Why Lib Dems shouldn’t keep schtum about tuition fees

tuition fees vote“University tuition fee rise has not deterred poorer students from applying”. That was the headline in The Guardian this week reporting new analysis by the Independent Commission on Fees chaired by Will Hutton:

The raising of tuition fees to £9,000 has not put off students from disadvantaged backgrounds from applying to university – although the gap in applications between those from wealthy and poor backgrounds remains wide, according to new analysis. …

The commission found that university application rates for 18-year-olds in England have continued to recover from their post-rise lows, with application rates for 2014 entry – including students who will receive their A-level results on Thursday – almost two percentage points higher than in 2010.

While students who are not eligible for free school meals – available for pupils from households earning less than £16,000 – remain more than twice as likely to go to university, the gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students has narrowed from 30.5% in 2010 to 29.8% in 2013.

“Disadvantaged young people are applying to and entering higher education at higher rates than ever before, which is excellent news,” said Professor Les Ebdon, director of the Office of Fair Access to Higher Education watchdog.

The scare-mongering of the tuition fees critics has — thankfully — not proven to be self-prophesying: applications to universities are up, applications from students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds are up even more.

There remain concerns, particularly about the falls in applications from mature and part-time students, and those need to be addressed. But even if you don’t regard the policy as a success (to be clear: I do) it’s no longer possible to claim it as the disastrous failure its fiercest opponents expected (and seemed sometimes to want it to be).

Whenever I mention fees here commenters below-the-line argue we should just shut up about it, that the mere mention of the policy re-ignites public animosity at many of our MPs’ infamous breaking of their pledge. I disagree. The public will remember fees and our U-turn for a long time: that’s unavoidable. I think the outrage is over-done — both Labour and Conservatives have about-faced on policies before even when they’ve had healthy majorities without attracting the same opprobrium – but it is what it is. We have to live with it.

What I don’t think that means is that the policy should parade around for the rest of time with a big ‘kick me’ sign on its back because of it. Yes, those who signed the pledge to vote against fee increases screwed up. (By the by, I’ve written this week that my long-held pro-fees was what stopped me from standing for Parliament for the party.)

But the fees policy as crafted by Vince Cable and David Willetts is the very nature of Coalition politics: a negotiated agreement between two parties which was much-improved by the Lib Dem presence in government, is an improvement on the Labour system it replaced, and which is, by and large, working well in reality. We shouldn’t keep schtum about that: we should tell people.

* Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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206 Comments

  • Little Jackie Paper 14th Aug '14 - 9:02pm

    Mr Tall – as you well know the issue was not access but debts. On the one hand we are told that debts are a huge crisis that threatened the very fabric of the country, on the other we are loading it onto the young like there is no tomorrow. If you want to talk fees then fine. But at least take the young seriously enough not to conflate debts and access.

    Would you like to be carrying the sort of debts involved here?

    ‘But even if you don’t regard the policy as a success (to be clear: I do) it’s no longer possible to claim it as the disastrous failure its fiercest opponents expected (and seemed sometimes to want it to be).’

    Given the large increases in the amounts expected not to be repaid I am at something of a loss as to how you have drawn this conclusion. Unless you are expecting sharp increases in graduate earnings sometime soon?

  • David Evans 14th Aug '14 - 9:16pm

    Actually the issue wasn’t access or debts, it was trust. Nick broke that trust and we will continue to pay for many, many years.

  • Leon Duveen 14th Aug '14 - 9:24pm

    Correct me if I am wrong, but is it not still official Lib Dem Party Policy to abolish Tuition Fees? We only accepted the increase (demanded before the 2010 GE by Labour as well as the Tories) if we could implement a better, and much fairer, repayment regime which has resulted in most students graduating next summer having to pay back much less than those who graduated this year.
    Yes of course we should be talking about this, the subject will not go away and unless we take on the Labour lies head on, we will never be able to set the record straight.
    Implementing a fair Tuition Fees system has been a Lib Dem success and our only failure has been in getting that message out there.

  • We must explain that we had a choice of voting no or trying to improve the position of graduates particularly for the lower earning graduates. There was a possibility if we voted no that the higher tuition fees would have got through without the other changes to the system which we manage to bring in.

  • Little Jackie Paper 14th Aug '14 - 9:46pm

    David Evans – If anything it’s worse. Assuming this is not flat on its face within a decade (plausible) we may see the 30 year limit become 35, then 40. We might see the interest rise to RPI+X%. I dread to think what will happen when/if the debt is sold to the private sector. Every bit of tinkering with the system (and let’s face it, it won’t be in the students’ favour) will haunt the LDP.

    The only way I can see this system coming good is significant increases in graduate earnings, but I simply can’t see that happening on anything like the scale necessary.

  • Given the high proportion of students projected never to be earning enough to pay off their fees it seems that we may have inadvertently actually implemented the pledge, in part anyway.

  • Tony, you may think that, but the view of the electorate seems to be rather different.

  • Not this again.
    You have now made it a legal requirement that sixteen to 17 year olds have to be in education or in some form of training. . Of course university rates are going up, In the next year or so this government plans to raise that requirement to 18 year olds. University intakes will thus multiply again. So will the debt bubble in waiting and so will the tax bill to cover the fact that fewer and fewer people will actually be able to pay anything back. Further more it will impact on the ever decreasing number of young people who can afford to get on the housing ladder by lumbering them with a £40, 000 plus debt payback as soon as they earn anything like enough to apply for Mr Mortgage.

  • All this is just another nail in our coffin. Wherever we turn we appear to be the political equivalent of the Titanic. Terribly sad but there it is,

  • “Yes, those who signed the pledge to vote against fee increases screwed up. “

    No. Those who voted to increase fees, having given their electorate a signed promise to vote against increasing fees, deliberately broke their word.

    Not for the first time, I’m baffled that otherwise intelligent commentators seem unable to grasp just why that is such a huge problem for the party.

  • Joshua Dixon 14th Aug '14 - 10:25pm

    The issue is not simply access alone, as others have pointed out, its do we think a fair future is one based on saddling millions of young people with thousands of pounds of debt. The equivalent to which will far outdo anything offset by our new headline policy of cutting income tax. Sadly a disadvantaged graduate who studied in London will begin with 51k of debt but end up paying back well over £80,000 over the 30 years. It is a travesty that a huge proportion of this generation (and generations to come) will be held back in such a way. Yes, lets celebrate the positive steps forward but let us not pretend that a mountain of debt = a fair future. Oh and before anyone jumps in with this, it is not “basically a graduate tax” either. No tax operates in a way that exempts the rich (because a number of rich students will have their parents pay the fees upfront, meaning they will not experience this apparent ‘graduate tax’).

    Leon – Sadly, we changed policy last year at Glasgow conference. Official party policy is to back 9k fees but to look into its effects on access.

  • Student loan is not debt. Student loan is not debt. Student loan is not debt. Student loan is not debt. Student loan is not debt.

  • Sorry to sound like a broken record but student loan is really not debt. You’re expected to repay debt for starters and it comes out as a fixed amount regardless of your earnings. Student loans is far closer to a tax, not debt.

  • “Sorry to sound like a broken record but student loan is really not debt.”

    You can say it as often as you like, but that doesn’t make it true. Of course it is a debt – not only semantically, but also legally. And not only that, but it is a debt whose terms of repayment can be altered unilaterally at the whim of the lender. I wouldn’t take on a debt like that, and I don’t believe most of those who are trying to defend the system would, either.

  • Joshua Dixon 14th Aug '14 - 10:49pm

    Tommy – Sorry to sound like a broken record as well, but it really isn’t a tax. It bears many similarities and admittedly, it acts differently to conventional debt but that is mostly because of the role the interest rates play on the income contingent loans.

    However, there are a number of reasons as to why we should approach and view them as debt:

    1. People actually see it as debt. This may seem an odd one, but debt often carries a psychological burden.
    2. Their is nothing to suggest students can’t pay them back early.
    3. The interest rate has a significant influence over how much is paid, unlike what you would see with an actual graudate tax.
    4. The way people respond to the fees system is reflective of how people respond to debt. There was actually a rather high rate of early repayment under the pre-2012 regime, due to the fact that individuals wanted to get out of the burden of paying back their debts.
    5. As mentioned above, if this is a form of tax then it is an incredibly weird one which gives the wealthiest the opportunity to opt out with early repayment (either through their parents or through their own wealth).
    6. On from 5, the wealthier students back opt for up front payment, which contradicts the sense of universality that exists within taxation.
    7. Another important point is the little protection graduates have from the retrospective changes in the threshold of repayment (just as one example). This behaviour is far more reflective of conventional debts than what we would see in taxation.

    Essentially, those with the money happily can treat like a debt. If they’re wealthy (or have wealthy friends or family) they can pay it off instantly. Even the wealthiest of students can’t ring up mummy or daddy and say “fancy paying off all of my income tax?”

  • Little Jackie Paper 14th Aug '14 - 10:53pm

    Thomas Long – I make no apologies. It IS debt and there IS an expectation of repayment.

  • It seems some people just aren’t capable of getting it. The main issue above all else here is trust. The party had a long standing policy of abolishing fees, made a high profile pledge, gained a lot of support due to it, then broke it once in power. I don’t think I can overstate how much damage that has done to the party. Why should anybody believe anything that is promised ever again? It clearly means nothing now. How many people on the doorstep would answer yes to “Do you trust Clegg?”

    But instead of admitting we messed up, we’ve resorted to the old politics of spin and are clutching at every straw available to try and make the policy look like a success. In my opinion, every attempted defence of the betrayal just makes things worse as it makes us look just like the big two, doing anything to avoid having to admit we were wrong.

    For a very marginal gain in numbers in those from disadvantaged backgrounds, we’ve chosen to saddle our young with 40k+ of debt when they are starting out on their careers and trying to find the cash to get on the ever inflating housing ladder; while those who make the laws and conveniently didn’t pay for their education make a nice little earner sitting there and watching the value of their property go up and up.
    And with forecasts indicating we are close to the point where the policy costs more than it saves, how is that a stronger economy or a fairer society?

  • Joshua Dixon 14th Aug '14 - 11:11pm

    James nails it.

  • Most people don’t give a toss about whether the policy is good or not. Rather, they care about the broken promise. Nor do they care about the fact that there were very good reasons for breaking the promise, or that breaking it might even have been preferable to not breaking it. People have fetished the promise, and bound up a whole load of other issues with it, to such an extent that no amount of rational argument is going to persuade them to revise their opinon. Only time is going to heal this one.

  • Stephen Campbell 14th Aug '14 - 11:46pm

    Yeah, go right ahead and tell the voters that, actually, you were right to break your pledge to them. That’ll play well with the electorate. I mean, these silly voters don’t really expect to be able to trust politicians who sign a pledge or trust said politicians to make contingency plans making this a red line during possible coalition negotiations, do they?! What are they, naive young students and impressionable new voters? If this is your idea of the “New Politics”, then we are truly living on Animal Farm.

    This is kind of like when Blair dug in his heels over Iraq when it all went pear-shaped and still insisted he did the right thing. That was what truly sealed his downfall. Doing the same on tuition fees won’t exactly endear yourselves to the voters. (Note, I am in no way comparing Iraq to tuition fees, rather I’m simply pointing out what happens to politicians and parties who make monumental mistakes and then continue to justify these mistakes to the very people who they have let down: their voters.)

  • Little Jackie Paper 15th Aug '14 - 12:15am

    Steve C – ‘People have fetished the promise.’

    You sound almost surprised. It was a signed personal promise. From memory one candidate locally signed it at a media photo-op with some students. If you do not follow through on it then you have zero expectation of getting away with it. The stark truth is that debt was the key issue in that pledge. Not access (Labour’s much mis-quoted 50% target covered access and participation). You surely can not be surprised when people feel unhappy. The public can make whatever value judgment they like, and if they (correctly) think the new system is a turkey then so be it. But you can’t be surprised if there is a trust implication here.

    I’d agree with Jennie – Someone, somewhere needs to come up with an answer because at the moment it sounds like, ‘certain areas were protected – you take it on the chin.’

  • This has stopped long ago being about the fees themselves. It’s even stopped being about trust.

    Right now, the question is whether the Party has ceased to be adaptable and innovative, responding to changing situations with fresh perspectives and fresh answers that appeal to the people, but instead has entered a defensive crouch — a paralysed, bureaucratic inertia — in which it can only repeat old excuses and play for time.

  • James, as others have rightly said, nails it.

    James devotes most of his post to explaining why what we did was wrong. However, he also does well in pointing out what we should do now: just admit we messed up. To those who would remark that Clegg eventually did apologise, in a half-hearted sort of way, James makes the right comment: “every attempted defence of the betrayal just makes things worse as it makes us look just like the big two, doing anything to avoid having to admit we were wrong.”

    The only question James hasn’t addressed is how we might ever hope to recover.

    Frankly, I’m not sure that we can. If we had ditched Clegg years ago, and made a genuine apology, we might have done it. But now it may be too late. Sometimes in politics, things happen that can never be corrected. Tony Blair won’t ever get over Iraq, however much he might try. The Liberal Democrats may never get over tuition fees. Will it be enough to elect Tim Farron – who voted against fees – to the leadership in June 2015? Actually, it may not be enough – however well Farron might perform in the job. Some stains never wash out.

    Would we do better to dissolve the Liberal Democrats, sweep away the Cyril Smith legacy, the Rennards, the hedge funders and the dodgy party donors, and just start afresh from square one by forming a totally new Party?

    I’d bet that most of our good local councillors and long term activists with party careers would recoil in horror, and move heaven and earth to preserve the remnants of the party that has formed the basis of their political lives. But you know what? I think that would be the wrong judgment.

  • Simon
    Simon
    The presumption that it is not debt is based on the idea that the person who owes it might not earn enough to pay it back. While you are not earning enough to pay it back the debt increases as with any other loan. The only change between it and the old system is an increase in the threshold at which it is paid back. This doesn’t mean that doesn’t exist, but merely that there might be a longer delay until you have to start paying . How is this not a debt subject to increasing as it accumulates interest.? It’s pure spin to say that £9000 is less of a debt than £3, 000 because the threshold of repayment has been increased. All it says is that should your degree get you a job at the local pound shop you won’t have to pay back just yet.

  • James has hit the nail on the head & I’d just add that many of us find our life partners at Uni but to do so now must be terrifying because now there will be 2 sets of fees to repay as well as rent/mortgage & all usual stuff !

    But you go on telling yourselves just how fabulous you are & how great tuition fees are when you campaigned on abolishing them – the electorate will prove just how wonderful they view you very soon.

  • Simon McGrath 15th Aug '14 - 5:50am

    @Joshua Dixon “The issue is not simply access alone, as others have pointed out, its do we think a fair future is one based on saddling millions of young people with thousands of pounds of debt”
    Since the state will be borrowing the money if it doesnt charge tuition fees the issue is not whether young people are saddled with debts. Its whether those who don’t go to university should go into debt for those who do.

  • The alternative universe of LDV continues unabated.

    I hate to intrude with reality, but here goes, again:

    1. Graduates pay sufficiently more in tax over their lifetime than non-graduates such that they more than pay for their tuition without any fees, so it is categorically untrue to say that graduates were subsidised or that non-graduates were paying for graduates.

    2. Tuition fees are nothing like a tax. A graduate tax was explicitly rejected by the coalition in 2010 in favour of fees. Fees are different to a tax because: (a) A graduate tax would be at least be proportional whereas fees are regressive with high earning graduates contributing a smaller share of their lifetime incomes than those on middle incomes. This is the complete opposite of the long held principle of your party in wishing to fund HE through progressive taxation. (b) Once you’ve finished repaying your fees, that’s it. That’s why they are called fees. The same does not apply to ANY form of taxation in the UK. There isn’t some magical threshold where the rich can stop paying for the NHS altogether, or limit on the amount you can spend in VAT before everything becomes exempt if you spend enough, etc.

  • “Sometimes in politics, things happen that can never be corrected. Tony Blair won’t ever get over Iraq, however much he might try. ”

    The Iraq invasion was in 2003. Blair was re-elected in 2005 with 66 seat majority.

  • Perhaps this should be called the “fingers in ears – lah lah lah not listening” comments thread – on both sides! 🙂

  • There were 280 comments on my June post “Tuition fees – not the Crime of the century”
    https://www.libdemvoice.org/opinion-tuition-fees-not-the-crime-of-the-century-41178.html
    I’ll dump a can of parafin on this fire, but also get to the gist of that 280 comment debate to hopefully avoid repetition:

    Liberal Democrat MPs/candidates (not all) signed a pledge and held it up to the cameras, so even if they voted to increase fees by one penny they should have immediately retired from public life, joined a religious institution and flagellated themselves with stinging nettles everyday for the rest of their lives, because they are Liberal Democrats, unlike other politicians.

  • David Evans 15th Aug '14 - 7:48am

    That’s exactly the point Paul. We were portraying ourselves as not being like other politicians. That’s why people voted for good Lib Dem Councillors even if there was no chance of them controlling the council. They were not like other politicians and actually got stuck in on behalf of their constituents when the system conspired against them. If many of us don’t get that now, there really will be no way back.

    Remember Nick’s motto in 2010. It was “An end to broken promises.” That’s why he has to go, and go now.

  • Matthew Huntbach 15th Aug '14 - 7:51am

    MartinB

    But you go on telling yourselves just how fabulous you are & how great tuition fees are when you campaigned on abolishing them – the electorate will prove just how wonderful they view you very soon.

    That’s not what is being said. Saying that the negative impact of tuition fees is less than many people suppose or supposed is not the same as saying they are “great”.

    I don’t see anyone here moaning about the Liberal Democrats and tuition fees saying anything about what an alternative which would have kept the pledge would have involved. It would have been either:

    1) Subsidise university tuition by more direct government borrowing, which STILL puts a big debt burden on the next generation, only paid for through taxation.

    2) Subsidise university tuition by higher taxes. I would much prefer to have seen this, but I don’t see anyone here talking about just where that tax would fall and the impact it would have.

    3) Subsidise university tuition by bigger cuts in other things. Ok, what?

    4) Make the cost of subsidising university tuition less by drastically reducing the number of university places, or drastically reducing the quality of university education. If you read between the lines, this is what Labour are proposing with their plans to reduce fees to £6000.

  • Matthew Huntbach 15th Aug '14 - 8:04am

    David Evans

    Remember Nick’s motto in 2010. It was “An end to broken promises.” That’s why he has to go, and go now.

    Indeed, that is why he and all the PR people and ad-men surrounding him should go. They have no idea how politics works, they got us into this. It looks like they just thought in the short term “how can we run a campaign which attracts votes?” without thinking of the long term. We could have had this no tuition fees policy, but not singled it out with this big “pledge” publicity.

    A very basic rule is don’t make a “pledge”, especially with a big thing about “no broken promises” unless you are absolutely sure you can keep it under all foreseeable circumstances. A coalition with the Conservatives was a foreseeable circumstance, if this thing required taxes that the Conservatives would never agree to, it should have been put as an aspiration, yes, but like everything else has to depend on circumstances. The circumstances here are that the people of Britain, combined with the electoral system they supported by two-to-one gave us a Parliament in which a government in which the dominant force was people whose first principle is tax-cutting was the only possibility. Tuition fees are the consequences of that. If people don’t like it, they should not have voted Tory, and they should not have indicated their support for an electoral system which twisted the Tory representation up and LibDem representation down.

    I do believe that the Liberal Democrats, having made this pledge, should have put forward amendments in Parliament both opposing the tuition fees and calling for the tax increases that would have enabled this. The Conservatives would have been free to vote them down, yes, but it would also have directly challenged Labour, asking them “OK, you attack us on this issue, so how would YOU pay for it?”.

    The reality, however, is that the compromise of the current fees and loans system has left universities relatively untouched by cuts. This is very favourable compared to other areas of state spending. The Tories would have been very happy to see big university cuts, particularly at the universities the pleb go to that they disdain. The LibDem compromise saved those university places at the expense of the damage it has caused to our party. As a university lecturer, I am grateful for that. My job would have been at risk had it not happened.

  • Tsar Nicholas 15th Aug '14 - 8:05am

    Why is state debt something so worrying that it is worth driving millions into poverty and hardship for, while individual debt which lasts from a person’s teens to his or her fifties something to be shrugged off?

  • Nick Barlow 15th Aug '14 - 8:39am

    What Joshua, James, Jennie and others with names not beginning with J have said.

    But one point from the post itself: “Yes, those who signed the pledge to vote against fee increases screwed up.”

    Did they really, Stephen? Those who – encouraged by the Campaigns Department and in line with party policy – signed it screwed up, not those who eagerly tossed it away the moment they had the chance? Please explain how they screwed up in promoting the party’s policy, rather than Clegg et al screwing up in assuming that they could attempt to dump the policy.

    Two things that particularly piss me off here:
    1) Yet again, people who benefited from free (or cheap and heavily subsidised) higher education insisting that it’s only fair that other people now pay lots more for it, while not believing they should.
    2) People who still think Clegg’s ‘I apologise for breaking my promise, and to stop this happening again I’m not going to make any more promises’ position somehow looks good.

  • “What’s not to like?”

    That’s about on a par with Norman Lamont’s infamous “Je ne regrette rien” comment.

    “What’s not to like” – blindingly obviously – is that on average the total repayment per graduate will be much larger than it was previously, despite that signed promise by Lib Dem MPs to vote against any increase in fees.

  • David Evans 15th Aug '14 - 9:08am

    @Simon Shaw “What’s not to like?” How about the fact that the vast majority of the electorate disagree with you and don’t like it? Or is it the good old politician’s “I know what’s best fror you” approach that you are promoting?

  • How the party can still try to spin this policy as a form of Graduate Tax and not a debt is beyond me.

    It is a debt. Sure “repayments” do not have to be made until the “borrower” reaches a specific “earning threshold”
    However, the “debt “accumulates” “Interest” all the time that the “debt” exists.

    This will have consequences for future generations for many years to come.

    People are having to wait till their mid 30’s 40’s now before they can save enough money for a deposit and get on to the mortgage ladder.
    How do you suppose many are going to be affected by that, if their earnings go even slightly over the threshold and they have to stat repaying the “debt” how are they going to financially afford to save money for a deposit. How much Mortgage will they be able to afford to take on when rules regarding lending tightens. Mortgage lenders base their decisions on a persons “disposable” income, therefore the University Debt will surly be taken into account.

    If it looks like a debt, smells like a debt………

    I wonder, what is the difference between what this coalition government has done in regards to spinning this tax/debt and the banks miss-selling payment protection Insurance.

  • Stephen – you are quite right in your argument. Labour set up the Browne enquiry looking for a recommendation to raise fees and loans to a level that would cover the economic cost of higher education. They could see that the public purse could not afford to continue to expand higher education without shifting most of the cost onto students who stood most to gain. Everybody on the inside of higher education knew this was coming. Lib Dem opposition before the election was misguided and naive and we should just accept that and move on. The solution that Vince Cable worked out was a very sound one and, as Stephen has pointed out, access to HE by those from disadvantaged backgrounds has improved not least because of the funds that universities are required to in access – on average about 2.5% of their gross turnover.

    It is relevant to note that the fees paid by overseas students (non EU) in Russell Group universities are typically around £16-18,000 a year so the approximately 25% of students who pay those fees will in most cases be running up even higher debt and judging it to be good value. It is also relevant to note that this morning the 2014 international Shanghai ranking of the top 500 World universities has been published and British universities are holding their strong position in that table. This is important and requires the level of funding that our universities are now receiving. If you now abolished fees and put that straight back on the Treasury to fund, you really would break the bank.

    There are some tweaks needed but neither of the other two major parties will agree to abolition so we should work to improve the system and in particular focus on making sure that part-time student numbers grow again and that there is adequate loan provision for PG courses so that a Master’s Degree doesn’t become something that only those from middle class backgrounds can afford.

  • Where I agree with Stephen Tall is that the Lib Dem leadership, those who agreed how to implement the current system and those MPs who voted for it should be strongly and consistently advocating the new system’s virtues. These people supported the new system because they believed it was more fair than Labour’s previous system. They have an argument, but appear to lack the courage of their convictions.

    This is how Labour and Conservatives would have handled this issue.

    Obviously ‘the pledge’ was a stupid PR stunt produced out of desperation at a time when it was much more the case that people were not listening to us, or at least we were struggling much more to gain attention from the media.

    Perhaps it makes some feel good about themselves to denounce the new system, but what is the point of all this virtual hot air if it is not accompanied by answers to questions raised in Matthew Huntbach’s post, which get to the core of this issue?

    Personally I dislike the funding regime and feel that if university education is necessary for a successful modern economy, like the rest of education it should b borne by general taxation, however in the current economic conditions and since I support the raising of the tax threshold, that reduces taxation for the lower paid, I am at a loss to explain how this could be realistically achieved.

  • Max Wilkinson 15th Aug '14 - 9:49am

    If we had branded this as a graduate tax, we’d be having a completely different debate.

  • “They could see that the public purse could not afford …”

    For heaven’s sake, “what the public purse can afford” isn’t a matter of fact – it’s a matter of political choice!

  • Talking about fees, and about how the new situation is better than the old is exactly what your political opponents want you to do.

    It reminds everybody about how the party of ‘no more broken promises’ broke a high profile pledge within weeks of getting power.

  • Joshua Dixon 15th Aug '14 - 9:53am

    For those saying funding of higher education through general taxation will put us into further debt just consider for one moment that this doesn’t have to be about more state spending, but about PRIORITISING higher education as a necessary area of spending. I would happily advocate cutting elsewhere (trident, as an example) or raising taxes (be they income on the wealthiest or wealth taxes) to fund such a system. Those who say the only way is to borrow are just hear to scaremonger, I’m afraid.

  • Joshua Dixon 15th Aug '14 - 9:53am

    Max, this isn’t a graduate tax so rebranding it as such would have been cynical and misleading.

  • “If we had branded this as a graduate tax, we’d be having a completely different debate.”

    It would have fooled no one, and would have made the party look even more untrustworthy.

  • David Evans 15th Aug '14 - 9:58am

    John – you are quite wrong in your argument. Labour set up the Browne enquiry looking for a mechanism to delay things until after the General Election. They didn’t want to raise taxes and didn’t want to re-allocate resources from elsewhere. Everybody on the inside of higher education knew this was coming. Lib Dem opposition before the election was clear and different. We had a fully costed alternative and promised to support it. The solution Morrisey put forward wasn’t sound, and when we accepted it, it was a betrayal of trust. Sadly those who want to move on do so because they wish we would forget the mess they made of it all. Sadly for them the electorate will not forget.
    The argument that if you now abolished fees and put that straight back on the Treasury to fund, you really would break the bank, is a straw man to knock down. We should never have broken our pledge. Some people choose to forget that Cameron made a promise in 2010 that pensioners winter fuel allowance and free travel would not be cut. He kept his promise, Nick broke ours and broke the party as a consequence.

    Anyone who thinks we will have any opportunity to improve the system in the future needs to answer the question what are they going to do to persuade people to vote for us again, because without doing something about that, we will not be in government for decades.

  • There are still very few people out there in the general population who actually understand how the student fees system works and the role we have played in it. They have relied on the Tory press to tell them along with the Labour party which has a less than glorious record on student finance.

    When I have engaged with people on this they are usually amazed that no one has to write a cheque up front for their fees, that there is a salary break before anyone starts to pay anything back, that some graduates will only pay part of their fees back and almost disbelieving that some will pay back nothing at all. Usually when people have a better understanding of the current system they support it. They also understand that sometimes politicians cock it up and can’t deliver what they promised. Not least because they’ve done it themselves!

    Personally I see it as deferred graduate taxation rather than a debt in the true sense of the word. In the same way as the so called ‘bedroom tax’ isn’t a tax.

    I have gone from a position 30 years ago of defending ‘free’ university education as almost a human right to being perfectly happy to defend the general principle of the current policy.

  • Having two children with loans I can assure you that they are chased by the Student Loans Company. Remember the recent fraudulent legal letters they were sending out? My daughter works abroad, they send a form out dated usually 10 days before being received and insist on it being returned within three weeks of the date of the letter. This is deliberate in order that they can carry out their threat of increasing the loan by over £150 a month. The letters do sound threatening. However I am savvy but a lot of people will come back from abroad with a incredibly increased debt.

  • Joshua Dixon 15th Aug '14 - 10:17am

    It isn’t a deferred graduate tax. How many times does this need to be said?!

    If it was “deferred” then why do students from wealthy families have the option to pay upfront?

  • peter tyzack 15th Aug '14 - 10:20am

    It’s not the practicalities or the facts that will get us off the hook, or we would be free of it by now, its the emotion and the perception and the loss of trust. The Apology helped for some, but clearly keeping quiet about it just lends to our appearance of guilt… So NO to all of it.
    Vince did the right thing at the time, and it has turned out well, but for the campaign we have to grasp this nettle and turn it into a silken purse.. by making a positive, imaginative, bold policy step with it.. clear up the mess once and for all.
    Call it a Graduate Tax, sweep the debt aside(and the idea of letting Osborne sell the loan book). Assimilate the whole thing into the tax system. ie if you have a tertiary level qualification, gained in this country, for which you received grant aid to gain, then you automatically go onto a different tax schedule. Your schedule and thresholds stay the same up to average earnings, and then switch to the higher rates. No matter what happens to you after that you remain on the graduate schedule, you don’t ‘pay it off’ as it ceases to be a debt, and it is not a ‘charge’ against you, nor subject to the whims of future governments.
    If at the same time we raise the base threshold, assimilate NI into Income Tax, and outline our proposals to scrap Council Tax, replacing it with LiT, then it shows that we have thought the whole thing through.

  • stuart moran 15th Aug '14 - 10:23am

    Can I ask some questions:

    Why are our tuition fees some of the highest in the world?

    Where is the money coming from to pay for the expansion in HE before the repayments start rolling in?

    If, as has been estimated, almost 40% of the fees will remain unpaid what is the impact on future funding?

    What will stop the terms of the debt being changed and, or, sold on to debt collection services ?

    I am quite clear on my views. Higher education is a benefit to us all so should come out of general taxation – if necessary via new,increased or more efficient taxes. Tertiary level education should be available to all free of charge at any point in their life – not just at 18.

    The argument that it is a middle class tax on the poor is a ridiculous one in my view. This problem of non-participation should be tackled in another way. I don’t have kids but I am very happy to pay for their education.

    I see many people I was at school with and who paid little interest to education then develop into adults who value it more but have missed the boat instead of retraining.

    I also understand that my aspiration may not be feasible so a contribution to fees may be necessary but much less than now. Also other limitations may be necessary but they should be limited.

    We will only be able to compete in this century with an educated workforce

  • jedibeeftrix 15th Aug '14 - 10:24am

    @ JD – “I would happily advocate cutting elsewhere (trident, as an example) or raising taxes (be they income on the wealthiest or wealth taxes) to fund such a system.”

    Fair enough. I consider this a short – termist and self-centered view, but it is a free country…

  • Matthew Huntbach 15th Aug '14 - 10:35am

    Tsar Nicholas

    Why is state debt something so worrying that it is worth driving millions into poverty and hardship for, while individual debt which lasts from a person’s teens to his or her fifties something to be shrugged off?

    Why is the huge increase in debt young people had to face to get housing that occurred under the last Labour government just shrugged off? I think you will find the average increase in mortgage debt for first time buyers between 1997 and 2010 was a lot more than £27,000.

  • Simon Shaw

    Except that this is a “debt” that, if not paid off by then, is completely wiped out after 30 years – even if absolutely nothing has been paid off.

    That’s a most unusual sort of “debt”, but you obviously know where non-graduates can go to take out exactly the same sort of “debt”.

    Well done, you’ve just identified the key flaw in this fees structure. Where will the money come from if a certain number of fees aren’t repaid?

    It will either come from increasing premiums on earners above the threshold, lowering the threshold, or from central government. Alternatively you could just let universities go bust.

    The graduate premium has been falling in recent years, if it does not recover then one of the above will have to happen.

  • Matthew Huntbach 15th Aug '14 - 10:54am

    stuart moran

    I am quite clear on my views. Higher education is a benefit to us all so should come out of general taxation – if necessary via new,increased or more efficient taxes. Tertiary level education should be available to all free of charge at any point in their life – not just at 18

    Yes, I agree, and so do the Liberal Democrats, it is still party policy.

    However, the Conservatives do not agree, and the British people elected 306 Conservative MPs and only 57 Liberal Democrat MPs. The main principle of the Conservatives is to keep taxes low, especially taxes on rich people and on unearned income. Therefore they would not agree to what we want, it would be breaking their pledges to go along with it.

    What has come out is a compromise. I very much agree with you that straight subsidy by taxation would have been better. But if that is not an option because 306 Conservative MPs are not going to give up what they believe in and switch to what 57 Liberal Democrat MPs believe in, then what?

    I’ve outlined what other compromise options might have been chosen. Massive cuts in the number of university places would have kept the pledge, and satisfied the Conservatives in meaning big tax rises would not be necessary. Even more massive cuts in other government services in order to protect university spending would also have kept the pledge, but if so, what would those cuts have involved, seeing how horrible are the cuts we have experienced?

    I appreciate the argument I am making is very much damaged by Liberal Democrat ministers and national PR people now coming out and pretending our party is one whose prime motivation is making tax cuts, as here. This has NOT been agreed by the party’s democratic mechanisms, and it is COMPLETELY UNTRUE to claim it was in the party’s 2010 manifesto. The 2010 manifesto made very clear the increase in income tax allowance was to be balanced by tax increases elsewhere, it was NOT that it would be a straight tax cut paid for by things such as cutting subsidy to university. It is because of this duplicity form the top, attempting to push the party to the right, and undermining the defence I am still trying to give it that I am no longer actively working for the party. I retain membership, and will resume activity for it if Clegg and the Cleggies are removed from the top.

  • Is it really possible that the terms of the fees agreement can be changed retrospectively? Some assume this to be the case. If any government were foolhardy enough to do this the courts would surely slap this down.

    More realistically, the PAYE deductions could be frozen at £21000. Was it not enshrined in the agreement that the deduction threshold was fixed at the median salary? If not why not? This is surely the issue to address. The pragmatic policy would be to legislate to ensure that the resemblance to a graduate tax is strengthened and not diluted.

    It is correct to say that the issue is a question of political choice. Clearly tax cuts that have been implemented for lower incomes could have been sacrificed for funding of university tuition, but would anyone here support this. There seem to be genuine doubts whether raising the highest rate tax for high earners would increase revenue significantly, so the other option would be raising the standard rate of tax. Trident apart, I cannot see any obvious areas for cuts in public spending.

    In one sense of ‘debt’, this system is truly a debt; that it is a deferred national debt (similar to how PFI is a deferred national debt). This is what bothers me most about this policy, but this is part of a wider concern that financial systems and rules, over which we seem to be powerless to control, are determining public policy.

  • stuart moran 15th Aug '14 - 11:31am

    Matthew

    I agree with you on this point. It seems though that many LD members not think that the current compromise policy is better than what you had before. I disagree with them on this and now see the LD as being the same as the other parties in supporting high tuition fees – and they are high compared to our peers

    I still have doubts whether the current position is at all sustainable and if the repayment rate is low where is the money coming from? There are a lot of £9000 to be paid…..

    It will be interesting to see what LD policy is come the GE because at the moment I have no idea…it seems most of the posters on here are happy with the current policy which seems odd to me to say the least. Also the student visa programme seems to have also undermined the funding of HE. I expect a future catastrophe but then again I am only a humble plebeian….

    Martin, as to where the funding comes from. I think your view on taxes for the wealthier is based on information from the wealthy and the flawed concept of the Laffer Curve (the tipping point of which has never been found…funny that). I think cutting the taxes of the wealthy was only done for one thing….to make the rich richer and not because they thought it would bring in revenue.

    The debate on tax/spending is just one of priorities – is education considered a priority over defence? Is health a priority over allowing multinationals to avoid tax? We can always tax the rich more, tax wealth, introduce capital gains on house sales, reduce inheritance tax threshold, actually close tax avoidance loopholes instead of talking about it,

    There are lots of things we can do . it doesn’t mean we should but in the end it is all a choice. Whatever choice we make as individuals means there will have to be a more difficult choice elsewhere

    My view is this Tory dominated Coalition is making the wrong choices in pretty much every sphere. I would rather reduce tuition fees than throw money at ‘free’ schools. Now there is a middle class vanity project if I ever saw one……

  • John Kelly said:

    “Labour set up the Browne enquiry looking for a recommendation to raise fees and loans to a level that would cover the economic cost of higher education. They could see that the public purse could not afford to continue to expand higher education without shifting most of the cost onto students who stood most to gain. … Lib Dem opposition before the election was misguided and naive and we should just accept that and move on. ”

    Well now, let’s suppose that Joe Public would like to drive a Ferrari, and Joe asks himself whether the Public purse can afford it. Mr Ferrari will tell them that they can buy one, or lease one, or hire one, or sign up to a complicated financing scheme to pay for one. Joe, you can be sure, will think of this as a secondary decision. If Joe thinks he can comfortably afford a luxury car, he will first of all decide to have one. Then, as a secondary consideration, he will decide which of Mr Ferrari’s financing routes he would best prefer. If on the other hand Joe knows that he just can’t possibly afford a Ferrari, he will know that no amount of financial juggling will make any difference.

    Now let’s apply this lesson to university finance. For many years, we have been able to afford this particular car. Now, suddenly along come Labour and Mr Browne, putting the argument that somehow we can’t any more, unless we juggle around with the financing scheme.

    But it’s only juggling, isn’t it? Parents and others earn money, children get it spent on them when university education is bought. Somehow the money has to get from the earners to the universities. Government can grab it from the earners (tax) and throw it to the students (grants) or direct to the university. Government can change who it grabs money from, to some extent. But if Government could afford a Mondeo last year, it doesn’t make sense to claim that because Ford’s prices have gone up a few percent this year, the whole car purchase question suddenly becomes totally unaffordable unless Government makes a massive change in where it grabs its money from, by “shifting most of the cost onto students” in John Kelly’s words. It’s a bogus argument for a massive change. What is this bogus argument trying to conceal?

    “David” I hear the fees defenders say “you know perfectly well what you have left out of account. It’s Mr Ferrari’s last option, the finance scheme. What Government wants to do is to drive the car now, and leave its successors to pay the costs later. It’s about borrowing. That’s what has to be done. It’s a bit like PFI. We postpone our costs into the future. We gain popularity for our economic brilliance, while someone else has to pick up the tab long after we have retired to the Lords. What’s more, it’s crucially different from PFI, because it isn’t even a future government that has to pay the debts. No, it’s the poor bloody student who we saddle with it! So when some clever accountant comes along and investigates whether the government is planning prudently for its future budgeting, those debts are nowhere in sight! That’s the financial trick we have to play! That’s why we need fees!

    But don’t tell that to the public, they wouldn’t like it. Spin them a yarn about the costs having suddenly gone through the roof, such that a prudent government had to take action. The best means of defence is attack. Given that we are actually trying to live now and pay later, the best way to deflect the public from recognising this is to dress up in austerity sackcloth and solemnly claim the moral high ground. It’s not true, but it is credible.

    PS, of course our fees regime is totally different from a graduate tax, which means paying for this year’s costs out of this year’s earnings. So hey, remember what H*tler told us all about the importance of the Big L*e, we should tell everybody that fees are just like a graduate tax really. That’ll fool them!”

    Then comes the final twist. Mr Browne, and Mr Two Brains and his colleagues, have set up this very cunning plan, whereby we move to paying for universities on tick, and we put the charge onto the student rather than the government, so that it vanishes from the public accounts. Very clever. But we have missed something! We still need to pay the universities out of this year’s receipts. Those students are being allowed not to repay their loans until they make decent earnings. So they aren’t actually paying at the moment. So…oh heck, we the government still have to pay! We thought we’d magicked this debt off the public accounts, but it has bounced back to bite us! We are actually getting in less money from the students than we were under the old scheme! Aargh!

    We certainly should not “accept fees and move on”. One reason is the trust question, on which I agree with “Joshua, James, Jennie and others with names not beginning with J”. But another reason is that the new system ain’t working. It is a nasty live-now-pay-later scheme, and it doesn’t even achieve that aim.

  • Matthew: re

    The 2010 manifesto made very clear the increase in income tax allowance was to be balanced by tax increases elsewhere

    Are you claiming that the overall tax take has decreased? My understanding is that throughout the parliament tax receipts have increased and are projected to increase further, including an increase in proportion of GDP from 35.3% to 36% in 2017. Moreover this is coupled with a greater increase in revenue from the more well off. [source: http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2010/apr/25/tax-receipts-1963%5D

    This seems to be in line with the manifesto commitment. Matthew, I know from your posts that you have been anti Clegg from the start, but tax revenue does not seem to be an issue that you can hold against him.

  • The Party’s fortunes would be helped if it could include in its manifesto for 2015 a renewed pledge to abolish student fees [although another leader would be required to make it].

    There is a great deal of extra government income available if the multinationals can be prevented from avoiding tax by one of the many loop holes available to them. A turnover tax or a transaction tax [if it were more reliable] would achieve this end – along with providing the cash to restore the public services devastated [not least the NHS] by the austerity measures.

  • I think you’re missing the point here guys . While I’m overjoyed people haven’t been put off university its not whether its a good or bad policy that’s turned off voters, its the fact that we campaigned on not raising tuition fees and then did in government. Its the breaking of the promise, even if the policy isn’t that bad. It could be the best policy in the world for ‘the country’ but it will be small comfort to prospective students and their family who however we dress it up are in a worse position now than they were in 2010, unless they never get a well paid job in their lives, which is hardly an inspiring thought.

    It’s all a case of branding as well. If we’d replaced tuition fees with a ‘graduate tax’ which is almost what this system is people wouldn’t have had any near as much of a problem. Who would argue with a system where people in low pay jobs pay nothing and those in well paid jobs pay more? That’s exactly what we’ve got now, but concessions to the Tory’s allowing people to ‘pay off’ their fees in one go, allowing different universities to charge different rates etc. means it still feels like a debt you pay off, when in reality its much more like a tax that hits you at £23,000.

    So its a question of trust more than whether it was the right thing to do. I think the only way to rebuild this trust is publicly defy Tory policies we disagree with and appear to ‘stand up for our principles’ more in government. The relationship with our coalition partners has appeared too cosy. It should have felt like a temporary alliance of ideological enemies, publicly tempestuous and fiery. Imagine Alex Salmond in coalition with David Cameron 😀

  • As I remember the last Academic study in this area suggested that Graduates make an extra £800,000, before tax, over their working lifetimes, compared to Non-Graduates. Student Loans are an investment, like taking out a Mortgage with the big difference that if you dont earn more money, after 30 years the loan is wiped out. Make bad choices with a Mortgage & you could end up homeless & bankrupt.
    I invest £50,000 & get £800,000 back. That looks like a pretty good investment to me.

  • Joshua Dixon 15th Aug '14 - 11:57am

    @jedibeeftrix – Ha. What is short-termist is leaving future funding black holes in higher education by providing an unsustainable funding regime. My very thinking and beliefs I hold are based on the very fact that we need long term funding solutions. I’m shocked you would think it is a self-centred view though. I don’t want millions of people saddled with huge amounts of debt. Is that honestly self-centred?

  • Simon Shaw,
    I vote Lib Dem. I am fed up of hearing spin on this issue. A debt is debt. So if after thirty years you are not earning enough to pay it then its wiped out. Big deal. This means you are lumbered with a debt from your teenage years to your middle aged, If you go bankrupt all debts are completely wiped out and after about 5 to 6 years your credit is more or less cleared. Does this mean that a bank loan is not a debt?
    I’m on this site because I’m a Lib Dem voter. Quite frankly I don’t like being told that up is really down and a debt of £40-£60, 0000 after 3 years is fairer than a debt £10 – £18’000. and anyway isn’t really a debt because the threshold at which it has to be repaid has risen or something or other. It’s is spin and it convinces virtually no-one except the people trying to spin it.

  • The fact that high earning graduates now pay a lot more towards the cost of their degree, and low earning graduates pay less, is one of the things most to like – at least for those who believe in progressive taxation. You clearly don’t.

    What you asked, Simon, is “what’s not to like?” – which is that on average graduates will be paying a lot more.

    They particularly don’t like that because your MPs promised them they would vote against them paying a penny more. I don’t think that saying the greatly increased payments will be more fairly shared out is likely to placate them. By all means give it a try, but it’s silly to pretend you don’t get the point.

  • Simon,

    Your talent for truncating comments to change their meaning still shines like a beacon. Let me complete the comment for you and perhaps you would then be good enough to respond to what I posted in its entirety- which was:

    “The Party’s fortunes would be helped if it could include in its manifesto for 2015 a renewed pledge to abolish student fees [although another leader would be required to make it].

    There is a great deal of extra government income available if the multinationals can be prevented from avoiding tax by one of the many loop holes available to them. A turnover tax or a transaction tax [if it were more reliable] would achieve this end – along with providing the cash to restore the public services devastated [not least the NHS] by the austerity measures.’

  • Nobody has mentioned what the Conference discussed/decided last autumn or perhaps few or none of the contributors to this post were there. My (admittedly hazy) recollection was that Vince defended his scheme well and that Conference went along with a regret that we’d had to do it but with no strong commitment to change anything. If I’m right then it might indeed be best to defend the scheme and seek to improve it. Not many of those commenting have signed is as Party members. Perhaps many of the others aren’t and are hoping the Party will crash anyway.

  • stuart moran 15th Aug '14 - 12:26pm

    John Kelly

    Ah the old ‘but you are not members’ comment

    No I am not a member – if you look back at my posting history I set out what I am….I am Lib Dem voter – in fact a pretty loyal one

    Above I also set out what I believe in when it comes to tuition fees – pretty similar to what was in your last manifesto.

    It seems, according to you, that my view has no weight. Fair enough. I didn’t go to Conference and listen to a group of people navel gazing and justifying that things weren’t as bad as they seem.

    Well to me they are…and I would like to emphasise something to you which you sanctified members seem to forget. The LD membership is small and will not win you any elections.

    What you need is voters like me coming back to the fold. If I don’t vote for you then I am not quite sure who is. From the views of the membership here is seems like right wing neoliberals are in vogue at the moment. Perhaps that was aways the case but being from a Northern constituency I don’t remember your PPC being very open about it though

    Your post seems to just be a shrug of the shoulders and lacking in a vision of what you do want! I set mine out above, and ask Matthew H said it was very similar to what you wanted in 2010.

    What other LD policies are equally as built on sand? Civil liberties? Environment? What is it you stand for now?

    Perhaps you can start by answering some of my questions above. Treat me as ignorant of the detail and start defending the policy….

  • JoshuaDixon
    “What is short-termist is leaving future funding black holes in higher education by providing an unsustainable funding regime”

    Exactly.

    In May 2013, the HuffPost revealed that students from the EU owe £50m in unpaid tuition fees,

    http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/05/12/students-from-the-eu-owe-50m-in-unpaid-tuition-fees_n_3262728.html

    and in March this year:

    A Government prediction that around 45% of student loans will never be paid back has raised concerns about the benefits of raising tuition fees.

    The coalition originally estimated that 28% of university graduates would not earn enough to repay their student debt.

    However, Universities Minister Mr Willetts says the Government’s current assessment is that around 45% will not be paid back.

    This figure is perilously close to the 48.6% threshold at which experts say the country will begin to lose more money than it gains under the new system.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/03/22/unpaid-student-loans-funding-crisis_n_5012484.html

  • A naive article, which proved itself wrong quickly – when Lib Dems talk about tuition fees support declines because it reminds voters that we said one thing before the election then voted for the antithesis straight after. Some are debating the substance and effect of the policy, when that doesn’t make a jot of difference – reminders of the volte-face are vote killers. There is some consensus, seen on this page, on both sides of this debate that we should really stop talking about it now and try to heal enough to fight a general election.

    Nobody has written anything new or worthwhile on this page, we’ve all said all this before, so if this is just another opportunity to say it all again…Clegg Must Go! We have a toxic brand and we won’t recover until we’ve dealt with it.

  • Liberal Neil 15th Aug '14 - 12:40pm

    The new system is better in a number of ways than the old one.

    BUT.

    Politically this issue is our biggest negative and talking about it loses us votes and we’ve got lots of things that can gain us votes so we are better talking about them.

  • Simon Shaw, having had it pointed out to you that truncating comments is unfair, you have replied by truncating the same comment in a slightly different way.

    Moderators, can’t you just ban this guy from the site? He just delights in his ability to argue by below-the-belt methods.

  • Stephen Campbell 15th Aug '14 - 1:00pm

    @John Kelly: ” Not many of those commenting have signed is as Party members. Perhaps many of the others aren’t and are hoping the Party will crash anyway.”

    I often see people like you commenting about how non-party members post here and often explain why they no longer vote Lib Dem, or why they feel they can no longer trust your party. Your party has often made big noise about their desire for more of the public to be engaged with politics and political parties. Yet all too often, we see people such as yourself thinking there is some grand conspiracy that those non-party members who post here are simply doing so to “crash” your party or some equally paranoid nonsense (“Labour trolls”, anyone?). The fact is people such as yourself only seem to want to engage with the electorate when they have nice things to say about you. You simply don’t want to be reminded of how intensely let down so many of your ex-voters feel by your actions in government. You don’t want to be told where you’ve gone wrong or why people no longer vote for you.

    Is this more of the fabled “New Politics”? Sounds like some in your party really don’t want to listen to those who voted for you based on a pledge that was then broken. Which says, to me at least, that some people in this party still have a very long way to go in accepting the mistakes they’ve made and the reason so many people are angry with your party. Thing is, in a democracy such as ours, without voters political parties are nothing. And yet people like you want to dismiss the views of people who used to vote for you because they aren’t members. That’s fine, but it certainly won’t win you votes.

    For the record, I voted Liberal Democrat in every national, local and European election since 2001. But no longer. Now I vote Green. Instead of denigrating the views of people such as myself, maybe you should instead be asking why we no longer vote for you.

  • Stephen Campbell 15th Aug '14 - 1:04pm

    @David Allen:

    It’s simply what Mr. Shaw always does: he selectively quotes, obfuscates, focuses on very minor points and technicalities and uses a good dose of spin. One may reasonably suggest his calling in life should be a politician..

    Oh wait…

  • stuart moran 15th Aug '14 - 1:16pm

    Simon Shaw

    On what grounds do you call the proposition ‘idiotic’?

    That it will have no credibility because of the about turn or that it is not a good policy?

    If the latter then I find it surprising, especially seeing you would not be alone in that view, as it was a cornerstone of the manifesto and campaign. There was even a pretty much unprecedented pledge from your leadership as well. I can understand you disagreeing with it but to call it ‘idiotic’ is well….shocking!

    Personally I think you have less credibility if you use that sort of an approach than if you reaffirmed your commitment to the original policy and explained it was a compromise based on the Coalition. Unfortunately, the fact that is difficult to sell is the fault of your leadership and how they communicated it.

  • A Social Liberal 15th Aug '14 - 1:34pm

    Simon Shaw said

    “Graduates pay not a single penny more in tax over their lifetime than non-graduates (unless, of course, you regard the current student finance system as a Graduate Tax).

    Surely you must realise that it is higher earners who pay more in tax than lower earners . . . ”

    Surely, Simon, you realise that graduates earn on average £100,000 more than non-graduates. This is how they should be paying back the cost of their eeducation.
    there is however, a more fundemental point. Simply by spending three years or more in order to carry out jobs which need that higher level of education, they are serving our society. It is a small cost to our society to pay for their education so that they can carry out those jobs.

  • I>”You obviously don’t understand averagesm as you appear to be only concerned that graduate high earners will pay more than they would have done under the old system. Is that because you fall into that category?
    In contrast you appear to have absolutely no concern about those who, although a graduate, end up on relatively low earnings, for whatever reason. And who now pay less.
    With your concern for the rich, rather than the poor, shouldn’t you really be posting on ConservativeHome rather than here?”

    Simon, I have explained to you twice the point I’m making. The point is that on average graduates will be paying a lot more. Not just high earners. Average graduates.

    You are deliberately misrepresenting what I have said. Please stop doing it.

  • Though it is worth pointing out that when graduates make up half of the population, and the better-earning half by some way, they would have paid most of that money in extra taxes under a system where fees are funded by general taxation. The remainder being paid by non-graduates.

    Your point being?

  • Broken promises aside, it’s those quirky little anomalies that make these ill considered policies a touch ‘weird’?
    Lisa from Colchester just qualified as a doctor, and has a £50,000 debt. Peter from Poland, also just qualified as a doctor from his Krakow university. His tuition debt? ( zero ) Lisa’s mum and dad both work. Some of their taxes went via the EU to subsidise the Polish economy (as Net EU recipients), enabling the Polish government to give Peter free Uni tuition. So in an indirect way, Lisa’s mum and dad paid towards Peter getting free Uni education in Poland, whilst their own daughter now has a bill for £50,000 (?)
    Update : Both Lisa and Peter are both each looking for houses to buy in Leeds, where they both got a job at Leeds Hospital. Lisa can’t get the level of mortgage she would like because of her £50,000 debt, but she is hoping that her mum and dad might be able to help her out.
    Peter is doing fine. He *is* keeping schtum about his lack of tuition fees

  • John Broggio 15th Aug '14 - 2:13pm

    “On your conversation with Simon, you appear to have confused what graduates pay on average with what the average graduate pays.”

    That’s such a hugely misleading conflation of repayment instalments (which, as the term of the debt repayment is longer, has fallen) with the amount of the debt to be repaid (which has risen & is surely the most relevant aspect to the individuals and universities alike).

  • Nonconformistradical 15th Aug '14 - 2:21pm

    “There are still very few people out there in the general population who actually understand how the student fees system works”
    In which case – if any such among those people desire a university education but don’t have the intelligence to work it out for themselves – with some assistance from people such as Martin Lewis (http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/students/student-loans-tuition-fees-changes) are they up to a university education anyway?

  • Peter Watson 15th Aug '14 - 2:41pm

    @Robert “There are still very few people out there in the general population who actually understand how the student fees system works and the role we have played in it.”
    Indeed – they keep popping up on this site and calling it a graduate tax.

  • stuart moran 15th Aug '14 - 3:01pm

    Firstly, it was the LD who created the furore about tuition fees in the first place when Labour introduced them so if you were all wrong as you now seem to be saying don’t you owe them an apology?

    Secondly, this is not all about the students it is about the stability of HE spending in the UK. It seems that the whole discussion from those in support is that in effect no-one is going to have to pay back the money. The low earners don’t because they don’t earn enough and the best paid don’t because they pay it off quicker.

    So in the end who is paying for the £9000 per head? Is someone getting shafted by this scheme, if so who? If general taxation is going to have to make up any shortfall then is that planned for us is the ‘magic money tree’ going to provide?

    Finally, if it isn’t really a loan then what is it and why didn’t you call it something else? A loan has to be paid back but, as I said, narrative is that most won’t have to

    I sense a Ponzi scheme somewhere

  • “On your conversation with Simon, you appear to have confused what graduates pay on average with what the average graduate pays. The natural interpretations of these terms would relate to mean repayments and graduates on median graduate earnings, respectively.”

    I’d have thought it was clear in the context of my comment that “average graduate” meant “graduate who pays the average amount”.

    But of course it’s just as true that graduates on mean earnings and median earnings will be paying a lot more under the new system. Probably modal earnings too, for anyone to whom that’s the “natural interpretation” of average. Take a look at Figure 4.3 here:
    http://www.ifs.org.uk/comms/r93.pdf

    There’s nothing esoteric in any of this. The whole point of the new system was to increase massively the contribution made by graduates to the funding of Higher Education. Of course the result of that will be that the average graduate pays a lot more – no matter which precise definition of average you choose.

  • Tony Rowan-Wicks 15th Aug '14 - 3:10pm

    Shall we just say that you don’t get something for nothing? My parents paid highly for my degree in the 1950s – it has always been what parents do for their children. I paid back my dues later as the government requested. Students were on a march, in 2010, to ask Nick to support ‘no fees’ and he foolishly said ‘Yes’. Silly people make unconsidered remarks which haunt them forever, if they don’think about it and ask wise counsel.l Just try to be wise and remember you had an education!

  • Peter Watson 15th Aug '14 - 3:16pm

    @Peter Watson “Indeed – they keep popping up on this site and calling it a graduate tax.”
    Ooops – posted too quickly and just realised I said the opposite of what I meant, a bit of a theme when it comes to Lib Dems and tuition fees I suppose.
    For the avoidance of doubt I was trying to make a sarky comment that people who call it a graduate tax don’t “understand how the student fees system works and the role we have played in it”.

  • “My point being that the amount extra you are paying is less than half of what it appears to be.”

    I think you’re forgetting that about half the amount that will be repaid by graduates represents interest. That’s interest which wouldn’t have to be paid if HE were funded from general taxation.

  • As can be discerned from Matthew Huntbach’s intelligent posts above, the rights and wrongs of the tuition fee debate are more nuanced than many might suppose, and we should not see the issues involved through the prism of a narrative set not only by our own leaders’ incompetence but also in part by our political opponents and in part by an unfriendly press.

    Can I introduce a further nuance into the discussion. People customarily divide our MPs into a servile crew who voted for tuition fees and a band of heroes who voted against them, but we ought to remember that the original understanding in the coalition agreement had been that all our MPs, whether ministers or not, would abstain on the vote. It was however realised at a late stage that it would be absurd for ministers and PPS’s not to support a set of proposals that Vince Cable, with David Willetts, had personally come up with, and it was, I believe, Vince who persuaded his parliamentary colleagues that the parliamentary party in the House of Commons should not abstain but that ministers and PPS’s should vote for the proposal, and that the rest of the parliamentary party should be allowed, if they wanted to, to vote against it. The net effect of this was more or less the same as if the whole parliamentary party had abstained, so the result was a deliberately managed one, and those who voted one way or the other were, in my view, neither heroes nor villains.

    Does this square with other posters’ recollections ?

  • Tsar Nicholas 15th Aug '14 - 4:34pm

    Matthew Huntbach

    “Why is the huge increase in debt young people had to face to get housing that occurred under the last Labour government just shrugged off? I think you will find the average increase in mortgage debt for first time buyers between 1997 and 2010 was a lot more than £27,000.”

    I totally agree, although I think you will find that house price inflation on a grand scale has now returned to the British economy under the Coalition.

  • stuart moran 15th Aug '14 - 4:41pm

    Joe Otten

    Where is the money coming from until these loans are paid? Thin air?

    As I see it (simplistically) – the Government are ‘borrowing’ money to pay for HE – they are then planning to recoup that cost via the fees and interest. These fees will not start to be paid back in any significant amount for quite a few years (I am sure there has been some projections mad when) so until then the Government will foot the bill. The break even point for the Government will be based on a certain pay back rate and interest on the borrowing.

    This will be dependent on a number of factors. If the projections are wrong the Government could end up paying anyway or changing the conditions to recoup their loss (perhaps they will receive back more than intended – I doubt it though….)

    My understanding though is that the Government can borrow at lower rates than anyone else – so will they be charging the students the same rate of interest that the money has been borrowed at?

    At the end of the day I don’t see this as being a very stable way of funding HE and also I do not see why the fees are so high

  • stuart moran 15th Aug '14 - 4:48pm

    Simon Shaw

    But I still take it that you though the policy was wrong as well – just not ‘idiotic’

    If though someone in or supporting the party think it is still the best aspiration to have – and there still are quite a few, me amongst them – then do you accept that they will blame the leadership for that?

    The policy according to its supporters on here was the best that could have been done in the circumstances of Coalition, isn’t a loan in any normal sense of the term and is also fairer than before it. That is the consequence of Coalition though so surely it could have been possible to then return to the aspiration of no tuition fees afterwards

    Isn’t it the fault of the leadership being so hung-ho and positive about the new Coalition policy that makes it impossible to return to what was seen as the best policy only a few years ago.

    Also, if it is impossible to do ‘a U-turn on a U-turn’ don’t a lot of Coalition policies de facto become LD ones for the same reason? Perhaps not a U-tun on a U-turn but a single U-turn is not so much better than a double one – especially if there are a lot of them

  • David Allen 15th Aug '14 - 4:56pm

    Hugh p,

    “It was however realised at a late stage that it would be absurd…”

    Well, the original provision in the Coalition Agreement, that an abstention by Lib Dem MPs would be considered acceptable, begged all the questions. What wasn’t stated in the CA was what they would be expected to abstain upon! A decision to retain fees at their current level, for example, would have been consistent with the famous pledge – though some MPs might still have wanted to abstain on the basis of preferring to scrap all fees. A decision to raise some fees while lowering others or making some other compensatory changes might have been seen as ambiguous, arguably not seriously contravening the pledge, hence a reasonable decision on which to abstain. But – a tripling of fees! Had ordinary Lib Dems known that this was likely, I’m sure Clegg would have had more opposition to signing the CA!

    So – Did Clegg and his negotiators know, in broad outline, that this was what was coming? Well, if Clegg didn’t know, he was a fool. If he did know, he was a knave. If he didn’t know, he had no idea what he was signing up to with the CA. If he did know, then he unforgivably concealed that knowledge from his own membership.

    And then we get this argument that “it was realised at a late stage that it would be absurd…”. Pull the other one. It might have been reasonable for Vince to vote in favour of his own proposals. It might conceivably have been argued that fellow Cabinet members should do likewise in the spirit of collective responsibility. There was no earthly necessity for an army of PPSs to do the same. What Cameron and Clegg clearly insisted was that, to avoid any risk of a wider rebellion and defeat on the proposals, the whole of the Lib Dem payroll vote would be forced to ignore the CA and vote in favour. Most of the Lib Dem non-payroll vote chose to do the opposite. It was the prelude to four years of putting a brave face on powerlessness. Thanks to Clegg’s deception.

  • Peter Watson 15th Aug '14 - 5:04pm

    @stuart moran “The policy according to its supporters on here was the best that could have been done in the circumstances of Coalition …”
    Sadly not. Students paying increased tuition fees for tertiary education has been presented by the Lib Dem leadership (and Simon Shaw in this thread) as a good thing in and of itself, not a reluctant compromise.

  • stuart moran 15th Aug '14 - 5:06pm

    Simon Shaw

    I think the argument about the non-Graduate vs Graduate earning the same, high salary is the weakest one of all.

    Why should University be seen as some sort of privilege when in fact one of its main functions is to benefit our society? I would rather tax capital gains on house sales or inheritance rather than penalise those who go to University to be honest

    Just out of interest did you go to University? In the sense of fair play I will say that I did a degree and PhD so was there for 6 years – should I have pay for my PhD as well?

    Just imagine 6 years but during that I was getting all of £3000 in grant and during my PhD I was on about £7000 not including any income I earned from working. My mates who went to work straight away and got 6 years of pension and salary. I now earn about the same as they do to be honest.

    Oh and one of them just inherited a £200000 house so who is laughing…….no tax to pay on that – God forbid!

  • Peter Watson 15th Aug '14 - 5:08pm

    @Joe Otten “you appear to have confused what graduates pay on average with what the average graduate pays”
    Has one of these not increased?

  • Stephen Hesketh 15th Aug '14 - 5:16pm

    Dear all

    Just listened to this on the way home from work:
    BBC Radio4 More or Less

    Student Loans
    “A recent report suggests that the cost of the government’s new student loan system is rising. Tim Harford investigates whether they should they have foreseen the rising costs, and whether the new system will end up costing more than the old one.”

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04d4v85

    Repeat Sunday evening 8pm. Presumably available to listen to online after that.

  • Bill le Breton 15th Aug '14 - 5:45pm

    Wouldn’t a graduate tax be paid by graduates and not just that generation that began their university course after 2012?

    I worry about the 3% margin on inflation for the interest rate calculation. I am not sure this has been appreciated by undergraduates entering their third year and their families.

    I also worry that many are deciding to attend a local rather than the most appropriate university inorder to minimise accommodation costs. Even those having their fees paid and receiving full grants are probably making such choices, something that does not cross the mind of those who come from more affluent backgrounds.

    German undergraduates in a decentralised system are ‘charged’ far less and their local institutions are starting to abolish even these fees. They appreciate what it takes to excel in the knowledge economy.

    We are going nowhere in the polls because so many people are just not listening in particular to our leader. These people are not listening because they have made up their minds that he is untrustworthy.

    If he really had the Party’s interests at heart he would accept this and hand over to someone who would receive a better hearing. What are we? 240 days to polling day?

  • David Allen – I was not arguing the rights and wrongs of how our parliamentary party in the House of Commons voted. The point that I was endeavouring to make was that the net result of the votes one way and the votes the other way was more or less the same as if the parliamentary party had stuck to the original decision to abstain, and that the result was thus in effect a managed one, in which there were in reality neither heroes nor villains.

  • Tuition Fees continues to be a crippling argument for the party and will be thrown at us heavily next year. There is no escape, we recklessly caused this situation and have to live with it.
    However to me the real challenge is to reduce these costs. Why is a course 3 years?. It can surely be cut to 2 with economies of scale to boot. Why are holidays so long? It seems to be one of the most wasteful areas of our economy. There are so many questions that everyone refuses to consider. If people can get their degrees on a part time basis, working full time etc then our students should be able to walk it in 2 years. Then there is question do they really need to go to University? Often those who do not are better equipped and more qualified for actual work than those from University, and they then get the jobs.
    I suggest just going on and on about Tuition Fees ignores the real challenge.
    PS I hold an LLM and LLB through correspondence course and evening class, whilst like so many in the 70s and 80s working full time.

  • John Roffey 15th Aug '14 - 6:12pm

    @ Simon Shaw

    “@David Allen
    “Simon Shaw, having had it pointed out to you that truncating comments is unfair, you have replied by truncating the same comment in a slightly different way.”

    [Comment truncated by moderator]

    Trunctating comments isn’t, de facto, unfair. It is only unfair if it distorts the meaning. It didn’t in this case as I merely omitted an unrelated point that was off topic (and which I had no wish to address).”

    My comment has not been truncated by a moderator – it remains exactly as posted!

    Few political issues can be viewed in isolalation. My suggest to renew the pledge on student fees [with a different leader] was aimed at proving to the electorate that Liberal Democrats are in the main honest individuals – who if they make a pledge – will honour that pledge. The problem arose because the leader at the time did not share the general belief in honesty.

    In order to pay for these fees additional income would be needed by the Exchequer – I suggested a Turnover Tax on the multinationals as these have not being paying their fair share of Corporation Tax because of the loopholes available.

    Now Simon this is a controversial suggestion – but logical. If you do not wish to involve yourself in something controversial – do not reply. Only reply if you are prepared to discuss the suggestion in its entirety.

  • David Allen 15th Aug '14 - 6:16pm

    Hugh p – Yes, in a sense I think you are right about that, though I think the management process started with Cameron / Clegg, who were determined that there should be no effective rebellion. As you suggest, that made it impossible to determine whether the “rebel” MPs were heroically standing up for their principles, or whether they were just making a token rebellion under license. All of which just made us look even worse.

  • “Chris, not really. That doesn’t make a lot of difference when the government is borrowing heavily anyway, and we are all paying for that borrowing with our taxes.”

    That would be an absolutely brilliant riposte if Lib Dem policy in 2010 had been to fund HE through increased borrowing. But as we know, the proposal was (supposedly) going to be fully funding. So no additional borrowing, and no additional interest payments. So your argument is completely spurious.

  • Dead man walking! We’ve got a dead man walking here!

  • If you really think that graduates”on average”, and “average graduates” mean the same thing then it is no wonder that what you say doesn’t make a lot of sense.
    So when you claim that I am “deliberately misrepresenting what you have said” that is is effectively the reverse of the truth. What I was trying to do was correct your misrepresentations attributable, no doubt, to a lack of understanding of statistics on your part.

    Simon, apparently you missed my earlier response to Joe Otten, who tried to make the same point. Here it is:
    https://www.libdemvoice.org/why-lib-dems-shouldnt-keep-schtum-about-tuition-fees-42042.html#comment-311033

    The point is that on any reasonable definition of the average graduate, the average graduate will be paying much more under the new system. Because the whole point of the new system is that the total graduate contribution to the funding of HE will be massively raised. If you really can’t see that, you are very ill qualified to criticise anyone else’s statistical understanding (particularly if the person you are criticising has a Ph.D. in mathematics!).

  • I suppose another benefit of Lib Dem tuition fees, is in its favour of retired boomers. Suppose you decide to retire at (say) 58 with a local government, or company pension, and decide to become a Silver Student.? There is no age limit to getting a tuition loan. So it’s a no-brainer, why not go to Uni at age 60, and spend £50,000 of government cash on that Law degree you always wanted?
    Apparently, the average annual pension is about £15,500, so with a threshold of £21,000, triggering payback, it means that the likelihood of you ever having to pay it back is almost zero. And of course your Silver Tuition Loan, will cease to exist in 30 years, on your 90th birthday?
    What’s not to like about tuition fees?

  • stuart moran 15th Aug '14 - 7:57pm

    Chris

    and that is the point isn’t it

    The increase in fees is to off-set the cuts in funding…passing the burden to the student

    This only works if the students are paying more than they were before – otherwise I do not see the point.

    The defenders of the new funding seem to be trying to say (and Martin Lewis has joined them in this) that you will not be paying any more. There is obviously a disconnect here

    To people like Simon Shaw and Joe Otten I would ask

    Is the burden being passed from the tax payer to the student for HE funding?
    Will the ‘average’ amount paid by each student have to increase to meet that?
    If the low earners don’t pay much and the people at the top pay it off quicker who does the burden fall on?
    What is the likelihood of Government projections being met based on current information?
    Who will pay if there is a shortfall?
    Where is the money coming from to fund all this until the debt repayments start coming in?

  • Peter Watson 15th Aug '14 - 8:47pm

    @John Dunn “There is no age limit to getting a tuition loan.”
    Actually I think there is as Open University students have told me they were ineligible for a loan because of their age even though the new system allows loans for part-time students, meaning they could not afford the increased course fees that the Coalition’s changes introduced. Already having a degree is another factor that makes one ineligible for a loan, acting as an obstacle for those looking to change careers.

  • Peter Watson 15th Aug '14 - 9:01pm

    @Hugh p “The net effect of this was more or less the same as if the whole parliamentary party had abstained, so the result was a deliberately managed one, and those who voted one way or the other were, in my view, neither heroes nor villains. Does this square with other posters’ recollections ?”
    It does not square with my recollection. I remember Simon Hughes agonising over how to vote before bravely (is there an HTML tag for sarcasm?) sitting on his hands and abstaining. At least that position was consistent with the coalition agreement, but that in itself was a sign that the party’s MPs were abandoning their pledge long before Lord Browne published a word and only days after criticising Labour and Tory plans on tuition fees. Reports at the time of the parliamentary vote referred to Lib Dem rebels (and a few tories) defying their whip.
    I must say though that I also very much hope your recollection is not correct. If it is, and if the vote was stage managed, then I would describe all involved as villains. At least I still see some of the Lib Dem MPs, if not as heroes, at least as honourable people prepared to stand for election supporting a particular policy, make a promise and keep it.

  • @ Peter Watson
    With the greatest respect, I think you will find that you are wrong.
    If you qualify for a place at Uni, there is no age restriction for a tuition loan. Indeed to try to place an age restriction would beg expensive litigation on age discrimination grounds?
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/personalfinance/9800374/Loophole-Ill-never-have-to-repay-my-student-loan.html
    You are correct about already having a degree, being an obstacle to tuition loans. . But I know of many friends who took on electronics and engineering HNC/HND routes to their careers, who would qualify for a place and a valid application for tuition funding for the degree course that they never got the chance (or time), to pursue.
    And, if there is a potential £50,000 of government cash, to enhance your retirement with a Uni lifestyle and meet interesting people, : What’s not to like?, especially since there is every reason to believe you will never need to pay the £50,000 back?

  • stuart moran 15th Aug '14 - 9:59pm

    Joe Otten

    No, we will not be happy because it will be unplanned expenditure and indicative of Government incompetence – if we needed another example. There is also the possibility that it falls on the future student.

    The aspirational principle should be that HE is free at the point of use and that it will be met out of general taxation and so the universities know their income and taxation can be set – what we do not want to see is unplanned shortfall.

    This Coalition keeps going on about leaving debt to future generations…..yawn, but here they are with a policy that is already looking problematic now

    And can you also tell me where the money is coming from to fund the loans, which many seem to be saying will never be paid back? Is it from off the books borrowing perhaps?

  • Peter Watson 15th Aug '14 - 10:04pm

    @John Dunn
    Crikey – sorry about that, you’re right (seems there is an age limit on the loan for maintenance but not tuition fees).
    It never occurred to me that the Coalition’s tuition fees policy might be a cynical attempt to woo the grey vote with the offer of free university education.
    How long before universities offer buy-one-get-one-free degree registration for students who put their grandparents on the university’s books, or perhaps attempt to solve the funding shortfall by setting up retirement homes and registering the residents as students?

  • @ Peter Watson
    Can’t help but love your humour. But the broad point is that any political policy needs to be *thought through thoroughly *, before implementation? If you don’t think it through, and leave policy development to monkeys, don’t be surprised when it all goes bananas?

  • James Thompson 15th Aug '14 - 10:37pm

    According to the ONS graduates earn, on average, £12,000 more each year than non graduates. I am certain there are people out there earning £100k+ who didn’t go to university and people on minimum wage who have a degree, but this figure is an average. Therefore, on average, graduates pay far more in tax than non graduates. So as well as all this extra tax they pay, they are saddled with £40k+ debt, and it is DEBT. However you want to dress it up it is DEBT. There IS an expectation that it will be repaid.

    I am a former Lib Dem voter. I will never vote for them again. For me it’s a trust issue. I genuinely believed Clegg at the last election. Where I live in the NW, the Lib Dems have been wiped out from running the council. When I discussed this with a Lib Dem candidate on my doorstep, they rolled their eyes and walked away, and have never returned.

    I have seen with my own eyes young, first time voters completely disengaged with politics having been out canvassing for Lib Dems in the past. This is unforgivable.

  • Matthew Huntbach 16th Aug '14 - 8:25am

    James Thompson

    So as well as all this extra tax they pay, they are saddled with £40k+ debt, and it is DEBT. However you want to dress it up it is DEBT. There IS an expectation that it will be repaid.

    But this is what it costs. However it were paid, it would still cost this. If it were not paid by saddling individuals with debt, it would be paid by saddling the whole country with the same in terms of taxes, or in terms of debt if it were paid by direct government borrowing.

    Chris

    The point is that on any reasonable definition of the average graduate, the average graduate will be paying much more under the new system. Because the whole point of the new system is that the total graduate contribution to the funding of HE will be massively raised

    But this is what it costs. However it were paid, it would still cost this. If it did not fall on individual graduates, it would fall on everyone in terms of extra taxation or long-term national debt which would still have to be paid back.

    Now this is the point I’ve been trying to make. MOST of those attacking the Liberal Democrats over this have used language which gives the impression that their are no balancing factors, that not having the rise in tuition fees would have had no knock-on effects. It is as if they supposed university funding in the past was paid for by shaking a magic money tree, or alternatively that they believe universities are now being given three times as much money as they were in the past, which presumably is going straight into the pockets of university lecturers. Well, the latter is certainly not true, university lecturers’ pay has not even been keeping pace with inflation.

    Simply to raise this is not to say that the new system is wonderful. This again is part of the problem with this debate. As soon as you disagree with the magic-money-tree line, you are written off by those pushing that line as if you think the tuition fee system is the best thing ever. It isn’t, or at least I don’t think it is. I would rather university tuition be paid by general taxation, but I just want to see an honest acceptance that not having tuition fees does mean big extra payments fall somewhere.

  • Matthew Huntbach 16th Aug '14 - 8:36am

    stuart moran

    And can you also tell me where the money is coming from to fund the loans, which many seem to be saying will never be paid back? Is it from off the books borrowing perhaps?

    Yes. Since most of those opposing tuition fees haven’t said where they would raise the equivalent amount in taxation, presumably they are supposing a vote against tuition fees would lead to universities being subsidised by more direct state debt. Which would still have to be paid back in the long-term, falling on much the same people if we assume the graduates of today will be the higher earners of tomorrow.

    By pushing generous re-payment and write-off conditions, the Liberal Democrats have got it to the situation where the net effect isn’t that different from what those opposing the tuition fees want. It’s a compromise, yes. Refusing to agree to this compromise would have meant the alternative that in order to reduce direct state debt, universities would have faced big spending cuts. The Conservatives could have got away with this blaming the Liberal Democrats, saying, “We had to do this because the Liberal Democrats forced us to in order to keep their pledge”.

    I’m not happy with the compromise, but I can see how it could have been reached, and I don’t think the Liberal Democrats should be written off as unprincipled people for coming to the conclusion having looked at all the alternatives that this was the best one on offer.

  • James Thompson 16th Aug '14 - 8:47am

    Matthew Huntbach

    Of course this is what it costs. I never said it didn’t. I believed the Lib Dems in 2010 when they said they had a “costed programme to eliminate tuition fees in 7 years” Did you?

    Society as a whole benefits when we have well educated people… doctors, scientists, engineers, teachers, So is it unreasonable to expect society to pay for university education. That was a long held principle that I thought most Lib Dems (current leadership excluded) believed in. Just like society benefits from having a fit and healthy population, which is why we ALL fund the NHS through our taxes. Are you now suggesting we lift the cap of £9,000 and put the entire burden of university education on the student? Other countries fund their universities through taxes, why can’t this country find the money. We sure as hell can when it comes to international aid, or bombing Libya, etc.

    Students leaving University next summer will be saddled with DEBT of £40k. When my children leave University that figure will surely increase and they will face a lifetime of DEBT repayments. Believe me there is still a lot of anger out there and no one I speak to trusts the Lib Dems any more. I love the optimistic comments on here and the ” we know what’s good for you better than you do”, but this issue will haunt you from now until election day.

  • John Roffey 16th Aug '14 - 9:48am

    @ James Thompson

    Interesting article from Manchester University Polling Forecast which includes ‘The relative stasis in the polls is partly because the structural weaknesses of parties and leaders (Miliband’s poor ratings, the damaged Tory brand, and the Liberal Democrat betrayal)’

    http://blog.policy.manchester.ac.uk/featured/2014/07/the-polling-observatory-forecast-3-slow-decline-in-tory-prospects-but-still-too-close-to-call/

  • However, Matthew, I will repeat that – although the increased fees reflect “what it costs” – the system of student loans repaid with interest over decades greatly increases the cost of paying for those fees, above what it would be if they were paid for at the outset from general taxation.

    In a way, it’s a very strange approach from a government which is telling us that we are as a nation far too indebted, isn’t it?

  • We should not have any hardline policy on the top rate. Doing so is a road to disaster.

    However, the Lib Dems can still outflank Labour effectively if we do it properly. To do so, we would need to move towards greater support for people from low-income backgrounds. At a time when people like John Denham are proposing to abolish the (non-repayable) maintenance grant to pay for a top rate cut, we should be proposing to increase it. Done properly, we can push the case that Labour want to make poor people suffer to give rich people an effective tax cut – as they did in 2008.

    Take it from a student: they’re pissed about £9k fees, yes, but they’re more pissed about the broken promise than the policy.

  • James Thompson 16th Aug '14 - 11:31am

    @John Roffey

    The words “straws” and “clutching” come to mind.

  • I’m afraid that Stephen Hall glosses over the catastrophic effect of the fee increase on mature and part-time students. From the site of the Independent Commission he links to:

    http://www.independentcommissionfees.org.uk/wordpress/?page_id=47

    “However, the picture for mature students and those studying part-time is much bleaker. The number of applications by mature students recovered slightly in 2014 but remains substantially lower than pre-2012 levels, particularly in England. In 2014, the numbers of English residents aged 20-24 and 25+ applying to university were 8% and 11% below their 2010 levels. Mature student numbers also remain substantially depressed in terms of the take up of university places with 18% fewer people aged 25+ taking up places in 2013 compared to 2010.”

    “The latest HESA data on enrolments show that the year of the fees increase saw particularly large reductions in the number of mature students taking part-time courses. Over 100,000 fewer students over the age of 25 started part-time higher education courses in 2012/13 than did in 2009/10 – a reduction of 43%. This was part of a more general decline in part-time higher education, with 41% fewer part-time enrolments overall in 2012/13 than in 2009/10.”

  • And as I pointed out on the other tuition fee thread, the much vaunted additional support for student parents was quietly pared back last year to the point where it is virtually impossible to qualify for. You simply cannot qualify unless you are single, and dependent on benefits.

    Additionally the 2008 ban on people taking a second degree being able to access student loans has not been lifted, despite the tripling of costs, leaving those who wish for a career change to pay the £27,000 up front and having no access to maintenance loans.

  • I’m sure it benefits all political parties to have a less educated populace. That way they can reduce all elections to a plea to emotional tribalism, without having to bother to appeal to the intellect — since there won’t be one.

  • Jonathan Pile 16th Aug '14 - 4:26pm

    Here we go again ….Tuition Fees! – The toxic issue of discord that is what Europe is for the Tories and Unilateral Nuclear Disarmament was for Labour. We are going to struggle to agree on this, and futile attempts to engineer false arguments are only going to pick at a this bleading sore of a Lib Dem own goalThe electorate aren’t going to change their minds on this and forgiving and forgetting isn’t going to be on the student voters agenda in 2015. Opposition to Opposition to Tuition Fees from 2001-2010 was a massive vote winner and ought to secured the party the education sector and youth vote into the future. The Crackpot decision to flip flop on this (Nick Clegg) was the political own goal of the century, lost us that vital support and has seen the party in jeopardy. Can we all agree on this. We can successfully argue that we were cleverly stitched up by the Tories and so dazzled with the prospect of a vote on PR in 2010 we lost our political bearings at a time of national crisis. In 2015 we do have control of our own manifesto and to turn the tuition fees issue around we need to agree a principled readvocacy of a reduction/abolition of tuition fees as item number 1 in any future coalition deal.

  • David Allen 16th Aug '14 - 5:33pm

    The apologists for these financial shenanigans have had a field day with the wordplay here. First, there have been the efforts to argue that a debt is not really a debt if the provisions for its repayment are made more complex and contingent on other events. Sorry, it’s still a debt. Then, there has been the argument that, since we are obviously into advanced financial manipulation here, it follows that the moneys could just as well have been juggled differently, ergo, what has actually been done is really quite equivalent to something else that hasn’t been done. Sorry, but that won’t wash,either. If the inventors of this clever financial scheme hadn’t intended to achieve specific goals from it, which they wouldn’t have achieved otherwise, then they wouldn’t have bothered to invent the scheme.

    So let’s go back to first principles and try to work out what these financial whizzkids have been playing at.

    A straight way to pay this year’s costs on any ongoing programme – the army, the universities, whatever – is to take the money from this year’s income (i.e. tax). A dodgy way to do it is to borrow the money, and plan that someone else should pay it back some time in the future. It isn’t, of course, totally beyond the pale to build up increasing debts. However, the Coalition has led in thumping the tub to warn of the dangers. So, what exactly is it doing with fees? Massively expanding reliance on debt, of course!

    Once upon a time, John Prescott found a comparatively honest way of doing that. It was called PFI. It was comparatively honest, because government got the borrowed money, and government saddled itself with the resulting debts. It helped with short-term gain to win short-term votes and long-term pain dumped on future governments. The weakness was in the honest bit. The debt was on the government books, and could be seen there. Critics criticised. Lenders were more reluctant to go on lending.

    So now we have an even more cunning plan than PFI. The genius here is to saddle somebody else, the student, with the debt. Hey presto, it is no longer on the government’s books! We have cut the deficit, by moving great chunks of it over onto the shoulders of the students. We are financial Ponzi wizards. We are masters of the universe.

    But there is a flaw, there always is, with Ponzi schemes. The student cannot actually afford to pay the debts. no matter, we write a scheme which allows large fractions of the debt to be written off. So, in reality, it is future governments which will still have to pick up the tab, just like in PFI. However, at least it doesn’t show in the accounts, yet. It will hurt government just as badly in ten years time as if we had borrowed more openly. But by doing it in this tricky way, it gets hidden on our accounts, and we look as if we are cutting the deficit. So, we can boast about how virtuously austere we are, and at the same time, live high on the hog with our hidden borrowings. Tory nirvana!

    Matthew Huntbach breathes a sigh of relief because Government has found a way to keep paying his salary as a university lecturer. We cannot blame him. However, he should recognise that he is now being supported on funny money, bubble economics. Bubbles burst, eventually.

    This is the result of Clegg’s betrayal of trust. Ponzinomics!

  • A Social Liberal 16th Aug '14 - 5:51pm

    Simon Shaw made a comment that free university education does not seem especially socially liberal to him.

    Simon, I find it strange that you say that when it says very clearly in our last manesfesto that

    “Scrap unfair university tuition fees for all students taking their fi rst degree, including those studying part-time, saving them over £10,000 each. We have a fi nancially responsible plan to phase fees out over six years, so that the change is affordable even in these diffi cult economic times, and without cutting university income. We will immediately scrap fees for final year students.”

  • stuart moran 16th Aug '14 - 6:25pm

    David Allen

    A much more detailed and well argued post on the point I have been trying to make…..

  • David Evans 16th Aug '14 - 6:42pm

    @ Simon Shaw – If you believe that a cornerstone of progressive politics is lying to people before elections and then once they have voted for you dumping them within six months, you could be right. But you don’t believe that is progressive politics, do you?

  • David Evans 16th Aug '14 - 6:43pm

    @ Simon Shaw – If you believe that a cornerstone of progressive politics is making promises to people before elections and then once they have voted for you dumping them within six months, you could be right. But you don’t believe that is progressive politics, do you?

  • “So, in reality, it is future governments which will still have to pick up the tab, just like in PFI.”

    Or, of course, they could decide that the terms of repayment should be changed so that the debt wasn’t written off after 30 years.

    No doubt they could make a very strong argument for doing so, along the lines of the arguments now being put forward by the apologists for the new system. Why should the low-paid be subsidising high-paid graduates? And so on and so forth.

  • Matthew Huntbach 16th Aug '14 - 9:15pm

    James Thompson

    Of course this is what it costs. I never said it didn’t. I believed the Lib Dems in 2010 when they said they had a “costed programme to eliminate tuition fees in 7 years” Did you?

    Yes. I can also see that it might involve tax increases that the Conservative would not support.

    Are you now suggesting we lift the cap of £9,000 and put the entire burden of university education on the student?

    No, why do you ask? I have not written anything which suggests I personally prefer that option.

    Other countries fund their universities through taxes, why can’t this country find the money.

    You are writing as if I agree with the Conservative Party. I don’t.

    Look, this just keeps happening. I appreciate Clegg and the Cleggies make it worse by playing it this way, but could you actually try reading what I wrote rather than jumping to the conclusion that I’m a Cleggie myself?

    I didn’t say what comes out of this government is what I personally think is the best possible policy, which is what you seem to be assuming, and is a line the Cleggies often put. I thought I made it very clear, like you I would much prefer to see university education fully funded by general taxation. The point I was actually making is that I can see that if the Conservatives refused to accept the taxation rises that would require, which would be the best solution to me, I can see that what we have instead may be the best compromise that could be got past the Conservatives.

    There is a difference between “the best possible solution that I myself prefer regardless of what anyone else wants” and “the best solution that the Conservatives could be persuaded to agree to”, is there not?

  • Matthew Huntbach 16th Aug '14 - 9:22pm

    David Allen

    Matthew Huntbach breathes a sigh of relief because Government has found a way to keep paying his salary as a university lecturer. We cannot blame him. However, he should recognise that he is now being supported on funny money, bubble economics. Bubbles burst, eventually.

    Er, no, it’s more government borrowing, which is what the opponents of austerity say we should have anyway. The borrowing has a plan to pay at least some of it back, with a government guarantee to pay the rest back out of general taxation if that doesn’t work. What’s your problem, given that if we went the way the opponents of austerity want, we would be paying the whole lot back as government debt anyway in the future? As I said, I would prefer it all to be paid for by genera taxation, that would be fairer. Putting it first on new graduates is unfair, but at least the LibDems pushed to give generous repayment and write-off conditions.

    Sure, I’m grateful my job;s been saved, since it really would have been at risk had there been big university cuts, which was the other alternative the Tories might have gone for. However, given that industry is crying out for the skills I teach, just perhaps it’s good for society in general that I’ve kept my job. See here. Anyone who gets a reasonable grade in my module can walk into these jobs. There is a desperate shortage of people with the skills asked for here.

  • Stuart Moran – Thanks. Actually I read your posts, and they helped me think through what was going on – so thanks again.

  • Matthew – I agree, we would do best to pay most of your salary from tax revenues, rather than by borrowing. And I suspect you’re right to believe that your work is worth it for society in general.

    I would personally support a low level of fees (say £1k-£2K per year) to be paid directly by the student, as I believe is common on the Continent. That would be enough to discourage those with no real interest in study.

    “What’s your problem”? Well, we agree that Clegg made a horrendous mistake to break a trust, and we also agree that the funding scheme the Coalition came up with is not the best. So I think you know very well what the problem is!

  • Matthew

    I am very glad your, and many others, jobs have been saved. I truly mean that – having many friends and colleagues in academia

    I would also like to see there be a clear, fair and costed programme for the investment that is required for HE – if we have to do a deeper review on what we want from HE to accomplish this then sobeit – I sometimes think we do not actually know what we want HE for!

    You make the point, like Joe Otten, did that we who oppose the policy should still be happy because in the end the funds are there and it has been paid for by borrowing

    In some ways you are right. I am very glad the money is available but there are some problems

    The borrowing is off-book so it allows the Government to hide what the are doing and they are storing up problems for the future – something they accuse Labour of doing. Your guy Alexander is never too shy about this.

    The fact that there is a debt for someone, either us or the student. For the Government it is off-book and sits with the student, but all the time we are being told most students will never have to pay it off so it isn’t even a debt. Unfortunately it will either then fall on the students who do pay to cover everyone else’s, fall on the tax payers or the students really will have to pay and they are being sold a pup

    The 9000 is far too high as well

    My view, like Dave Allen, I may have to accept that there is a tuition fee of 1000 paid up front by the student but with protection for lower paid households. The rest coming from taxation. Similar to most of our peers. I would also like us to debate what HE is for. I would still aim for 0 as the LD 2010 policy as I have said above.

    I will now say something a bit controversial. I think one of the problems with the debate on education, including HE, in this country is our pervasive anti-intellectualism. No-one wants to be seen as being intellectual – you get a qualification to get a job not because you enjoy learning things and exploring the world – whether in computing science, chemistry or fine art. You see people who have made a lot of money from business actually being used to show learning is only for the effete and geeks. That they are somehow better because they have no education., and are given roles in governing us for just this reason

    I am a chemist and am appalled, yes appalled, at the knowledge of virtually everyone I hear on the concept of scientific thought, risk and hazard. This includes virtually all our politicians. The minute you point this out you are accused of being a geek, snob, arrogant etc. That is not the case, what I am is knowledgeable and, dare I say it, clever…The amateur polemicist is given far more credence than an expert. We love the bumbling amateur, perhaps it explains why Boris Johnson is so popular – he plays on that fake persona.

    We have and MP who sits on the science committee who believes that astrology should be treated as a science ffs – in any other country they would be laughed out but in the UK no-one minds. People nod their heads and say – ah but scientists cannot prove 100% that it is false can they so there may be something in it….

    I make an honourable exception for Evan Harris here. A loss to politics in this country

  • stuart moran 17th Aug '14 - 11:13am

    Thanks for some of the comments, particularly Dave and bcrombie, for asking some pointed questions on this policy

    To go back to Stephen’s original post I suggest that the Lib Dems continue (or begin…) to recognise the value of HE for the country at large, who have a clear vision of what HE is about and then have a credible plan for funding

    The last point is where they should keep quiet is on the current Government’s policy

    Loads debt borrowed by the Government onto the student
    Is not transparent
    Has a clear risk of being underfunded in the years to come – piling debt onto the next generation and those after (where have I heard that before?)
    The fees are much higher than our peers
    The propaganda seems to say that a lot of people in the end will actually have to pay the debt back which leads us back to point 2.

    A final point is that HE is almost becoming compulsory for those with the grades. Not getting a degree is a brave decision to make so I am not surprised the numbers choosing to have not been that affected. It is a risk but the choice is between a future debt (which according to the proponents will be entirely manageable….) leading to better job prospects or the dole queue and essentially no income. I know which I would choose!

    There are some alternatives to HE but not that many.

    The problems will manifest themselves when those who voted for them are snoozing on the red benches and then they will be pretending it was nothing to do with them.

  • Malcolm Todd 17th Aug '14 - 12:43pm

    Nice to see another opportunity for everybody to stake out the same old positions as usual and accuse everyone else of not listening. Obviously, Stephen’s right — what possible harm could come to the Liberal Democrats from going on and on about this? After all, it makes us look united, mature and responsible, and capable of healthy debate. Plus we’ll never make another promise we can’t keep ever again, honest.

  • Malcolm Todd 17th Aug '14 - 12:46pm

    Sorry, just realised I said “us”. I’m not a member of the party and didn’t mean to imply otherwise. Funny how much I still think that way, though. I’d really like to be able to be a Lib Dem; but I would have no answer for anyone on the doorstep who says “Why should I believe anything you say?”

  • stuart moran 17th Aug '14 - 1:00pm

    But Malcolm Todd

    We were reponding to Stephen’s original points and I have clearly spelt out why the LD should speak about HE but only if they have a vision and that they mean it this time

    It is impossible on a thread like this to restate the technical arguments because firstly things change and we have more information than we did in 2010-2012. Secondly because people make points that need to be debated

    If you don’t want to see ‘old arguments’ then don’t read this thread because it was clear that was going to happen as the argument in the party has not been settled yet.

    We are all fascinated to see what the LD policy is going into 2015 – the same as 2010, the same as the current Government policy or something completely different?

  • Matthew Huntbach 17th Aug '14 - 1:30pm

    bcrombie

    The borrowing is off-book so it allows the Government to hide what the are doing and they are storing up problems for the future – something they accuse Labour of doing. Your guy Alexander is never too shy about this.

    Why do you describe him as “your guy”? In what way is he my guy? I didn’t vote to put him where he is, and I strongly disagree with most of what he says. I have made no secret of the fact that I hold his latest lines about tax cuts and his pretence that these were in the Liberal Democrat manifesto to be an appalling twist of the truth, and an appalling attempt to push the party I have been a member of for 35 years away from all that caused me to join it.

  • Matthew Huntbach 17th Aug '14 - 1:51pm

    bcrombie

    You make the point, like Joe Otten, did that we who oppose the policy should still be happy because in the end the funds are there and it has been paid for by borrowing

    No, I don’t think we should be happy. I am saying what we have may be the best compromise that was available under the circumstances of having to get it past a government which is five-sixths Tory. That does not mean I regard it in any way as an ideal solution, or as something I would be happy with if I had free to choice to implement whatever funding system for Higher Education that I liked.

    This is what I’m getting at all along. It seems only two positions are permitted on this issue. It’s either “nah nah nah nah nah, dirty rotten Liberal Democrats, you gave up all your principles just to get power”, and in effect the claim that the Liberal Democrats could somehow have manufactured a government which was 100% Liberal Democrat in policy out of the situation following the May 2010 general election, or it’s “The tuition fees and loans system is wonderful, it’s the best thing going”. So, when I argue that I believe the the first position is unrealistic, I am automatically written off as if I hold to the second position.

    But I hold to neither. So why can’t that be accepted? Why is it that every time I argue that the first position is unrealistic, I am attacked as if I hold to the second?

    The point I’ve been trying to make is that while I’m not happy with the system that emerged, if one analyses what it actually means in practice it’s not as far from the alternatives that those attacking it would want as is often made out. In particular, I’m finding most who attack it don’t acknowledge that any alternative would involve higher taxation and/or direct government borrowing, with the net effect in the end meaning much the same sort of payment being made back by much the same sort of people. But saying that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t prefer full subsidy from straight taxation, so why do you and others keep arguing with me the case for full subsidy through taxation as if I disagree with you, when I have actually made quite clear from the start that that would be my preferred option?

    Sure, people like Clegg and Danny Alexander keep using these lines which make out that the sad compromises that are inevitable under a government which is five-sixths Conservative are somehow triumphs to the point that they’re what we really wanted underneath in the first place. But simply because I accept the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary party was forced by the situation into making those compromises does not mean I agree with the way Clegg and the Cleggies promote them. I have never authorised them to do so, in fact I have condemned that approach, more so that any other contributor to Liberal Democrat Voice, I think, since the coalition was started. So why is it that you and others can’t accept what I say? Why, despite all I have written here against Clegg’s leadership style and the Cleggie promotional tactics for the party, do you write me off as some sort of Cleggie because I don’t go along with the simplistic “nah nah nah nah nah” stuff?

  • Not to sound like a Matthew fanclub, I think he has summed up my thoughts perfectly. I see this as the best of a sorry set of choices, which is different to thinking it is a good choice. This party is more than ‘lovers of the Coalition’ and ‘haters’ and we do ourselves no credit when we make out it is.

  • Little Jackie Paper 17th Aug '14 - 2:46pm

    Matthew Huntbach – ‘I’m finding most who attack it don’t acknowledge that any alternative would involve higher taxation and/or direct government borrowing, with the net effect in the end meaning much the same sort of payment being made back by much the same sort of people.’

    With respect, and to be clear I mean that…..

    Can I perhaps put this another way to you?

    I think that what rankles about fees is that it is essentially making the young the canary in the cave for the pay and go society. Yes, of course the alternatives involve tax/borrowing etc – I suspect that no one serious would suggest otherwise. However the point is, I suspect, the sense that once again the young are getting the poor end of the generational deal. In a few months time we will borrow £2.5bn to send pensioners a fuel payment cheque, no questions asked. I don’t know the LDP view exactly, however the Conservatives, in austerity, appear to be promising a triple locked pension at eye-watering cost. Successive governments have bent over backwards for banks that needed equity stakes. Let’s not duck it, the UK is a significant net contributor to the EU. And all this is before we get to HS2, Trident etc.

    As you appear to have said above, you have a certain sympathy for today’s young – I get that. However to a lot of young people that promise on fees was something tangible, something that went beyond a boomer class-orientated agenda. When the promise was not followed up, the message to the young was clear – they are cows to be milked whilst the propertied generations on the better end of the deal carry on regardless.

    Yes Matthew in terms of the politics and the government of the situation this likely was the best deal available (at least in the short-term). Indeed I understand Australia has just removed the cap on fees totally and we may well end up there too. And yes, of course many LDs don’t like this arrangement, that much is clear. And I still think this system will be flat on its face within 10 years unless there is a marked increase in new graduate earnings.

    To many young people out there fees was just the most grisly example of how politics is a game that they can’t win. That’s what rankles rather more than pledges.

  • stuart moran 17th Aug '14 - 3:08pm

    Simon Shaw

    It all depends how you see HE I see it as an investment in the country and its people and should come out of general taxation. You seem to treat HE on the same level as we treat cigarette smoking, as something people do but we should ask them to pay for it so that those that don’t avoid having to pay!

    By your reckoning why should childless couples pay for any education atall. let the parents stump up for it or the kids can take out a loan at birth.

    I would make all HE free but it has to be part of an assessment of what we want HE to be for. It is why I also think the Government should invest far more in training etc for those who don’t go to University. If it means higher taxes so be it….I accept that

    I except also that ‘free’ may not be possible when the analysis is done but 9K per annum is far too high – brinmg it back down to the level of our peers in Europe.

    As I said above I find this ‘why should someone without a university education pay…..blah blah’ as one of the weakest of all the arguments made for tuition fees. I happen to like living in a society where we pay for things to make our overall life and country better

    I don’t go to the Opera or will use crossrail, or HS2 – I doubt the low paid will either. Suppose we ask those who do go to pay the vast bulk of the cost in advanc

  • Matthew Huntbach

    I may be misunderstanding your argument on the coalition justification but effectively it seems to be that since your guys joined up with the school bully I’ve only had my lunch money stolen twice this week. If it had been up to you I wouldn’t have been robbed at all – but realistically he is the school bully and without your intervention I’d probably have been robbed four times this week so I should be thankful.

    Conversely, DA & NC are trying to tell me that the two muggings I endured are actually the desired outcome, and should be celebrated – that they joined up with the school bully precisely so that I would get mugged twice.

    At which point do you think I’m going to vote for anyone involved in this for Prom King?

  • Little Jackie Paper 17th Aug '14 - 4:17pm

    ‘That would only be the case if I thought that cigarette smoking should receive a heavy subsidy from the state, but that those who (to some extent because of their cigarette smoking) ultimately end up as high earners, should pay back most of the cigarette smoking subsidy they received when they were younger.’

    Do you think that right to buy discounts should be repaid?

  • stuart moran 17th Aug '14 - 4:40pm

    Simon Shaw

    People do receive a personal benefit from tertiary education which is why I would say that it should be available to all at some point in their lives. I also accept that, if we have a progressive tax system, they will have paid extra tax

    Cigarette smokers, and others with certain social habits do get a subsidy from the state in term of the extra health care costs they incur because of smoking related illness.

    As I have said, that a completely free HE system may not be possible so some costs should be born by the student. It is an aspiration after all. It was the reality for a very long time as well. I remember your party opposing it from the outset!

    The public transport system has never been considered key to being free at point of use in all its history and at the moment we have virtually no public rail companies…they are all private so the point is moot to a certaint extent. I would, as a non-driver, would be very happy to see it completely free but perhaps we should first look at why our fares are some of the most expensive in Europe!

    As to your last question, I think tertiary eucation is more important as it is investment in people and to allow them to reach the maximum of their capabilities for the long term benefit of GB. It may be University, it may be something else. You can disagree with what I believe if you want but to be honest I don’t care that much as you are someone who I have seldom seen posting anything I agree with

    I believe in having an aspiration and being open to negotiate on that based on the reality. I would have accepted a compromise on abolition of tution fees but not the dog’s breakfast we have now.

    I am stillnot sure what you believe in Simon – to be honest I would find it difficult to vote for a party where yours are considered the mainstream – do you see yourself as a mainstream liberal?

  • Little Jackie Paper 17th Aug '14 - 4:48pm

    ‘As it happens I don’t think there should be right to buy discounts anyway, but if they exist, then the appropriate analogy might be that they are a subsidy which shouldn’t be given to high earners.’

    Nice try.

    Do you think that right to buy discounts should be repaid Mr Shaw? It’s a YES/NO.

  • Little Jackie Paper 17th Aug '14 - 6:33pm

    Mr Shaw – You are twisting and turning like a twisty turny thing. Whilst I’m sure that you think passive-aggression is some sort of charming eccentricity it is not a substitute for an answer.

    Do you think that right to buy discounts should be repaid?

  • stuart moran 17th Aug '14 - 6:43pm

    Simon Shaw

    No they are not the same as the rail companies. The private sector rail companies are a classic example of taxpayers money going into the pockets of shareholders and executives. It still hasn’t stopped our train fares being eye-numbingly high either. that is probably the main similarity to tuition fees which are also very high….

  • Simon Shaw

    It’s a bit late to ask the bloke what he’s talking about, after you’ve said “I don’t think there should be right to buy discounts anyway” about a dozen obfuscations earlier!

  • stuart moran 18th Aug '14 - 9:58am

    Simon Shaw

    Oh dear. If that is the reality and not just your opinion then I truly worry for the future of your party

  • Matthew Huntbach 18th Aug '14 - 10:59am

    Bolano

    I may be misunderstanding your argument on the coalition justification but effectively it seems to be that since your guys joined up with the school bully I’ve only had my lunch money stolen twice this week. If it had been up to you I wouldn’t have been robbed at all.

    This is precisely the sort of “nah nah nah nah nah” nonsense I was writing about. If it was up to the “nah nah nah nah nah” people, the Liberal Democrats would be destroyed and we would have a majority Conservative government anyway. That was the line the “nah nah nah nah nah” Labour supporters used when they argued for a “No” vote in the 2011 referendum on electoral reform. They said they wanted to keep the current electoral system because its distortion in favour of the party with the most votes and against third parties was a good thing as it usually gave a full majority in Parliament to the party that had the most votes, and it was better to have that even if that party fell way under actually half the votes. The “nah nah nah nah nah” crowd got people to vote for this on the argument ” if you are angry with Nick Clegg for ‘propping up the Tories’ vote ‘No’ so it can’t happen again”. In other words, they were saying that people who were angry about Nick Clegg ‘propping up the Tories’ should vote to support an electoral system whose best aspects, according to them, was its distortion in favour of the largest party. i.e. the way it props up the Tories as it did in May 2010 when its distortion meat there was no other stable government that could have been formed apart form the coalition we have now (ok in theory a grand coalition of Conservatives and Labour could have been an alternative, but it didn’t look like Labour was going to go for that, did it?).

    The sort of nonsense line you are pushing is getting in the way of serious discussion about electoral reform, how to deal with the fact that no party in this country has full majority support, the extent to which a junior coalition partner is abel to stand up to the senior one, the extent to which the Liberal Democrats have managed to do what they can to modify the worst aspects of the Conservatives, the extent to which Nick Clegg has or has not been a good and capable leader of the Liberal Democrats in this capacity. If any attempt to discuss this in a realistic way is met by “nah nah nah nah nah” of your sort, then this discussion gets shut down.

    I realise why the Labour Party wants to shut down discussion, and so has nothing else to say about the Liberal Democrats except “nah nah nah nah nah”, because it wants to see the Liberal Democrats destroyed and the old two-party system restored. This system will, inevitably, give us a majority Conservative government, quite possibly in 2015, since the result of the “nah nah nah nah nah” campaign is that Liberal Democrat voters are dropping out in many seats painstakingly won from the Tories over the years, and thus resulting in those sats returning to the Tories. But Labour don’t really mind that. They’d rather by in opposition and have a Tory government but no rivals than see the Tory-Labour pendulum ended. That is even though the Tories have moved so far to the right that the compromise situation we have now, which actually does have quite a bit of Liberal Democrat modification of the worst of what the Tories really want, is still very much to the right of previous Conservative governments.

    Your argument is based on the notion that if the current coalition had not been formed, somehow a government with completely different policies could have emerged from the Parliament elected in May 2010 by the distortional representation electoral system whose propping up of the Tories the Labour Party is so in favour of, but the Liberal Democrats oppose. Well, okay, can you explain precisely the mechanism you suppose would have led to that government coming into being?

  • Matthew Huntbach 18th Aug '14 - 11:25am

    Little Jackie Paper

    Matthew Huntbach – ‘I’m finding most who attack it don’t acknowledge that any alternative would involve higher taxation and/or direct government borrowing, with the net effect in the end meaning much the same sort of payment being made back by much the same sort of people.’

    With respect, and to be clear I mean that…..

    Can I perhaps put this another way to you?

    I think that what rankles about fees is that it is essentially making the young the canary in the cave for the pay and go society.

    But here you go, you are illustrating precisely the point I was making. You are responding to me by attacking the tuition fees and loans system as if somehow I was arguing it was a wonderful idea, and so people like you need to come along and explain why it is not. Didn’t you bother to read anything I wrote previously? I wrote, several times, in the hopes that doing so might just get heard over the “nah nah nah nah nah”s trying to drown out sensible discussion, that my preferred option was full subsidy of university education through straight taxation. I was not arguing the case of the current system as if it was the best system that could be put in place if I had free will to put in place anything I liked. I was arguing that it was a compromise that perhaps was closer to what those who like me who would prefer full subsidy want than many imagine. In particular, other areas of government spending have seen huge cuts – see what has happened in local government, for example. Now I wasn’t party to the negotiations that led to what we have, but I can see that if the Tories said “OK, you can have your no tuition fees, only if you agree to massive cuts in university numbers n order to bring down the cost”, I might have considered “OK, we’ll agree to your tuition fees proposals instead, but only if you have such generous conditions that in fact it will cost new graduates less than the current system in real terms, and you make no big cuts to university provision” to be a compromise worth considering as an alternative.

    Personally I think the young are hard done by in our society, but the really big thing hitting them is the housing system, the impact of that is hugely greater than university tuition fees. So if you REALLY want to be on the side of the young against the old, THAT’s where you should be turning your attention. My line on this has been consistent since I was Chair of Brighton and Hove Young Liberal in the early 1980s, and this was one of the big issues we were campaigning on, in a part of the country where then as now house prices are very high and wages very low. If you REALLY want to be on the side of the young, call out for much higher inheritance taxes, call out for land taxes, capital gains taxes on money made from owning and selling houses, and other such things. I’ve been doing that since the early 1980s, my position on it is the same now as it was then. But back then I was denounced as “Moscow’s candidate” when I stood as a Liberal candidate in local elections for what I said on these issues. Labour when it got back to government never tackled them, instead it presided over huge house price rises, making life so much harder for the young than it was for me back then, when house prices just seemed so high, but were very very low compared to what they are now. Yet even the slightest move to do something about it gets shouted down, see how the silly little token policy of “mansion tax” i.e. dipping a toe into what really needs to be jumped into gets denounced, see how the Tories and their supporters want to carry on making the divide bigger in the way they are trying to abolish inheritance tax and cut down other taxes on income made by being rich already and sitting in your bum.

    Go and fight the Tories on this, get the young to see how important these issues are, show there’s votes in doing something radical about it. Show up the Tories for what they really are, the Non-Workers Party, the party of the idle rich. Why can’t those going on about tuition fees do that? Just maybe because many of them come from wealthy family backgrounds and don’t want to see THEIR big dollop of inheritance cash diminished?

  • Little Jackie Paper 18th Aug '14 - 7:29pm

    Matthew Huntbach – I don’t really know why you felt it necessary to lay into me there. I agree with you on 95%+ of what you have to say. As I said, ‘And yes, of course many LDs don’t like this arrangement, that much is clear.’ There really was no need to go for the throat. And certainly I strongly agree with you that housing, under successive governments is the real villain. Obviously you have frustrations, but even so….

  • Little Jackie Paper 18th Aug '14 - 7:33pm

    Simon Shaw – Thank you for your polite reply. You ask me to clarify:

    1. Are you talking about right to buy in relation to council houses?

    Yes. [Out of interest, what other right-to-buys do you know?]

    2. If you are, what connection has that with HE Tuition Fees, which is what this thread is about?

    If you will excuse me copying an earlier comment of yours, I think you made the point eloquently. ‘I trust you aren’t suggesting that the individual receives NO benefit from their degree course, are you? If they do receive such a benefit, what is so wrong with them paying back part of the subsidy they received?’ Now presumably Mr Shaw you accept that there is benefit to the right-to-buy discount. What is so wrong with them paying back part of the subsidy received.

    3. What constraints do you include, e.g. are you talking about people at all income levels or only high earners?

    I have no particular constraint in mind. I will leave that to you.

    4. Are you asking about the future only or are you asking about repayment on a retrosective basis?

    I’d be interested in you views on both.

    Now, for a fourth time Mr Shaw – Do you think right-to-buy discounts should be repaid?

  • @Matthew Huntbach
    “full subsidy”

    Graduates already more than pay than the cost of their tuition thanks to the extra tax they pay on their higher average earnings. Graduates subsidise everyone else before the ludicrous fees are even included. It is quite insulting to suggest they are being subsidised and it is the kind of language I would expect from someone on the far-right who is trying to win the votes of naive, working-class Mail readers who believe they’re paying for the extravagant lifestyles of students and graduates.

  • Matthew Huntbach 19th Aug '14 - 11:13am

    Steve

    It is quite insulting to suggest they are being subsidised and it is the kind of language I would expect from someone on the far-right who is trying to win the votes of naive, working-class Mail readers who believe they’re paying for the extravagant lifestyles of students and graduates.

    You really aren’t listening to my point, are you? You are another who by responding in this way just demonstrates what my point actually was. I didn’t mean any value judgment in using the word “subsidy”. I used it purely in its technical sense. I’ve looked up the definition of the word in my dictionary and it states “a government grant for various purposes”. Well, if someone’s university tuition is paid for by a government grant, as used to be the case, that’s a “subsidy”. The point I was making was the purely technical one that if something is paid for by the government, the government needs to raise money in some way to pay for it. If we were giving grants to people who are setting up new businesses, we would call such a grant a “subsidy”. We would very much hope the business would prosper and so in the long-term more than repay the value of that grant in taxes, but that does not stop “subsidy” being the correct technical term for the original grant.

    So, you are making quite deep accusation against me based merely on my correct use of a technical term. Can you see how such wild jumping to conclusion stands in the way of serious discussion on this issue?

    The point I was ACTUALLY making was in fact very similar to yours – which is that if we continue to fund university education directly through the state, then those funding it will largely be those who benefit from it, as those who have had university education tend to earn more and so tend to pay more tax. But you couldn’t be bothered to actually engage with my argument, instead you ignored it in favour of “nah nah nah nah nah”.

  • Matthew Huntbach 19th Aug '14 - 11:21am

    Little Jackie Paper

    Matthew Huntbach – I don’t really know why you felt it necessary to lay into me there.

    Well, I already explained. You wrote “Can I perhaps put this another way to you?” and followed it up by something which you seemed to assume I needed to be told, and needed to be told it in a careful way, as if it was a thought that had never even occurred to me and as if I was so out-of-touch I could not work it out for myself. Well, you didn’t need to do that, and you especially didn’t need to do it in the patronising way that you did, because actually I was already very well aware of what you said. I don’t need to be told why many people are very angry about tuition fees. I would have hoped that from what I had written already you would have realised that. But since you didn’t, since you seemed to assume I was some out-of-touch Cleggie type who just couldn’t get why people are so worked up about it, I thought I might give you a bit more about where I am coming from.

    OK?

  • @Matthew Huntbach

    “Your argument is based on the notion that if the current coalition had not been formed, somehow a government with completely different policies could have emerged from the Parliament elected in May 2010 by the distortional representation electoral system whose propping up of the Tories the Labour Party is so in favour of, but the Liberal Democrats oppose. Well, okay, can you explain precisely the mechanism you suppose would have led to that government coming into being?”

    No – my argument, my point is first of all a pragmatic one. I think your narrative of the coalition is a more honest one than the one created by NC et al. I just don’t think it’s a vote-winning narrative on a scale greater than NC’s. I’m not convinced that being honest here is necessarily a vote-winner – although it is the policy I’d advocate.

    I think the mechanism would have been the Lib Dems abandoning the coalition halfway through the term, and stating that that the current Tory party was pursuing policies so far to the right that not only were they beyond what the Lib Dems could reasonably stand for, but that they didn’t believe that they represented what the voters of the country themselves had intended at the original election – and hence would allow the electorate to judge. A middle ground between being naive enough to knock the coalition on the head at the first instance of not getting one’s own way, and sticking with it no matter what. But that opportunity’s gone.

  • Matthew,

    I think another way to sum up Bolano’s argument is the well-known wisecrack from the US: “If you’re explaining, you’re losing.”

    If you’ve got a tortuous self-justification which just about might hang together in logical terms, but doesn’t sound great and doesn’t hit anybody’s buttons – Nobody will give it the time of day.

    The right will hit you for six first, with a dishonest but plausible lie.

    What you need to do, to avoid that, is to play a better game, do something simple, reasonable and clear-cut that wins the argument and doesn’t need tortuous explanation. Like (as Bolano suggests) pulling out of Coalition in disgust at some point, like halfway through.

    Now, I seem to remember that at the time, you argued for just that course of action, didn’t you? I certainly did.

    All Bolano is telling us is, that that would have been much better politics. (And better for the nation too.)

  • @Matthew Huntbach
    “I used it purely in its technical sense. ”

    I’m sorry, but that doesn’t wash with me. ‘Subsidy’ is a very loaded and emotive term used by politicians to wind up the electorate about how they’re paying for somebody else without any gain to themselves. That is not the case given that non-graduates do not subsidise graduates through the tax system. Furthermore, you didn’t actually use the term in its technical sense given that non-graduates do not subsidise graduates. Graduates put enough extra tax into the pot compared with non-graduates to cover the cost of their fees.

    “If we were giving grants to people who are setting up new businesses, we would call such a grant a “subsidy”. ”

    That is categorically not the same thing. If a business receives a grant then they are receiving extra money above the market level of turnover they would receive from their business. Paying for HE with taxation is paying for HE with taxation and it is not the same thing as paying HE institutions above the market rate. Paying for goods and services through taxation is not a subsidy. Following your definition to its logical conclusion then all government spending is a subsidy, which is patently absurd.

    “But you couldn’t be bothered to actually engage with my argument, instead you ignored it in favour of “nah nah nah nah nah”.”

    I’m sorry, but your insult is just a form of projection. It is you that is going “nah nah nah nah nah” and not listening to anything anyone else says. You are also demonstrating a naive political awareness if you think that the way to sell state funding of HE to the electorate is to describe it using a right-wing pejorative expression that is factually untrue and is designed to appeal to gut reactions of people that don’t think very much.

  • Matthew Huntbach 20th Aug '14 - 11:07am

    Steve

    You are also demonstrating a naive political awareness if you think that the way to sell state funding of HE to the electorate is to describe it using a right-wing pejorative expression that is factually untrue and is designed to appeal to gut reactions of people that don’t think very much.

    No, that is not my intention. I am simply doing what I have done all my adult life, which is wishing we could have an honest and realistic discussion on these issues which recognises that state services have to be paid for and therefore seeks a balance which can gain majority approval. As I’ve already said, lack of recognition of this on the political left, with all its condemnation of “the cuts” and so on, but not a word on balancing taxation, is aiding the political right, as it means the political right can get away with its simplistic lines attacking the left when it does get power and attacking any plans it does have for increasing taxation.

  • Matthew Huntbach 20th Aug '14 - 11:12am

    Bolano

    No – my argument, my point is first of all a pragmatic one. I think your narrative of the coalition is a more honest one than the one created by NC et al. I just don’t think it’s a vote-winning narrative on a scale greater than NC’s.

    It might not be, I don’t care. I’d rather be honest and not win votes than not be honest. But actually I do think that in the long-term a more honest approach to politics which is open about the way much of it is about reaching balances wins more respect than an approach which always talks about the aspects that sound good and hides the necessary balancing aspects that people don’t like. I wish we had such a politics in place. I wish we had a leader of the Liberal Democrats whose approach to party image was that approach, rather than one driven by the ad-man’s “It’s all wonderful” attempts to sell the party. I don’t think those attempts are working.

  • Matthew Huntbach 20th Aug '14 - 11:27am

    David Allen

    All Bolano is telling us is, that that would have been much better politics. (And better for the nation too.)

    No he’s not. All that stuff about the “school bully” can only be interpreted as suggesting that a completely different sort of government could have been built from the Parliament elected in May 2010. I think he is wrong. He certainly hasn’t come back and answered the question I posed to him about that, which (in summary) was “OK, if that’s what you think, just how could it have come about?”.

    What you need to do, to avoid that, is to play a better game, do something simple, reasonable and clear-cut that wins the argument and doesn’t need tortuous explanation. Like (as Bolano suggests) pulling out of Coalition in disgust at some point, like halfway through.

    Yes, I think that should have been done. The Coalition should have been entered in a way which had that escape ladder. I think the blatant breaking of the Coalition Agreement’s line on no big top-down reorganisation of the NHS should have been the breaking point, should have been where a decent leader of the Liberal Democrats should have said to the Tories “OK, if you insist on that, it’s the end”.

    My problem throughout the Coalition is this feeling of being trapped. On the one hand I find people I have called “nah nah nah nah nahs”, whose only line is a completely unrealistic one which does not recognise the realities of the situation in May 2010, and seems intent on destroying the Liberal Democrats completely, and attacking all of us in the party as if we are all mad keen Clegg-worshippers, even people like me who have made no secret of our dislike of the man. On the other, there are the Cleggies and the way they have tried to paint the Coalition as “it’s all wonderful”, and to twist and distort the sad compromises that are necessary in that situation to make them seem as if they are what we wanted underneath all along. It seem one is supposed to belong either to one of these sides or the other. If you belong to neither, each side accuses you of belonging to the other. The lack of recognition of any intermediate position means rational discussion becomes futile, which I think is damaging to long-term progress.

    But, ah well, isn’t that the same with so much in politics? You weren’t around in the old days in soc.culture.ireland when the IRA supporters were calling me a Paisleyite because they supposed there were only two positions on the issue – complete support for the IRA’s terror campaign, or that of the most extreme Unionists (actually, if I were in Northern Ireland I would be an SDLP voter). But I think you can see much the same in the endless Israeli-Palestine stuff.

  • Peter Watson 20th Aug '14 - 12:29pm

    I just wanted to point out something that I don’t remember seeing mentioned before in the debate over tuition fees on any of the many discussion threads.
    The debt is incurred by students when they go to university and is repayable whether or not they graduate. In this sense at least, it is certainly not a “graduate tax”, and the increase in tuition fees means that a significant number of young people will incur a large debt but without the benefit of a degree.
    I’m sure both sides of the argument can interpret this situation in different ways, but I just wanted to put it out there (if you’ll excuse that horrible expression!).

  • What do people say on the doorstep about this?

    Mine is pretty simple: I make no excuse at all for the breach of trust caused by saying “no fees” then going into Government and being involved in implementing them. It was stupid and wrong for all the reasons Jennie Wrigg and Richard outlined above.

    That said, the new system *is better*. The new system *does not* prevent anyone from going to Uni. Our party policy is still no fees.

    Most people understand that I’ve found: but you’ve got to start with admitting we screwed up and apologise for it.

  • @Matthew Huntbach

    “All Bolano is telling us is, that that would have been much better politics. (And better for the nation too.)

    No he’s not. All that stuff about the “school bully” can only be interpreted…”

    Er… at the risk of controversy, David Allen’s right in his description of what I said. That’s what I said. This “can only be interpreted” business is not what I said. I said it. He read it. You interpreted it.

    “The Coalition should have been entered in a way which had that escape ladder. I think the blatant breaking of the Coalition Agreement’s line on no big top-down reorganisation of the NHS should have been the breaking point, should have been where a decent leader of the Liberal Democrats should have said to the Tories “OK, if you insist on that, it’s the end”.”

    Yes, that would’ve been a great point. There was an escape ladder – withdraw from the coalition. That would have been the escape ladder. Any forthcoming election would have been fought on the Lib Dem’s occupying a principled mainstream position. But there was no “magic” escape ladder.

    “He certainly hasn’t come back and answered the question I posed to him about that, which (in summary) was “OK, if that’s what you think, just how could it have come about?”.”

    You’re missing the point, or off on a “can only be interpreted” kick. I’m not arguing that the coalition should or shouldn’t have been; I’m not saying the coalition was of itself a bad thing. I’m saying the bad things came out of the way the coalition developed, precisely because one cannot argue bad faith of the leadership for hoping the coalition would do good; but one can argue dereliction of duty when the leadership persisted in the face of the bad things having happened, having continued to happen, and presenting every indication that would continue happening.

    The party isn’t going to be hammered in the next election because they went into coalition with the Tories – and you’re going to achieve nothing by arguing that the coalition was inescapable. The party is going to be hammered because, when it became clear that the coalition was proving toxic to liberal values and operating in opposition to what the public want (ie NHS), the leadership went into denial because they could see no way of withdrawing from the coalition short of withdrawing from it. And that they were not prepared to do.

    That’s my point about the school bully. The point where his actions proved that he was unable to be anything but a bully was the point you should have stopped supporting him. That why the party’s reputation stinks; not because they believed he could have changed his ways.

    I’d also say that an argument that stresses the coalition was inescapable, also risks being interpreted as an argument that its acts were, too.

  • @Matthew Huntbach

    “I wish we had a leader of the Liberal Democrats whose approach to party image was that approach”

    Yes – that would be ideal. But I think even before that my criticism would be that NC has none of the instinct for strategy that a leader needs. In chess one plays with a clear idea of the next move, but with a strong general grasp of where the game is going five moves down the line. Instead he fumbles the middle and end game, time after time. Whether it’s the Tories, or Renard, he can kick the ball but he has no clear view or idea of how to get into the opponent’s half.

    Kick and hope.

  • Little Jackie Paper 20th Aug '14 - 9:21pm

    Matthew Huntbach – ‘But since you didn’t, since you seemed to assume I was some out-of-touch Cleggie type who just couldn’t get why people are so worked up about it, I thought I might give you a bit more about where I am coming from.’

    You are attributing to me views that I simply do not hold. For the record the last vote I cast was for the LDP. I realise you probably think I’m thick but I can read your comments for myself and plainly you are not some, ‘cleggie.’ Out of touch we can debate. You say in a later comment, ‘I am simply doing what I have done all my adult life, which is wishing we could have an honest and realistic discussion on these issues which recognises that state services have to be paid for and therefore seeks a balance which can gain majority approval.’ I’d like to think that’s my outlook too – just I’d like to think I can do it without the need to lay into people for no reason.

    OK?

  • bgberkshire 21st Aug '14 - 3:15pm

    The merits of the policy are completely irrelevant. The fact is that this U turn is the single clearest act of ‘betrayal’ in voters minds. If you ask the average person on the street what they remember about the Lib Dems part in government I’d expect 90% of the time they’d reply something about tuition fees. Whenever the Lib Dems announce a new policy you inevitably hear “yeah, but you can’t trust them; remember tuition fees’. The policy has become not just an albatross around the party’s neck but a focal point for voter anger over the need to go into coalition and an excuse not to vote Lib Dem in the future.

    The only way to draw a line under it would be for Nick Clegg to resign and the new leader to make a full and unreserved apology. I’m sure that very few people here want to read that but i’m afraid anything else will just be rearranging deckchairs.

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