Opinion: What have the Liberal Democrats done for us and can we afford to put our trust in them again?

Like so many past Liberal Democrat voters, I have found this election campaign frustrating and demoralising. At the last election our party managed to get into a seat of power but didn’t they just throw it all away when they broke their pledge on tuition fees? What is the point in voting if our wishes are cast aside at the first hurdle?

But the right to vote has been hard fought and is a fundamental responsibility for all citizens. I have been seriously contemplating writing ‘none of the above’ on my voting slip. But no, voting is such an important responsibility. A choice needs to be made.

Watching the televised broadcasts and following the campaign on the radio and television has not been helpful. Politics is so muddied with spin. I needed to cut the crap and ditch the spin. We all know how the Liberal Democrats have failed us but I decided to research the Liberal Democrat Manifesto from 2010 to see what they have actually succeeded in achieving…

Increase the income tax threshold to £10,000. This is huge! It is a much better way of boosting the economy and supporting lower income families than having a higher minimum wage or putting up benefits.

The power to sack chief constables.

Scrapping ID cards (the Conservatives also wanted to do this so it was easy.

Introducing a ‘PUPIL PREMIUM’ to support the most disadvantaged children in the education system. Schools now get £1,320 p.a. at primary school and £935 pa at secondary for each of the poorest children.

Protecting state pensions to rise with earnings.

They have introduced shared parental leave and the right of fathers to attend antenatal appointments.

And what about the free school dinners initiative for the youngest primary school children? As far as I can tell, this didn’t make it into the manifesto last time, but it’s a great policy and it shows that the Liberal Democrats have not stagnated, but are coming up with good new ideas all the time and have the passion to drive them through.

Ok, so this lot is all good. We might have liked victories in other areas, like reforming the voting system so that our votes always count, but that one is always going to be an uphill battle!

Tuition Fees

Now. What about those tuition fees? They were still leaving a bad taste in my mouth. I needed to cut the crap and ditch the spin there too.

So, universities can now charge up to £9,000 a year in fees. However the cookie crumbles that is bad. Our children should not be expected to start their lives with that kind of debt. The thing is, that isn’t and never was a Liberal Democrat policy. It was a Conservative policy. We didn’t win the last election and if we had, I hope it wouldn’t have been passed.

Nick Clegg has been saying that he has negotiated the best possible terms. Has he? So lets look at the figures:

I finished my degree in 2006. That means I need to start paying back my loan when I earn around £17.000. My daughter, who has just started her degree, will not need to start paying hers back until she is earning £21,000.

What we will need to pay back and when

Annual income (before tax) £20,000 £25,000 £30,000
Monthly payback (me) £23 £61 £98
Monthly payback (the new cohort) £0 £30 £67

Ok, it’s not brilliant. We all liked the Liberal Democrat policy best. I would rather my daughter was not going to start her working life with a huge debt. But really, the figures aren’t going to be crippling. In fact the monthly payments she will be making are about half what mine are.

So here it is: I want to thank you, Nick, for making the best of a bad deal.

Finally, I have decided how to vote. And here’s my apology: I’m sorry I lost faith in the Liberal Democrats. I am proud that I voted Liberal Democrat last time and that the Liberal Democrats made a coalition work and have helped to make our country a bit better and a bit fairer than it was 5 years ago.

And to all the Liberal Democrat candidates: Stop apologising and be proud of what this party has managed to achieve in government. You did good! We want to see you back there, picking away at the main parties and getting the best results for our country.

* Ruth Mallon is not a member of the Liberal Democrats but she has voted for the party for many years.

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57 Comments

  • Jenny Barnes 6th May '15 - 12:22pm

    Raising the income tax threshold is clearly not a better way of supporting low income families earning less than that threshold; and it benefits many people who are earning significantly over the threshold. If that money had been deployed to increase benefits it would have supported both the economy and low income earners better. The poorer a person is, the more likely they are to spend the entirety of any extra income; as you go up the income scale more gets saved, so there is less impact on the economy.

  • Samuel Griffiths 6th May '15 - 12:26pm

    I don’t think tuition fees are the reason people are not voting LibDem – I think austerity is and everything that came with it. There isn’t any positive spin on the last 5 years, this has been the most damaging and destructive government since Thatcher. I’ll certainly applaud the efforts the LibDems have made, but low GP waiting times doesn’t really matter to many people if they can’t afford to put food on the table. I may very well be ticking the invisible “none of the above” box, tomorrow.

  • @Ruth
    “And what about the free school dinners initiative for the youngest primary school children? As far as I can tell, this didn’t make it into the manifesto last time, but it’s a great policy and it shows that the Liberal Democrats have not stagnated, but are coming up with good new ideas all the time and have the passion to drive them through.”

    Much as I like the idea it was not a Lib Dem one but something already being trialed by Labour. In fact the leader of the Lib Dems in Wales once referred to it as Lunch Box politics….

  • Someone missed a trick not getting John Cleese in on this:

    “What have the Lib Dems ever done for us? Nothing!”
    “Well there’s the tax threshold rise.”
    “OK I grant you that, but what have they ever given us?”
    “Pupil premium, gay marriage, scrapped ID cards, shared parental leave, free school meals for under sevens …. ”
    “Alright, alright, apart from the tax threshold rise, pupil premium, gay marriage, scrapped ID cards, shared parental leave, and free school meals for under sevens … what have they ever done for us???? Tell you something though, it wasn’t those Orange Bookers – splitters!”

  • Your daughter will pay much more than you overall. For instance if she becomes a teacher she will be paying up to £200 a month throughout her forties and early fifties. A teacher graduating in 2006 would have paid off their fees by the age of forty.

  • Jenny Barnes, it sounds like you want to keep people poor so that they spend all their extra income, lol! I do see where you are coming from but at the same time it is right to reward people for being in work. And I think that a rise in the threshold was long overdue. A rise in the threshold feels more like a right and less like a hand out and increases peoples’ self worth. I agree though, more money could go into benefits 🙂

  • Stephen Campbell 6th May '15 - 1:20pm

    @Ruth Mallon “Stop apologising and be proud of what this party has managed to achieve in government.”

    Yes, don’t apologise for the early deaths and suicides caused by austerity, IDS and Jobcentre sanctions. I think the families of David Clapson, Stephanie Bottrill, Sheila Holt, Brian McArdle, David Coupe and Linda Wootton would beg to differ that your record in government is shiny and lovely. If you don’t know who these people were, that’s no surprise, as the only time the media reports about people on benefits is to call them “scroungers”. If you’re a diabetic and get sanctioned, losing the ability to afford electricity to keep your insulin cool and then die as a result, as is what happened to Mr. Clapson, that’s just tough. If you’re mentally ill and cannot navigate the inbuilt traps in the WCA, tough.

    The message from the Tories/LibDems (with a few notable, but rare exceptions) over the past 5 years has been totally clear: if you’re unable to work due to physical or mental illness, you don’t matter. If you’re not generating profit for someone else and being a “hardworking parson”, you don’t matter. And if you die due to DWP cruelty, the message is “we don’t care”.

  • Your tuition fee maths does not include changes to the old threshold.
    Old scheme:
    20k/£20pm 25k/57pm 30k/95pm
    Small, but will continue to decrease for the next few years. I believe its intended to eventually equalise with the new scheme so over a lifetime its not really a better deal.

    Also, I have never seen an article published here so crying out for an editor, a shame given traffic must be high at the moment.

  • Samuel Griffiths. I think you are right that the Liberal Democrats have been badly tainted by being linked to the conservatives. But my guess is that David Cameron is slightly more likely to be forming the next government than Miliband. The thing is that the Conservatives have lied and lied about Labour’s spending record and how that lead to our economic problems to the point where so many people believe them (http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/ramesh-patel/growth-cameron-austerity_b_2007552.html ).
    I can’t understand why the LibDems teamed up with Conservatives over Labour after the last election, but my guess is that 1. at the time Labour was so very unpopular; and 2. Nick Clegg felt he was more likely to be able to push his own policies through with the Conservatives. We can only judge him by looking at what he said he was going to do and what he achieved. And for a minority party I think he has done remarkably well.

  • In the end you should really take a pragmatic view and judge over the entire not one issue, but people do. Everyone makes mistakes and grave errors of judgement and we did. But overall the coalition has been okay so I voted for it, tactically in this constituency.

  • Gwyn Griffiths 6th May '15 - 1:37pm

    @StephenCampbell The benefits system has always been imperfect – I could quote my own experience under previous governments. The idea that you should never, ever change any benefit because somebody who loses out may die is absurd. If there are SPECIFIC changes to the system which would help please share them with us.

  • @Gwyn Griffiths “StephenCampbell The benefits system has always been imperfect – I could quote my own experience under previous governments. The idea that you should never, ever change any benefit because somebody who loses out may die is absurd. If there are SPECIFIC changes to the system which would help please share them with us.”

    Quite.

    Constant complaining without offering anything in the way of constructive feedback doesn’t really help improve the situation.

  • @Ruth “I can’t understand why the LibDems teamed up with Conservatives over Labour after the last election, ”

    It was the small matter of:

    1) Conservatives + Lib Dems = majority of 66; Labour + Lib Dems = minority
    2) Labour wanted to go into opposition and would not seriously consider coalition (largely because of the second part of 1) above)
    3) The country was heartily sick of Brown and Balls after 13 years and wanted them out; they just weren’t that enamoured of the Conservatives (who, let us not forget, got a larger share of the vote that Blair did in 2005).

  • Hi Tinter, this wasn’t my tuition fee maths. It came from the gov.uk and the link is in the text.
    I agree with you that it should have been edited better – I didn’t write it with a view to publication! It’s just that as a Liberal Democrat voter for the last 20-odd years it has always been easy. I never needed to hold them accountable before, at least not in National Government. This was just me finding myself in the unfamiliar territory of being a floating voter feeling angry and let down by the party I had always wanted in government. All I could do was try to hold them up against their promises at the last election.
    I’m just a ‘lay-person’ trying not to waste my vote.

  • Stephen Campbell 6th May '15 - 2:06pm

    @Gwyn Griffiths: “The idea that you should never, ever change any benefit because somebody who loses out may die is absurd.”

    So, in other words, those deaths are an acceptable result of welfare “reform”, yes? There’s that famous Lib Dem compassion! Personally, I think it’s absurd (and treats the lives of vulnerable people as expendable) to embark on “reform” amongst the vulnerable when experts (doctors, mental health charities) warned from the start there could be deaths, but there you go. We take all precautions in life to make sure things are safe – seatbelts in cars, health and safety at the workplace, warnings on cigarette packets – yet the government did not see fit to enact welfare reform in a way that would protect the most vulnerable and prevent deaths. In fact, they did the total opposite.

    “If there are SPECIFIC changes to the system which would help please share them with us.”

    First and foremost, an end to the punitive sanctioning regime which is disproportionately hitting those with mental illness. A complete overhaul of the WCA so it is done by proper doctors (not “healthcare professionals”) with full knowledge of the claimant’s medical condition. Easing of WCA descriptors, especially when dealing with mental health claimants. An end to the Bedroom Tax which has hit disabled people hard. I would’ve liked to have seen the LibDems challenge the Tory narrative of “scroungers” openly and stand up for vulnerable people like you used to.

    Disability and mental health campaigners have been clear from 2010 on what would happen if these “reforms” were enacted in the way planned. Those warnings came true. They were also clear about how reform could be done WITH disabled and mentally ill people, not TO them. The government didn’t listen and now they have blood on their hands.

  • Lib Dem MPs still believe in the same values as in 2010. Yes, we got the tuition fees thing wrong (and I, perhaps idealistically, still believe we could put that right), but who will there be in the next Parliament to stand up for progressive policies on health and the environment for example? Good Lib Dem MPs do not deserve to be ousted because of some things we could not deliver on in a Coalition. Indeed, the thought of only half of our MPs being returned is positively scary from the point of view of achieving some sort of ideological balance. Lib Dems in numbers must be part of the make up of the next Parliament for everyone’s sake.

  • Stephen Campbell 6th May '15 - 2:19pm

    I remember when the Lib Dems used to take the side of the vulnerable and powerless – versus taking the side of those with power. I remember when you used to be on the side of those who are governed, rather than taking the side of those who govern.

    Is that what being a “serious party of government” is about? Sticking up for the strong over the weak? I never expected to see the day when LibDems thought entirely avoidable deaths due to “reform” was somehow acceptable.

  • There are worse choices than Lib Dem: Labour and Tory for a start. It is true some of my dislike is based on a degree of envy: I resent the headstart that the Tories and Labour have (cemented by FPTP), and we need a strong LD representation to counteract that. By ‘headstart’ I mean the 17-18% of the electorate who will vote Labour, the 17-18% who will vote Tory, in both instances regardless of their policies because they always have etc. That’s an enormous advantage. How many vote LD for the same reason 3-4%?? And for all the remaining parties what, 3-4% also?

  • Judy Abel 6th May ’15 – 2:16pm ……………Lib Dem MPs still believe in the same values as in 2010………

    Except that we didn’t find out what these values were until coalition…. I can forgive ‘Tuition fees’ had it been accompanied by the abstention allowed in the coalition agreement; instead most voted for the policy…….
    What about the NHS re-organisation and ‘Bedroom Tax’ both of which have cost money rather than saving it?

  • @Stephen Campbell.

    Just imagine two different people talking to you. One of them says;

    “You’re useless, Campbell. You’ve got this wrong, you’ve got that wrong, you used to do that OK but now you’re absolutely useless.”

    The other says:

    “Hey Stephen, thanks very much for all the hard work you’ve put in. I appreciate that. There’s a few more things I think we need to work on. Some of them are pretty important and I really need your help to get them right.”

    Who do you listen to? Who switches you off? I respectfully suggest you go back and read some of your recent posts and consider the impact they’re likely to have.

  • BTW, I now think we will end up with a higher % of the vote (@ 11%) than many envisaged but in likelihood hold only @ 20 seats. I suspect we will miss out on on around another 15-25 by less than 3000 votes. It is sometimes forgotten that in 2010 when we had 57 MPs elected we came within 1000 votes of winning another 13 seats.I think Cameron will be the next Prime Minister leading a minority Tory govt winning @ 295 seats, with a second election in the pipeline. A depressing prospect. Murdoch and his mates will have done there job again. How depressing.

  • @expats ” I can forgive ‘Tuition fees’ had it been accompanied by the abstention allowed in the coalition agreement; instead most voted for the policy…….”

    I’m sure I’ve read somewhere that when the full implications of University funding requirements versus the case for increasing fees (in a way that protected the least well off and the low paid) were known, the intellectual case for the policy was overwhelming. That’s why people such as that famous Orange Book right-winger Vince Cable voted *for* the policy – it was the right policy in that it guaranteed University funding and was the least worst option in terms of ensuring University access for the poorest while enabling a contribution from those who do best out of going to University.

  • Malcolm Todd 6th May '15 - 3:03pm

    TCO

    I think you may have misunderstood the point of the internet…

  • Malcolm Todd 6th May '15 - 3:06pm

    “it was the right policy in that it guaranteed University funding and was the least worst option in terms of ensuring University access for the poorest while enabling a contribution from those who do best out of going to University”

    – You don’t think the fact that it was in direct, blatant contradiction of a clear, specific pledge made to voters not six months previously counts for anything against that?

  • Samuel Griffiths 6th May '15 - 3:25pm

    History will probably not care too much about the tuition fee pledge. It’s being used by both sides as an easy to access campaign point for all the other stuff that is going round. People are talking about tuition fees instead of austerity because it’s easier to argue “broken promises” than it is to explain Keynesian economics and why austerity is bad for the country. Equally, the LibDem’s know tuition fees is easy to defend as a lot of graduates will be paying less when they really need to be. It’s a strange moment when both pro and anti- LibDems use a scapegoat issue.

    Thank you for your comments in this thread, Stephen Campbell. I worry that voices like yours are gradually being phased out, however.

  • Julian Gibb 6th May '15 - 3:37pm

    If LibDems think the issue of trust relates to only a handful of issues such as tuition fees then they badly misjudged the view of the public.

  • @Malcolm Todd thanks, you’ve raised a genuine smile there 🙂

    @Samuel Griffiths I agree, Keynsian economics is a difficult subject to grasp. Not least by Mr Balls who neglected to ensure the surplus-running debt-paying-down in the good years bit was adhered to.

  • @Malcolm Todd “You don’t think the fact that it was in direct, blatant contradiction of a clear, specific pledge made to voters not six months previously counts for anything against that?”

    Of course. To which the only real response is another bit of Keynsianism: “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir? When my information changes, I alter my conclusions. What do you do, sir?”

  • Samuel Griffiths 6th May '15 - 4:16pm

    TCO, I may have missed a trick here but I thought Labour abandoned Keynesian economics entirely. I believe I remember a declaration that boom and bust were over, no? I had always viewed the Liberal Democrats as the only party who didn’t, though the more free-market posts I read the less that conclusion seems to make sense.

  • Stephen Campbell 6th May '15 - 4:30pm

    @TCO: ” I respectfully suggest you go back and read some of your recent posts and consider the impact they’re likely to have.”

    Shame your government didn’t go back and consider the voices of the experts about the impact their “reforms” were likely to have.

    I guess now that you’re a Serious Party of Government, I should doff my cap like a good little plebeian and shower you with praise before saying “Please, sir, could you stop your cruelty so that fewer people will be pushed to the brink?”

  • Malcolm Todd 6th May '15 - 4:33pm

    TCO

    Nothing wrong with changing your mind, but the facts really hadn’t changed between April and November 2010. It is rare for a candidate to make an explicit pledge as to how they will vote or behave on a specific issue in a forthcoming parliament, but they dam’ well ought to consider themselves bound by it when they do. Any MP who felt unable to stand by such a cast-iron, seemingly non-negotiable commitment should have resigned and fought a by-election on the issue of their change of mind. Unrealistic? Consider this, from the Conservative Party manifesto of 1923 (a general election that the government had no need to hold until 1927):

    “The present Government hold themselves pledged by Mr Bonar Law not to make any fundamental change in the fiscal system of the country without consulting the electorate. Convinced, as I am, that only by such a change can a remedy be found, and that no partial measures such as the extension of the Safeguarding of Industries Act, can meet the situation, I am in honour bound to ask the people to release us from this pledge without further prejudicing the situation by any delay. That is the reason, and the only reason, which has made this election necessary.”

    Yes, Baldwin lost the ensuing election. It happens that way sometimes – virtue is not always rewarded. But he was back in office a year later. Make of that what you will.

  • Samuel Griffiths 6th May ’15 – 4:16pm
    “…..the more free-market posts I read the less that conclusion seems to make sense.”

    The free-market posts by and large come from people who have a limited understanding of both the politics and the economics of Liberal Democrats. Most of the people responsible for them inhabit small sect-like groups who have decided against all logic that the Thatcherite wing of The Conservative Party is not their natural home.
    It is the free-market posts that make little sense in the context of a Liberal Democrat discussion.

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th May '15 - 5:11pm

    Malcolm Todd

    Nothing wrong with changing your mind, but the facts really hadn’t changed between April and November 2010.

    But who “changed their mind”? It was not a matter of changing of minds, it was a matter that to keep this pledge would have required huge cuts in other things, or huge cuts in university places, as the Tories would not have agreed to the taxation necessary to continue subsidising universities.

    It is another sign of Clegg’s incompetence that he did not put it that way. Putting it as “changing minds” or “we made a mistake” is hugely wrong and damaging, as is putting it as “not affordable”. OF COURSE it was affordable, all that was needed was to raise some more tax to pay for it – which could have been done by not increasing the tax allowance, for example. There was no need to “apologise” or claim a mistake was made, no, instead just say “we could not get the Tories to agree to raise the taxes necessary for it, and it would have broken other pledges if we paid for it by even more spending cuts than were made anyway”.

  • Stephen Campbell
    Yes my neighbour was a diabetic, Type 1. He lived alone He passed out in his garden one night.Unfortunately it was in the middle of winter so he died of hypothermia.This happened when Labour was in power, so who was to blame?
    Diabetics are expected to work. It is in tropical countries insulin has to be kept in the fridge . In the UK I have kept my insulin is a cupboard. It didn’t go bad. I have also lived on a diet of boiled and raw vegetables, which did me the power of good.Actually I have known a lot of people who went to an early grave because of diabetes.

  • Stephen Campbell 6th May '15 - 5:25pm

    @Manfarang: “.This happened when Labour was in power, so who was to blame?”

    If he had been too ill to work and had been sanctioned by the DWP, then yes, it would’ve been (in my opinion) the fault of the government.

    Bear in mind I hold no love for Labour. They became increasingly cruel to benefit claimants towards the end of their administration. But that was nothing compared to how the coalition has handled things.

    You can’t just take away the means of support from someone with a serious mental illness and not expect them to be able to cope. They might be saving money at the DWP by sanctioning people with mental illnesses, but it won’t be saving the NHS money. It’s a false economy.

    Still, the way some people on here try to defend the indefensible shows how far this party has fallen.

    Some mentally ill people who have been sanctioned or found “fit for work” have committed suicide. Is this a record you can be proud of? And what does that say about our society, when the weakest are thrown to the wolves to satisfy the demands of the money men?

  • Jenny Barnes 6th May '15 - 5:27pm

    Ruth ” it is right to reward people for being in work”
    I couldn’t agree more. In my country we call that “pay”.

    The point of social security as I understand it is to grease the wheels of capitalism, so that the people don’t smash up the machinery when they lose their jobs as (say) coal miners when the only replacement jobs are ZOC care workers or working on a TV assembly line. But the Tories and the Orange Bookers have had a lovely time pushing out the “scrounger” narrative. I seem to remember a lot of state violence in the 1980s against the miners…

  • Stephen Campbell
    Diabetes is something that requires controlling. If it is controlled properly then you won’t get ill.
    God forbid Britain becoming a nation of teetotallers and ending the scourge of alcoholism.

  • Eddie Sammon 6th May '15 - 5:46pm

    Ruth is right to say “stop apologising and be proud”. I am very proud the Liberal Democrats are not just a mini Labour Party. Labour: not really left wing, but just left wing enough to support their vested interests. It’s nonsense.

    Best wishes

  • Malcolm Todd 6th May '15 - 6:06pm

    Matthew

    We’ve argued this thing so many times and you keep using the same missing-the-point arguments. You’ve made no attempt to address the issue of what it means to make (and break) a promise; you haven’t given any reason why MPs would have been unable to vote, specifically, against the increase in fees (that’s all they needed to do to keep their promise). The suggestion that there has been any difference to taxation or public finances in this parliament as a result of the increase in fees has been disproved many times over, as it happens, but isn’t even relevant because the issue isn’t the merits of the policy. I wasn’t particularly in favour of Lib Dem policy myself in 2010, and my anger at those MPs is not because they didn’t abolish fees. It’s the promise and the breaking of it. They could have resigned and sought to be “released from their pledge” by the voters. They didn’t, and they deserve to be defenestrated for it now.

  • @ Gwyn Griffiths
    “If there are SPECIFIC changes to the system which would help please share them with us.”

    My four suggested specific changes
    Scraping the Work Capability Assessment and replacing it with a fairer system that includes assessing what help people need to return to work and allocating this care;
    Increasing the amount people can keep before they start having benefit reduced;
    Increasing the tapper so people keep more than 35% or 4% of their extra wages;
    Abolishing the sanction regime.

    I would also like to see the minimum wage increased so it has a greater real value than in 2006.

  • The liberal democrats need to wake up to reality they have lost people like myself who voted for them in 2010.

    1) the welfare system is a shambles led by Ian Duncan Smith particularly for those with a mental health problem – these new promises from Nick Clegg are worthless – I have personal experience of the process with a family member and they have been dreadful
    2) tuition fees needs no further discussion as already discussed
    3) liberal democrats still support the bedroom tax it is dreadful and I have seen people suffering from this decision – where are these one bedroomed council houses and people have lived in there homes for over 30 years again liberal democrats supporting further suffering for the poor
    4) Nick Clegg and his cohorts still willing to go into another government with Tories even though lucky to get 24 seats – how many will they have after another coalition 12 or less

    The only thing that will save liberal democrats is a change of the old guard after the election who put the party first Tim Farron springs to mind it will takes years to rebuild the party but he would be a good start or someone similar.

    Voting labour tomorrow in general election but voting liberal democrat in council elections

  • Peter Watson 6th May '15 - 10:39pm

    @Ruth Mallon
    A pupil premium was in the Conservative and Labour manifestos.
    Universal free school meals was trialled under a Labour government and was opposed by Lib Dems before Clegg announced it out of the blue. As far as I recall, the coalition quid pro quo was allowing the tories to introduce a married couples tax allowance (that was also opposed by Lib Dems).

  • Matthew Huntbach 7th May '15 - 8:49am

    Malcolm Todd

    The suggestion that there has been any difference to taxation or public finances in this parliament as a result of the increase in fees has been disproved many times over, as it happens, but isn’t even relevant because the issue isn’t the merits of the policy.

    Sorry Malcolm, but that is complete and utter rubbish. If universities were paid for directly by government now, there would HAVE to be something that pays for them, whether more direct state borrowing or higher taxes. Do you not understand the concept of a budget? Now, I fully understand that the reality is that universities ARE now being funded by state borrowing, albeit state borrowing disguised as independent borrowing with a guarantee that it will be paid back by a mixture of money taken from graduates who earn enough to pay their loan requirements and direct state money to meet the write-off which the Liberal Democrats insisted should be generous. So if the argument is “but that shows it could have been done just by borrowing”, I am saying yes it could – but the Tories would not have agreed to it being done that way, though they did agree to it being done in the disguised way.

    You accuse me of missing the point, saying “You’ve made no attempt to address the issue of what it means to make (and break) a promise”, but that is complete and utter and total rubbish. What the (word rhyming with duck) do you think I have been doing for the past 4 years over this issue? Why so you think I’ve gone on and on about this issue? I fully understand how bad it looks to break a pledge, and how that has so damaged the reputation of the Liberal Democrats that I’ve wanted to get people to realise the real quandary the Liberal Democrats were in, and that why on the face of it we have a complete reversal of what was said, if one considers it in terms of how money actually passes it is not so different, and it has, believe me I know this because I actually work in a university, saved the university system from the savage cuts seen in other areas of public service. I’ve been pushing this again and again and again and again and again and again and again, spending hours of time doing do, precisely BECAUSE I understand how bad the broken pledge thing is, and I would like people therefore to think about what the alternative would have been.

    But all I get is “nah nah nah nah nah” from people like you, whose lack of understanding of the most basic aspect of politics is shown by the way you don’t even seem to understand what a budget means and how it works.

    It is because of people like you that politics is being pushed to the right, that inequality is growing in this country. Because you don’t understand the concept of budgets and suggest public spending has no balancing factor, it’s all paid for by shaking a money tree or something, it becomes impossible to put the case for the sort of higher taxation that is needed in reality to pay for better public services. Because people like you give the impression that the government can spend much more money without it requiring any more taxes, the political right win and win and win again with their sentimental and nonsensical arguments against the sort of taxes we need to properly finance the sort of public services we need to provide freedom from slavery by poverty and ignorance in this country.

  • Matthew Huntbach 7th May '15 - 8:59am

    Malcolm Todd

    They could have resigned and sought to be “released from their pledge” by the voters. They didn’t, and they deserve to be defenestrated for it now.

    So, would you have preferred the pledge to be kept at what would be the real cost – MASSIVE slashes to the number of university places, mass redundancies for people like me? THAT is what has happened in further education and local government, so don’t accuse me of being unrealistic when I say that would have happened in higher education had it remained under direct government subsidy.

    I have hardly made it a secret that I believe Clegg and the Cleggies have been disastrous at public relations, have got it all wrong, have made a difficult situation far more difficult by the way they’ve talked up their power in the coalition rather than admit the reality, that it’s a miserable little compromise in which very little can be achieved due to the Tories having 5 times as many MPs as the LibDems and Labour just wanting to say “nah nah nah nah nah” rather than give the sort of co-operation that a junior coalition partner needs when standing up against the wishes of the senior one.

    I have already said how I think this should have been handled – the Liberal Democrats permitted to put in a motion calling for whatever extra taxes would be necessary to subsidise universities, but without the Conservatives being expected to support it. Then we would have seen, as Labour would have had to support it, and all the other parties if there really was an alternative to this coalition. That would have shut the “nah nah nah nah nah”s up, because it would have made it clear “put your money where your mouth is”.

  • Stephen: People committing suicide because of welfare cuts is dreadful and I too did not think my party would ever be involved in a Government which did this. I do believe that prior to the coalition our MPs thought the same. The problem is that we needed to cut spending and the way that the welfare state is set up at the moment means that cuts to benefits are impossible to avoid. I don’t know how we could structure the tax and benefits system to avoid this happening but I hope the party does not go into coalition again so that we can look at these structural issues and develop a welfare system for the 21st century. Our role in Government would be crucial in working out how to do things better and avoid the kind of cruel cuts that I too have felt sick about because my party was involved in them.

  • Malcolm Todd 7th May '15 - 1:46pm

    Last time I’m going to engage with you on this, Matthew, because I’m frankly fed up of being accused of saying “nah nah nah nah” just because you can’t be bothered to read or engage with my arguments. Perhaps anything less than a 1000-word post doesn’t count as a real argument to you.
    You know perfectly well that the change in fees and payment system haven’t made a jot of difference to public spending and borrowing so far, because the very first students under the new system haven’t even graduated yet; so the money that goes to universities has come from the government. Perhaps engage with that, rather than making insults about my supposed inability to understand a budget.
    And you’ve completely ignored the solution I offered to those who didn’t want to keep their pledge, which was to resign and seek re-election without it.
    But I’ve told you all this before and you prefer to resort to name-calling and sneering, so there’s not much point continuing, is there?

  • @SueS is there a demonstrable causal link?

  • @ Sue S

    We have been told that we needed to cut spending from 2010, but of course this is not true. If we had wanted to we could have increased taxation. We could not have increased the personal allowance. Labour believe that the welfare budget can be reduced by increasing wages and this is a logical position and if people had higher incomes then more revenue would come from taxation. A win win situation.

    The government could have chosen not to change the sanction regime to increase the likelihood of being sanctioned and could have sacked all managers who sack or threaten to sack someone who doesn’t sanction enough people. It could have reformed the work capability assessment to make it fairer particularly for those with mental health issues. It could not have changed the way Council Tax Benefits are given and encouraged local councils to cut them for those not receiving an old age pension. The coalition government made decisions to make life harder for those who live on benefits. I expected the Liberal Democrats to stop the government making these decisions. I don’t expect them to do that now.

  • Matthew Huntbach 7th May '15 - 7:01pm

    Malcolm Todd

    You know perfectly well that the change in fees and payment system haven’t made a jot of difference to public spending and borrowing so far, because the very first students under the new system haven’t even graduated yet; so the money that goes to universities has come from the government.

    Yes, I know that, it’s the centre of my argument. So what’s your point? You seem to suppose that by saying this you are somehow proving me wrong, but you aren’t, you’re proving me right. Clearly you can’t see this, so clearly you have not yet understood my point, that is what I’m finding so frustrating.

  • Matthew Huntbach 7th May '15 - 7:04pm

    Malcolm Todd

    just because you can’t be bothered to read or engage with my arguments. Perhaps anything less than a 1000-word post doesn’t count as a real argument to you.

    Sorry, I have read and engaged with your arguments. So far as I can see, you have not read and engaged with mine. What exactly is it you want me to say?

  • Matthew Huntbach 7th May '15 - 9:46pm

    Malcolm Todd

    You know perfectly well that the change in fees and payment system haven’t made a jot of difference to public spending and borrowing so far, because the very first students under the new system haven’t even graduated yet; so the money that goes to universities has come from the government.

    Yes, so I think what you are saying is that it might as well have come from straight government borrowing rather than from government borrowing disguised as student loans. Fine, I agree with you. You are saying that since it is being paid for by disguised government borrowing it is nonsense to say it is “unaffordable” because it is affordable because it is being paid for by government loans. Fine, I agree with you there as well. But I think you are assuming I am a Cleggie and that I am using the Cleggie argument that straight government subsidy of universities is “unaffordable”, and that therefore what you are saying in response to that is an argument against me, and that I am not bothering to red or engage with your arguments because I don’t accept that.

    But there’s the flaw, and that’s why I am so angry with you. Because I am not a Cleggie and I am not using the Cleggie argument. Given that there is a high possibility I will be tearing up my Liberal Democrat membership card in a short time in disgust at Clegg and the Cleggies, can’t you see how insulted I am when you argue against me under the assumption I am a Cleggie and don’t bother to listen to the different line which is what I was actually taking?

  • Matthew Huntbach 7th May '15 - 10:01pm

    So, my line was that, yes the Tories would agree to the government borrowing when it was disguised as student loans, but they would not have agreed to it if it was straight government borrowing. So if the LibDems had insisted that the disguised borrowing of the student loans system was not acceptable, then as the Tories would not have agreed to straight borrowing and would not have agreed to extra taxation to pay for it, it would have had to be paid by big cuts in something, and big cuts in university places.

    Malcolm, do you at least understand this point?

  • Malcolm Todd 7th May '15 - 10:45pm

    Matthew, look at what you’ve just said. You’re angry with me because you think I am assuming you’re a “Cleggie”. Even though I haven’t said that and you haven’t given any reason for thinking that I’m thinking it. Exactly which of us has the right to feel angry or insulted here?

    Your assumption that the Tories could not possibly have been persuaded to present the figures in a different way in order to kick a difficult issue into long grass (just as they did with Trident, in effect) is at best untested, and really amounts to nothing more than “A big boy made me do it.” And just to be clear — I’m not attacking you for what Lib Dem MPs, at the urging of Clegg and Cable, did. I’m attacking them and rejecting your defence of what they did. I understand your argument (which has changed somewhat, but I still understand it) and I think it’s wrong.

    Anyway, it’ll all be moot soon. It’s another parliament. I bet whether LDs kept the pledge or not will make no difference to their survival tonight.

  • Matthew Huntbach 8th May '15 - 1:12am

    Malcolm Todd

    Your assumption that the Tories could not possibly have been persuaded to present the figures in a different way in order to kick a difficult issue into long grass (just as they did with Trident, in effect) is at best untested, and really amounts to nothing more than “A big boy made me do it.”

    Look at what has happened to further education and local government under the outgoing government – huge cuts. I’m sorry, but if you can’t see that the cost of keeping universities under direct government subsidy would have been similar cuts, well …

    I’m not saying I like what’s happened, of course I would prefer universities to be fully funded and no cuts and whatever taxes necessary to pay for them raised. But if you think the Tories would have agreed to that, well …

    Anyway, I said you were accusing me of being a Cleggie because the arguments you were putting were against Clegg’s defence of what happened, that it was “unaffordable”, which is not and never has been my line. My line was always that the compromise that was reached was much better than many supposed and actually amounted to getting the Tories to agree to much more generous state funding of universities, even if done by subterfuge, than they would have agreed to in any other way.

  • Matthew Huntbach 8th May '15 - 11:45am

    Malcolm Todd

    Your assumption that the Tories could not possibly have been persuaded to present the figures in a different way in order to kick a difficult issue into long grass.

    The Tories are obsessed with market economics, and believe the answer to everything is to put it out to a cash market. That is why they were willing to agree to what was actually stunningly generous government financial support for higher education (when considered with huge cuts made elsewhere, not least further education) when it was put in terms of a competitive financial market. The deal, in effect, was that the LibDems would suffer the humiliation of being seen to have done a U-turn, while in reality securing full financial support for universities and making access open to all, with net payments no worse than with the previous system, and the Tories were wiling to agree to what was actually big government borrowing that they never would have agreed to if it were straight government borrowing because they looked so liked the idea of this cash market in university places pushing costs down and quality up. They would never have agreed to this level of support if it were not for the cash market aspect, and I believe you are quite wrong when you suggest otherwise.

    Right from the start I pointed out that in reality if it were paid for by straight government borrowing it would still mean a debt burden imposed on the next generation, and since the high tax payers of the next generation would mostly be the graduates, it would in effect mean much the same people paying back much the same amounts of money. Also, I pointed out that it would not work as the Tories supposed it would, because teenagers applying to university would see the loans as “funny money” and not really comprehend the amounts, and because the universal way of thought they would have is “the higher the cost, the better the quality” so actually no university would dare charge anything but the maximum tuition fees.

    It has worked out exactly as I said it would. As other things have.

    If you think my position has changed somewhat, it hasn’t, so that indicates you never properly understood it in the first place.

    Of course I fully understand the huge difficulty of the argument that what appears to be a U-turn underneath doesn’t make so much difference in practical terms, so if that’s the best compromise that can be obtained all things considered, one ought at least to see there is a reasonable argument for it, and those who accepted that compromise are not necessarily incomprehensibly bad people as they have been painted for doing so. I naively supposed that with my obvious antipathy to Clegg and the Cleggies if I said this perhaps it might be seen as a neutral judgment and so listened to and understood as it would not be when coming out of the mouths of the Cleggies themselves.

    Also, I do have this unfortunate tendency in any situation where I hear one side of the argument pushed aggressively and the other side not heard or badly misrepresented to want to speak up for the other side. Quite often this does end up with me seeming to be passionately pushing one side when actually it’s not my personal opinion, it’s just that I believe that side needs a hearing.

    I hated the way this issue was used to attack and destroy ALL Liberal Democrats, regardless of the individual position they took on it. And now we see the consequences. The “nah nah nah nah nah”s have won, and we have a full Tory government, thanks to that.

  • Ryan Dungallon 8th May '15 - 12:15pm

    So the chickens have come home to roost. The Lim Dems ignored their core voters and supported the Tories through thick and thin, abandoning all their principles on the way. Voting for swinging cuts to welfare, the bedroom tax, whilst at the same time voting for tax cuts for millionaires. Privatising the NHS. Vince Cable selling off the Post Office at a knock down price to billionaire hedge fund managers. The Lib Dems have been in complete denial about what they have done over the past five years, always insisting it will come good for them in the end, completely delusional. Well welcome to reality. Even early this morning Paddy Ashdown was declaring he would eat his hat if the Libs didn’t get more seats than the exit polls forecast, in denial to the end. Nick Clegg only survived because the Tories advised their members in his constituency to vote tactically to save him, thinking they would need his support. That says it all I think. Lesson number one – you ignore you core supporters at your peril, unfortunately this is what the Lim Dems have done, was it worth it?

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