Sunday, October 10, 2010

Another Lib Dem principle ditched

The Lib Dems enjoyed electoral success in many constituencies with a large student population in 2005, with young voters attracted by the party's opposition to tuition fees...

Labour and Tories will leave students with £44,000 debts. The Liberal Democrats
are different. Not only will we oppose any raising of the cap, we will scrap
tuition fees for good, including for part-time students.

A coalition government agreement to abolish tuition fees in England and replace them with a system closer to a graduate tax is near and simply needs edging “over the line”, Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrats’ deputy leader, has said.... His “belief, hope and conviction” was that fees would be scrapped whatever Lord Browne of Madingley’s review of fees and funding proposes when it reports in three weeks. Mr Hughes told a fringe event at the party’s Liverpool conference last night that Vince Cable, the business secretary, had been doing “sterling work” convincing civil servants that abolition of fees was necessary to meet the Lib Dem’s pre-election commitment to scrap them.

Vince Cable.... has accepted the case for higher tuition fees. Cable – like all Lib Dem MPs – signed a pledge at the recent Lib Dem conference to oppose any increase in fees.

The Guardian, 9 October 2010
I'm sure that there will be some form of words to allow the Liberal Democrats to comfort themselves that they aren't reversing policy on yet another iconic issue, but the reality is that the personal pledge signed by Nick Clegg (pictured above with Cambridge Lib Dem MP Julian Huppert, who must be worrying about the next election) and Vince Cable against any increase in tuition fees is worthless, even though the wording is quite specific:
I pledge to vote against any increase in fees in the next parliament and to pressure the government to introduce a fairer alternative
The coalition agreement committed them only to abstention, thus already forcing them to break that pledge, which was ultimately signed by 400 Lib Dem candidates and every Lib Dem MP, along with 200 Labour candidates. Ming Campbell has already signalled that he would consider voting against his party whip in this event. It has been suggested in the past that Clegg has wanted to get out of this policy for some time time, but has been rebuffed by his party, as this is regarded as one of their sacred cows and a votewinner amongst the young.
Given the rate at which the Liberal Democrats are abandoning their principles and their key policies, it can only be a matter of weeks before Clegg confirms that in retrospect, the Iraq war was an excellent idea and that the Liberal Democrats were in full support all along.

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