Tuition Fees Debacle
I have made it clear in a previous blog that I am a member of the Liberal Democrats, though I do not recall mentioning that I am wholeheartedly supportive of the coalition Government. The country needed strong Government, especially because of the dire state of the public purse. There was no alternative. A rainbow coalition of Labour, the Lib Dems, Plaid, SNP and the Irish Unionist parties still would not have produced a coalition that would stick together. A minority Conservative Government would not have survived long either.
The political uncertainty would have continued and the financial problems would not have been addressed and we would probably be facing a dire situation, with no proper political direction and leadership.
This brings me onto the issue of tuition fees which has been causing headaches galore for the 57 Liberal Democrats MP's and for the students.
Tomorrow, the vote is to be taken on the proposals introduced by Business Secretary, Vince Cable, which flies in the face of the policy that Lib Dem MP's and candidates, publicly signed up to in the election campaign, including Nick Clegg.
Well, in 2011, I will have been a Liberal Democrat member (via the SDP), for 25 years. Maybe after reading what I have to say, I was wondering whether I would be thrown out, but about 2 weeks ago, Nick Clegg finally admitted why he would be supporting the £9000 annual tuition fee and why they were wrong over the election pledge.
On 20th November at the Preseli Pembrokeshire Liberal Democrats AGM, I spoke out to express my concern at why the party and out MP's and candidates had signed a public pledge to not increase tuition fees. I could not understand why they had signed it, as the whole country was aware that massive cuts were going to be made after the election, whether it was a Labour or Conservative Government and the polls had shown from day 1 of the campaign that it was likely to be a hung Parliament, which meant that the Liberal Democrats had a good chance of sharing some power in some shape or form.
Therefore, I was very critical of the Party for so publicly signing the pledge to not increase tuition fees when the signs were so clear that cuts cuts cuts would be on the cards.
I was then surprised to hear Dame Shirley Williams speaking on the World at One on Radio 4, yesterday, echoing about 99% of my comments and why she was supporting Nick Clegg and said she would not have signed a pledge without seeing the books first.
I have read Nick Clegg's letter to Aaron Porter, the Leader of the National Union of Students which clearly spells out that under the current regulations, they start paying pay the tuition fees at a salary of £15K pa and the minimum payment is £45pm.
Under the new proposals, the fees kick in once a salary of £21K pa is earned and the amount payable would be £7pm.
From what I have read of the proposals, it looks a much fairer scheme than at present and whilst I can understand the students anger at the Lib Dem, they seem to fail to understand that not enough people voted Lib Dem for the Party to implement their policy in the manifesto.
Instead, we have a coalition government and coalition means compromise.
I wish we could implement the manifesto commitment, but the economic reality means that if we give the students what they want, other budget areas would have to be cut back even further. I heard once student activist saying all the cuts should be to the defence budget. Why defence? I am worried that we are cutting that back to much, as it is!
In conclusion, I must say again that the Lib Dems brought this on themselves. I know from my own past experience in drawing up manifestos that you should not promise what you cannot keep and I even had to ensure one commitment we made, was worded clearly and that took a lot of drafts, before we got it right.
This then brings me onto the students. Where are they coming from? In any case, the new proposals wont affect many of the current batch of students.
All the student banners seem to be laying into the Lib Dems and Clegg. Honestly... did ALL of them vote Lib Dem in May and now feel so hurt at the U-turn. To be honest, it was an issue that did not even register on my radar.
As the NUS has traditionally been a Labour organisation, I was wondering if any of it is Labour trying to stick the knife in to the coalition by making it so uncomfortable to the Liberal Democrats. I guess we won't know for a while. But previous NUS Leaders include Jack Straw and Phil Woolas. Of course, we remember Phil Woolas was thrown out of Parliament, for lying in an election leaflet, the other week.
I hope the new proposal is passed by the Commons tomorrow as it is a better one than the one that the Lib Dems campaigned for, in the General Election and I am certainly against the violence we have seen in recent weeks. I am all for peaceful protest and I went on one myself, when I was a student in the early 1980's, though I cannot remember now what it was for!!!!
I therefore hope the Lib Dems learn from this mistake and move on. It was so obvious it was a promise we could not keep. Whilst the Lib Dems may have been out of Government since the fall of Lloyd George in 1922 (apart from the WW2 Coalition), some MP's still seem to speak and act as if we are still in opposition, when in fact we are the junior coalition government partner.
I also did a Wikipaedia check on Aaron Porter and I see he was elected as an independent to his job, but that he is a member of the Labour Party. It seems strange that the NUS are targetting their anger towards the Liberal Democrats and who have Labour being trying to unsettle in the election and the new coalition government... the Lib Dems...
This may be a tough decision for the Lib Dems, but it is nothing compared to the cuts that the Irish Government is having to bring in. The UK proposals seem rather tame in comparison and I thank myself lucky that I am not living in the Irish Republic.
In this section
- Pembrokeshire County Council Elections - Post Election, Part 2
- Pembrokeshire County Council Elections - Post Election
- Titanic - 100 Years On.
- Pembrokeshire County Council Elections - 3rd May 2012
- Power To The Badgers - Now Let the Vaccination Programme Begin
- 60 Years and STILL Going Strong!
- Good Customer Service
- The Death of a Much Loved Dog - Jessie
- Garrow's Law - Sunday 27th November
- Sir Thomas Picton