Opinion: the Browne report should be voted down

The recommendations coming from Lord Browne are contrary not just to Liberal Democrat policy, but to our principles.

Education is vital to liberty and democracy. ‘Great improvements in education … are the only thing to which I should look for permanent good’ said John Stuart Mill and so highlights Nick Clegg’s special advisor, Richard Reeves. So how can we support Lord Browne’s report?

It is simply not possible to hide the shock that we feel, in response to Lord Browne’s proposals to saddle students in need to loans with absurd levels of debt by lifting the fee cap altogether.

We are both frequent defenders of the coalition. But, whilst standing up for compromise and the coalition as a whole, the ‘permanent good’ of education is surely not something that the party can allow to fall by the wayside in this Government.

For Vince to tell the BBC that this report is ‘on the right lines’ shows a concerning disregard for out party’s policy. Let’s be honest, Vince has never liked our party’s policy on fees. It looks all too much like he is taking the chance presented by coalition to drop a core policy which he never really liked anyway.

The absurd recommendations of Lord Browne stem from so many errors.

Tasked with merely “making recommendations to Government on the future of fees policy and financial support for full and part-time undergraduate and postgraduate students” is it any wonder that his review was so confused. Revolutionising funding without even asking the question “what is Higher Education in the UK?” has led to these recommendations.

Second, the acceptance of debt suggests that the financial crisis passed Lord Browne by. Haven’t we learnt our lesson about debt? If the financial crisis had taught us anything, it should have been that a system that shifts a large amount of debt onto individuals isn’t a sensible one. This is to not even comment on the possible effect of existing debt reducing risk-aversion in our generation, already saddled with thousands of pounds of debt.

If I earn more – whether as a result of a degree, or any other qualification or the society we live in, can you really hypothecate the individual benefit vs the public benefit of high level skills and charge someone more? Surely, if someone is earning more, they pay more in tax anyway? The specific benefits of a degree are, quite simply unhypothecateable, beyond a vague average benefit to income. With a truly progressive taxation system higher earners will pay back more into the system anyway, therefore removing any need for a graduate tax and for higher earners to have to pay back at a higher interest rate. This would also mean that graduates who benefit the most personally from their degrees in terms of higher earnings will pay more back into the state anyway.

Sara Bedford, Alison Goldsworthy, Liberal Youth – both Martin Shapland and Charlotte Henry, and many, many more have made similar comments.

Suffice to say: We must not be like Labour. We must not lie down and do nothing as a core principle is undermined: Delighted as we are that ministers will abstain, those who are not ministers should rebel. Now is an opportunity for us to show our value as a party to millions of voters. To prove that education not only matters in opposition, but – unlike New/Next Labour – matters in power too.

We should not forget that 10 Conservative MPs voted against the AV referendum (12 against the programme motion), alongside nationalist MPs , proving that you can defy the Whip and uphold your principles even when you are working in this heady world of “new politics”.

Fighting for investment in earlier education is of course important – the Early Years Foundation Stage review, the Pupil Premium, the investment in Further Education and a commitment to University backed technology colleges are all welcome. But these are not opposites to Higher Education, but corollaries. If we remove inequalities in our education system only to insert them further up a path of learning, we have achieved far less than we claim.

There are two things we can learn from Lord Browne: Perhaps Lord Browne forgot about the financial crisis built on debt? Or perhaps he expects no-one to get in to debt, as poor students are put off applying.

As one councillor said: Rich students don’t take out loans. Poor students do.

In fact, the Social Market Foundation has already crunched the numbers and shown that, even after completing their studies, richer students will actually pay back less than those in the middle of the scale.

So a fees increase would be a bad thing to allow indeed.

Oh, and one last thing, whichever ‘senior Lib Dem’ said to the Guardian that “being in government means we are going to have to go through a long process of growing up” does a great disservice to the careful policy of the past.

This article is written by Elaine Bagshaw and Henry Vann

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82 Comments

  • Paul Pettinger 12th Oct '10 - 2:59pm

    Good article Henry, though I firmly support an increase in tuition fees. Those who don’t go to university should not have to subsidise the privilege of those that do. This is just more middle class welfare.

  • Thanks Paul – I think the point here, is that these proposals do, at the moment, hit those who are not middle to high income, but rather many who are from dsiadvantaged backgrounds who perhaps do want to have access to this particular form of education. Not everyone needs to, or wants to, go to university, but in my view – as a key aspect of education access and social mobility within the UK – those who do want to go, should not be put off because of their socio-economic status.

    I can see your concerns, but university will become the preserve of middle to high income background children if we increase fees, and any public funding, research investment, and innovation money will be distributed on that basis, rather than, say potential academic ability…

  • Tony Greaves 12th Oct '10 - 3:34pm

    What pathetic comments.

    As for the “senior Lib Dem” who said: “This is a moment where it may be best if we just admit that what we said before the election about opposing tuition fees was wrong. Being in government means we are going to have to go through a long process of growing up.” Such a person is a coward (briefing anonymously) and ought to be (metaphorically) dunked in the Thames and hung out to dry. If “growing up” means abandoning what we stand for count me out.

    This was a good opportunity to stand by what ALL Liberal Democrat MPs said at the election and (by ministers abstaining and the rest voting against) kick it out and talk to all parties for a compromise that would work and does not include an increase in fees.

    Instead the party leadership has funked it and gone for a series of embarrassing muddles. It is amazing how they have already got sucked into the Westminster bubble and myopic governmental vision when they appear to be unable to see how it is being seen out in the real world.

    That is simple. “These Liberal Democrat MPs are cheats, hypocrites and liars. They just say one thing to get votes then change their mind completely once they are in power – even though the coalition agreement itself let them off the hook.”

    We will all suffer from this shoddy unprincipled behaviour.

    Tony Greaves

  • Part of the problem is the mixed messages from the coalition. All we have heard since May is that debt is bad, we need to live within our means, debt is irresponsible. Now, it’s, personal debt of tens of thousands of pounds worth of debt at the start of your working life, is a good thing. Why is it so good, because it is seen as an investment in your future, and increases future earnings. So why is it that if it is good for the individual to take on debt for these reasons, why then is it so wrong for the state to do likewise?

  • Roy's Claret Army 12th Oct '10 - 3:52pm

    There is of course an easy way out.

    Any LibDem MP in a University seat can vote against it. Lib Dem MPs in Scotland and non-university towns can abstain or vote for it.

    The only problem is those LibDem MPs in Government who represent a University seat in England. I suggest that they get flu on the day of the vote.

  • Malcolm Todd 12th Oct '10 - 4:00pm

    I was never a fan of the party’s policy on this. Like Andrew Tennant, I think that repeatedly describing the system as simply “debt” is deeply misleading and more likely to put off people from poor backgrounds applying to university than the system itself is; and I am concerned at the sense of entitlement of largely middle-class students demanding subsidy from (among others) working-class taxpayers.

    BUT — this is the wording of the pre-election NUS pledge:

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

    From NUS site

    That’s pretty clear, no? And that’s what most of our party’s candidates, and all of its MPs — including, therefore, all of our cabinet members — signed up to. You can argue about the meaning of “a fairer alternative”, and I would; but the first half of it is completely unambiguous and only outrageous sophistry would permit any MP who signed that pledge to vote for these proposals or even abstain.

    If we want to be taken seriously as democrats, we should reject this on principle. If we believe it’s in not in the national interest to do so, then we should resign and force a new election in which we seek support for our new policy, a la Baldwin in 1923; or else find a fudge that keeps the question genuinely open and rules out increases in fees before 2015, then stand for an increase at the next election.

    Yes, I know that’s not going to happen. I’m just sayin’, is all.

  • Tony- what a pathetic comment.

    The article was unconvincing. If you are going to oppose the Browne Review because he didn’t ask what HE should be, you should probably at least attempt to answer the question yourself if you are going to propose another suggestion (the status quo? Something else?).

    We keep talking about university funding, but what about university provision? Why should so many students can taxpayer subsidy to study ridiculous courses and stay in the pub all day? Where is the accountability? Also, we have to start asking British university to fundraise and get Alumni donations to something like the scale the US does. Not only do they have much higher fees (with generous financial aid for those that can’t afford it), but they raise billions every year in donations. We are in danger of being left behind.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 12th Oct '10 - 4:12pm

    “Like Andrew Tennant, I think that repeatedly describing the system as simply “debt” is deeply misleading …”

    Indeed. It’s a very unusual kind of debt that evaporates after 30 years, and which you don’t have to repay a penny of if you earn less than 80% of the median salary.

  • Well said, young Tony.

    All non-ministers should vote against, in accordance with our principles and party policy at the last election.

    And all ministers should abstain, in accordance with the coalition agreement.

    Can you not organise a three line whip to bring them all into line?

  • @John

    “All non-ministers should vote against, in accordance with our principles and party policy at the last election.

    And all ministers should abstain, in accordance with the coalition agreement.”

    And you think that will be acceptable to Liberal Democrat Voters who voted on the basis of Liberal Democrats polices and also because of their pledges to Vote NO to increases in tuition fee’s how?

    Liberal democrats made a pledge and Nick Clegg signed to say that he would Vote NO.

    Abstaining from the vote is not the same.

    the average joe is now realising why 30 or so Liberal Democrat Mp’s where given Ministerial jobs in Government by Cameron.

    Because those 30 ministers would only be able to Abstain from the vote, leaving only 20 Liberal Democrat Mp’s Free to vote NO.

    Allowing the conservatives to get the policy through Government.

    Even if it does go against the core of liberal democrats beliefs and party policies.

    You cant seriously tell me that when liberal democrat negotiator’s when drawing up this coalition agreement, didn’t foresee these problems as they knew the 2 parties where poles apart on some policies.

    And the Liberal party as a whole must have known that by having 30 Mp’s in ministerial positions they where going to be locked into supporting Tory policies.

    You guy’s where sold out by Clegg and Cable even before the dotting of the I’s and the crossing of the T’s.

  • Elaine & Henry 12th Oct '10 - 4:51pm

    What we think should be clear, is that whether or not you agree with the party policy, it is party policy, formed through hard debate and voted on by the party membership. That is not a reason not to address your points, but we should bear that in mind. This policy shift cannot be so easily dis-regarded – even if you personally do disagree with it – and there are real concerns that the Browne Report is being used as an excuse to avoid a policy Vince never did like.

    We will try to deal with some of the points made above:

    @Andrew Tennant and @Malcolm Todd, you make fair points about debt. There is a whole host of research indicating a more nuanced picture. However, essentially, the debt is something which students from wealthier backgrounds will never need to take into account, wheras, because of you upbringing you will always have slightly less resource than someone on a similar income from a wealthier background. This will be perpetuated by graduate contributions linked to an increase in fees.

    @Adam Bell, you make a number of really helpful points about marketisation, and variable fees are definitely a concern.

    @Andy Mayer, you miss the option which we provide in your comments: ‘With a truly progressive taxation system higher earners will pay back more into the system anyway, therefore removing any need for a graduate tax and for higher earners to have to pay back at a higher interest rate.’ and because we state that we believe that whilst there is an average benefit, there is not a hypothecateable benefit. The OECD does not disagree with our point therefore. Averages do not equate to a hypothecated benefit.

    We also disagree with the comments surrounding ‘middle class benefits’, as highlighted above. It is precisely because at the moment these benefits are twisted to the ‘middle-classes’, and we belive that they should not be. However we fund higher education, until we improve access (and there are some welcome aims to do this in the report) any public funding – be it for tuition, research or anything else, will benefit these ‘classes’. Though it may be that class language itself is less helpful.

    @Jonny, we’re sorry you found the article unconvincing. You say ‘you should probably at least attempt to answer the question yourself’ but unfortunately, this was not the opportunity, and there was not the space in an LDV article, and it needs a full review. Your further points (especially the points abour fundraising, which are exactly what David Howarth proposes) are exactly correct, and are not ruled out by our article, which I think could be read more charitably than you have done. Though you are right, Tony’s comment was a little agressive.

    What seems to be really clear, is that – by failing to tackle access to a university education (Labour merely increased the number going, not the proportion from disadvantaged backgrounds), the perception of university as a ‘middle class’ should not have to be the case, and funding universities, particularly for those from disadvantaged backgrounds, should not be a victim of this perception.

    LDV readers may also be interested in the following report from Northern Ireland: http://bit.ly/dsVNR8 It found no link between higher fees and increased quality in Universities, which is one of the main thrusts of the Browne report.

  • And what will reaction be when the Spending Cuts are announced next week and people realise that low income and middle income earners are going to be being hit with even more cuts to their income?

    What if (God forbid) in those announcements as has been predicted there is a policy to reduce “Child Benefit” from 18 to 16?

    How will this be progressive? and how on earth could people from lower income families realistically hope to go to university and face HIGHER DEBT and yet live on LESS INCOME.

    people really need to wake up and smell the coffee

  • I would urge everyone with a Liberal Democrat MP to find what their MP said in their election pledges and post them all on here for us all to see. And let them see that we intend on holding them to their word.

    This is what my Mp said. Simon Wright Mp for Norwich South. on March 2nd 2010

    “Simon Wright, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate for Norwich South, has signed a pledge to voters ahead of the forthcoming general election that he will vote against any increase in fees in the next parliament. In addition, Mr Wright said that as an MP he will oppose all tuition fees for students.

    Mr Wright said: “There’s no doubt that bright young people in Norwich are wary of the thought of five-figure debts if they choose to go to university. Everyone deserves the chance to gain the knowledge and skills that will give them the best opportunity to achieve their ambitions in life, and it shouldn’t be based on ability to pay.

    “I’m absolutely committed to doing all that I can if I’m elected as a member of parliament for Norwich to stop the government raising tuition fees and actively campaign for them to be abolished altogether.”

    sourced from
    http://www.simonwright.org.uk/news/000147/candidates_pledge_against_student_fees.html

    Simon I am looking to see how you vote on this!

  • Vince Cable – previous pledge “no longer feasible”. All principles now gone. All respect gone. If one makes a pledge then breaks it then that person can no longer be trusted with anything. All Lib Dem MP’s including ministers should abide by their pledge and vote against not abstain. But if they do not care about the most vulnerable who they are party to throwing into poverty, what chance students?

  • and we have not even started on the market changes to the nhs where the american companies are circling like buzzards

  • To those claiming that this is not ‘debt’ due to a finer understanding of the detail and a more nuanced argument are missing the point, So strictly speaking it might not be like old fashioned debt but how nuanced is the average family’s understanding of this?

    Perception is reality in such cases. If people believe it to be debt, and they do, then it will be a deterence.

    I took out loans and earn just over the threshold. Its not easy paying back £120 a month and secondly my ‘debt’ is a further hinderance in efforts to get on the housing ladder.

    Rich kids don’t take out loans.

    Middle class kids take out loans but can cope with them because most have a parental safety net and even if Mum and Dad don’t help them pay of the loans they do ease their financial burdens in endless ways from help for housing deposits, help to buy furtiture for homes to taking children away with them on holiday, buying nice christmas presents….. and so on…. all of which helps to maintain a nice lifestyle and consequently cope with student debt.

    Working class children don’t have this safety net and secondly do not have the confidence that it will all work out for the best as they don’t have examples of others coping and succeeding.

    This is not only a personal observation but the result of discussion with inner city students I currently teach. I asked two seperate classes of 6th formers today and without exception they said it would make them think twice and furthermore that their parents were more likely to discourage them for fear that they will suffer.

    Finer points and nuanced arguments are an irrelevance compared to perception. That’s before we even start to discuss principles!

  • Anthony Aloysius St 12th Oct '10 - 6:56pm

    “I took out loans and earn just over the threshold. Its not easy paying back £120 a month and secondly my ‘debt’ is a further hinderance in efforts to get on the housing ladder.”

    Why on earth do you have to pay that much, if you are only “just over the threshold”? Do you mean you’re £16,000 above the threshold?

  • I voted Lib Dem, because like many others I was attracted to this idea of new politics.
    I voted for a sensible pace for spending cuts, what did I get ?
    I voted to avoid a rise in indirect taxation (VAT), what did I get ?
    I voted for my children to have the same education opportunities that I had, what did I get ?

    Before you dismiss my post, look at the videos on you tube. there is no grey area, voters have been lied to.

    I voted for the new politics, never again. I longed for a hung parliament so that there could be real influence for my vote. I am not alone, so many of my friends also deserted New Labour as we felt let down and lied to, only to be let down and lied to by the Lid Dems. It’s not members and the core vote that make parties succesful, it’s the floating voters such as me. Carry on treating us like this and you stand to pay dearly at the polls, starting with the AV vote, people want honesty and integrity in their politicians AV will only give the Lib dems more chance to break pledges. For years you’ve told us what you would achieve with real power.

    You’ve got the cars and red boxes, what did I get?

  • The state of the public finances were known long before the election. The opinion polls were showing for weeks that there was likely to be a hung parliament and that the Lib Dems were very likely to enter a coalition. Yet they still made their pledges. So to see Vince Cable stand at the despatch box and tell us that pledges can no longer be kept because of the financial mess left by Labour is disgraceful. I am one of Vince’s constituents who has voted for him since 1997. I voted for him not because I agreed with everything in the Lib Dem manifesto but because I thought he was one of the few politicians that had any integrity. How wrong I was. Never Again

  • Tony Greaves 12th Oct '10 - 7:39pm

    And of course the state of university finances was well known before the election. No new circumstances there.

    Tony Greaves

  • I suppose it’s pretty well excepted that’s the Lib Dems are royally screwed as far as the electorate are concerned, it’s unlikely there’s much trust left out there, so how the hell did that happen? and who can be blamed? I think it’s
    #nickcleggsfault

  • @anthony

    When i took out my loan the agreement was that it would be paid back over 5 years once I’d exceeded the threshold. I borrowed just over 6k and hence now pay £120 a month. By your semantics (judging on the basis of what is meant by ‘just)’ then yes maybe I’m slightly more than ‘just’ over the threshold but it is certainly nothing like the 16k you suggest and relative to most graduates I still consider it to be only just over the threshold. Much as I feel no reason to justify myself to your santimony in a fit of pique I shall lower myself to point out that what its worth I’m also a public sector worker looking forward to a two year pay freeze, making larger pension contributions and unable to buy a home for the family that I currently support; if only i was as handsomely rewarded as you presume! I’m not complaining though because as your mate Gideon keeps telling me ‘we’re all in it together”.

    Interesting you want to knit pick rather than engage in any kind of debate.

  • The numbers in Browne’s report don’t add up. He assumes that with the withdrawal of funding grants the average fee will increase to £7,000; add to that 3 years maintenance and that’s an overall debt of 30K. Graduates begin paying back the fees and interest until it is all paid off, or until 30 years have passed. The report estimates that the majority of students will not pay back the full 30K – in fact, it only assumes that only 30% will. The other 70% will keep paying till the 30 year mark is reached and will stop short. Many courses will charge more than £7000 a year making the total debt bigger than 30K. This does not affect the rate of repayment though, so it is likely that the percentage of graduates paying in full will be even lower than 30%.

    A corollary of this is that for at least 70+% of students the government will not gain anything from increased fees over the new norm – and for the remaining 30% they can only expect to get the original amount back and no more. As such the Government will be totally reliant on a university levy make up for this. As such one would expect the levy to be about 70%, but it’s not – for rises between 7-12K the levy varies from 40% to 52%.

    The end result will be big debts for students (and that is what they are, obfuscation aside) and still a big shortfall for government to pay. It seems to be the worst of both worlds.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 12th Oct '10 - 9:11pm

    muxloe

    The reason I asked is that – as I indicated – I couldn’t work out why you should be paying so much if you were only just over the threshold. Now you’ve explained – evidently you took out your loan well over a decade ago, before the current system was introduced.

    The point is that now you only pay a percentage of the amount by which your income exceeds the threshold, and you don’t necessarily have to repay the full amount. The Browne report estimates that only 40% of students will, under its recommendations. Obviously that’s completely different from the old system that you’re talking about.

    That’s why people are saying it’s not like a straightforward loan. And it’s not nit-picking. For example, if you never exceed the threshold then you won’t repay a penny. That’s quite important.

  • @muxloe
    Concerning your post @6:36pm describing the effects of this change on “Rich Kids” Middle Class Kids” and working Class Children” is most probably correct (and rational) in my opinion and although the wording ‘may’ come across as a tad prejudiced to some, it doesn’t distract from the point you are trying to make.

  • Rabi Martins 12th Oct '10 - 9:40pm

    I totally agree with every word Linda Jack wrote

    The coalition agreement actually allows our MPs to choose not to support any increase in tuition fees. So why don’t they just do just that?

  • Anthony Aloysius St 12th Oct '10 - 9:46pm

    “The numbers in Browne’s report don’t add up.”

    There are detailed projections in the report based on various assumptions, but the essential point is that students/graduates would end up contributing nearly £2bn a year more, so the government would save roughly the same amount. Of course, the government would drastically reduce the money it currently pays directly to the universities, which is why it doesn’t matter that not all the loans would be repaid.

    Incidentally, the estimate in the report is that 40%, not 30%, would repay the full amount.

    “The end result will be big debts for students (and that is what they are, obfuscation aside)”

    You call it obfuscation, but it could just as easily be argued that for the majority it’s pedantic to insist on calling it a debt. For those 60%, to all intents and purposes it will be a fixed-term, income-dependent graduate tax.

  • Someone please tell me im wrong.
    The way i see it. Someone who borrows £30’000 for tuition fees would be saddled with the following.

    £30’000 + 5% interest over 30 years = total repayment of £57,978.00

    Total interest paid = £27’978.00

    Loans will not have to be repaid until a graduate earns £30k and only then has to pay back at a rate of 9% of there monthly income.

    Assuming the person is single and earning a salary of £30k thats a take home pay of £22’600

    or to put it another way £1885.00 a month.

    If they have to repay a student loan of 9% of 30k= £2700 / 12 months =£225.00 of their monthly income repaying a student loan.

    And £125.00 of that payment is only servicing the debt interest.

    Isn’t the coalition Governement the ones who are spouting that this nation can not survive as a Nation of Debt?

    How on earth do they excpect people from lower and middle class earners to afford getting into this kind of debt for the next 30 years?
    And we havn’t even got into the comprehensive spending review and the other cuts that lower and middle income earners are about to be hit with.

    It’s time to get real guy’s and look at the facts.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 12th Oct '10 - 10:00pm

    Matt

    The repayments would be 9% of the amount by which the salary exceeds the threshold, not 9% of total salary. So on £30K you would be paying £810 a year, not £2700.

    How much interest you pay would depend on how your salary varied through your career. 60% are expected not to pay of the full amount in any case.

  • Very quickly @Rabi, the coalition only allows abstention, not voting against, wheras the pledge is to vote specifically against increases. That is why there is an issue.

  • Thanks for pointing that out Anthony.

    But then doesn’t that make it even worse? you would be paying back less each month than the debt would be accumulating in interest?

    isnt that the same thing as a Budget Deficit that this Government keeps going on about?

    A lot of people will be saddled with this debt for years to come, with No Real hope of paying it off.

  • Malcolm Todd 12th Oct '10 - 10:25pm

    @muxloe

    The point is, the system has changed (and will change further under these proposals). You, like me, took out your loans at a point where the system was rather more abrupt: earn over the threshold (which I think is about £2400 a month – “luckily”, I’ve never passed that point) and you have to start paying the lot back. So, Anthony isn’t “nitpicking” – your situation is pretty irrelevant to the latest proposals, and indeed to the current situation. To be paying £120 a month under the current system, you’d have to be earning about £30,000 a year, and the latest proposals increase the threshold substantially. More importantly, there’s no “cliff-edge” effect.

  • Elaine & Henry 12th Oct '10 - 10:30pm

    And another quick point from us:

    @Steve Way and others bringing up other policy issues: Many of the points you make are understandable. However, these decisions form part of the reasonable compromise of the coalition (eg increasing VAT instead of CGT). Had there been a Lib Dem Majority Government, these things would not have happened, so hopefully you will help campaign with us some more next time. The Liberal Demcrats, alas, did not win a majority in the last election. The unique situation with tuition fees is that there were specific pledges to vote against an increase whoever formed the Government.

    In answer to your disappointment at coalition politics and your question ‘what did I get’ – you got a good proportion of what you voted for, despite the fact that 75%+ voted a different way. We have to accept that when you only win 23% of the vote, and get less than 10% of the seats in parliament, to get the proportion of our policies passed that the coalition agreement does is superb. What we cannot say yet, is whether or not your vote was wasted on this issue, as a number of MPs have stated – very clearly – that they will not vote with, or abstain on this issue.

    We support the coalition, but must always remember that a Liberal Democrat majority government would be far, far better, and there are many policy compromises which are definitely not Liberal Democrat policy…

  • Paul Kennedy 12th Oct '10 - 10:38pm

    I’ve read through Lord Browne’s executive summary, Vince’s speech, and the article and posts, and I think we are nearly all right in saying that:

    1. The Browne report makes a lot of sense from the point of view of ensuring universities are properly funded, public affordability, and promoting academic excellence which may well help the economy (although I note some of the doubts expressed about this), which are Vince’s prime responsibility as a Minister.

    2. But its recommendations are problematic socially, because they favour and will lead to selection by:
    (a) the very rich (who can afford to buy the best education, don’t care about the cost, and will have good accountants);
    (b) the very poor (who will receive direct financial help and incentives);
    (c) people who are less likely to have to repay, including women (arguably this merely redresses the imbalance caused by unequal pay and the unequal burden of childcare, but we still don’t want all-women universities!);
    (d) arts students who will end up paying less (even if universities are not allowed to charge differential fees there will be a trend for universities specialising in arts to charge less and those specialising in sciences to charge more).
    The recommendations will discourage the following groups from going to university in England:
    (e) young people from middle-income families
    (f) men
    (g) science students.
    The public cost of university funding will sky-rocket if a significant proportion of those attending are not expected to repay, or if the system creates further incentives to avoid repayment eg English graduate/non-English graduate couples seeking to minimise the English graduate’s income.

    3. The Browne report goes in the opposite direction to Lib Dem policy at the last election which is to scrap tuition fees, although many would accept that this aspiration is unattainable, at least in the short term. And we didn’t say we would abolish upfront fees, we said we would abolish fees.

    4. On the other hand, the coalition agreement suggests that Lib Dems will abstain if we cannot accept the Browne’s recommendations, and Ministers in particular cannot vote against the Government.

    5. Yet again, most of our MPs have pledged to vote against any increase in tuition fees.

    Alex M said that principle is running up against hard politics. But the hardest politics of all is that it is unacceptable for Lib Dem MPs to promise one thing before the election and do the opposite afterwards. Labour did it before the 2001 election when they promised not to introduce tuition fees, but their support is tribal. We by contrast stand or fall on our principles, and we will lose a large number of our core members and supporters if our MPs fail to keep their promises on this issue.

    Against this background, the only acceptable or practical approach is for Lib Dem MPs who have pledged to vote against any increase in tuition fees to keep their promise to the electorate. And no Lib Dem should vote in favour.

    A number of people have asked: where does that leave universities, and where does that leave the coalition? I think it leaves the Government accepting the principles in the Browne report, but unable to implement them without Labour support or at least abstention.

    Is that a bad outcome? I don’t think so. The Browne report was a Labour creation established on a cross-party basis, intended as cover for both Labour and Tory plans to increase tuition fees. Labour should now respond to the recommendations, on a genuinely cross-party basis. And in that discussion, Vince and his colleagues could be genuine mediators (because they are tasked with finding a solution but unable to support any increase in fees) between Labour and the Tories.

    I like Malcolm Todd’s fudge which could allow for legislation to bring in higher tuition fees from 2015, picking up students in their 4th years who started in 2012, 3rd years who started in 2013, 2nd years who started in 2014 and new students in 2015, but require secondary legislation which would be made and voted on only after the next general election. I also like the alternative idea that graduates’ receipt of the state pension should be deferred by the number of state-funded years they spend at university, which is a good way of solving the problem of pension costs, since statistics suggest that graduates enjoy higher life expectancy than non-graduates. However, I fear that this is a crude and very long-term solution, unless we can find a way of identifying existing non-retired graduates and introducing the policy fairly for them.

    Despite what our opponents say, although there are many policies we cannot implement (because Labour and the Tories are united against us), we have not broken any of our promises yet. For example we warned there would need to be savage costs and we didn’t rule out VAT, we merely said that our plans including the mansion tax, capital gains tax, deferring renewal of Trident, and removing higher rate tax relief on pension funds, would make it unnecessary. So please let’s not start now.

    Finally, we may all disagree with the Lib Dem leadership on certain aspects of tax-and-benefits policy. For example, I was unhappy with the mansion tax, local income tax, and the dropping of our earlier opposition to means-testing: if universal benefits are paid for by progressive taxes on the rich, then it doesn’t matter and avoids anomalies if some of those benefits are allowed to filter back. But I think we should all recognise that they are genuinely trying to find the right solution in the public interest, and respect them for it.

  • Argue figures all you like, but the totals are still scary, especially for those on lower incomes. ultimately, without being too specific, the cost (including interest) of a degree has increased by how much? fourfold? more?
    and now tell me just what did we promise/pledge?

    hide behind figures all you like, I for one feel like a hypocrite

  • I agree with just about everything in this piece

  • Andrew Tennant
    Posted 12th October 2010 at 3:25 pm | Permalink
    Sorry Henry, how does no cost upfront and variable repayments based on how much you earn following graduation prevent people from poor economic backgrounds from applying and taking up places

    Becuase Andrew you hav conveniently forgotten the sting in the tail that Maintenance loans will be reduced from a maximum of c4.9K to c3.7K a year. As well as the government loans poor students will have to run up significantly larger bank overdrafts.

    Can anyone explian how these proposals will help the deficit in any case. Someone (i.e. The Gvernmment wil have to pay the University fees up front and they wil only start to get the money back in 5 or 6 years….. just the same as a graduate tax may have been ?????

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

    What we do says who we are, well are the Lib Dem MPs men and women of principle or are the unpricipled imposters?

  • greg Tattersall 12th Oct '10 - 11:14pm

    The Lib Dems are at risk of the party going into decline.This is very serious.We could end up with just 6 MPs at the next election.Just like in 1970.Lib Dem members must act now to save the party.Tell the leadership enough is enough and no more.

  • @Paul Kennedy – best set of arguments and best analysis of what ought to happen.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 13th Oct '10 - 8:31am

    “Becuase Andrew you hav conveniently forgotten the sting in the tail that Maintenance loans will be reduced from a maximum of c4.9K to c3.7K a year. As well as the government loans poor students will have to run up significantly larger bank overdrafts.”

    No, that’s not correct.

    What’s proposed is to simplify the current system, which involves a combination of a repayable maintenance loan and a non-repayable maintenance grant (both varying according to the student’s family circumstances), with a flat-rate maintenance loan and an additional means-tested maintenance grant for those from poorer backgrounds.

    It’s proposed that both the total amount of maintenance support and the amount given as a non-repayable grant should increase. And the threshold for eligibility for some grant support would also be increased from a household income of £52,500 to one of £62,500. See pages 38 and 39 of the report for graphs and tables.

  • I am curious.

    Hypothetically what would happen if Liberal Democrats wanted to remove Nick Clegg as your party leader?

    What would happen to the coalition agreement if Libdems wanted to change there leader? Surly that doesn’t mean the end of the coalition.

    If Nick Clegg has stolen the bag of Liberal Democrats policies and principles and are steering the party in a direction they don’t want to take, surly something can be done about that, without destroying the coalition?

    I ask because I am genuinely curious, I am not posting to cause a stir. I find it really difficult to understand what Lib Dems are and arnt allowed to do in this coalition,
    i.e criticising publicly Tory policies because of some declaration that Clegg signed for Cameron.
    Lib Dem Ministers only allowed to Abstain from a vote,

    Was there anywhere in this agreement that the Liberal Democrats had to keep Nick Clegg as leader to remain in coalition?

  • Anthony Aloysius St 13th Oct '10 - 9:09am

    ” I find it really difficult to understand what Lib Dems are and arnt allowed to do in this coalition,
    i.e criticising publicly Tory policies because of some declaration that Clegg signed for Cameron.
    Lib Dem Ministers only allowed to Abstain from a vote,”

    It’s all written down in the coalition agreements. Lib Dem MPs in general – not just ministers – are only allowed to abstain on this vote. And the MPs backed that agreement overwhelmingly in May, even though they could see then that it would probably lead to breaking their pledge to vote against an increase in university fees. That was when the damage was done, not yesterday.

  • Chris Gilbert 13th Oct '10 - 9:23am

    It’s muh simpler and fairer to pay for them though general taxation. Fees never have, and never will be fair because they don’t take into account the services graduates provide society. A doctor benefits thousands of patients, some beyond the levels of payment they could ever hope to give them for their skills. A civil engineer benefits thousands of commuters.

    It’s got nothing to do with the middle classes – it’s got to do with people who are willing and able to learn being cherished for that ability. Instead of punishing them for choosing to further their learning, and get better at things. I n the words of the Kaiser Chiefs, just because “it’s cool to know nothing” doesn’t mean we should encourage that as a society.

    Everyone benefits from graduates. It’s is ridiculous to pretend that fees are fairer than general taxation. Just can’t ever be.

  • @Antony

    Thanks for that.

    I ask as I really am curious. It has only been the last couple of months that I have really took an interest in Politics and to be fair, It takes some to get your head around it lol.

    So it is in the coalition agreement that ALL Liberal Democrat Mp’s can only Abstain from a vote and not Vote against.

    Surly that’s very undemocratic to Force people to either support or waiver their right to be against a policy that they don’t agree with?

    What happens to Conservatives if someone in their party want’s to vote against one of their own policies? are they sacked?

    I understand that there where at least 10 Conservative MP’s who voted NO for a referendum on AV and they are now putting through Motions to make changes to the bill.

    How where they allowed to do this, if it is in the coalition agreement?

    Or is it case of the coalition agreement states what Liberal Democrats can and can’t do, But same rules do not apply to Conservative Mp’s.

    If this is the case then this is surly the most undemocratic Government we have had since the dark ages and surly it would be in the NATIONAL INTEREST to end this coalition asap and either form a new government (With a more fairer and democratic coalition agreement) or send us to the Polls again.

    As I said this is not a post to cause a stir, IT is a post from someone who is attempting to understand the way we are doing politics

  • Anthony Aloysius St 13th Oct '10 - 9:42am

    “we need to be clear that it is not the economic policy that has changed, but that our spending commitments were based on the revenue created by out tax proposals – that the Tories are denying us equalised CGT, an end to higher rate pension relief, green taxes and the mansion tax”

    I think what’s _really_ clear is that Lib Dem economic policy didn’t remotely add up.

    You can point to a few rises that haven’t been implemented – or haven’t been implemented fully – but you have to remember that the increase in VAT alone will raise £11bn. And most of the tax rises you mention would have gone to pay for the increase in the personal allowance to £10,000, of which only a fraction has been implemented, the rest having been reclassified as a long-term aspiration. Then there are the cuts to benefits in the emergency budget that weren’t Lib Dem policy, and on top of that the planned means testing of child benefit and the household benefit cap. Then there are other Lib Dem spending commitments that have been dropped or will be enacted only partially, such as the pupil premium, care for the elderly, an expansion of the rail network and so on.

    And then the huge item – still to come – is the general cutting of departmental spending by 25%. The Lib Dems were proposing nothing like that. Vince Cable said that the remainder of the spending cuts necessary to reduce the deficit would come from (1) defence cuts, (2) cuts in IT projects and (3) reform of public sector pensions. Nothing like the huge generalised cuts we’re going to see.

    I’m afraid the line that “This wouldn’t be happening if we had a Lib Dem government” just isn’t believable. There was a huge hole in the party’s economic policy as presented at the election.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 13th Oct '10 - 9:45am

    “Surly that’s very undemocratic to Force people to either support or waiver their right to be against a policy that they don’t agree with?”

    Not really – normally government backbenchers would be expected to vote in favour of government measures, and would be disciplined if they didn’t do so on a whipped vote. So allowing Lib Dem backbenchers to abstain on this issue is a concession.

  • @Anthony

    thanks for that, really do appreciate the info.

    Didn’t realise just how little I knew about politics and how naive some of us must be when it comes to politics and West Minister.

    I find it absurd that just because your a member of a political party, You are bound to support 100% a policy you might not agree with and risk disciplinary if you where to go against this.

    I find it even more ridiculous, if these same principles are applied to a coalition government where 1 party has totally different policies and ideals that their party stands for.

    Surly to apply the same whip to a different party is even more undemocratic, than doing it to your own party.

    I would have thought, if we where going to have a new way of doing politics ( which both Tories and Liberals kept shouting about) then surly provisions should have been made to make sure that coalition would happen whilst giving BOTH parties the ability to retain their own Identity and core beliefs.

    I am assuming that Government uses the Employment Law (A break down in Mutual Trust) as there given right to Discipline or sack MP’s that don’t support a policy?

    What happened to Employment Laws which prevents an Employer from Bullying or Intimidation? As I am quite sure that is what the Tories are doing to the Liberal Democrat MP’s

    A way of doing new politics (doesn’t seem so)

  • Yeah sticky situation we’ve got ourselves into. How much does HE cost in total anyway? I’m all for it coming out of general taxation.

    We must also be careful not to let Labour slide on this as they introduced fees, they commissioned Lord Browne’s review and they fought the last general election knowing the state of HE funding.

    Anthony – in regards to your economic policy comments at the time of the general election the IFS actually said that NO party was able to say how the deficit would be dealt wit, but that the Liberal Democrats had the most detailed plan of the three major parties. We also never stated that anything would be protected from spending reviews, not the NHS, education or police. In general the party is in favour of a review of benefits and I certainly have no issue with the principle of child benefit being taxed, just the means it’s delivered.

  • Geoff Crocker 13th Oct '10 - 11:29am

    1 It simply is not democracy to get elected on one conviction and then implement its opposite. It is not acceptable to rely on the claim that Labour left a mess – we all knew what the public accounts and the economic situation were at the time of the election when Vince and other Lib Dems committed to not raising student fees, period.

    2 Some universities could undoubtedly cut costs with no loss of output. I have recently completed an MA in philosophy at Bristol University. I calculated that the hourly rate charged in my fee for staff is about £150/hour, after making all allowances for staff preparation, marking, tutorial support and working this out per capita student. And this is for very low paid post doc staff lecturers. Universities clearly need some help in cost management.

    3 We cannot simply spread a ‘determination to make sure that those who can pay more do pay more’ to every area of life. It becomes a nonsense. If we add a quasi-graduate tax to a progressive tax system then we have a ‘double whammy’. If we then withdraw benefits from higher income earners eg child benefit (and what’s next ?) it’s a ‘triple whammy’. We’ve already withdrawn the personal tax free allowance for high earners, rendering them almost non-citizens. If Vince had had his way with a mansion tax it’s a ‘quadruple whammy’ and so on. Is it never the case that higher incomes are justified and are actually fair for higher contributions, either of higher capability, higher work input, higher output achieved, or higher risk taken? This doesn’t ignore the needs of low income earners and the consequent need for a progressive tax system – it simply moderates it at some point.

    4 Everyone benefits from an educated society including the poor – there are huge externalities (eg the development and provision of pharmaceuticals by the graduate community) and these should be factored in – they justify tax funded rather than privately funded higher education. Will we soon have an American higher education funding policy?

  • In his party political broadcast at the General Election, Clegg told the electorate: “I believe it’s time for promises to be kept.”

    So do I! If Lib Dem MPs have any integrity or honour left they will vote down any proposal to remove the cap on tuition fees, reject the Browne report and then cross the floor of the Commons and join the opposition. This is the only way now to curtail the ideological fanaticism of the Tories and thwart their ambition to destroy every vestige of the Welfare State. Confidence and Supply might also save some Lib Dem MPs their seats at the next election.

  • .
    In the lead article above, Elaine Bagshawe wrote: “Oh, and one last thing, whichever ‘senior Lib Dem’ said to the Guardian that “being in government means we are going to have to go through a long process of growing up” does a great disservice to the careful policy of the past.”

    This sentiment is not just coming from anonymous Lib Dem sources. Yesterday in the House of Commons, on the specific matter of the pre-election pledge made by the Lib Dems a few months ago, Vince Cable said:

    “…we’re in a world where we have inherited a massive financial mess and we have to come to terms with reality…”

    “…we have to come to come to terms with reality…”

    So – there you have it!

    .

  • .
    “…we have to come to come to terms with reality…”

    In case anyone wishes to challenge on the basis it is not in the speech transcript on the other thread, I should have added that Vince Cable said this in the Q&A session that followed his speech, when he specifically referred to what he called “the pledge, the promise.”
    .

  • Richarde, in the context of the above article the quotation used came from an anonymous source that was not Vince. Apologies if we did not make this clear.

  • All the humming and ha’hing of frantic avoidance seen on this thread needs to be discarded.
    The author identified the problem in simple enough terms. The libdem party solicited votes from a wide range of individuals by vowing to oppose any increase in fees. That pledge was signed fully aware of the economic climate
    (if they say there has been some epiphany underlining that it ‘is worse than they thought it was’, they really should not be seeking employment in politics, and especially Ministerial office.) The manifesto , again , flagrantly solicited votes offering the promise to seek the removal of all student fees.

    It is purely an issue of credibility , honesty , and , that unpoplar political spectre of honour. All libdems either vote against the increases or they have no claim on any credibility. If the libdem parliamentary party cannot grasp that , the rank and file need to remove their leadership and replace them with people possessing sufficient intellect to join some glaringly obvious dots.

    I agree it can be diffficult to discern a significant difference between politicians and whores…
    but really , it should never seem so undifferentiated as as it is in the current situation.
    Actually , I would guess a whore is less likely to misrepresent their terms.
    perhaps some politician could offer insight here,

    It seems liberal politics in the UK will be damned to possesing a distinctly ,shabby , lower case ‘l’. All claim on a dignified capital will have been discarded as the party rebrands itself as an annexe identified as NewTory.

  • DoctorSyntax 13th Oct '10 - 7:43pm

    A solemn pledge which he signed, waved in front of the cameras and spoke of telling the truth and keeping to his word and tried to contrast himself with politicians who did not tell the truth. He presumably was happy to gain the votes of students and families who were duped by his ‘pledge’. Breaking a solemn pledge is much more serious than the issue of how higher education is funded and is compounded by the mealy mouthed and evasive words in his letter. A better way of putting it would be to say that

    ‘I am very sorry that I misled young people and got them to vote for my party on a pledge that I have broken. This solemn pledge has turned out to be a lie and has damaged my credibility and that of my party and has also has set a very poor example to young people who will be disillusioned by my actions and are much less likely to be attracted to a career in politics or public life.

    However I am carrying on because I like the trappings of power and I never believed any of this Lib Dem nonsense in the first place.’

  • Charlie Hamilton 13th Oct '10 - 9:54pm

    How is it that state funding was affordable before 1998 but now isn’t? Could it be that lots of people are going to university that don’t need to? Why can’t a smaller number of only the most qualified candidates, regardless of background, be the ones who go to university?

    Degrees and university entry should be wholly meritocratic and not based on the ability or willingness to pay. And there is great honour in vocational training, apprenticeships and learning crafts and trades, which is just not reflected in the careers guidance given in schools.

    I graduated with £28,000 of student debt of various kinds, and I’m lucky that I’m likely to pay it off within around 11 years of graduating. Then I can actually begin to live, but at the moment this represents a monthly bill of over £400. I truly pity future students if things don’t improve.

    I am furious about this, and I consider it a huge betrayal of something that used to define the party I support. The MPs and ministers making these decisions mostly got grants and didn’t pay fees, but they’re suggesting saddling young people with huge financial burdens as they begin their working lives.

    They’re like Catholic priests dictating to people about their sex lives – they have no personal understanding of the implications of what they advocate.

  • Charlie Hamilton 14th Oct '10 - 10:37am

    @Alix – I wish. My salary is respectable, but nowhere near that. It’s not possibly to calculate it from the information I gave, so please don’t try.

    I made clear that £28,000 was made up of loans of various kinds. Student loan only accounts for part of it. I don’t remotely buy your argument above that student loans are somehow not crippling because people are getting credit of other kinds, and at higher rates. All of my debts were incurred to pay tuition and living costs.

    Yes I’ve benefited from a state-subsidised system, (it’s right that my taxes should be higher to compensate for this) I said myself that I’m lucky, because things are getting worse. Higher fees and bigger debts for future generations. It’s becoming truly off-putting, especially for talented people from poorer backgrounds.

    The point is that high taxation will never be a disincentive from trying to earn more. But the prospect of tens of thousands of pounds’ worth of debt (at the stage in life when our parents’ generation were able to set themselves up, debt free) will deter highly intelligent and motivated people from achieving their potential. I used to think that any person capable of going to a good university should do so. Now I’d seriously advise people to consider other options.

  • Charlie Hamilton 14th Oct '10 - 10:57am

    … and …

    @Alix “Why should anyone else pay for it?”

    Why should anyone else pay for your primary or secondary education? Or your healthcare? Or your police force?

    We live in a society in which taxation is used to pay for universal access to social goods, where markets alone do not provide just outcomes. Higher education is a social good for many reasons, not least because it enables people to earn more and therefore pay more tax. As a higher-rate tax payer, the income tax I pay over my lifetime will probably (hopefully) more than pay for the state-funded education I have received, and for that of several other lower earners as well. This is fair.

    Making it free at the point of delivery ensures that no one feels that, by trying to achieve their potential, they are taking a huge gamble – incurring a large cost, with great uncertainty as to whether their future earnings will make up for it – and with great *certainty* that debts will hold them back from getting a mortgage, saving for their own children, and living comfortably, potentially for decades after they graduate.

  • The fatal error was signing a coalition agreement which permitted only abstention when the Party had made so much of its policy to OPPOSE any fees increase and positioned that as one of our KEY policies. The attempted excuse that ‘we didn’t know how bad the books were’ is pathetic – are we by that admitting to incompetence, or deception? We all knew major cuts were coming and the Parliamentary Party’s unanimous public signing of the NUS pledge had to be a statement that this was one area we would ring-fence at the expense, as necessary, of greater cuts elsewhere or a slower reduction in the deficit or an increase in direct taxation. It will not do. Whenever any LibDem makes any future commitment we will be disbelieved and photos will be reproduced of a smiling Nick Clegg signing the pledge. As Kinnock would have said this is ‘grotesque chaos’ and it makes LibDems as bad as Militant were then. Too much for me – I can no longer campaign for people to vote Lib Dem and am cancelling my membership after 40 years. It is not the specific policy that has got to me – it is the sheer political incompetence that has placed the Party in this fatal position. Yes, a hung parliament was the worst possible outcome but, for heaven’s sake, there are Council groups up and down the country who would have played the hand we were dealt better than have Clegg et al. So long and thanks for all the leafleting

  • Niall Rowantree 14th Oct '10 - 10:00pm

    Three quick but important points.

    1) We need to wait and see the results of the spending review on 20th October. This can only be discussed fairly in the context of wider budgetary constraints and cuts. We’re in a situation, thanks to ring-fenced budgets, where previously regarded vital services such as primary and secondary education will be subject to cuts. In that context surely it’s worth considering asking students to make a contribution to their education.

    2) People haven’t looked at the details before reacting to this. It is probable that there will be early repayment penalties to prevent the wealthy re-paying early and therefore paying less interest. The proposals indicate poorer people will fare better as a result of Universities receiving better funding. The repayment threshold will be lifted and the amount of interest you pay will be tiered depending on your income. By the time you are repaying these loans you aren’t, by any reasonable measure, poor. Compare this to the US system where up-front payments are required!

    3) Most universities want it. If they don’t receive more funding then they will founder and fail – the last thing any of us want.

  • in response to Jock’scomment…

    @ Will:
    “The libdem party solicited votes from a wide range of individuals by vowing to oppose any increase in fees.
    It also solicited my vote *despite* its inequitable position on tuition fees.”

    Your comment has no relevance to that made by me. In fact , if anything it underlines the iniquity of Clegg and his party.
    Your comment actually highlights the fact you had a choice about whether to vote libdem, that choice being made in a full awareness that their policy on fees was one with which you disagreed.
    You made that choice. You were enabled to , you were not misled, deceived, or lied to.
    Many others were seduced into voting libdem by blatant lies told before ,and MP’s breaking faith after, the electoral event.

    Comparing the two outcomes, of your voting for a party despite knowing a major policy issue was not to your liking, and others being conned by PLEDGED positions , signed moral contracts rather than implied ones, is exactl;y the kind of deceitful trickery we are expecting from a party leadership aparently willing to lie and waffle as it prostitutes itself .

    As a more general comment…
    It seems many hardcorre libdem supporters are missing the core point here. poll returns have demonstrated a crash of libdem popularity from 23% to 11%. That was after a matter of weeks.
    That is tthe result of what many of us see as manifest, flagrant , political dissimilation that appears to know no boundaries , limits nor sense of honour and responsibility.
    The outcome is simple , and glaringly obvious as a threat to libdems. The support they were likely to gather , from voters like myself, is fading fast. I was a lifelong labour voter , sick to death of New Labour and its faux tory policies. I was very shifting to voting libdem , as were many in my circle of awareness. Since the coalition I have not heard one single person who was even likely to switch to libdem express that view. Every one , of dozens either expresses relief they did not vote libdem, or those that did so vow it is the last time they will ever do so , or believe the libdem party.
    This issue will probably do far more harm than any past scandal .
    The issue is far broader than just fees. Here we will see the full measure of how the British electorate can view the libdems.
    Are they credible individuals who speak from a basis of truth and honour ?,
    or,
    are they mealymouthed , deceitful, lying little sycophants who will whore themselves, their promises and their voters out for some transient sniff of power ?.

    For God’s sake , the libdems have a situation where Cameron a Tory , controls what amounts to a parliamentary whip over sections of the Libdem party membership. Cameron controls how your elected representatives represent you. That is patently rediculous to anyone apart from those dediicated to a drab fifteen miinutes of fame and a cheap moment in the sun.

    It is also sad that some foolishly ask why we all should pay for anyone getting a degree etc. Very few would be able to train as Doctors etc if the full cost had to be borne by themselves. Only the very rich. If we follow the argument higher education should be paid for by the individual , why is it the likes of Cameron , Clegg , and many other politicians aren’t expected to pay a higher rate of graduate tax as they benefitted ( in the main) from free , state funded , fee paid , higher ed’. Odd that their financial public conscience only extends to the inflated numbers now in , or heading for , Universities. Why does it not surprise me that a multimillionaire dislikes the idea of a graduate tax , when he and his like would niot really miss the ccoat to themselves.
    We also have Cameron et al bemoaning that thousands of public servants, thousands more in schools, hospitals , universtieis, earn higher wages than the PM… Of course they do. I would have thought Cameron would know that Thatcher introduced a concept into public service demanding they all adopted a Business ethic. They did so , part of that was an unfettered recruitment free for all , where sesnsible salary scales were scrapped and insane increases became the norm in higher management levels.

    Sad to say we are encountering a reversal of that view about the whole economic problem.

    The slump was not caused by some mythical communist/socialist intervention that corrupted international markets.
    No, the problem was caused by significant numbers of very wealthy individuals who brought about a series of events , generated by their competitive , unfettered greed, encouraged by a get rich at any cost Capitalist world system. Now when that wealthy , over privileged, overpaid, bunch of incompetents have presented us with a mess , they expect ALL OF US to pay for their mess, and even arrange bail outs using public money , whilst still paying lovely bonuses to those sponsoring disaster..
    I am certainly not a communist, I doubt II would even qualify as a socialist these days… yet I have no problem realising that the mess results from financial elites getting it badly wong, not from the masses of any country’s population.
    Yet , it is the far lower paid section that wiill be expected to finance any recovery so wealthy messmakers can preserve their wealth and have another go at whatever finacial mismanagement brought us to the slump in the first place.

    Mass public financial resonsibilty only becomes an issue when it is the mass public that benefits. When it serves the wealthy , it appears to be seen as fine.

    It had seemed the libdems had spotted that and incorporated it…
    Sadly… How wrong I was.

  • dave thawley 15th Oct '10 - 9:55pm

    The browne report really should be voted down. Its tory policy and anti-liberal. Since we are liberals we cannot condone it. Any MP who votes for it are Tory and should go and join their own party so that liberals can run our party again.

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