flaws in system to the Conservatives, leaving Willetts with all the positive newspaper coverage and many of the people priced out of HE by the new tuition fees wondering whether they should’ve been voting Tory from the start.

  • daft ha'p'orth 30th Jun '14 - 7:35pm

    And before anyone says anything: when I say ‘many, if not most’, please mentally substitute ‘many, if not most of those looking to retrain’. It’s been a long day…

  • @ Paul Walter – “If I stood for election again I would also not make any pledges or promises to vote a certain way.”
    This doesn’t really answer the question about what you would do it you made any pledges or promises. It is a bit like Nick Clegg making too much of the idea that he shouldn’t have made the pledge in the first place.
    I am pleased that you recognise that “it was dishonourable that Nick Clegg broke his pledge”.

    @ Paul Walter – “I also believe that part of honourable behaviour is accepting people’s apologies when they make them sincerely, and moving on.”
    I think it depends on the action that a person is apologising for, before deciding if just accepting the apology and moving on is the correct response. When a crime is committed it isn’t. It isn’t when the action is bringing the party into disrepute because we have decided that there are penalties involved in such actions. In court breaking ones oath it isn’t. Therefore it is important when discussing if apologising is enough the nature of the “crime”. In my case it is bringing the party into disrepute, because he has broken his personal promise and therefore as he has done it in the past he can do it in the future and to break such a public promise also means that whatever he says can be disbelieved just because he is a known promise breaker.

  • @MichaelBG

    The situation wouldn’t arise because I didn’t make any pledges OR promises about voting when I was elected twice and I wouldn’t make any pledges OR promises if I was elected again. I don’t think I can be clearer than that. (By the way, I am highly unlikely to put myself forward again for election.)

    I don’t agree with your second point.

    Best wishes
    Paul

  • @Simon Shaw
    “All you have said is what you think the second part of the pledge DOESN’T mean”

    You mean apart from the two posts where I told you what it DOES mean (see 11:25 and 3:56). Strange you’ve forgotten them already, since you replied to both of them and it was only a few hours ago.

    Surely the pledge has to stand on what it says.

    That’s what I’ve been saying all along Simon. The pledge says :-

    I pledge to vote against any increase in fees in the next parliament and to pressure the government to introduce a fairer alternative.

    I don’t think I’m qualified to give you the help you need here Simon. Have you tried asking John Pugh to explain the pledge to you? He signed it, afterall (and unlike most of his colleagues even stuck to it).

  • @ Paul Walter
    I not understand why you can say I didn’t and I will not in the future make any pledges or promises but you can’t say, after it, because if I did I would have to keep them no matter what and I wouldn’t want to break such a personal pledge or promise because of my own morals.

    If we extended the logic of what I think your position is on my second point then you believe that so long as one apologises for their actions afterwards and promises never to do it again then everything is fine. A first strike apologise position. It has merit but the public I don’t think would accept it. And we are after all talking about the public here.

  • Michael BG

    You may need to be sitting down for this.

    I have personal morals too, Michael. Crikey! That’s a shocker isn’t it?

    I am a committed Christian and I take my faith extremely seriously. Coincidentally, I have just finished re-reading the book of James with its famous quotation “Let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no”.

    My faith is one of the reasons I would never promise or pledge anything I could not commit 100% to delivering.

    That probably explains why I never made any pledges or promises about votes as a councillor or a council candidate, and would certainly never do so in future.

    On the second point, can you tell me why you feel the need to tell me what you think I think? Can you not simply deal with what I actually write without speculating further?

    I have not heard the disrepute clause mentioned in connection with Clegg before and I think it is totally bizarre. I am proud of Nick Clegg as our leader.

  • Peter Watson 1st Jul '14 - 12:57am

    @Simon Shaw
    The new system is no more a graduate tax than the previous one. The salary level at which repayments begin went up, as did the size of the loan, the interest rate at which it is repaid, and the period before it is written off. Lib Dems called Labour’s system a lot of things, but I don’t think a graduate tax was one of them.

  • Peter Watson 1st Jul '14 - 1:14am

    @Paul Walter
    Thanks for posting the data about nursing acceptances. If you’d gone back one more year you’d have seen the increase from 6694 in 2007 to 21830 in 2008.
    Also, if you looked at the figures for applications, which is often cited by those defending the new scheme, we see significant increases:
    2007 63124
    2008 109127
    2009 134367
    2010 194214
    2011 218599
    2012 212572
    2013 226400

    It is the case that overall, university applications have increased from 2007 to 2013 (from 2,355,000 to 2,712,000 but it is inflated by applications to nursing and would otherwise be from 2,292,000 to 2,485,000)

    Figures for social mobility are harder to pin down. UCAS exclude nursing when looking at applications by age in order to ensure consistency when comparing years, but they do not do so for applications based upon social background. I have seen articles on LDV and elsewhere which claim improvements to social mobility since (or even because of!) the increase in tuition fees but the data is not available for this on a like-for-like basis.

  • Peter Watson 1st Jul '14 - 1:35am

    @Paul Walter
    Understandably, debates often dwell on the issue of tuition fees because of the high profile nature of the broken promise and because it was a huge increase in that part of a student’s costs, but another aspect of the student finance system is the maintenance loan. Previously, there was no “real” cost to this as the interest rate was RPI (and I think was zero until graduation). Now, the maintenance loan (well, the whole loan) attracts an interest rate of RPI + 3% from Day One as a student and from RPI to RPI + 3% for graduates.
    This is another significant increase in the cost to graduates. It is (and always was) offset by a means-tested grant for students from low income families, but in terms of progressiveness (?) it is obviously something that can be avoided by the wealthiest, and under the new system is an additional “real” cost to the so-called ‘squeezed middle’.

  • @ Paul Walter
    I am sure I deserve your sarcasm for my comments of 3.30am yesterday which you deleted. However I wasn’t saying you had no morals but suggesting that you could refer to them in expanding your answer to the pledge question. It is good to know that the writer of James’ epistle can quote the gospel of Matthew. I was thinking about the Matthewian text when writing earlier (part of it is even likely to have actually been said by Jesus). Again you express the negative – “I couldn’t make a promise I wouldn’t fulfil”. I still don’t understand why you can’t say the positive – the yes version if you will – “If I make a promise I will have to fulfil it.” Please can you explain why you can’t say it?

    @ Paul Walter – “On the second point, can you tell me why you feel the need to tell me what you think I think? Can you not simply deal with what I actually write without speculating further?”
    You wrote, “I don’t agree with your second point.” My second point consisted of 8 lines and 6 sentences. It seems logical to assume that you disagree with the whole 8 lines and 6 sentences. If you wish not to be interpreted incorrectly you should express yourself in a way that reduces this possibility.

    Disrepute means “The state of being held in low esteem by the public”
    http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/disrepute?q=disrepute
    My position is that Nick Clegg broke his personal pledge not to increase tuition fees along with the majority of our MP’s and this action has resulted in us being held in low esteem by the public.
    You – “think it is totally bizarre.”
    I think the evidence for it is overwhelming with no evidence against it.

  • Michael
    I’m sorry but this is as far as I will go with this discussion with you on this forum. It is not going anywhere. Beside drawing pictures, I don’t know what else I have to do to convince you I mean it when I say I never made a pledge or promise on a vote in two elections and never would make such a promise. It’s not difficult. I live near you, so I’ll happily meet you or converse by phone if you wish. Please contact me via email.

  • @ Paul Walter
    I am disappointed you no longer wish to continue this debate in public here. I wonder if it is because it is public that you are having your difficulty with the positive version. I am convinced that you have never made nor will ever make a pledge or promise to vote a certain way. I don’t understand why you think I need convincing I believed you the first time you wrote it at 7.19 am on Monday morning.

    If you don’t understand my points I suggest you could ask for clarification or do as I do state what you think I have said (quoting them helps) and I will happily try to explain them better.

    Please email me your responses on the three outstanding issues:
    If a promise or pledge is made when trying to get elected the person making it should keep it no matter if they believe later doing the opposite would be better for the voters?
    Why you have difficulty in saying the above?
    That there is overwhelming evidence that the public hold the Liberal Democrats in low esteem because of the broken pledge on tuition fees.
    I think I should just give up on getting you to write a sentence where you are clear that a pledge given during an election campaign is different to policies in a party’s manifesto and is of a different order and should be kept. It seems you do believe this. (There I go again.) It can be inferred from what you have written. I think your writing, “it was dishonourable that Nick Clegg broke his pledge” is some of the evidence for this belief.

  • Matthew Huntbach 1st Jul '14 - 11:02am

    daft ha’p’orth

    There is a big difference between a small cut (which the university system can stand; Labour handed us enough of them for us to have preexisting experience of that) and a massive cut which the system cannot stand.

    A small cut, as you put it, would therefore mean the government paying out DIRECTLY hugely more in subsidy to universities than it is at present. Now, my point throughout is that I feel anyone who says that universities should continue to be subsidised as they were needs to say how they would pay for it. I have asked you to do this, I thought you had eventually given an answer, which was to cut spending on universities, but now you say you only want a small cut.

    I think it would greatly help if Clegg were to say just how he proposed to pay for it in the manifesto he claimed was fully costed. If he cannot do that, he should resign on the grounds of having been profoundly dishonest. However, if he were to come back and say it would involve a level of taxation that the Conservatives just would never support – and it would – then we can carry on.

    If the Conservatives refused to support taxes to carry on subsidising universities, but would support cuts big enough to enable the Liberal Democrats to keep their “pledge”, then those cuts would be massive. The Conservatives could then play the game “Sorry, we were forced into doing this in order to allow our coalition partners to keep this pledge that was so precious to them”.

    So I can see the logic behind agreeing on paper to the Conservatives’ wish for full payment of tuition fees in order to avoid big cuts in universities, while doing all that could be done to limit the damaging effect of the tuition fees system by making sure it was an automatic loan and with generous write-off conditions. As I keep saying, that doesn’t mean I feel the current system is the best possible thing there could ever have been, but it is perhaps the best possible thing under the constraint that it has to get the support of the Conservatives.

    That is why I say those who are attacking the Liberal Democrats over this do have a moral duty to say what THEY would have done in the same circumstances. They also have a moral duty to say what they would have done without the constraint of having to get Conservative Party agreement, but with the constraint that budgets have to be met. But I’ve not seen ANYONE on that side who’s done this. All we hear is lines, like yours on 6.45pm on 29th June which just ignore the fact that more government subsidy has to be paid for in some way or other. And then you have the cheek the next day at 10.56am to start lecturing ME as if I was playing the “money fairy” line.

    I wish we had grown-up politics in this country where it was automatic to discuss things we would like the government to provide alongside how we would wish them to be paid for. The problem is that we don’t, instead all we have is discussions which go on about one thing without the balancing other. The result is that people demand things from the government but won’t accept what is needed to pay for them, and think that politicians are just bad people if they won’t give them those things or if they take the taxes needed for them. Politicians then try to get round this by looking for sneaky ways to pay for it which don’t count as direct taxation. I agree with you this is silly, I would much rather have universities subsidised by direct taxation than by the current system. However, I think those who argue against the current system do need to say what that taxation should be – which you haven’t done yet, now you’ve backed off from suggesting it could be paid for by cuts in university provision.

  • @Simon Shaw
    “Of course it is! ”

    How many times, Simon Shaw, how many times?

    As explained to you consistently for the last four years, the new system is nothing like a graduate tax because:

    1. Tuition fees are regressive – graduates with high incomes pay a far smaller percentage of their lifetime salary than those on middle incomes.
    2. Fees are called fees for a reason – once you’ve paid them off you don’t have to pay any more. The same is not true of income tax – I don’t get to stop paying income tax after I’ve paid a certain amount over my lifetime.

  • “what changes in the new system would you say are needed to change it into a “fairer alternative” as referred to in part (ii) of the NUS pledge?”

    People who voted Lib Dem in 2010 were voting for a party which advocated the abolition of tuition fees and the funding of higher education from general taxation. So they were entitled to expect their MPs not only to keep their signed pledges to vote against any increase in tuition fees, but also to press for a shift towards funding from general taxation, rather than graduate payments. That was what the Lib Dems told us would constitute a fairer system.

    In the event, not only did most Lib Dem MPs break their word, but those who supported the government voted for a shift in precisely the opposite direction – away from general taxation and towards graduate payments.

    It simply won’t do to claim that these actions are in any way consistent with what we were told before the election. And it doesn’t do you any good. This is all about trust, and for Lib Dems to carry on saying things that are obviously untrue makes things worse for you, not better.

  • daft ha'p'orth 1st Jul '14 - 11:38am

    @Matthew Huntbach
    I understand that you believe that money for which there is an IOU, no matter how tenuous, is magically not real money and therefore is not, insert capital letters here, DIRECTLY paid out, and therefore does not count as subsidy. Frankly I think that’s profoundly weird. I do not subscribe to the funny-money-is-magic-and-does-not-count hypothesis. I do not want a government that plays games of let’s-hide-it-in-the-balance-sheet-and-pretend-it-is-not-real-money.

    I actually have no idea why you claim that continued subsidy requires extraordinary justification. I would suggest that removal of continued subsidy would require extraordinary justification.

    Clearly our differences are irreconcilable. Works for me. I have long since resigned myself to joining the proportion of British voters who vote for ‘Other’, anyway.

  • daft ha'p'orth 1st Jul '14 - 1:55pm

    @Simon Shaw
    “Very high earning graduates could end up “paying back” 5, 10 or 20 times the cost of their degree. I would have thought that affluent families would find ways to avoid that, wouldn’t you?”
    So ‘too posh to pay’ is a valid demographic now. Okay…

  • @Simon Shaw

    Nice twisting.

    I pointed out two reasons why tuition fees are not a graduate tax. The first reason is that fees are regressive above the middle of the graduate income range – this is a fundamental difference to funding HE through general taxation/income tax which is either proportionate or progressive across all income deciles but never regressive . The fact that tuition fees are progressive for a limited income range between 21k and middle incomes does not alter that fact.

    “Very high earning graduates could end up “paying back” 5, 10 or 20 times the cost of their degree.”

    Er, hello? The Lib Dem policy on HE funding for years was to pay for it with some form of progressive taxation – a penny on income tax, a graduate tax, etc. That’s how it works – high earners pay more than they receive in the value of tuition – it’s part of the redistributive effect of progressive taxation which, in the case of education funding, provides a useful mechanism for levelling the playing field for the younger generations. That’s the whole point. That’s why tuition fees are at odds with what are regarded as the principles of modern liberalism.

  • daft ha'p'orth 1st Jul '14 - 3:02pm

    Yeah, Simon, there’s a lot of it going round (shakes head, moves on)

  • Simon Shaw

    Please just read what I wrote:
    “So they were entitled to expect their MPs not only to keep their signed pledges to vote against any increase in tuition fees, but also to press for a shift towards funding from general taxation, rather than graduate payments. That was what the Lib Dems told us would constitute a fairer system.”

    So if you want to make the new system fairer, on the criterion of fairness presented by the Lib Dems at the last election, modify it so that more funding comes from general taxation, and less from graduate payments.

  • @Simon Shaw

    Using the MSE repayment calculator (http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/students/student-finance-calculator) with average inflation of 3%, salary growth of RPI plus 2% per annum and average UK earnings growth of RPI +1% per annum (the default assumptions) these are the total repayment amounts for two different starting salaries for loans of 27k:

    Starting salary of 60k: £41460 (1.04% of total earnings of 1.99 million over 30 years)
    Starting salary of 30k: £70590 (3.54% of total earnings of 3.99 million over 30 years)

    Of course, if the graduate on the starting salary of 60k has their fees paid up-front then they only pay £27000, equating to 0.68% of their earnings over 30 years.

    One of the biggest reasons I voted Lib Dem was the belief that I was voting for a party that believed in funding HE through progressive taxation. I ended up with a party that implemented a system whereby someone starting on 30k pays more than three times the proportion of their salary of someone starting on 60k and now I have you telling me the system is fairer, that it is what the NUS wanted, that it is progressive (!!!) and that the pledge wasn’t broken. Pardon me if I don’t take anything you say seriously.

  • “In fact they are progressive for salaries below £21,000 as well. ”

    What a bizarre comment.

    So, someone earning 15k pays 0% of their salary whereas someone earning 18k pays 0% of their salary. There is no progression between the two scenarios in terms of absolute payments or in terms of a percentage of their salary. In no way whatsoever are tuition fees progressive for salaries below 21k.

    “Certainly the Conservatives don’t oppose Tuition Fees; Labour don’t oppose Tuition Fees, and I hope to goodness that the Lib Dems don’t oppose them in future.”

    So, the Conservative and Labour parties are modern liberal parties? Eh?

  • Peter Watson 1st Jul '14 - 7:49pm

    @Simon Shaw
    The figures you present show that the government loses money on every graduate that has a starting salary of less than £30300 (i.e. NPV of repayments is less than the £27000 borrowed). This suggests a very expensive scheme in which students pay more, the government pays more, and universities get … not more.

    One important assumption in your figures is that a graduate’s salary progresses in line with UK average earnings. You have chosen to change the default value on the website’s calculator. This flatters your argument as it reduces the NPV of repayments as graduates do not move as readily from lower repayment bands to higher ones and the point at which the system becomes unprogressive(?) moves upwards (from c. £30k with the default values). However, many graduates see significant increases in the first few years as they gain experience before joining us oldies on a less exciting salary profile.
    But even ignoring that, on the basis of these figures, any graduate with a starting salary above c. £30k could gain by paying off their loan straight away, instantly making the system less progressive for higher earners. It becomes a gamble, and the bravest with the wealth behind them could save the most when making that bet by paying their fees upfront.

    The calculator is fascinating though, and a number of things stand out when playing with it.
    1. The progressiveness declines once graduates earn enough to pay off within the 30 year period even if they choose to stay on the scheme until the bitter end without early repayment.
    2. Changing the tuition fees shows a point – sometimes surprisingly low – above which the repayment does not change. Why did ministers ever expect universities to set fees below the maximum cap or compete on price or value for money when the cost to the student is the same for a low fee as it is for a high fee? In a similar way, I can see 4 year courses becoming increasingly popular as they will not cost the student any more than a 3 year course.
    3. The fact that people need calculators to work out the costs for a variety of conditions, and then need to guess the likelihood of the various scenarios, suggests that the scheme is a complicated gamble for everyone involved, hardly like a tax at all.

  • “Sorry to have to point out something else that you have said that is incorrect (or at least misleading), but the above figures of £41460 and £70590 are expressed in cash terms, whereas the real terms figures given by MSE are the ones to use.”

    Wrong again, Simon Shaw. They are expressed in cash terms to enable the percentage of earnings over 30 years to be calculated – this is important because it is the progressivity/regressivity we are interested in finding. The net salary over 30 years I quoted is in cash terms and takes into account the stated inflation rate. The percentages of total earnings over the 30 years are correct, not just numerically, but are consistent with the definition of tax progressivity. The example I gave is correct and shows fees to be massively regressive for a 60k compared with a 30k starting salary.

  • @Simon Shaw
    “(or at least misleading)”

    You are allowed to get away with that libel, so those in charge of allowing me to respond should have no difficulty with me pointing out that everything you write is very deliberately misleading (as well as the fact that I am not in any way being misleading).

    Furthermore:

    “So for all starting salaries up to £40,000 pa the new system is progressive, a salary most certainly in the top quartile.”

    You are deliberately misrepresenting the definition of tax progressivity to suit your argument. Progressivity, as you well know, is measured as a percentage of salary, not as an absolute amount paid, which means that the progressivity in your example actually stops at the 36,000 salary and then massively drops off above that amount – you ‘conveniently’ don’t’ bother looking at salaries greater than 40k and you deliberately don’t stick to the definition of progressivity as both of these factors demonstrate the large regressivity above the middle of the graduate salary range.

  • @Simon Shaw
    I see you’ve gone in to meltdown today.

    Vince Cable confirmed back in 2010 that the new scheme is not a graduate tax. Yet you insist it’s a graduate tax.

    Nick Clegg has always admitted that he broke the pledge. Yet you insist that Nick didn’t break the pledge. (You are quite possibly the only person in Britain who believes so.)

    The NUS pledge is a simple sentence with just 23 words, but for some reason (certainly not brevity – the original is plenty succinct enough) you think it’s reasonable to remove 12 of the 23 words and provide your own meaning which is the complete opposite of the original pledge. (I believe this practise is known as “contextomy”.)

    The pledge is crystal clear and requires no clarification, but since you won’t let it drop, you may be interested to know that Aaron Porter (then President-elect of the NUS) wrote to all Lib Dem MPs in May 2010 thanking them for pledging to “work to introduce a fairer alternative to higher fees“.

    According to another thread, Lib Dem support amongst students has dropped from nearly 50% to more like 10%. What a bunch of ingrates, eh Simon?

  • @Simon Shaw
    “But what is that “fairer alternative”? Lower fees? If it was, wouldn’t it have been crystal clear for the NUS to simply say ‘lower fees’?”

    I’m sure if the author(s) of the pledge knew that someone like you exists, they would have amended the pledge as follows :-

    I pledge to vote against any increase in fees in the next parliament and to pressure the government to introduce a fairer alternative.*

    *Note for Simon Shaw: An alternative to any increase fees must, logically, consist of fees being lowered or staying the same.

    Would that have done the trick?

  • @Simon Shaw
    “No, it is seriously misleading not to work in real terms when you are talking about timescales of 20 or 30 years. I know it is a real pain, but the only fair approach is to convert ALL cash values into their real term equivalents. To do anything else is highly misleading – which I am sure you don’t wish to be.”

    I’m going to explain this to you again, but it isn’t intended for you. It’s intended for anyone else that might be reading so they can definitely understand how completely wrong you are.

    A tax is progressive if the proportion of the salary taxed increases with increasing income. In order to evaluate whether tuition fees are progressive or regressive across various income bands it is necessary to calculate (a) the total amount paid over thirty years and (b) the total amount earned over thirty years and then divide one by the other to determine the percentage of the total salary used for the repayments. It is meaningless to convert either of these quantities to real terms as the total repaid takes in to account inflation via the MSE calculator and the total earned takes in to account the pay rises used in the MSE calculator.

    This is really basic maths, Simon Shaw, but even if all the amounts were to be adjusted to be in real terms the result would actually be the same anyway. Intuitively this can be understood by considering that (a) someone earning twice as much but paying back the same amount is devoting half the proportion of their salary to repayments compared with the person on half the pay and (b) there is a further saving by avoiding much of the interest that the lower paid person must pay back because their principal is declining more slowly due to the lower repayments. It is not hard to understand how the higher paid person ends up paying a proportion of their salary more than three times smaller than the person on half the pay. I suspect you will ‘find’ it hard though.

  • Jonathan Pile 2nd Jul '14 - 8:46am

    @ Paul Walter
    Key facts : scrapping tuition fees a manifesto commitment in 2010, 2005 and 2001. A pledge that NickClegg was never happy with and one he knew that neither Tories or Labour would want to keep . Given that 48% of students voted for usin 2010 – maybe a rethink. It was never about the money nor the coalition agreement, Clegg and the OB’s wanted to ditch this since 2004. The double whammy was the 26 lib dems who voted for the removal of the fee cap and the triple whammy was Clegg saying sorry for making the pledge not breaking it. Car crash politics that had sunk our party. And by the way – what was Clegg doing as a student Tory in 1986 and then denying the fact?
    Remind you a certain Tony Blair playing with the truth?
    See the evidence at :
    http://www.libdemfightback.yolasite.com

  • @Simon Shaw
    “I don’t see how you can regard fees staying the same as being ‘a fairer alternative’. How can that be?”

    Because it’s fairer to saddle a young person starting out on adult life with a £9,000 debt than it is to saddle them with a £27,000 debt. Isn’t that obvious?

    Nobody is claiming that the size of the fees is the only parameter determining fairness here; that’s a straw man you have created. But other things being equal, £9,000 fees were fairer than £27,000 fees. Whatever features (and there aren’t many) of the new system that are fairer than the old could have been implemented without trebling fees – or are you implying (though you denied it earlier) that increased fees are necessary for greater fairness?

  • Not a Cleggite 2nd Jul '14 - 9:44am

    Many of the above 264 comments seem like an earnest discussion about whether execution by hanging or a firing squad is less cruel, rather than discussing the principle of capital punishment.

    It is disappointing that nobody has replied to my posting on the 29th Jun (given again below) which asks does Nick Clegg (and his supporters) believe in Lib Dem party policy on tuition fees? The answer for Nick Clegg is that he does not believe in it. Perhaps @PAUL WALKER and @SIMON SHAW could tell us if they support current party policy on tuition fees, which is to abolish it in the long term? Perhaps they could also justify why Nick Clegg said that there was no money available to reduce tuition fees or keep them at £3,000 yet he supported reducing government income by billions by cutting corporation tax and top rate income tax?

    How can the Lib Dems have a party leader that does not believe in a flagship policy?

    The question of whether you believe that tuition fees should be free is the same fundamental question as whether you believe that schools or NHS treatment should be free. You are quite entitled to argue that the primary beneficiary (student, pupil, patient etc) should bare the bulk of the cost rather than the secondary beneficiary (society in general). If you believe that people who use government services should pay directly for them, you should explain why you don’t support loans for state school education or NHS treatment.

    Previous posting: 29th Jun ’14 – 5:45pm

    The crux of the issue is that the Lib Dems have a leader who is opposed to major parts of Lib Dem policy decided by members and who does not share mainstream Lib Dem views on many important issues.

    The Lib Dems set out a very clear philosophical difference with Labour and the Tories on tuition fees. Arguing that access to higher education should be free is the same fundamentally as arguing that access to education at school or medical treatment on the NHS should be free. Society in general benefits from this approach and many voters valued having a main stream party offering a different choice to the Tories and Labour on this issue.

    Nick Clegg and his supporters in the parliamentary party have long argued that it is unaffordable to abolish tuition fees and they have tried to undermine Lib Dem party policy on this. At the last Lib Dem autumn conference, Cleggites tried to stop the party keeping tuition fee abolition as a long term aim:

    http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/news/lib-dems-back-fees-but-still-aspire-to-abolition/2007457.article

    Cleggites had no problem supporting reductions in Corporation tax and higher rate income tax that could have been used to fund tuition fee abolition. It seems trying to poach business and individuals from other countries is more attractive to Clegg and like minded folk in the Tories and Labour than investing in training scientists, engineers etc to create new wealth and intellectual capital in the UK and reduce the need to poach graduates from third world countries.

    It is not just the dishonesty of Nick Clegg pretending to the electorate that he supported party policy by signing a pledge on tuition fees when he clearly didn’t believe in it; he has previously been exposed as supporting the break up of the NHS and replacing it with an insurance based system, views which would be at odds with the vast majority of Lib Dem members. We are now hearing stories that people in Clegg’s inner circle have been arguing for profit making schools:

    https://www.libdemvoice.org/forprofit-schools-some-evidence-of-why-im-far-from-convinced-41196.html

    Nick Clegg’s views are also at odds with majority party opinion on many other issues such as his support for: secret courts, bedroom tax, welfare cuts, war with Syria, Halal meat….

    The majority of the electorate have seen through the contradiction of the Lib Dems having a leader that does not share party policy on many major issues; party members are rapidly coming to this conclusion too.

    The question for Paul and Clegg supporters is do they still believe in our policy as decided by party members at conference or what Nick Clegg decides is our policy?

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd Jul '14 - 1:21pm

    daft ha’p’orth

    @Matthew Huntbach
    I understand that you believe that money for which there is an IOU, no matter how tenuous, is magically not real money and therefore is not, insert capital letters here, DIRECTLY paid out, and therefore does not count as subsidy. Frankly I think that’s profoundly weird.

    Well, you understand wrong. That is not my position at all.

    I believe it IS a subsidy, and I support that subsidy existing. I would rather it be paid for by straight taxation. But if the Tories wouldn’t agree to that, but would agree to essentially the same thing disguised as tuition fees and loans, if the end result is similar, perhaps that’s the best compromise that could be achieved.

    Now, I keep on making this point again and again and again. So why it it that you write above about what you “understand” is what I believe, when not only is it not, my whole argument has been based on the opposite of that? My whole argument has been that this loans system with a lot of it never going to get paid back is just disguised government borrowing, and is therefore what the “you should have voted against tuition fees” people WANT, because I’ve not heard any of them say anything else about how to fill in the budget gap. It’s real money and it has to be paid back, and most of what I have been saying has explicitly acknowledged that.

    If, although you are writing in reply to me, your “you” is meant to be second person plural and not second person singular, and is meant to mean the Liberal Democrat leadership rather than me personally, well fine, but I’d appreciate it if you were to clarify that. I am not saying and never have that I agree with the Liberal Democrat leadership when it uses the line that states or suggests that what comes out of this government now is our ideal, what the Liberal Democrats would be doing if they had a majority. Indeed, I have spent much of the past four years attacking the Liberal Democrat leadership for using this approach, and am so angry with them and how they have damaged the party through it that currently I am refusing to do any work for the party. I have now said this many, many, many times. So why do you persist in addressing me as if I am an uncritical supporter of Clegg and am defending the exact lines he is using on this?

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd Jul '14 - 1:35pm

    Not a Cleggite

    Cleggites had no problem supporting reductions in Corporation tax and higher rate income tax that could have been used to fund tuition fee abolition

    Indeed, and they are boasting about increasing the standard income tax allowance and claiming that is a fulfilment of a manifesto promise, when it is not – the manifesto promise was about balancing the increase in the tax allowance with increased taxation elsewhere, so it was NOT (contrary to the Cleggite claims) just about reducing taxes.

    I think we need to be honest about what the costs are, in terms of taxation, of keeping the subsidy of university education that used to exist, and of keeping free at source provision of full health care. This is what I find so appalling about most of the political discussion in this country – it does not talk about the sort of balances which actually politics is about. So tuition fees are talked about as if it really was just a trebling as if it meant e.g. lecturers getting paid three times as much, when it isn’t – it’s paying through the loans system what used to be paid for by taxation. Therefore, anyone who says the increase in tuition fees was wrong needs to spell out what their alternative would be in terms of taxation to continue the subsidy. But they never do, do they? Advances in health care mean people are living much longer lives on average than even ten years ago, at the cost of much more health spending needed. This is one of the KEY issues in politics, yet it is never mentioned in political discussion, instead talk of the NHS is on the lines that it’s a steady state thing, so if you give it the same money as before, it will perform the same – or that spending more on it is due to inefficiency and bureaucracy and so on, rather than what it really is about.

  • Peter Watson 2nd Jul '14 - 1:46pm

    @Not a Cleggite
    I think you describe the problem for Lib Dems very well. The party had a principle and a policy (which officially is still pretty much the same) but its leaders and some members now tell us how great the new system is despite it being diametrically opposed to the party’s past (and present?) position. In fact it’s exactly the sort of system we warned voters against, especially students and their parents, before the 2010 election.
    There is a very important discussion to be had both inside and outside the party about how university education should be funded, and to what extent (if any) the cost should be shared between the state and the student. Thoughtful postings by Matthew Huntbach and others demonstrate this and the contribution that Lib Dems could make to that debate. But I don’t see how that can happen now, or sadly how Lib Dems could be taken seriously in any such debate when there seems to be such a divergence between the position of the party and the opinions of those who speak on its behalf.

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd Jul '14 - 1:53pm

    Not a Cleggite

    Perhaps they could also justify why Nick Clegg said that there was no money available to reduce tuition fees or keep them at £3,000 yet he supported reducing government income by billions by cutting corporation tax and top rate income tax?

    However, here I think there is an obvious answer. We don’t have a Liberal Democrat government. We have a government which is five-sixths Conservative.

    Why do you suppose the government should drop every single aspect of Conservative Party policy if it is in conflict with Liberal Democrat policy? The tax cuts you mention are key Conservative policies, the Conservatives would be breaking their election pledges if they were to drop them in order to allow the Liberal Democrats to keep theirs.

    As I keep on saying, it is not just a matter of blocking rises in tuition fees, or of supporting anything else which has to be paid for by taxation. If you want to do that, you must also get agreement to the additional taxation to pay for it. So where is the agreement to additional taxation going to come from? Is the Labour Party going to support it? Well, they’ve not mentioned it. If there really was a feasible majority in Parliament in support of it, since the bulk of that majority would be the Labour Party, shouldn’t the Labour Party be taking a lead in proposing it?

    The reality is that there is a not a stable Labour-led possible coalition, and Labour implicitly acknowledges that by not putting forward the policies such a coalition would be push through. The current government is the only stable one possible, the LibDems cannot play the card “agree to us, or we drop you and form a government with Labour”. So all that the LibDems can get through is those aspects of their policies which the Conservatives can be persuaded to accept. The Conservative right can use the card “push us too far and we bring the coalition down” just as much as the LibDems, and there is plenty of talk on those lines in Conservative circles.

    So I’m willing to accept that Clegg can’t push through every LibDem policy, and it’s part of the process of agreement to allow stability of government that he remains silent on many issues in order to get Conservative agreement to others. However, I think he needs to be more explicit about this, and stop playing the line that the compromises reached are so wonderful that they’re what we wanted in the first place. If he can’t or won’t do this, he should go, because we need someone who can and will to lead us as an independent party into the next general election.

  • Not a Cleggite 2nd Jul '14 - 5:26pm

    @Matthew Huntbach
    I’m sure everyone agrees that being in coalition involves a degree of compromise, perhaps more so on our side due to the much lower number of Lib Dem MPs than Tory ones. Obviously we were never going to get the Tories (and Labour) to agree to abolish tuition fees and even with their greater number of MPs it doesn’t mean that they can force us to vote to increase them either.

    Being in government means choosing your priorities. The coalition agreement laid out where we found common ground with the Tories in a joint program for government. It did not mention that the Lib Dems had to support tax cuts for rich companies and individuals, it did not mention that Lib Dem MPs would be obliged to vote for tuition fees increases. These are choices that Clegg and his inner circle made on their own outside of the coalition agreement and without the support of most party members.

    As far as I can see the Tories have not been forced by us to vote for measures that are toxic to their voter base. Clegg and co time and time again voluntarily voted for measures (outside of the coalition agreement) that are toxic to many Lib Dem supporters whether it was tuition fee increases, bedroom tax, secret courts, an illegal war with Syria, getting rid of the green ‘crap’ etc. Nick Clegg has gone from the most popular party leader since Churchill with a +74% rating in 2010 to the least popular in modern political history with a -67% rating in 2014. He comes across to the vast majority of voters as weak and unable to stand up to the Tories and protect the Lib Dem voter base.

    It would have been fine for our negotiators to tell the Tories that the Lib Dems would vote against any increase in tuition fees, kicking the issue into the next parliament to sort out (such as what happened with plans for Heathrow expansion). The Tories were never going to bring down the government on that issue. The problem is Clegg did not support Lib Dem policy on tuition fees, he had argued against it for years, to him it was expendable. He has seriously damaged trust in the party and has brought it into disrepute. The Lib Dems attracted nearly half of the student vote in 2010, it is now down to about 6%
    http://www.independent.co.uk/student/news/exclusive-student-support-for-lib-dems-collapses-to-just-six-per-cent-9267942.html

    One way to regain trust back is for the party membership to regain control of the party, launch an internal enquiry into some of the decisions made by Nick Clegg and take disciplinary action if necessary.

    @Peter Watson
    Thanks for your supportive comments, hopefully my new comments might deal with the issues that you raised in your last paragraph.

  • Perhaps you need to look at this in the round.

    The blatant breaking of a promise., that is what is was nothing more, nothing less, nobody forced you to conduct the high profile holding up of signed placards on the fees issue.

    Of course it can be fobbed off through the coalition negotiations excuse, although it didn’t stop you ensuring really important issues of concern to the British people like AV were red lined, I wonder who that might have benefited.

    What annoys many is the discriminatory nature of your position. You fully support the devolved settlement in Scotland with its higher education system that discriminates alone against the English student, whilst happy to pay for free tuition from British taxes in Scotland for student s from the other 27 EU states.

    In contrast you appear to to be ideologically against equal treatment for England with an English devolved admininstration, seemingly determined to ensure that your Scottish MP’s ensure that they maintain the travesty of democracy in having the ability to vote and impose whatever they fancy imposing on the English, in the full knowledge that there will be no personal electoral consequences for them individually.

    This isn’t about tuition fees, this is about a debasement of democracy for party political purposes. If you want to offer a fair and equitable solution to this feeling of betrayal, you might start by making the payment of the cost of higher education restropective. It would seem all the generations who are happy to impose these fees on the current generations, don’t think they should make a personal contribution themselves , despite benefiting from a free higher eduction,.

    If they are earning above the £21,000 salary, they should like current students have an additional visible tax liability added to their tax bill, ensuring they repay the the costs of their higher education. It doesn’t matter that they may be paying more taxes than those who didn’t go to university, which is the excuse you hear when this is suggested, c current students on higher taxes are paying more tax than the average, and yet they they still have to pay back their student loan on top of it.

    Perhaps if MP’s and the chattering classes see their own wallet being hit, they might be a tad less willing impose it on others.

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Jul '14 - 11:23am

    Raddiy

    Of course it can be fobbed off through the coalition negotiations excuse, although it didn’t stop you ensuring really important issues of concern to the British people like AV were red lined, I wonder who that might have benefited.

    When you write “you” in your last message, do you mean me? I would appreciate it if you could accept that the Liberal Democrats are not a Leninist party, so therefore we who are members of it do not automatically subscribe to everything the leadership comes out with. Also, I am sorry that despite nearly 300 messages on this topic, you still do not seem to have got the point about how politics actually works – it is about coming to an agreement on something a majority are willing to support, which may mean having to drop aspects one is keen on but others are not, and having to accept aspects one is not keen on in order to get agreement for other aspects one wants.

    In the rest of your message you continue to confuse two separate things – what the Liberal Democrats would regard as their ideal, and what they are able to get the Conservatives to agree to in a situation where there are five times as many Conservative as Liberal Democrat MPs. I accept that Nick Clegg also does this, it is the main reason (though there are many others) why I oppose him as the party’s leader, and have joined in campaigns asking him to step down NOW. While he remains as leader of the party, though I will still pay the minimum membership fee to retain a say in its future direction, I will do nothing else to promote it. So if that is my position, why do you attack me as if I am an unthinking Clegg fan who just goes along with everything he is saying and writes here on that basis?

    I am not privy to the negotiations that go on behind closed doors but I have had involvement with that sort of thing at local government level. I know from that about how if one is in a position of weakness (which the Liberal Democrats are in this Parliament) how difficult it is to force things through that one wants and the others do not, and how one has to retain a public face which is in contrast to one’s private concerns, because if one goes out of the negotiations and blabs about the details in public, one will find it much harder to get agreement with the other side in future negotiations.

    So, yes, I am disappointed about how little the Liberal Democrats have got out of this coalition, but unlike you I can’t be so certain that they could easily have got more. It may be that Clegg is too much to the right of the party, and thus too willing to concede, but alternatively, that may be able to give him more influence because it makes Cameron more willing to listen to him.

    When you mention AV, that is hardly a similar thing to tuition fees. As I have been saying throughout, the thing with tuition fees is the balancing factor of how you pay for continuing university subsidy if you don;t increase them. So it is not at all the same as changing the electoral system, which is not going to cause billions of pounds of extra government expenditure that has to come from somewhere. Even so, a referendum on the relatively small change to the current electoral system that is what the AV system is about is hardly the same as introduction of full proportional representation through the STV system. So, it was very much a compromise far away from the Liberal Democrat ideal, which clearly had to be accepted as it was all the Conservatives would concede to.

    Now, you write off electoral reform as if it was just a thing that the Liberal Democrats are concerned about, I think you are hinting you think it is a selfish Liberal Democrat thing. If that is the case, then why are you arguing against this government? The current electoral system is supported by those who want to retain it because of the way it distorts representation in favour of the largest party and against small parties whose vote is not concentrated in a few places. It is the current electoral system which gave the Tories so much power in the coalition and so weakened the negotiating position of the Liberal Democrats. Isn’t there something of a contradiction in you complaining that this government is far too Tory in policy and the Liberal Democrats have beeb far too weak in it, and then dismissing as unimportant electoral reform which would have remedied this, at least to some extent?

    Although AV is not proportional representation, it ends the idea that you have to vote for party X in order to stop party Y from winning, and so gives people much more freedom to express their real wishes by voting without fear of splitting the vote for who they really want. So why do you dismiss it as just a LibDem thing, and then complain about the unrepresentative nature of MPs? It is people like you, Raddiy, who can’t see the importance of electoral reform, who have left us with the system that gives us the MPs we have. It is the current electoral system which is the biggest force “propping up the Tories”, although it did not quite give them a majority in 2010, it left us a Parliament in which their over-representation meant they were dominant. Next time, thanks to the electoral system which YOU support, Raddiy, by your sarcastic dismissal of electoral reform, we may get a full Conservative majority with the Conservatives on just 35% of the vote – we had a full Labour majority in 2005 with Labour on that share. So by thinking that is fine, as you do when you dismiss electoral reform as unimportant, YOU and all the others who take the same line are the biggest proppers up of the Tories. YOU, Raddiy, and all those others, will be responsible for the horrendous Tory government we are bound to get sooner or later thanks to the electoral system we have that you don’t think is important to change.

  • Joshua Dixon 3rd Jul '14 - 10:03pm

    Don’t want to read through the whole thread (its a lot of comments!), so I’ll leave my thoughts from a while back here:

    http://liberalinsight.wordpress.com/2014/04/19/ive-got-the-facts-and-i-still-demand-we-scrap-fees/

  • @ Paul Walter & Simon Shaw
    “Starting salary of:
    £16,000 … NIL repaid
    £18,000 … NIL repaid
    £20,000 … NIL repaid
    £22,000 … £1,100 repaid
    £24,000 … £7,400 repaid
    £26,000 … £13,600 repaid
    £28,000 … £19,800 repaid
    £30,000 … £26,000 repaid
    £32,000 … £32,200 repaid
    £34,000 … £38,400 repaid
    £36,000 … £42,100 repaid (over 28 years)
    £38,000 … £42,300 repaid (over 26 years)
    £40,000 … £42,400 repaid (over 23 years)

    So for all starting salaries up to £40,000 pa the new system is progressive, a salary most certainly in the top quartile.”

    YOU REALLY DON’T GET IT DO YOU?

    It doesn’t matter if you think the new system is ‘better’ or ‘more progressive’ or whatever else.

    The Lib Dems promised not to do this. Then they did it. So the lied to their voter based. Now their voter base has deserted them. If you don’t get this now then perhaps you will after May 2015 when you lose the majority of your MPs to go with losing the majority of your MSPs and MEP.

    You can’t promise to do something for someone, break that promise, then turn round and say: “I know I broke my promise but what I did instead was something I thought was better than what I promised you so be pleased that I didn’t keep my word”, expecting someone to accept that is barking mad.

  • Tony Sargeant 4th Jul '14 - 8:32am

    I may not have a university education but someone seems to be unable to do the maths. 630 MPs 57 Liberal Democrat MPs. If all 57 Liberal Democrat MPs kept to the pledge would Tuition fees not have changed? Would students have been dancing in the streets with joy?

    The Labour Party promised not to introduce TUITION fees -as soon as they were elected they introduced TUITION fees. Why aren’t the “Liberal Democrat knock Nick Clegg brigade” bringing that to the debate.

  • So, Tony Sargeant, the Party pledged itself to the new politics, to set itself against the old, as practised by Labour and the Tories (mainly). You ask us to believe that Nick Clegg and the leadership’s actions were acceptable, because Labour broke a promise also? The point, also, is that we had promised to vote against, NOT, as you seem to think, we were able to win the vote.

  • Peter Watson 4th Jul '14 - 12:31pm

    Tony Sargeant
    “The Labour Party promised not to introduce TUITION fees -as soon as they were elected they introduced TUITION fees. Why aren’t the “Liberal Democrat knock Nick Clegg brigade” bringing that to the debate.”
    Search for “Labour” on this page and it does get a mention. Quite rightly, Lib Dems gave Labour a hard time for their behaviour on fees, and at the same time promised “no more broken promises”. That’s why the Lib Dem volte-face hurts so much.

    “If all 57 Liberal Democrat MPs kept to the pledge would Tuition fees not have changed?”
    To their credit, some Lib Dem MPs did keep their pledge (and some also wimped out by abstaining). Supporters of the new system never seem to tell us what they think of their MPs who kept that promise. Before the 2010 election Lib Dems warned voters exactly what Labour and Conservatives would do with university tuition fees and pledged to oppose it. Had those 57 MPs been in Opposition to a Tory or Labour government that increased fees in the way that we have seen, do you believe they would have still trooped into the lobby to support it?

    The individual pledges made by Lib Dem MPs were entirely consistent with the party’s manifesto commitment to scrap tuition fees which was based, rightly or wrongly, upon a principle that university education would be paid for from general taxation. So breaking that promise showed more than just a lack of personal integrity or competence, it also bounced the party into a new position on this matter without democratic reference to members or voters who supported the previous one.

  • “The Labour Party promised not to introduce TUITION fees -as soon as they were elected they introduced TUITION fees. Why aren’t the “Liberal Democrat knock Nick Clegg brigade” bringing that to the debate.”

    1) On almost every tuition fee thread someone does make this claim.
    2) No-one is impressed by the ‘we are no worse than Labour’ defence.
    3) It doesn’t happen to be true . Labour did not promise not to introduce tuition fees.

  • David Evans 4th Jul '14 - 2:02pm

    @ Simon Shaw. Sadly when faced with an irrefutable argument you seem to deliberately misinterpret a point and construct an Aunt Sally to knock down. At no point did I pass any opinion as to whether the changes to the taxation of high earners were wrong or right, nor whether it brought in extra money or not.

    What I did say was “If there was so much extra cash from cutting tax loopholes, why didn’t Nick get it to be used for keeping tuition fees down? Is it because David Cameron had already told him that he had bagged it for OAPs’ winter fuel payments?” The key word is ‘If’ this introduces ‘conditional clause’ which is quite different from a statement of fact.

    Until you can find a way to argue based on facts and not just what you wish other people had said, you have to expect that people will treat your posts with disdain.

    As for your disdainful comment about my forgetfulness, I will definitely treat that with the disdain it deserves.

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