Tuesday, 9 November 2010


The tuition fees issue is a tough one for the Lib Dems and its not easy to decide what to do for best.

I agreed to the pledge on opposing any increases in tuition fees during this Parliament as a candidate, a position I still fundamentally agree with. I remain convinced that tuition fees are unfair and that education should be free, although it is clear that this cannot be afforded without some way of paying for it. I liked the manifesto commitment to abolish fees over 6 years and I campaigned for this actively in Oxford East. If I support the government's policy I go against this.

However, I consider myself a pragmatist and when the Lib Dems can actually get stuff done in government like stopping the pointless and redundant Trident renewal for another five years (and hopefully forever in due course), cutting taxes for the lowest paid and introducing the pupil premium for the poorest schoolchildren, I have to pause for thought.

That's the dilemma. We made a clear commitment and breaking it is clearly wrong but then again we made a whole series of commitments on a whole range of projects and having the chance to do something about them for the first time in 90 years has to count for something.

Who'd be a politician?

If I was in Parliament now (images of people running for the hills) I would want to be given a very good reason why the Lib Dems should go against this very clear election pledge. There is, after all, nothing in the coalition agreement which commits Lib Dems to supporting a rise. Are Lib Dem MPs obliged to vote for policies which do not appear in that document?

I know I'm only one blog among thousands and one former candidate among hundreds but if this post adds to the general feeling of profound concern which appears to be spreading through the Lib Dem ranks, it will have been useful.

As for any complaints for New/Old Labour about the issue, we must never forget which champions of the working people - whose MPs almost universally benefited from a free education themselves - introduced tuition fees in the first place.

No comments:

Post a Comment