Tuition fees: It's worse than they thought
Simon Hughes continued to insist yesterday that the increase in tuition fees was not what his party wanted to do. There's one problem with this. It isn't true.
Don't misunderstand me. I am not accusing the Lib Dems deputy leader of lying. He and many in his party really did want to cut tuition fees and believed that it was possible.
However, the powerful troika at the top of the party did not. Before the election Nick Clegg, Vince Cable and Danny Alexander tried to persuade their colleagues to drop their opposition to fees.
They even drew up proposals which were, I'm told, remarkably similar to those drawn up by Lord Browne - higher fees combined with more generous maintenance for the poorest and a hike in the salary level at which repayment begins.
The troika's regret is not that they are now putting fees up but that, back then, they ever promised not to do so.
Their attitude to raising fees is, in truth, like Tony Blair's to the Iraq War. He used to infuriate opponents of the war by telling them: "It's worse than you think. I really believe it." I suspect that Messrs Clegg, Cable and Alexander will not be so undiplomatic.
In return for taking the political hit for eating his words, Clegg is to be given the chance to unveil plans later this week for the other thing he really believes in - the pupil premium.
Talking of which, Alan Milburn - the social mobility tsar (if that is not a contradiction in terms) - makes an interesting speech today in which he argues that the coalition should go even further in encouraging a schools market to improve failing schools.
He proposes introducing an Education Credit - worth 150% of the cost of a child's education - to allow kids to escape the worst performing schools. Here's an extract of what he will propose:
"I believe that individual parents with children in schools where performance is officially assessed as consistently poor - often in the poorest parts of the country - should be given a new right to choose an alternative state school. Those parents would be given an Education Credit weighted to be worth perhaps 150% of the cost of educating the child in their current school. They could then use the Credit to persuade the better performing school to admit their child. The admitting school would have a positive financial incentive to do so. Indeed, for children holding an Education Credit the alternative school would be free to go above its planned admission numbers - although of course it could decide to cap its expansion at what it considered an appropriate level."