Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Increasingly desperate and unconVincing

Vince Cable appears to be on a mission to destroy any remaining credibility he once had as the slow motion car crash that is Lib Dem policy on tuition fees grinds inexorably onwards, a trail of bodies left behind in its wake.

He is currently proposing that he, as a Cabinet Minister, will not only abstain on a vote on government policy, but will abstain on a policy proposed by his own department. This is entirely ludicrous - there is no way that he can continue as a member of the government while evidently not supporting government policy. It sets a very dangerous precedent for the government that may even be used against them by Conservative ministers who object to a particular item of policy in the future. I know that this particular abstention was specifically allowed in the coalition agreement, but it doesn't take huge leap to imagine well-placed Tories trying to exercise the same loophole.

It doesn't help that, in typical Liberal Democrat form, he is saying different things to different audiences. In a leaflet circulating in Scotland, he criticises tuition fees
"[Vince Cable] likened tuition fees to the infamous poll tax, as the fees are seen as an unfair weight around students' necks"

But then, this is the same man who didn't understand why the students are protesting, as the changes won't affect them - that's the Big Society in action, Vince. I remember anti-loans protests being well-supported in the 1980s and 90s by students who would also be unaffected by them.

He has also said that he regretted signing the pledge - presumably on the grounds that

This Liberal Democrat councillor is keeping a close eye on the game as it develops and has a good handle on how fourteen MPs are still committed to voting against and will have to be strongarmed even into abstention.

Activists are up in arms, with 104 sending a letter to Clegg warning

that the party faced "many more years back in the political wilderness" unless the fee rises were thrown out. They wrote: "During the general election campaign many of our MPs (and now government ministers) signed a pledge with the National Union of Students that they would vote against any tuition fee rises during the course of the next Parliament. The wording of this pledge clearly
indicated that this would be unconditional, regardless of whether the party was in government or in opposition. The party has been very clear for many years about its view on tuition fees and that we feel they should be abolished."
Mind you, Clegg is equally deluded, as he believes that the demonstrations are more likely to put people off going to university than the thumping hikes in fees matched by government disinvestment.

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