What does the party believe?

 

The aftermath of a general election is always a good time to reassess what the party is about – why we are Liberal Democrats, what we mean by Liberalism (or, if you prefer, Liberal Democracy) and what this implies for our politics over the next five years. The party carried out this exercise after the 2005 and 2010 elections, but the catastrophic result of this year’s election, coupled with the huge, and very welcome, influx of new members, make it a vital part of the fightback this time.

So the Federal Policy Committee is proposing a series of activities to set a framework for discussion and debate throughout the party. In agreement with the Federal Conference Committee, we plan to use a number of sessions of the autumn conference to discuss the basic beliefs and values of the party – its philosophy. These will be structured round a consultation paper we’re working on now and which will be available in July, soon after the conclusion of the leadership election.

The party hasn’t attempted to describe its basic beliefs in full since the paper It’s About Freedom, published in 2002, though the post-election policy review papers both attempted, in different ways, to provide concise summaries.

Our new consultation paper will draw on all of these, and the 2015 manifesto, and other sources, to set out a brief description of the Liberal Democrat philosophy. It certainly won’t be the last word on the party’s beliefs – you may agree with it, want to amend it, or tear it up in rage, but we hope it will help you think through what you and your fellow party members believe, and talk to us and the rest of the party about it.

We want the paper to be used as widely as possible throughout the party. We’ll be setting up a special section of the party website to solicit responses. We will also commission opinion pieces from a range of political thinkers, and organise an essay competition, open to everyone (thanks to Chris Read, who suggested the idea on Lib Dem Voice a few weeks ago).

We will encourage local parties to organise discussion meetings round the topic, and hope that conferences of state and regional parties, SAOs and AOs will organise sessions on it (FPC members are happy to speak to them, if wanted). More details on all this will follow. We hope Lib Dem Voice, and other blogs from party members, will want to get involved – and we’re certainly open to any other ideas you may have.

(We will also be reviewing the policy-making process itself, with a separate consultation paper and session at conference. We’ll write further about this in a few weeks’ time.)

One product of the exercise will be a full policy paper for debate at the spring conference in 2016; another will be a programme of policy development for the FPC and the conference to follow for the next five years. But of course, more widely, we want the debate on the party’s beliefs to bring the whole party together, to inspire us and to help us better to persuade the country what Liberalism is and what the Liberal Democrats are for.

 

* Duncan Brack and Julie Smith are the Vice Chairs of the Federal Policy Committee

Read more by or more about or .
This entry was posted in News.
Advert

81 Comments

  • Eddie Sammon 10th Jun '15 - 12:43pm

    I was feeling negative about this article, but there is a little gem in it: “We will also be reviewing the policy-making process itself”. The policy making process needs to become more professional. A group of amateurs shouldn’t be able to overrule the Bank of England, the civil service and party chiefs and start coming up with new mandates for monetary policy. Monetary policy is just the start of it. The whole policy making process needs to become more evidence based and professional.

    As I said on Twitter: we need a Select Committee approach. Comprehensive scrutiny and consultation with experts. Evidence based policy could be a liberal thing that all party members can rally around. Beliefs matter too, but I feel there is too much emphasis on beliefs at the moment.

    Thanks

  • I agree with Eddie’s comments to an extent. The democratic approaches to policy-making is a strength rather than a weakness, however a committee made up of experts should fine-tune and ‘hammer out and kinks’ and proposal that come from members in order to make sure they are workable rather than just accepting them unadulterated

  • One development that is needed is the ability to dump policies that are no longersuitable, how the tuition fees proposal survived so long I don’t know, and there it hangs like an albatros round the Parties collective neck.

  • Alex H “I agree with Eddie’s comments to an extent. The democratic approaches to policy-making is a strength rather than a weakness, however a committee made up of experts should fine-tune and ‘hammer out and kinks’ and proposal that come from members in order to make sure they are workable rather than just accepting them unadulterated”

    It is regularly said on here and elsewhere that Lib Dem policy is decided by Conference and not by the Leader, thus making the Lib Dems a uniquely democratic party. However we now know that this claim is completely fallacious. If you need proof, just look at what happened on secret courts!

  • Psi,

    We do need a new policy on tuition fees… But it need not be the one that makes us probably the most expensive countries in the world to go to University. Fore example if you are a California resident you pay about £8260 to go to Berkeley or UCLA. And more than half pay nothing http://admission.universityofcalifornia.edu/paying-for-uc/

    Meanwhile the most successful countries like Germany have moved to zero tuition http://www.topuniversities.com/student-info/student-finance/how-much-does-it-cost-study-germany. If I had school age children I would be pushing out the boat on German language skills and encouraging them to go to Germany for university – and to stay there for employment in a more stable and successful country…

  • Paul In Wokingham 10th Jun '15 - 2:32pm

    Quite by chance I posed the question “what is the point of the Liberal Democrats?” on another thread of this forum a few hours before this article was posted. Because frankly, at this point, I don’t know.

    The “orange book tendency” (yes, a sloppy shorthand but one that we all understand) continues to behave as though the resounding rejection of their platform in the general election was a failure in understanding on the part of the electorate rather than a considered rejection of the direction in which they had dragged the party.

    This proposal – if acted on – could decide the philosophical direction of the party for a generation. That makes it exceptionally important. I would hope for a “Lib Dem Redux” based on the principles we pursued before 2007. But I have no confidence that this will happen.

    As I said a few days after the general election (a position which upon reflection I do not care to change) I suspect the party has fallen below critical mass and is no longer capable of sustaining itself. The growth in membership feels like a dead-cat bounce. None of the remaining MPs has as yet caught the speaker’s eye in PMQ’s. To paraphrase Vince Cable’s comment about the economy in 2008: the general election was a massive heart-attack for the party and its prognosis is bleak.

    We are looking at five years of extremely difficult rebuilding which even then might well fall short. A year ago on the members’ forum I asked why no MP was prepared to stand up and call for Clegg to resign. The only reply was that being leader of the party before the 2015 GE would be a “poisoned chalice”. How much more poisoned now when the prognosis for the survival of the party is bleaker than anyone could have imagined in June 2014.

  • Eddie Sammon 10th Jun '15 - 3:16pm

    Thanks Alex H. I don’t mean to be dismissive of party votes on policy and a lot of it already is professional, but maybe the threshold to get an amendment accepted should be increased?

    I also think some of the policies that come out of the working groups have been flawed too. I don’t know how these working groups are run, but someone with experience of them could perhaps look at making improvements?

    I’m looking forward to seeing what comes back from this process. Good work by Duncan and Julie, but I would urge against too much naval gazing about beliefs.

  • Duncan Brack asks “What does the party believe?” My answer: ask them. Individually. Using a questionnaire.
    Cut out all the FPC/FCC/Conference stuff, it’s not needed. It just adds layers of complexity and obfuscation. Do what Eddie suggests – consult experts, get recommendations and send them out to be voted on in an all membership ballot.

    @Andrew Germany also has a tripartite education system with selection based on ability.

  • @Paul in Wokingham “As I said a few days after the general election … I suspect the party has fallen below critical mass and is no longer capable of sustaining itself.”

    In which case will you be administering assisted dying, and where do you suggest we migrate to?

  • @Andrew – absolutely agree on the need for zero tuition fees, as per Germany.

  • @JUF “zero tuition fees, as per Germany”

    But that’s not the whole story.

    Firstly, getting a degree in Germany takes a minimum of eight semesters, which is one year longer than in the UK. Many if not most German students live at home and many take semesters off to work, meaning that they often don’t graduate until their mid-20s.

    Secondly less than 30% of German school-leavers go to University.

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Jun '15 - 5:24pm

    Psi

    One development that is needed is the ability to dump policies that are no longersuitable, how the tuition fees proposal survived so long I don’t know, and there it hangs like an albatros round the Parties collective neck.

    As others have said, other countries can manage full state subsidy of universities, so why can’t we?

    When people like you keep pushing out this line, it’s incredibly damaging to our party. Stop knocking our party and making it look bad.

    We saw the damaging effect of this in the Coalition. Instead of supporting party policy, but saying we couldn’t implement it because the Tories wouldn’t agree to the necessary taxation, our Leader went into party-knocking mode. Well, if you believed him, it made our party look bad, and if you didn’t it made him look bad.

    The consequence of the line our Dear Leader used was that the party was undermined, and people were given the impression that as he was now rubbishing the party and its policies he never actually believed in either in the first place, and that supported the “nah nah nah nah nah” argument that it was a lie in the first place.

    Of course it is affordable – if the people are willing to pay the necessary taxes. If they are not, then say that instead of attacking the policy and the party.

  • Matthew Huntbach ” ……he was now rubbishing the party and its policies he never actually believed in either in the first place, ”

    Well that is the truth. Clegg never believed in the free tuition fees policy, not did Vince as he himself admits in his piece here a few days ago about Charles Kennedy. It didn’t stop them signing a personal pledge and misleading voters into thinking they were being sincere and that the pledge was made in good faith. It wasn’t.

  • We certainly need to reassess what the party is about but I fear that a process that looks very like the traditional way of making policy culminating in a conference session is not going to help much.

    The Internet has disrupted whole industries over the last few years but Lib Dem policy-making sails on serenely, untroubled by the advent of the Internet age – and absolutely failing to cut the mustard with the public. I think policy-making is over-ripe for disruptive innovation and this would be the perfect opportunity to start. Indeed it maybe the only chance the Lib Dems have of rescuing the situation.

    The Internet creates the opportunity to open up the process and thereby harness the vast experience of the membership, creating a new type of activist and democratising the process at the same time. Here is my step by step guide to disrupting policy-making in a good way.

    (1) Start a policy blog on behalf of the FPC, perhaps edited by Duncan Brack and Julie Smith. (2) Invite members and fellow travellers to contribute articles and comments in the usual way. (3) Require participants to register in order to write or comment but allow them to use a pseudonym. This would keep trolling to a minimum (offenders would be barred) and allow those with job restrictions etc. to participate. (4) Set up the site so that ultimately it will have multiple tabs dedicated sections for specific policy areas – e.g. energy policy, housing, schools etc. but start with only a single tab to keep it simple. That should, of course, be “what are we about?” or, better, “narrative”. (5) Make comments nested so it’s possible to reply to a specific comment even when up-thread. (6) As a regular feature include block of links to relevant and interesting material elsewhere on the Internet including blogs, news items, think tank and official reports etc. (7) As a permanent feature include a tab for “Feedback/how can we improve”. Continual improvement must be the goal.

    All that would soon build into an amazing resource sorted by topic and accessing expertise from the membership and supporters on a scale the party could never afford. Inter alia, that would really help spokesmen who, I rather suspect, would otherwise be poorly supported. Of course, many of the contributions would be wrong or muddled but the commentariat would sort most of that out and the guiding principle should be to let a thousand flowers bloom.

    What should then be done with this material – and the inevitably conflicting views on some topics. Plan A would be for the FPC and/or Conference to nominate one particular position as “orthodox” but that’s not really worked too well in the past. Plan B would be to let spokesmen just use it as a resource to help them stake out a position bearing in mind what they think is deliverable politically.

  • Simon Gilbert 10th Jun '15 - 7:58pm

    I really like Gordon’s idea re a forum to incubate and test policy. Perhaps inbuilt voting would allow the popularity of ideas and discussions to be gaugued, in a similar way to how reddit works,

  • Simon Gilbert 10th Jun '15 - 8:04pm

    @Eddie’s initial response I would be wary of only listening to ‘experts’ as they are often the most vested in the prevailing system. A banker won’t have any incentive to consider Austrian economics, nor would a commitee of transport experts in the 19th century have invented a car, as they would be too busy trying to make a slightly better horse.

  • Posts about free education in Germany and ignore Scotland.
    A discussion on the length of a degree in Germany and total ignorance of the same variation in Scotland.
    It would appear that the completely different education system / legal system in Scotland has been missed by our neighbours.

    This sums up the problem with all of the unionist parties in failing to recognise the elephant in the room – Scotland is a nation. A nation that will either remain part of a union or be forced to go her own way.

    Why are LibDem politicians in Scotland such hardline unionists? The speak about a Federal Union in sound bites on TV but I have never encountered such venom as the LibDem activists spewed out during the Independence debate/Referendum.

    The posts above sum up the ignorance. They assume the policies of England apply across the UK.

    Don’t look to Germany – Listen to the demands for a civic society in Scotland – try free education demand keeping the retirement age down /push for higher pensions / Bairns before Bombs / etc etc

    The LibDems continue to move Right. I’m afraid a soft Tory is still a Tory.

    Roll on 2016 when Scotland can re-inforce the message of 2015.

  • Clootie,
    I do apologise for not including Scotland in “us” That would have reduced the average cost of going to University in the UK to about the same as California!

    Actually I think Scotland is greatly to be congratulated on adopting Lib Dem policy (because I believe it still is, isn’t it?) on tuition fees! Although my colleagues in Scottish universities complain that they are significantly less well funded than in England

    I happen to agree with you that the Lib Dems were disappointingly Unionist in the referendum instead of positively promoting our policy of federalism (and self-determination)

    I really don’t think the existence of Scotland invalidates comparisons with Germany though. Germany is a long-established independent and very successful country, while Scotland is a semi-autonomous part of the UK with a system of government which is untested as a separate country.

    I think you will find that the Lib Dems have stopped moving right, and that will hopefully be apparent by the time of the Holyrood elections. Meanwhile do you have any comment on the centralising tendency of the SNP?

  • Lauren Salerno 10th Jun '15 - 10:07pm

    I would argue that whilst we are more democratic than most parties we are not in fact democratic

    Many of us on low incomes cannot afford conference and are thus excluded – diversity groups often controlled by a small clique that exclude dissenting voices

    If we want a truly democratic process then we need to rebuild completely and be prepared to sacrifice ALL – I have little faith in the FPC or structures as they exclude albeit unintentionally

    We must use all means to include all members and any policy or process decision of this magnitude should be decided by referenda not the privileged cliques

  • @Andrew as I showed up thread the comparison with Germany is not valid given the nature of their system, the smaller percentage of the population that go to university and the different length and structure of their courses.

    @Lauren @Sara @ Gordon +1

  • Delighted to see my idea of a Competition, posted here just after the election, has been taken up at least in part. I will e-mail one or both authors of this piece (just as soon as I track down e-mail addresses) as I am interested in how the idea will be used. I was just on the point of mailing both leadership contenders with my idea but I may hold fire on that the FPC is running with the idea

  • “… It also allows the party to be dominated by cliques of amateurs with the most assertive people rising to the top regardless of competence.”

    This is an odd statement in the light of last month’s general election which was dominated by so-called “professionals”, they were the people who drove the party over a cliff despite the warnings from the “amateurs” who were clearly more experienced and more competent.

    When the party was run by amateurs we gained seats at parliamentary by-elections, local elections and general elections.

    Fortunately the party will not be able to afford to pay the salaries of so-called professionals in the next few years so we canlook forward to a return to competence and a return to the winning of elections.

    I hope this comment passes the moderation test as I have not made reference to any particular “member of staff”.

  • Peter Watson 11th Jun '15 - 8:12am

    “why we are Liberal Democrats, what we mean by Liberalism (or, if you prefer, Liberal Democracy) and what this implies for our politics over the next five years”
    I think it is very important for the party to address this issue explicitly (rather than let the leadership election be some sort of vague surrogate). I don’t know if the proposal is the best way to do it, but I think it will be a difficult task in a few key policy areas. The “oranges vs. lefties” split is an important aspect, but browsing a recent survey (https://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/gxvihxoixc/SundayTimesResults_150515_Website.pdf) I was surprised that Lib Dem voters seem to be more split than other parties on a range of issues including fracking, grammar schools, the Human Rights Act, African migrants in the Mediterranean, Cameron’s performance as a PM, whether this government is good or bad for people like them, and even Kevin Pietersen’s role in english cricket!
    Pinning down what the party believes in terms of detailed policy rather than a vague commitment to “liberalism” which allows everybody to interpret it differently will be a challenge.

  • Peter Watson 11th Jun ’15 – 8:12am

    I followed your link to the YouGov poll published in The Sunday Times.
    Am I reading it correctly? A poll of either 159 or 110 people who say they voted Liberal Democrat in the 2015 General Election?

    People who fill in YouGov polls who say they voted for our party in the previous election have not always been a good guide to what members of the party believe.

    I might go further and say that what matters is what party activists believe. If they are inspired by their beliefs to go and and work to get our people elected that is what will rebuild the party. This is why one of the leadership candidates stands head and shoulders above the other. The ability to inspire the activists rather than constantly hark back to a rather dull couple of years as a junior minister ought to be the determining factor for deciding which candidate can be trusted with the future of the party.

    Should we be too exercised about the possibly superficial views of people who voted for us because they felt sorry for Nick Clegg or because his Torylite appearance did not offend them ?
    Should we be too worried about the views of that that tiny, tiny minority who actually agreed with the Utopian Libertarianism of Jeremy Browne?

    It might be better to consider what the people who did NOT vote for us in 2015 but had voted for us in the previous general elections when we increased our number of MPs from to 62.

  • Duncan Brack 11th Jun '15 - 9:39am

    Thanks to everyone for all the comments. As I said in the original article, we’ll be carrying out a separate exercise to review the policy-making process itself, and we’ll be talking more about that in a few weeks’ time. All the comments made here about process have been noted, though, so thanks again.

    Many of the comments are about specific policy positions. We think that it’s helpful to start from a shared understanding of the basic Liberal Democrat approach and beliefs – what we think of as the good society and how we get there. From that starting point, we can consider the evidence and the views of experts (which are almost never, in any case, unanimous or point to just one ‘right’ policy) and reach conclusions about what Liberal Democrat policy should be. Having said that, I’m not claiming that we can reach a description of the Liberal philosophy that will satisfy everyone – we wouldn’t be Liberals if that was the case! – but the process of drawing it up and debating it is an essential process for any party claiming to be internally democratic. And of course although many of the posters on this thread have done this kind of thing before, over a quarter of the party membership is new and hasn’t.

  • Andrew Purches 11th Jun '15 - 10:10am

    With reference to Peter Watson’s comment and statement that the Libereal Democrats must be pinned down as to what the Party believes in,in terms of detailed policy, is the point, and this is something that has been anyone’s guess for many a year. But I would suggest that the Party indulges in some History lessons of the 20th Century,with particular reference to the growth of Nazism and Fascism throughout Europe when Social Democracy,Liberalism and Marxism where all used as a cancer to be destroyed at all cost by the National Socialist ( Fascist) parties who promised to recreate the Nation States in their image after the debacle of the first War. Liberalism in this country in effect died with Lloyd George after the War,when it lost its identity and commenced upon a long saga of mealy mouthed compromise (in the National Interest?) with the Tory Party in the main,and also with Labour. We now have a neo- Liberatarian Party running our country led by Cameron, and a destroyed and morally destitute Labour Party : a golden opportunity to forge a left of centre, purpose made identity, that will have strong Electoral Appeal. Can we ? I suspect not. Campaigning now for a reduction in the voting age might be a starting point – these youngsters votes will need to be in the bag for the Lib Dems in five years time.

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Jun '15 - 10:56am

    Phyllis

    Well that is the truth. Clegg never believed in the free tuition fees policy, not did Vince as he himself admits in his piece here a few days ago about Charles Kennedy. It didn’t stop them signing a personal pledge and misleading voters into thinking they were being sincere and that the pledge was made in good faith. It wasn’t.

    You illustrate my point very well.

    I have argued with you and others many times over what I regard as the ridiculous suggestion that the Liberal Democrats could easily have persuaded the Conservatives to support full direct state subsidy of universities without damaging consequences. Your argument insists they could have done, and it is just due to the Liberal Democrats being bad people that they did not wave their hands, say “jump” and 307 Conservative MPs would have jumped and agreed to support tax increases to subsidise universities.

    I believe that the compromise that was reached was the best that could have been reached. I believe it was the greatest success for the Liberal Democrats in the 2010-2015 government because it saved the English university system. Had the Liberal Democrats not made the humiliating step of seeming to reverse what they had said in return for the Conservatives agreeing to far more borrowing to fund universities than they would ever have agreed to had it been direct state borrowing, the Conservatives would have insisted on massive cuts to pay for the subsidy the Liberal Democrats insisted on, much of which I suspect would have fallen on the universities themselves.

    I don’t say this because I believe the fees and loans system is the best way to do it, I would still prefer direct state subsidy. However, full direct state subsidy without big cuts was just not an option. It doesn’t mean it’s “impossible”, it means it’s impossible if it requires Conservative backing.

    However, the claims by our Dear Leader and others on his side that it was impossible full stop rather than impossible due to the Conservatives not being willing to agree to it undermine my argument. Thanks to Nick Clegg and those like him, you do not believe the defence I am giving of my own party. You refuse to listen to what I am saying, though I say it from direct experience working in the sector, and I have had it confirmed by very senior people in that sector. Instead you just jeer “nah nah nah nah nah, you are just like the rest in your party, you deliberately fooled us just to win votes”. And, thanks to people like you who spent five years doing this jeering, the Liberal Democrats were destroyed in their strongholds and those places went back to the Tories. So I hope David Cameron is sincerely thankful to you and your type, Phyllis, for handing complete control of the country to him and his type.

    Now suppose Nick Clegg had actually done the leader job properly. Instead of using this issue for factional infighting, blaming people in his own party and its democratic system for imposing this “impossible” (to Tories and Tory-minded people) policy, he should have stood up for his party, he should have done the job he was elected to do. He should have said that yes, he accepted the policy, as he did when he agreed to it being at the forefront of the 2010 general election campaign, and did not think it was a bad or impossible policy. In the name of party unity and doing his job as the spokesperson for the party as a whole and not just for the Orange Book faction, he should have defended what it did and said. And then, yes, say that unfortunately due to the Conservatives being unwilling to accept the tax consequences, and bearing in mind how much else the party wanted would have been lost had the Liberal Democrats stuck to the “pledge” and thus caused the Conservative to inflict big cuts to pay for it, he realised that he would need to concede on this one, and instead put effort into making sure the loans system was generous in entitlement and payback conditions.

    Had he done this, I think (or at least hope) you would have believed him. However, here as elsewhere, due to the Orange Bookers continuing to push the party to the right and play factional games denouncing centrist and left-inclined members throughout the period of the coalition, and due to Nick Clegg being very obviously biased to that wing, the line “it was a necessary compromise” gets dismissed by the likes of you because you think “Oh, they’re just saying that to disguise it being what they really wanted in the first place”.

  • Clearly it is up to Nick Clegg and Vince Cable to speak for themselves.

    If you want “the truth” Phyllis, then it is that you do not know. To me it seems much more likely that they hoped to find a workable graduate tax, which I think NUS advocated at the time, but in time, I am sure that they will account for themselves. My very serious complaint is that they failed to advocate the new system strongly enough and allowed the ‘Lib Dem lies’ message a free run.

    Matthew: doubtless Cameron understands very well how the attacks from the like of Phyllis have handed seats to the Conservatives.

    However the problem is now.

    Free tertiary education is a fine Liberal objective, just as is free primary and secondary education. However unless we spell out in detail how it is to be costed and by what mechanism, we will appear grotesquely stupid. In fact we will be re-inventing the wheel that has been breaking us: how dumb is that?

    Advocate free tertiary education by all means, but in the same breath spell out the cuts or tax increases that go alongside. Even then, such a policy would still be treated as evidence that Lib Dems are in a parallel universe, but vague stuff about efficiencies, cutting tax evasion etc would entitle anyone to consider the policy a joke.

  • @Martin “Free tertiary education is a fine Liberal objective, just as is free primary and secondary education. ”

    But there is a significant difference between primary and secondary (for the most part) education, and tertiary education, and that is that tertiary education is not made compulsory by the state.

  • @John Tilley “This is why one of the leadership candidates stands head and shoulders above the other.”

    Which one is that – is it the one who’s employment record, “if examined in minute detail [would lead to] all sorts of conclusions [being] jumped to”, or the other one?

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Jun ’15 – 10:56am……………………I have argued with you and others many times over what I regard as the ridiculous suggestion that the Liberal Democrats could easily have persuaded the Conservatives to support full direct state subsidy of universities without damaging consequences………………….

    I didn’t read Phyllis’s comment as a “nah nah nah nah nah”; quite the opposite. I believe that a major reason that Clegg, Cable didn’t go down the “We couldn’t implement the policy because…”, or even abstain (as was permitted in the coalition agreement) was that they really DIDN’T support the policy. Why else did they vote for the increase ?

  • @expats if Nick and Vince didn’t believe in the policy, that just goes to show that electing a leader with a set of views, on the basis of OMOV, and having policies mandated on that leadership by a group of uber activists, with another set of views, is a recipe for “confusion”.

  • David Evans 11th Jun '15 - 1:51pm

    TCO – 5/10 but must try harder. Just one main point of clarification – electing a leader with a set of views many of which he didn’t make clear at the time, on the basis of OMOV, and having policies voted on democratically by a wider group members is a recipe for participative democracy.

  • @David Evans “– electing a leader with a set of views many of which he didn’t make clear at the time, on the basis of OMOV, and having policies voted on democratically by a wider group members is a recipe for participative democracy.”

    So a leadership election in which every single party member can vote is somehow less democratic than a policy-making process in which a self-selecting group determine what policy should be?

    See me – no gold star this time 😉

  • On ‘What does the party believe’ I would hope it is EQUALITY in every aspect of organisation and policy. If so, there is a job to do on a number of levels:

    1. Recognising that we are not very democratic – just a little more democratic than the others maybe – and we have much ‘heavy lifting’ to do to bring our party to the millions who would support a move to include them immediately, not via so many groups. Democrats? Really? iNCLUDE EVERY MEMBER immediately!
    2. Do we have specific representatives from minorities and those not so minority [i.e. larger groups] on these Regional and other ‘super groups’ who decide how we should work together? A democratic party should be inclusive of all and never ‘Top Down’, wherever the ‘Top’ is centred – and we seem to have become ‘groupies’ recently. There are minorities we have not even considered in our grey-suited reps [sorry but we have become too Tory ourselves – tainted by association]. Do we include inner city reps, agriculture reps, NHS reps, education reps, minority reps in every field…. the list should include ALL our expertise [inner city reps are really experts as they really struggle]. If we only elect big-wigs [well-known] to party decision-making we have become the wrong sort of democracy.
    3. Use the internet to bring together ideas and distill them to themes members consider and support via computer systems- which several of us have proposed and Gordon 10th Jun ’15 – 6:53pm has commented upon so well. We must make a system which is every-member-led and not distinguished-people led. The internet/computer-led methods will take us there [LDs are notorious on computer programmes].
    4. Allow every member to vote at conference via internet links to the hall inself. I can see how Eastbourne members could flood conference when its in Eastbourne so ALL members must be involved if they have TV or computer access. There are probably other links which we can use [sorry I don’t think Twitter is appropriate]. A democratic party should set the standard via 2015 technology and keep updating because modern involvement via technology is key to an equality party.
    5. Our leader must never again be able to side-step the full membership and come up with some glib doctrine we do not support – leaving us in a situation not of our choice. Eqality is our starting point and if we go down in history as failed it should be on our stand for equality and not on sound-bites or glib vote-catching.
    6. We are static on 61,000 members now. When it comes to voting, 61,000 will get us nowhere. We are delighted to have so many new members but they must be engaged and cared for – and grow a greater membership based on their enthusiasm. More than that, we need thousands more members than any other party – gained by involvement in our processes and never again sleeping into oblivion. That is the paty millions will vote for. Democratic. Involving all EQUALLY. Using every method in the book – and every new book we will create.

    p.s. I don’t know the inner workings of LDV, so a question about why I always get LDV the following day at 7 am as I’m leaving to work etc. Other members seem to get LDV 18 hours or more ahead of me. Why is that? Are we divided into group lists to receive LDV postings? Can we become equal members of LDV too please. That will always be my message about Liberal Democracy. EQUALITY.

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Jun '15 - 9:42pm

    expats

    Why else did they vote for the increase ?

    Because if they hadn’t then universities would neither be able to charge fees nor get support from the government so they’d all have to close down?

    Why do I have to KEEP making this point? Why isn’t it obvious to you, expats, that if the government is to spend more money on something it needs to raise the money somehow?

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Jun '15 - 9:53pm

    expats

    I believe that a major reason that Clegg, Cable didn’t go down the “We couldn’t implement the policy because…”, or even abstain (as was permitted in the coalition agreement) was that they really DIDN’T support the policy.

    So you think if they did the Conservatives would have given in to them and agreed to the tax rises needed to pay for it? I don’t. I believe they would have demanded huge cuts in university places as the cost of keeping the pledge – and any complaints about that would be met with “Oh, blame the Liberal Democrats for that – we were forced to make those cuts because they would not agree with our fees and loans plan which would have avoided all those cuts”.

    What you say is besides the point anywat. Whether or not Clegg agreed with the policy, I believe as leader he had a duty to support it, as he did in the general election campaign. But I can also see the Tories refusing to concede, and so what we got being a necessary compromise. Just as a referendum on AV was very much a compromise from what the Liberal Democrats really wanted.

    By putting out the message that he didn’t really believe in the policy, which yes he and his minions did when they used it as an issue to indulge in factional attacks within the party, Clegg did a lot of damage, because it undermined what I think is a valid defence. Even if he didn’t believe in the policy, for the sake of the party he should have allowed that defence to be made.

  • A few people have mentioned me by name so perhaps I can make my views quite clear. The problem I have with Clegg, Cable et al is that they signed a personal pledge on something they did not believe in at the time of signing. It’s a matter of public record that they did not believe in it. It’s simply a question of honour.

    As for all the stuff that happened with supporting the new policy, well Clegg has never in five years blamed the Tories for playing hardball, even though it lost the Party tens of thousands of voters and he personally was ridiculed for it. He had a golden opportunity to spill the beans at the time of the Sorry video. He could have said ” sorry I could not persuade the Tories to not increase tuition fees but we would have had to close universities down” . Simple. But did he say that? No. Why not? It didn’t happen that way. Sorry Matthew and others but that’s the truth of it. Why else would Clegg, Cable or Alexander not tell us exactly what happened? They leaked a lot of other things.

  • Martin, “However unless we spell out in detail how it is to be costed and by what mechanism, we will appear grotesquely stupid. ”

    It was fully costed and ‘spelt out in detail” in the 2010 Lib Dem Manifesto. Have you read that?

  • I think the arrangement at conference is a good idea. One of the reasons why we played our hand less than brilliantly in coalition, I believe, was insufficient attention to what was fundamentally Liberal.

    I don’t entirely understand the comment about too much emphasis on beliefs. Evidence-based policy-making cannot operate in a belief vacuum because you need first to establish what you’re trying to do, and that must depend on values. In terms that many people in all three sectors of work may understand, you need objectives and outcomes to be clear before setting out programmes of action and milestones.

    Some areas of policy are essentially technical because there is wide agreement over the aim. No-one wants areas of deprivation to suffer higher unemployment and greater poverty, for instance. But some that may look technical aren’t: for example, growth at all costs is not uncontroversial and there are different ways of measuring economic growth that in turn are influenced by values. Equally there can be a danger of dressing specific solutions up as beliefs: for example, at the merger of Liberals and SDP many Liberals were astounded that the SDP insisted support for NATO be in the party constitution – not because many of them opposed NATO membership, but because membership did not seem to them to be fundamental to the character and values of the party. Internationalism is a Liberal belief. Europeanism is not a belief, but support for the EU is a correct policy commitment.

    We would not unite around evidence-based policy-making to cut non-white immigration, to reduce the proportion of gays in public life or to persuade children that global warming was a myth. We might unite on evidence-based policy-making to reduce crime, but not if some of the crimes were things we thought not wrong at all, or if an effective solution involved fundamental loss of liberty for non-criminals or, say, waterboarding.

  • I am with Phyllis on the pledge….

    There is a great deal of speculation here about the consequences for universities of keeping the pledge on tuition fees….

    The Tories did not, in 2010, have a majority… They could not have voted through “massive cuts in universities” without support from other parties that was unlikely to be forthcoming. And even the Tories would not have proposed a policy that led to closure of universities. Nor has the new tuition fee policy done anything to reduce the deficit (other through some accountancy legerdemain). The money for fees has been borrowed against future taxes on graduates (some would call that a “sub-prime” loan), and nothing has been repaid yet.

    The agreement to allow abstention on any fees increase was I believe in the coalition agreement and that already broke the pledge. Clegg should simply have said “we will all keep our pledge on tuition fees for this parliament… without that there is no coalition”. Universities could have been funded on the pre2012 basis or a graduate tax could have been introduced. Increasing the fees to “protect universities from State funding” was such a very Tory idea… (hence why it was first thought up by Tony Blair…). Farron and Cable realised that a graduate tax would have a rather similar (but more progressive) effect to the current policy for graduates, but would not have involved breaking the pledge.. What is more it was and is NUS policy. But of course the graduate tax got a hammering on here “not Lib Dem policy”, they cried, little realising what was coming!

    As for universities, like Matthew I work for one. £9000 fees have indeed been very good for universities… £9000 is significantly more than it actually costs to educate an Arts student and the resulting bonanza has been spent on an unprecedented building boom and a huge increase in research staff. (spent on everything but staff salaries, which have fallen massively in real terms like the rest of the public sector, accompanied by changes to the pension that will make it probably the worst in the public sector…). I have a feeling though that this has been noticed and the remaining subsidy to science students will soon be removed, along with cuts in research funding, without increasing the fees cap…

  • Jane Ann Liston 12th Jun '15 - 12:48am

    @Andrew ‘The Tories . . . could not have voted through “massive cuts in universities” without support from other parties that was unlikely to be forthcoming. ‘

    Unfortunately, Labour was also pro-increasing tuition fees. They had made it quite clear that they were minded to accept the Browne recommendations, which in the end included the increase, in full, even before they were published.

  • Jane Ann Liston

    Yes I am sure you are right. The tuition fees increase would have been passed even if all 57 Lib Dem MPs honoured their pledge to “vote against any increase in tuition fees” because Labour and the Tories together would have a majority. I wonder then why the Lib Dems chose not to honour the pledge?. It’s been claimed on here, though not by any of the actual people involved, that without the Lib Dems breaking their pledge, whole universities would have been closed down but as you have just pointed out, Lib Dem votes were not needed.

    This is genuinely perplexing!

  • Jane,

    Ed Miliband was elected Labour Leader on a Graduate Tax platform, before the tuition fee votes. I doubt if Labour would have backed an increase in fees

  • and the final vote was 323 to 302 in favour of £9000. It was carried through by Lib Dem votes in favour. Even if the 28 who voted in favour had abstained, it would not have gone through

  • If you want a democratic party then you want more productive avenues for participation.

    If you are unhappy with the avenues you find, then it is up to you to help organise new ways forward.

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Jun ’15 – 9:42pm ……………….expats Why else did they vote for the increase ?

    …………….. Because if they hadn’t then universities would neither be able to charge fees nor get support from the government so they’d all have to close down?………………Why do I have to KEEP making this point? Why isn’t it obvious to you, expats, that if the government is to spend more money on something it needs to raise the money somehow?………

    Because you KEEP missing the point! Had the LibDems abstained the increase in fees would have gone ahead anyway…You keep harping on about the numbers of Tory MPs; do the math….Tory 306 Lab 258…..

  • TCO 11th Jun ’15 – 12:24pm …………………@expats if Nick and Vince didn’t believe in the policy, that just goes to show that electing a leader with a set of views, on the basis of OMOV, and having policies mandated on that leadership by a group of uber activists, with another set of views, is a recipe for “confusion”………………….

    Quite the opposite! The ‘confusion’ arises when a leader signs a pledge, presents it on every occasion like a holy relic, promises “No more broken promises” and then votes against the pledge….

    That is why ‘we are where we are’…..The leader should be the ‘face of the party’ not the sole arbiter of what policies he wants…It was the leadership’s record on “NHS reorganisation”, “Tuition fees”, “Bedroom Tax”, etc. that lost us so many supporters….

  • David Howarth 12th Jun '15 - 8:54am

    On the issue of what would have happened to university funding if the fees vote had been lost (I declare the same interest as Matthew Huntbach as a university employee), obviously we don’t really know, but it’s important to understand the process. The decision would have been taken not by parliament but inside government. Parliament’s only role in spending decisions is to set upper limits, and in practice it does so by resolutions, which are neither debated nor voted on, to authorise the whole of government spending in one fell swoop. Governments can make cuts without parliamentary votes simply by not spending the money.
    So what matters is the process within government. That is a matter of negotiations between the Treasury and the spending ministries. At ministerial level that means the Chief Secretary to the Treasury and the Secretary of State. So in the case of fees that would have meant Danny and Vince.
    Some other facts that might help in the speculation, though they don’t all point in the same direction:
    *The ‘saving’ was actually an accounting device. If the government transfers money to the universities via a grant to the Higher Education Funding Council for England, that counts as expenditure. But if the government transfers the same money to the universities via students by means of a ‘loan’, that counts as a financial transaction and not as expenditure.
    *The apparent ‘saving’ was believed to be about £1.6 bn (it turned out to be much less because of higher non-repayment). This was a lot less than the Treasury was giving away at the same time in cuts in corporation tax. Danny would have known about that, though perhaps Vince would not have known.
    *Vince was very reluctant to cut anything else – and especially reluctant to cut the FE budget.

  • I’m sorry but it’s just fantasy to think that the Tories would have got away with closing down whole universities and blamed it on the Lib Dems. People would have respected the Lib Dems for being honourable men and women, voted in on a platform of ‘no more broken promises’ , and blamed the Torires for not compromising. The people who voted ZLib Dem would have stood up for you, instead of deserting you.

    No, the whole thing smacks of the voters being misled, not least by the sleight of hand of an accounting trick.

  • David,
    Thanks for the clarification! I guess I knew that if I had thought about it! Could the government have removed the fees cap without a vote?

    I guess the answer is that the universities might/would have suffered cuts like everyone else…. Without legislation the existing fees and funding arrangement would have continued (apocalyptic stuff about universities having no money and having to close down is highly unlikely).

    Regarding the accounting device, I presume the money that had to be borrowed to pay the universities considerably more in the short term than they had been getting (about £1800 extra per band D (non laboratory) student, more or less neutral for band A and B) must have figured in the deficit somewhere??

    I think one of the things that should have come in with the fixed term parliaments is that revues of spending areas like the Browne report should not be allowed to report immediately after an election, so that the parties can avoid having any manifesto policies on that area…

  • It is always worth listening to David Howarth.
    in one short sentence he can often clarify what puzzles some people all their political lives.
    Such as —
    “Governments can make cuts without parliamentary votes simply by not spending the money.”

    Most people who have been local councillors recognise this because Conservative administrations do it all the time.
    A favourite Conservative tactic being to leave posts empty and then blame the remaining staff for the poor quality of service that follows from have too few people doing too much work.

    This has been happening over the last few years in the Health (in both physical and mental health sectors — but we are not alloŵed to mention that because we have to pretend that Norman Lamb worked wonders when he was a junior minister).

  • @John Tilley ” but we are not alloŵed to mention that because we have to pretend that Norman Lamb worked wonders when he was a junior minister”

    Remind me again what the other leadership candidate managed to achieve when he was a junior minister. Oh, hang on a minute …

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Jun '15 - 11:19am

    Phyllis

    I’m sorry but it’s just fantasy to think that the Tories would have got away with closing down whole universities and blamed it on the Lib Dems.

    No, it is not fantasy.

    Further Education, which remained under direct government funding DID suffer very large cuts under the Coalition government. I have no doubts that had Higher Education remained under direct government funding it would have suffered cuts of a similar level. There has been plenty of discussion in Conservative circles about closing down “poor performing” universities, meaning those at the bottom of the league tables, those which few people really want to go to, those which rely very heavily on UCAS Clearing to fill their places. So I don’t think it’s at all unlikely that if the university sector was faced with big cuts it would be done through closure of some universities rather than cuts more evenly spread out.

    As David Howarth puts it, the fees and loans system was an accounting device. Employing this accounting device in effect fooled the Conservatives into agreeing to keep around the same amount of subsidy of universities as before, which they would not have been willing to do had it been direct subsidy. It took university funding out of the direct control of government hands, which is why senior management in universities was so concerned about the prospects of Labour returning to power and returning that direct subsidy element.

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Jun '15 - 12:52pm

    Andrew

    I guess the answer is that the universities might/would have suffered cuts like everyone else…. Without legislation the existing fees and funding arrangement would have continued (apocalyptic stuff about universities having no money and having to close down is highly unlikely)

    My point is that if the government has put together a budget which includes universities paid for by the fees and loans system, so no direct state money paid to universities, but the legislation which allows them to charge fees is rejected, then what happens? If one considers it literally, yes it does mean universities are left without funding. Of course I’m well aware that in practice that would not happen, but the point is, what would?

    This is what is winding me up, and has done throughout the period of the Coalition when people like Phyllis came along and jeered “nah nah nah nah nah” at the Liberal Democrats over it, but seemed unable to comprehend the concept of there being a balancing cost aspect. The attacks on the Liberal Democrats on this issue have been juvenile, it’s been treated as if it’s a cost-free thing, something like gay marriage, so whether or not you agree to it can be taken in complete isolation and therefore anyone who accepts full tuition fees is doing so just out of nastiness.

    But it isn’t like that at all – the central issue, though the “nah nah nah nah nah”s ignore it, is that if you want it to be paid for direct by government you have to put that in the budget, so how would you do that? In five years I never heard one “nah nah nah nah nah” give a coherent answer to that point. Obviously something like “Oh, you could pay for it by scrapping Trident” (which tended to be about as close as one got to something which at least recognised it was a budgetary issue) is not a coherent answer, because it’s not something that the Tories would ever agree to.

    Now the likelihood is that in the short-term it would have been paid for by extra government borrowing, and in the medium term by shifting spending around – which means cuts elsewhere. So what bigger cuts on top of what the Coalition already made would the “nah nah nah nah nah”s like to have seen? Well, none of them ever answered that or even acknowledged it was an issue. They were like Ed Miliband forgetting to mention the deficit, and what did that lead to?

    This really is a central issue, and is at the core of why Labour lost the election and the Conservatives won it. The left jeers “nah nah nah nah nah” at the right for making cuts in government spending, but is too scared to come out and talk about the alternative involving higher taxation, instead, as we see with the “nah nah nah nah nah”s on student tuition they give the impression it can be paid by waving your hands around and the Liberal Democrats are nasty dirty rotten people for not waving their hands around. Well, by doing that, they let the Tories get away with their anti-tax arguments because they have not made clear the counter-argument. So the Tories win.

    Some have said “but in reality the tuition fees and loans system costs the state just as much, so there would have been no problem in keeping it”. And this is where I slap my head in despair at the naivety of the “nah nah nah nah nah”s, because YES, that actually is my point! It was a clever trick, it got the Tories to agree to something they would never have agreed to if it were not disguised in this way. See what the Tories are doing now they have a majority. Why does anyone who sees them do that suppose they would have meekly agreed to just more government borrowing to pay the full cost of the LibDems refusing to accept the tuition fees and loans system?

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Jun '15 - 1:17pm

    OK, so why would the Tories agree to disguised government borrowing through the student loans system when they would never have agreed to the same amount of straight government borrowing? Because they genuinely thought that the student fees system would drive costs down. In this they were completely wrong. It is a really good example of why simplistic free market theories don’t always work.

    I predicted it would all happen just as it has, see my article in Liberator 346 here. I felt from the start that the right had it all wrong, far from pushing costs down it would mean almost all universities raise their fees to the maximum. And so they did. I felt from the start that the left had it all wrong, and that the loans and fees system would not cause the big drop in university applications that the said it would. And so it didn’t. See my article for why from my own intuition and experience I felt it would work out just as it has.

    I also predicted that the effect of the “nah nah nah nah nah”s attacks on the Liberal Democrats would be a majority Tory government. I said that so many times, and that was why I was so desperate to get them to see the error of their ways. If you mercilessly attack the party which is (or was) the main opposition to the Tories across so much of the country, where will that lead to? All those hard-won LibDem seats, once true-blue Tory, and all those other places once wall-to-wall Tory but with the LibDems breathing down the Tories’ necks in 2010 – and you put out the message “nah nah nah nah nah, nasty dirty rotten Liberal Democrats, never vote for you again, hope to see you destroyed”? What did you expect? I could never see why people said the 2015 election would result in a no-majority Parliament as it was very obvious that thanks to the “nah nah nah nah nah”s the Conservatives would win seats and the Liberal Democrats lose seats, and I couldn’t see anywhere much where the Greens or UKIP would come as far as winning. Oh, the SNP yes, but the maximum number of seats they could win was the number of seats in Scotland, which is less than the total number of seats the LibDems won in 2005.

    So Phyllis thinks I’m talking nonsense when I suggested that had tuition fees not been agreed the result would have been massive cuts in universities, that I’m someone who cannot think straight and make good predictions of outcomes. Does my record suggest that?

  • @Matthew Huntbach “Obviously something like “Oh, you could pay for it by scrapping Trident” (which tended to be about as close as one got to something which at least recognised it was a budgetary issue) is not a coherent answer, because it’s not something that the Tories would ever agree to.”

    And as I understand it the £100bn pricetag for Trident is full-life costing, and that next to none of it would have been spent in the last parliament and very little in this, so the policy would have been up and running for a long time before any “savings” came in.

  • Matthew Huntbach10th (Jun ’15 – 5:24pm)

    “As others have said, other countries can manage full state subsidy of universities, so why can’t we?”
    Well it isn’t a matter of it can’t be done, but what is the consequence? People are very quick to claim that certain other countries don’t charge. What they don’t then discuss is the other ways those countries differ. Lower participation rates much more limited funding per student. There is a trade off.

    Already here we have seen the FE sector take massive cuts with more to come. Why should HE be prioritised over FE or any other type of subsidy for training.

    Cost is out of control in HE. Just saying “we’ll throw money at it” is unrealistic. There is the fact that people would not pay the level of tax it would require, but more importantly (even if they did) there is very quickly the next question of could most of this be done a lot cheaper?

    The OU has been taking students since ’71 and an external programme by UoL has been in various guises longer than that. The Lib Dem policy proposed a splurge of cash at a system that was experienced by a small number when the technological options did not exist. At a time when American universities were hotly debating the impact of MOOCS on their viability the Lib Dems were partying like it was 1999. A post school education policy should capture both HE and FE. It also needs to consider what has to be delivered in what form and look at the most effective (and efficient) way of delivering each aspect. There is still a need for lots of the old form of delivery but equally assuming that is appropriate for all that is currently being delivers is unrealistic.

    I agree that Nick Clegg signing a ‘pledge’ regarding tuition fees and then going on TV and trashing the policy would make the party look bad. The whole Pledge debacle was terrible on so many levels, but people now criticising a policy that belongs in the late ‘90s cannot make the party look as bad with sticking with a policy that has to be ripped up and started again.

    This is an example of getting stuck in the ‘how’ of policy, rather than the ‘what.’ Is the priority: access? Meeting student desires? Meeting employer need? Catering to those employed in the current institutions?

    What are the new technologies that are able to make use of? What has been done elsewhere? How do people want to receive education? Which subjects need to be prioritised? Can some form of articulation be devised?

    The issue is that none of the fundamental questions are being asked by any party, I suppose it is a ‘don’t scare the horses’ issue. The problem is that most people would like HE to be free but don’t see it as a sufficient priority and don’t want to make it one. The only alternative is to see what else can be done about the sector as a whole.

  • Matthew,

    I would have predicted the same things as you, pretty much. I will also predict that the £9000 tuition fees will be looked at by many future generations of graduates as a pretty bad thing, and we will get most of the blame. We will see how future teachers etc do at getting mortgages, for example, with a growing debt hanging over them…

    I will be a bit more revolutionary and say that the increase in participation rate to 45% (and hence expansion of universities) was almost certainly a mistake (but of course it is very hard to go back from there now). The larger of the Russell Group universities certainly have policies to take less students over coming years. I will add that allowing the polytechnics (which were doing a pretty good job of doing something quite distinctive from universities) to become universities was also a big mistake. We are where we are though, not where we were in 1970!

    Appealing to the Labour Party not to attack us on this is/was just totally bizarre, I am afraid! What they saw was the prospect of another hung parliament with us propping up the Tories. They were desperate to take seats like Cambridge, Bradford East and Hallam off us, and really did not care at all whether the Tories or us won seats in the west country. Only with hindsight can anyone imagine that anyone in the Labour Party thought the Tories would get an overall majority. Even the exit poll did not predict that…

    As for the future, I am quite sure that politically our best course is to back a graduate tax – it is NUS policy, so students will not blame us for that. It is more progressive than the current policy (because the principal is that the least successful graduates are subsidised by the most successful graduates, not the population at large), and does not have any connotation of debt attached to it. But it is not really the merits of the graduate tax I am talking about (you can make decent arguments for both graduate tax and the present system, depending on your point of view), but the perception of it…

  • Phyllis

    “it’s just fantasy to think that the Tories would have got away with closing down whole universities”

    The spin would be they were ‘merging’ universities for efficiency purposes, students and some staff would be transferred to other institutions. The students would probably have been put on courses that were different in content from what they started at the regional institution so they could miss out.

    “the whole thing smacks of the voters being misled, not least by the sleight of hand of an accounting trick.”

    It is only half an accounting trick, the 50% (well the current estimate is actually 55% but highly speculative) that is going to be repaid should be treated differently, the 50% that will never be repaid should be written off now and seen as current expenditure. If it were a business to not do so would be seen as fraud, funny how governments are held to lower standards. The reality is that if eth government securitised the loan book every 5 years they could get a good price for the first 40%-45% and would have to hold the rest but rather than using that as a method of funding half of the next 5 years loans. I imagine that the reason it is not done as it would be very hard to keep carrying the remaining stake at book value.

    Something that is missed though is that if you were to say that you would not have the loan system is that unless Uni’s were not to face a 50% cut revenue that was going to come from repayment would have to come from somewhere else. So by implementing “no loans” policy you would be looking at a 50% cut in the funding from this source.

    The ‘pledge’ is a different issue as that should never have been made, but the policy has to be considered seriously, and the current discussion assuming only the question is where to raise the funds is a tiny fraction of the issue.

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Jun '15 - 5:27pm

    Andrew

    Only with hindsight can anyone imagine that anyone in the Labour Party thought the Tories would get an overall majority.

    The Labour Party may not have predicted it. I predicted it many times here in Liberal Democrat Voice, so it certainly does not requite hindsight as you claim. All it required was to look at all those once LibDem-run councils in the south reverting to Tory control.

  • @Andrew “We will see how future teachers etc do at getting mortgages, for example, with a growing debt hanging over them…”

    Although the “debt” my be growing, the repayment per month level is not determined by the size of the debt but by the level of income of the graduate. The mortgage lender will factor in all the costs of the applicant in order to determine affordability and the tuition fees loan repayment will be just one expenditure item out of many.

    As I’ve argued here many times before, it doesn’t make sense to think of the tuition fees loan like a normal debt as the size of the debt, the repayment term, and the level of repayments are not linked in the way that a conventional loan is.

    Its been cleverly designed in a way not to penalise low earners.

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Jun '15 - 5:31pm

    Psi

    Cost is out of control in HE. Just saying “we’ll throw money at it” is unrealistic.

    But that’s not what the Liberal Democrat “pledge” said. The pledge was not to raise tuition fees. Not raising tuition fees says nothing about the number of university places funded. The pledge could have been kept by mass closure of universities, but full state subsidy of those left. I wonder how those jeering “nah nah nah nah nah” at the Liberal Democrats would have reacted if the Liberal Democrats had kept their pledge by doing it that way.

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Jun '15 - 5:36pm

    Psi

    At a time when American universities were hotly debating the impact of MOOCS on their viability the Lib Dems were partying like it was 1999.

    Employers are knocking at my door to get the students I teach. I tell you that the sort of cheapo techniques used by MOOCS do not deliver that sort of training. Proper training requires hands-on interaction and careful assessment, not multiple-choice tests.

  • Andrew “I will be a bit more revolutionary and say that the increase in participation rate to 45% (and hence expansion of universities) was almost certainly a mistake (but of course it is very hard to go back from there now). The larger of the Russell Group universities certainly have policies to take less students over coming years. I will add that allowing the polytechnics (which were doing a pretty good job of doing something quite distinctive from universities) to become universities was also a big mistake. We are where we are though, not where we were in 1970!”

    I agree completely. Youngsters these things think they ought to be “going to Uni” because it’s what they think is the done thing, regardless of whether it’s actually the right thing for them personally.

  • Matthew Huntbach “There has been plenty of discussion in Conservative circles about closing down “poor performing” universities, meaning those at the bottom of the league tables, those which few people really want to go to, those which rely very heavily on UCAS Clearing to fill their places. So I don’t think it’s at all unlikely that if the university sector was faced with big cuts it would be done through closure of some universities rather than cuts more evenly spread”

    What is the problem with closing down poor performing universities that no-one wants to go to??? You want to land our children with massive debt to keep sub-standard organisations open??

  • Matthew,

    For the Tories to get an overall majority required them to get 3% more than all the polls were predicting even on election day, and ALSO to do disproportionally well in LAB-CON marginals compared to the English swing… Winning the Lib Dem seats was only part of it. The Ashcroft polls predicted that Labour would gain 30 to 40 seats from the Tories in England and Wales. They predicted a dead heat in Pudsey and the Tories won by nearly 9%!

    Not one single predictive website predicted an outright Tory majority on the eve of election. I think the most any predicted was about 290 seats.

    The Ashcroft polls were much more direct evidence than local elections, and predicted easy wins for us in Eastbourne, Eastleigh, Sutton and Cheam (where incidentally the council results had been pretty good!), Kingston and Surbiton, Thornbury and Yate, and close things in many others. To ignore them as you evidently did was to ignore the evidence available – unscientific! Of course some wondered if there might be flaws in the Ashcroft polling, but very very few commentators ignored them completely. It still amazes me that Lord Ashcroft sunk so much of his own money into a vast series of polls that turned out to be worthless. Of course there are some who think it was an elaborate Tory conspiracy… same people who think the Americans never landed on the Moon and Diana was murdered on the orders of the Queen….

  • And the thing about pledges is not to BREAK them, not to never make them… And ESPECIALLY crass is to make a pledge and then apologise for making it in the first place! I predicted disaster in 2015 as soon as I saw the pledge was going to be broken! I can probably find the letter I wrote to Simon Hughes about it if you like… I predicted an extremely difficult time within 30 seconds of hearing we were going into coalition with the Tories (but maybe not complete disaster)

  • Matthew Huntbach

    “Employers are knocking at my door to get the students I teach. I tell you that the sort of cheapo techniques used by MOOCS do not deliver that sort of training. Proper training requires hands-on interaction and careful assessment, not multiple-choice tests.”

    I agree that there is lots of value in “hands on interaction” but that is not all that university cources currently consist of. I started with the UK examples of the OU and the various guises the UoL external programs took over the years as those were about proper education. MOOCS are the US institutions experimenting, the thing about experimentation is that it always is rather naff at the start but what matters is what is learn’t from those experiments.

    There are many different models that could be tried to get the most valuable aspects of universities to be concentrated and the more generic stuff delivered in another more cost effective form. The US has a Thebes community colledge route in to university the French the Lycées +2 for those pursuing Grand Ecole entry (not that I would want to take too much from the highly elitiest French system).

    But if we are serious about Education we need to think a lot more carefully about a diverse range of approaches that give students what they need when they need it.

  • Psi
    Have a look at Khan Academy if you do not know it.. Very effective maths teaching/practice.

    There are British MOOCS. But it is hard to see how they will ever fit together into something coherent. And in Britain there is a “provider” that seems focussed mainly on making money eventually

  • daft ha'p'orth 12th Jun '15 - 10:46pm

    Yeah, one can keep braying “nah nah nah nah nah”, but the fact is the Coalition did screw the Open University over, whether they knew they were doing it or not. And the only response to that I’ve ever seen is oh, well, but life is rosy(ish) for seventeen year olds, who are eligible for loans… what happened to ‘enslavement by conformity’??

    I was in an OU exam the other day, unlike I’m sure most other people posting here. When I organised my travel I thought ‘What an odd address…’. It turns out that the OU is now renting a far smaller venue for exams. How odd, I thought, until I got into the room and realised there were only about ten of us there taking exams for seven different subjects. That’s unprecedented in my not inconsiderable experience. And this is in Bristol, mind you, England’s sixth-largest city.

    I’ve been going on about lifelong education on and off for over five years here. And the reaction has been sticking one’s fingers in one’s ears and going ‘nah nah nah nah nah’. But here it is, come home to roost: the OU’s lost over 28% of its students so far, and counting; it’s over 17 million quid in the red right now, and a huge proportion of potential students can’t afford it, because despite the ‘nobody pays in advance’ mantra, the fact is, lots of people have to. Most of those people are out of opportunities. If they want a passport to a new career, they’re basically screwed. If they find it, it is at this stage likely to involve education completed in the astonishingly, reasonably cheap United States. Very few people will have the opportunities I had five years ago: only the rich will be able to follow that path.

    I’m employed by universities too. Several of them. The coalition cost me my job right at the start, so I’m fairly immune from the ‘OMG I could lose my job!’ mantra by now; if you didn’t lose your uni job last election, you were lucky, not safe. If you’re not worried about yours now, you’re not paying attention.

    @Psi, on the other hand, is right. If we need to save money, let’s save it while preserving the essentials, which include opportunity and diversity. Inexpensive distance learning is rubbished, but it’s been the start of many productive careers despite the odds. It can and should be a priority to ensure that it is:
    a) available to all
    b) affordable to all
    c) cherished across the political spectrum
    It has been said that OU graduations are the happiest place on Earth. Having attended several, I think that’s true. It’s tragic to see it dying away.

    On a completely unrelated note: I was so sorry to hear about Charles Kennedy. We all were. There were many tears in our house that day 🙁 Our sincere sympathies to all.

  • I agree wholeheartedly with the intent, but as others have said it must break out of the cosy confines of conference and our myriad of committees and really engage with all of our members.

  • @Mr Wallace

    “What they believe depends on… where in the country they are.”

    People whose beliefs are influenced by their local community? Sounds dreadful! I suppose we should all be thinking the same thing, regardless of our location? I hope the tube’s running on time today, because these cows won’t milk themselves! 🙂 What’s it like to have a nationalised belief system? Do you have huge parties and tell the neighbours that most of the country can’t hear the music because your beliefs aren’t influenced by locality? 🙂

    I’m a Lib Dem and I know what I believe. Next time you want to attribute behaviour to 60,000+ people you should know there’s a lot of different members, lumping us all in together and defining “what they believe” is insulting, some may say bigoted and also factually incorrect. There are party members who don’t believe in states and boundaries at all, there are others that are quite happy helping their community in local councils. That’s what it’s like in a broad party, generalisations are hard to apply.

  • Matthew Huntbach 16th Jun '15 - 12:54pm

    expats

    Because you KEEP missing the point! Had the LibDems abstained the increase in fees would have gone ahead anyway…You keep harping on about the numbers of Tory MPs; do the math….Tory 306 Lab 258…..

    Belated reply – missed this one earlier, just decided to look back at some old threads and saw it.

    No, I’m not missing the point at all. My understanding is that the original agreement that all LibDem MPs would abstain on it broke when some said they really felt that due to agreeing to the pledge they had to vote against, and others felt that as that would lead to the issues I’ve been talking about they had to balance that by voting for it.

    Whatever, my point is that government spending has to be paid for in some way or other, and the “nah nah nah nah nah”s just don’t take that into account. I fail to see how what you wrote here has any relevance to that point.

  • Matthew Huntbach 16th Jun '15 - 1:04pm

    daft ha’p’orth

    Yeah, one can keep braying “nah nah nah nah nah”, but the fact is the Coalition did screw the Open University over, whether they knew they were doing it or not

    Oh sure, but here we go once again – you are accusing me of being a Cleggie. The Cleggies might believe the Coalition was a wonderful super-duper government, but I do not.

    The point I am making about the tuition fees thing is not that it’s a wonderful super-duper policy, what I would have put in place if I could choose anything I liked. So why do you attack me as if I was saying that? What I’m actually saying is that I can see that it was the best of the options that were available given that whatever was done had to get the agreement of the Conservative Party.

    I do take your point about the damaging effect it had on the OU. But why can’t you take my point that there’s a big difference between “my ideal policy” and “what I think is best out of the options the Conservatives would agree to”?

  • Matthew Huntbach 16th Jun '15 - 1:18pm

    ChrisB

    I’m a Lib Dem and I know what I believe. Next time you want to attribute behaviour to 60,000+ people you should know there’s a lot of different members, lumping us all in together and defining “what they believe” is insulting,

    Indeed, and this was another thing which really narked me about the “nah nah nah nah nah”s. The way they always accused all of us in the party of being Cleggies and had that Leninist view of political party which supposed that every single member must be an obedient servant to The Leader and The Party Line.

    So when those like myself who were unhappy about the Clegg leadership turned round to look for outside support so we could say “Look, there is outside support for a more left-leaning Liberal Democrats, please don’t throw it away”, all we found is the people we would want to support us denying our very existence, and seeming interested only in seeing the whole of the Liberal Democrats destroyed.

    Throughout the period of the Coalition I found myself in this horrible position of being trapped between the Cleggies and the “nah nah nah nah nah”s, and each side accusing me of being a supporter of the other when actually I was against both. Also I have this stubborn streak in me which makes me think “If I explain it carefully enough, surely they’ll eventually see my point”. I should have learnt my lesson from many past occasions when I’ve found this is not so.

  • Richard Underhill 1st Aug '15 - 7:28pm

    Lauren Salerno 10th Jun ’15 – 10:07pm
    You are not excluded from the policy process if you make use of your representatives.
    People in work as teachers, perhaps with higher incomes, are also excluded by the dates of conference, but partial attendance is possible. have a look at the agenda and contact one or more of your local reps., or PPC if you have one.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?

Advert



Recent Comments

  • User AvatarJoeB 20th Jun - 12:19am
    Martin, I am sure you are aware of the internal pressures Angela Merkel and other European leaders are under. It is to close borders to...
  • User AvatarJoeB 20th Jun - 12:11am
    Deprivation in London is spread across the city in small pockets, sometimes a handful of streets on otherwise affluent areas https://www.theguardian.com/uk/datablog/2012/apr/12/deprivation-poverty-london. Seven of ten local...
  • User AvatarGlenn 19th Jun - 11:54pm
    Martin I dunno why that is. It depends how you define problem. The basic problem re-EU immigrants as far as I can tell is that...
  • User AvatarMartin 19th Jun - 11:37pm
    JoeB: That is the sort of nonsense I was referring to. Glib statements like "to close Germany's borders" - how do you think that could...
  • User AvatarJoeB 19th Jun - 11:20pm
    Migration pressure is going to continue to grow and countries around the world will seek to close borders. The USA is separating children from their...
  • User AvatarMartin 19th Jun - 11:00pm
    There is too much conflation between movement into the EU with movement within the EU in this discussion. Do people really think that people from...