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Red lines

Betsan Powys | 12:51 UK time, Sunday, 20 September 2009

_45079920_runners_pa.jpgDown to Bournemouth.

By the time I got past Bath coverage of the Great North Run on the car radio was already being overshadowed by the runners lining up for the Great Rush to Cut. Ed Balls was limbering up to cut £2b from the education budget in England, while Nick Clegg was already way down the course, proving he was serious about cuts by warning Liberal Democrats they might have to wave goodbye to their policy of scrapping university tuition fees.

He still hates the thought of tuition fees, is dead set against tuition fees and would like to do something about getting rid of them but there's only so much money in the pot and the party had to be "realistic" about what they could do with that money if ever in government.

Remind you of Plaid Cymru's 'still opposed in principle but not in government' line?

How did Peter Black put it back in May?

"It is all very well your bleating, 'We haven't got the money' but the fact is that you do have it; you have chosen to spend it differently."

Unlikely, then, that Mr Clegg will cast a vote for the Welsh Lib Dems in tonight's blog awards. Their You Tube film exposing "Hyprocrite Plaid and Labour protesting" against introducing top-up fees is up for best use of blogging/social networking/e-campaigning by a Liberal Democrat award. The prize is yours ... in principle.

The prize for best use of your question in a Liberal Democrat press conference goes to Rob Speht, a Lib Dem councillor from Swansea.

Kirsty Williams got through the Barnett formula questions ok (yes, there was a cake) and the bit about amalgamating the Welsh Secretary's job with the Scottish and Northern Irish jobs to create a cabinet member for the Nations and Regions. She is "comfortable with that suggestion" because "by that stage, Wales would have a proper parliament". We'll take that as party policy and a red line in the sand, then?

There'd been a "robust discussion" after Vince Cable let slip his thoughts on scrapping the defence training academy in St Athan and a paper had been sent to Nick Clegg containing advice should he ever enter into negotiations with David Cameron on forming a coalition. It ishould, she suggested, be sub-titled "How not to conduct coalition negotiations".

A final question from Councillor Speht. "Where do you stand on mineral rights" he asked - on the bits of oil and gas, minerals, wind farms and so on in Wales? You can't, after all, talk about Barnett in isolation from that sort of thing, can you?

Ahem ... yes, for today, Kirsty Williams could.

UPDATE: Plans to create that new amalgamated role of a cabinet member for the Nations and Regions are not reliant on there being a 'proper parliament' in Wales first. They are reliant on the Lib Dems being in power in Westminster ... which would lead a referendum ... which if won would lead to a 'proper parliament'.

More from Nick Clegg on student fees:

"There is no question mark over the policy of the Liberal Democrats to scrap tuition fees. Thre is no question mark about my personal commitment to that policy. The only question mark is about when we can afford to scrap it ... We've got to treat people like grown ups. It is a policy that has significant financial implications".

From the floor :"The abolition of tuition fees is about a lot more than just money!"

Nick Clegg: "Yes it is. So is candour".

Didn't quite work ....


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