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Does a pledge trump an agreement?

Nick Robinson | 10:05 UK time, Monday, 29 November 2010

So many promises, so difficult to keep, such little time to decide. Liberal Democrat MPs now find themselves under intense pressure over how to vote on tuition fees.

Should they stand by their pledge to students, even if that means not standing by their coalition agreement with the Conservatives?

This morning, 104 Lib Dem Parliamentary candidates at the last election insist that it's the pledge that counts and that as a pledge it's worth more than a mere manifesto promise.

They say:

"This is not an attack on the Coalition Government's policy programme generally; nor is it some kind of 'rebellion' and it should certainly not lead to the party splitting. However we feel that this is a pledge that cannot be broken due to the nature in which it was signed and publicised during the 2010 General Election. This separates it from manifesto promises that have had to be sacrificed due to the concessions that coalition government brings."

So, a pledge trumps a manifesto promise - but what about an agreement?

The Lib Dems were laboriously consulted on the deal with the Tories. It explicitly stated that MPs could abstain if they didn't like the new coalition's policy - which, it was clear, would be an increase in fees. If they now vote against then why, some Tories might ask, should others stick by the agreement?

This is why Simon Hughes is seeking to persuade all colleagues that the only way to look like they're at least trying to respect the pledge and not breaking the agreement and to stay united is to collectively abstain.

The problem is that this would entail Vince Cable, the minister who's proposing the legislation, to abstain on it and it would require MPs, like Charles Kennedy, who've re-stated their determination to vote against higher fees to double-rat.

Another idea, anyone?

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    Funny, deeply funny. Seeing as the Dems have about faced on almost every election commitment watching them squirm at this one is so very amusing. Yes, a pledge does tru mp agreement as it was made outside manifesto; they should vote the legislation down, but that would be at the sacrifice of power. When it comes to it, they'll abstain, let the numerous thousands that this affects down and spend the next good fews years in the wilderness as the party that, given all they'vce said about openess and honesty, really cannot be trusted.

    Political dynamite. Let's see if Clegg keeps his fingers when it explodes.

  • Comment number 2.

    Well I like pledges, but then I also like agreements. Well there's only one way to decide..........Fight!!!
    With apologies to Harry Hill.

  • Comment number 3.

    The Liberal Democrats election pledge to abolish fees was made to voters as a promise of future behaviour. The party leadership then chose to ignore what they had promised when in coalition negotiations. How does promising something to another party trump promising something to the voters?

    Even if they did have a point about manifesto pledges having to be discarded in coalition negotiations, they can't use that excuse on the NUS pledge. That was an individual pledge given by individual Liberal Democrat candidates, separate from the manifesto pledge, and it says to vote against any increase in fees.

    Basic English comprehension destroys the Liberal Democrats' attempt to make a clear pledge to "vote against any increase in fees" conditional on the second part of the NUS pledge referring to bringing in a fairer system.

  • Comment number 4.

    LibDems - tuition fees.

    This is REALLY boring now!

  • Comment number 5.

    lib should vote against the deal and force and election and then have a real debate on the issues that was avoided last time.

    We are grownup enough to understand the problems and vote for theones with the correct solutions

  • Comment number 6.

    The Lib Dems pledge clearly states "I promise to vote against any increase in fees" this is unambiguous and does not tie them to only doing so if elected. They are traitors to their voters and should be forced to vacate their posts as MPs. If they renege on this pledge what hope for a simple promise.

  • Comment number 7.

    Perhaps its time for yet another split into another party then? Those that don't want ever to be voted for again stick with Nick Clegg, those that would like some voter credibility can vote as they should and form a new party..... simple solution.

  • Comment number 8.

    All this hand-wringing only goes to show how much the Liberal Party have to mature in terms of the politics of Government, as opposed to being a party of perpetual protest.

    Its not often that I agree with Nick (Robinson), but after the election, and, in the full light of their Pledge, they all signed up to the Coalition Agreement, which entails increased charges.

    They may have to hold their noses, just as the Tories did with the A/V referendum, but the point is that the Tories honoured the Agreement.

    Will the Liberals now prove to be honourable partners in Agreement, or will they dishonour it and treat it as an a la carte menu??

  • Comment number 9.

    I am one of the 104 who signed the pledge, and am proud to do so.

    Message to David Boothroyd and other Labour Party activists: nobody is going to believe a party that lied to students not once, but twice, by pledging not to introduce tuition fees or top-up fees and then doing so.

    The wording of the pledge requires that Liberal Democrat MPs vote against any increase in fees. It isn't enough to argue that the coalition agreement supersedes the pledge. It isn't enough to argue that the new system is fairer (and indeed it's a separate debate and something of a moot point).

    Yes, coalition government does change the game, and it is up to those in the Coalition to explain why (including the Conservatives who went into the election with no policy, and whose position deserves much closer scrutiny than it has had to date). However, there is no reason whatsoever that backbench Liberal Democrat MPs should not do what those from Tim Farron to Martin Horwood have done, and vow to honour their pledge. It's a question of honour and integrity.

    The fair question to ask is: 'What would I do if I were a Liberal Democrat minister?'. I would not want to bring the Cabinet down over this, though the absurdity of the Conservatives digging in heels on an issue where nobody was told their position at the election is not lost on me. I would, on balance, resign on principle while making it clear that I did not see this as an issue of confidence in the Government.

  • Comment number 10.

    Yes, a pledge does most definitely trump an agreement, because pledges tend to carry greater 'weight' (personal commitment) and have greater specificity than do agreements. But, more critically, it is clearly wrong to enter into an agreement if it violates a previously made pledge.

    Speaking as a Lib Dem voter in a very marginal Lib Dem held seat in the West Country, I have been disgusted by the behaviour of the Lib Dems on this issue (and particularly disgusted by Nick Clegg and Vince Cable, both of whom have plummeted in my estimation). All Lib Dem MPs (including those in the Government) should vote AGAINST the proposal to increase tuition fees, merely abstaining would be insufficient.

  • Comment number 11.

    Interesting scenario Nicholas.

    Well, thats leaves them in a bit of a quandry, doesnt it? Plenty of potential ouefs sur le bonce for St Vince.

    Again.

    For a change.

    However much they try and dress it up, from the moment we had Labours volte face on the referendum on Lisbon, it was immediately obvious that an electoral pledge, or manifesto commitment cannot be taken seriously and that all they - any of them - are trying to do is attract votes. Once power is achieved pledges count for nothing in terms of electoral or political expediency.

    Personally, I cant see how the Libs are going to be able to wriggle (convincingly) out of this. Those in the electorate who expected more of them, who thought they'd be different to the usual duopoly, are going to be disappointed to find out just how naive they were... and for those within the party who signed up to this "pledge" and then found they couldnt deliver and didnt explain in a convincing enough bite-sized, dumbed down voter friendly way, will rue it as a bad decision. One that may have serious political consequences come the time of the next election.

  • Comment number 12.

    To abstain will mean the vote for the rises will win; do the Lib Dem's really believe that Joe public doesn't understand that abstaining is actually a vote for the increase.

  • Comment number 13.

    given this is a blog highlighing trouble for the coalition , then it will pass 200 before being closed ?

  • Comment number 14.

    "It's a question of honour and integrity."

    A quality in precious short supply in the Westminster Village Mr Epps.

    Lets see how many actually do as you suggest. It will be interesting to see how it shakes out.

  • Comment number 15.

    Another point in addition to my 8 above, is O.K., so, they dishonour the Agreement they ALL freely entered into (the whole party was fully consulted), and they vote the increased charges down.

    Where does the money come from to replace the lost income??

    General taxation is NOT an answer.

    My view, if the Lberals are untrustworthy Coalition Partners - fine call an election, and let them return to being the party of perpetual protest and opposition.

  • Comment number 16.

    "I told you so" is not a political critique but it is most satisfying when I was duped into voting Lib Dems as the more left than Labour party!

    Next collision - Europe

  • Comment number 17.

    I can think of worse things that could have caused a divide in the coalition.

    However, the BBC must be jumping up and down with excitement that finally they have a dividing line in the coalition.

    Whatever next? Will the BBC be condoning the use of violence at the student protests against the increase in tuition fees? They are already suggesting that tuition fees are the Libdems 'poll tax' ... another policy area that led to widespread civil disobedience and rioting. Do they condone that behaviour as well?

    Things have come to a pretty pass when radio four commentators can barely conceal their disappointment that the UK looks to have avoided a double dip recession. (as was the cse this morning) There needs to be some serious soul searching about what and whose point of view they think they represent, because right now it's far from clear that they have any other intention than the destabilisation of the government by whatever manner or means they can utilise.

    No one is disputing the need for journalists to hold politicians to account but the persistent flexing of the interpretation of their responsibility in this regard is putting the impartiality of the BBC in doubt.

    Just because her Majesty's loyal opposition has lost the will to rule, given itself a blank piece of paper where there should be policy and two years to fill it, this doesn't mean the BBC should feel obliged to step into the vacuum.

    If the BBC want to create a dividing line they should take up the issue of the prevalence of the glottal stop in the affected speech patterns of the party formerly known as newlabour. It's by far and away the most contrived and unattractive 'down with the kids' way of speaking that has ever been used. It is illustrative of the decline in educational standards over which the party formerly known as newlabour where delighted to preside; the dumbing down of everything form maths, to foreign language learning, to the most basic received pronunciation of the english language.

    What a fright show newlabour were.

    It's a great time to be a tory...

  • Comment number 18.

    It is no good having the most proportional and fair electoral system in the world if when the parties get into power they do the opposite to what they promised.

  • Comment number 19.

    Regardless of how the parliamentary Lib/Dems vote on the issue,their leadership is now embedded in the public's mind as little more than a bunch of liars.
    They will never again be trusted by the electorate.

  • Comment number 20.

    Will this problem mean that more people will vote for no change from first past the post ?
    This petition is coming from non-MPs who are not in a position to abstain, unless they decide to 'abstain' from supporting Nick Clegg and his liars.
    Of course they have only their honesty and integrity left. Their MP colleagues may not be left even with that.--- But I suppose some of them were never to be trusted anyway.

  • Comment number 21.

    Nick is asking us for ideas We're not the one who's a political editior Nick!

  • Comment number 22.

    9 Gareth Epps

    ..including the Conservatives who went into the election with no policy, and whose position deserves much closer scrutiny than it has had to date..

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    Coalition requires compromise but the Lib-Dems are paying the price for making rash promises and then unexpectedly finding themselves in government.

    Tory election policy below:

    "...consider carefully the results of Lord Browne’s review into the future of higher education funding, so that we can unlock
    the potential of universities to transform our economy, to enrich students’ lives through teaching of the highest quality, and to
    advance scholarship..."

    This is pretty much what they have done, so I'm not sure how further scrutiny will take the spotlight of the Lib-Dems.

  • Comment number 23.

    No11 Fubar,
    I am trying to locate the promise of a referendum by the previous government on the Lisbon Treaty, it appears as though there was none.Did the promise not apply to an earlier European issue relating to a proposed European Constitution?

  • Comment number 24.

    I think they should just say :
    'Look. We're in a situation that neither we or, frankly, anybody else thought we'd be in. We have to make this work for what we see as the Greater Good, and in order to do so, we have to make some difficult compromises. So grow up, shut up or go and vote New Labour or UKIP or whatever'.
    That's what I'd do.

  • Comment number 25.


    A personal pledge to do something (vote against any increase in fees) is a matter of personal integrity. Never mind that the Party manifesto also said this - and never mind that the coalition agreement said otherwise. Those are party political matters. MPs should pay heed to these - but it is their personal integrity that should be of paramount importance.

    Secondly, the attempts to weasel out of this by stating that the present system is "fairer" shouldn't wash. "Fairer" than what exactly? The underlying policy decision that has just been taken is that students and not government should pay for higher education. The current figures for thresholds etc, are irrelevant to this point of principle: and I note that no-one is talking about the interest rate chage that was proposed (was that abandoned?).

    Meanwhile, another day another few billion £ to preserve the banking system.

  • Comment number 26.

    #17 rockRobin7

    You've hit the nail on the head.

    In addition to your accurate comments, why is it the BBC (or Sky news for that matter)don't mention the fact that Labour said in their manifesto no tuition fees and introduced them, then increased fees?
    On both occassions having a massive majority in the House of Commons.

    Labour also promised a referendum on the Lisbon treaty (albeit under a different name) and then forced it onto the electorate.

    What would LibDem supporters do if their ministers abstain or vote for the bill? Which party would they vote for?

    I would suggest whatever the LibDem ministers do, they have a problem at the next election. In tory/LibDem marginals they would lose, and in Labour/LibDem marginals they would lose.

    Those objecting to increased fees which are actually better terms than the existing labour arrangement for part time students and poorer students cannot vote for any of the main parties as they both are in agreement.
    If labour MP's vote against the bill, they are also liars as they would have increased fees if they had won the election and cannot say where the money would come from to do otherwise, as they are against the benefit cuts, the pension age changes and just about every other proposal to reduce the deficit.

    Any LibDem MP's who vote against the increased fees will also have to say where the money will come from.

  • Comment number 27.

    Or, the Lib Dem members who can't live with their consciences (and I feel your pain, guys) could split from the party, form a Democratic Liberal Party and disappear from centre of the political spectrum for another 50 years.

    To use an ugly but apt expression - Let's Get Real.

  • Comment number 28.

    No17 Rocking Robin,
    Some interesting thoughts on the Lib/Dem tuition fees treachery.Do you think that an obsession with the situation in the affairs of the previous party of government is being increasingly confined to those who are attached to the AndyPandy/Enid Blyton school of political philosophy?

  • Comment number 29.

    They only made the pledge because they thought they wouldn't get elected. Why else would they have thought they'd be having to vote against a rise? It was an easy promise to make and now they've been found out. Their leaders have been seduced by power and undermined by compromise.

  • Comment number 30.

    Another thought, the Conservatives must be laughing.
    They are getting what they wanted, after all it is their reduction in expenditure which means they now say that tuition fees must increase.
    They clearly stitched up the Lib-Dems in the agreement.
    The intention to make the present parliament last 5 years, coupled with the fiddle of not requiring a general election following a vote of no confidence in the Government gives them what they want, time for folk to forget (they hope),these cuts which are now ever nearer.
    Cameron's claim to 'lose his right' to call an election whenever he wants is just guff. He wants to stay, not go.

  • Comment number 31.

    Nick

    This story in the Mail is far more relevant to the sneering political elite that is the Westminster Village. BAE Systems are sacking 300 British workers in Portsmouth in favour of Polish workers as they are cheaper. Why aren't the Trade Unions screaming their heads off? Lord West was fulminating last month about British shipbuilders workers skills being lost if the aircraft carriers deal did not go ahead - where is he now?

    The EU question is one that all the three main political parties are ducking. I suspect that the political elite are so detached from reality and any sense of propriety that they do not give a stuff about the electorate.

    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1333924/300-Royal-Navy-workers-axed-Poles-30-cheaper.html

  • Comment number 32.

    Politicians torn over whether they should stick to their principles. I suppose it's a start.

  • Comment number 33.

    Sorry clegg - even abstaining en-masse on the student fee vote just won't cut it.

    Thousands of young people voted liberal-'democrat' with the intention of keeping the tories out of office. Then clegg single handedly put them into office and multiple LibDems joined the cabinet.

    Regardless of the votes of individual MPs, LibDems are keeping the tories in office and they are part of the doctrine of collective responsibility for government policy.

    If clegg wants to do anything useful then stand by another promise … allow dissatisfied voters to hold a referendum which would then force a by-election. Start with clegg’s constituency.

    Has he got the confidence to fight that contest?

  • Comment number 34.

    #28 IPGABP1

    I would think anyone who believes political parties should carry out their manifest policies when they achieve office with massive majorities would be interested in what LibDem opponents (Labour) history is on matters of principle.

  • Comment number 35.

    #24 I agree with the sentiment here, however uncomfortable it seems for LD MPs. Perhaps the choice of wording could be improved though!
    It was easy to make extravagant promises when not expecting to be in government, they should face up to both their responsibilities and the knowledge that they now have.
    LDs were part of the decision making process that formed the policy, they should explain how they have made a difference to the outcome. Far from ideal but their only alternative is to leave govt, surely. Their is no obvious shelter for disaffected LD voters because, on this issue at least, Labour would have done something similar I am sure.

  • Comment number 36.

    The time for the LibDems to keep their manifesto pledge was during coalition agreement negotiations. It's too late now.

    This said: "If the response of the Government to Lord Browne's report is one that Liberal Democrats cannot accept, then arrangements will be made to enable Liberal Democrat MPs to abstain in any vote."

    Since that was approved by the LibDems under their party's constitution it is not now possible to vote against the rise in tuition fees without breaking the coalition agreement. Back-bench LibDem MPs could do this, but ministers would have to resign.

    So far the LibDems have angered (or betrayed, as some see it) the left. If they break the coalition agreement they will anger (or betray) the Conservatives as well. It will also undermine the whole concept of coalition agreement, and lose the AV referendum.

    What a shower of a political party.

    A collective name for them? "a mendacity of libdems"

  • Comment number 37.

    "9. At 10:55am on 29 Nov 2010, Gareth Epps wrote:
    I am one of the 104 who signed the pledge, and am proud to do so."

    Didn't all 104 people involved in this lose at the election? So none of then were in the position of those that DID win seats. What to do? Both Tory & Liberals have had to give up things to get the coalition going. You've got the £10,000 personal tax free allowance on the way. An important Liberal policy. Would you give up on that in order to get the free on student fees? That's the point isn't it? The days of promising everything to everyone are over. So what would you cut to have the money to freeze student fees?

    If can't answer that, Gareth, you'd be in danger of being linked to what we call on here the 'yapping dog' tendency. No answers, no serious points just inconsequential comments regarded as a joke.

    "in about 5 minutes, on here, IPGABP1 will write:

    Duuuhhhhh AndyPandy

    Duuuuhhhhh Enid Blyton

    Duuuhhhh Nurse, my crayon has got stuck up my nose again"

  • Comment number 38.

    31. At 11:41am on 29 Nov 2010, excellentcatblogger wrote:
    This story in the Mail is far more relevant to the sneering political elite that is the Westminster Village. BAE Systems are sacking 300 British workers in Portsmouth in favour of Polish workers as they are cheaper. Why aren't the Trade Unions screaming their heads off? Lord West was fulminating last month about British shipbuilders workers skills being lost if the aircraft carriers deal did not go ahead - where is he now?


    I agree that this is a big story and hardly anyone seems interested. We've been over the Polish Worker thing so many times on these blogs, but as you say the point of this story is that one of the main reasons for building the carriers in the first place was so that we retain the skills.
    I suppose not many people are shouting because not many people feel personally effected, although they will be of course, one way or another.

  • Comment number 39.

    Like Gareth I am one of the 104 that signed the letter. It’s not a case of the semantics of pledge, promise or agreement as to do so demeans the whole debate.

    The Liberal Democrats are not like other parties. Our membership formulates and deliberates policy twice a year. The pledge we signed was in keeping with that policy. The reality is that in May 2010 we became a partner member of government with a only fifth of its ministers.

    In true democratic fashion, we held a special conference. We did not know the outcome of Labour's Lord Browne report. So we agreed, as a party, that if it was found not to be in keeping with our policy - which has remained unchanged for years, our MPs would abstain.

    I have some sympathy for Nick Clegg and Vince Cable who have put the Lib Dem Fairness stamp in the proposals we have in front of us, such as raising the payback threshold to £21k, no up front fees, hundreds of thousands of Apprenticeship places and of course a cap on the maximum fee chargeable. That is more than either Labour or Conservatives would have done.

    If I had of been elected in May, I would be abstaining as a minimum, as that is what we agreed to do as a condition for being in Government. But I would, as I am now, press for the abolition of fees for first time degrees. That is our policy. The only party to have such a consistent policy position.

    So I'll take no criticism from Labour who reneged on their 'pledge' and manifesto to introduce fees and then top up fees. The rioting protests are a shamefull afront to Democracy. As are Labour carping on about broken promises. They are just a smoke screen and hopeful wishing by the media that the Coalition will fail. It will not. This is not Samson’s hair, the Coalition will not fail if Lib Dems abstain or vote against.

    This is not an attack Nick from withimn, or on the coalitions policy programme generally; nor is it some kind of “rebellion” and it should certainly not lead to the party splitting. The fact that double the amount of candidates that became MPs are calling for our policy to be implemented is a show of the strength of feeling in the membership about the stewardship of our policies.

    This is the Liberal Democrats talking to our leadership and Parliamentary colleagues, expressing our view. That’s Democracy. That’s the Lib Dem way. Therefore in keeping with that viewm, I am sure that at the next election, once again, we will approach our manifesto and policy making with a view to a no fee education.

  • Comment number 40.

    The Road to Hell is paved with good intent and there is no reason to assume the LibDem 'Pledge' was made with anything but good intentions.

    So - instead of hammering the LibDems why not attack the purpetrators of Bankrupt GB - the LABOUR Party!

    After all it was only after their Election Loss the Labour Party announced 'Theres no money left' (would they have been so cavalier if they had remained in power one wonders?) indeed how dare they stand in opposition to those trying to rectify a decade of mistakes of Labours own making - Shame and double shame on them all.

    How can election promises possibly be funded when there are no funds left available to carry them out - you do not need a Degree to figure that one out, and for those that continue to protest, those non tax payers who by their actions are causing a further drain of the public purse in the form of extra Policing, street cleaning and repairs to public building caused by sheer mindless andalism - GROW UP and recognise the situation the whole country faces rather than wallowing in self pity - its going to get a whole lot worse before it gets any better!

  • Comment number 41.

    23#

    Indeed Sout, that was precisely the technicality on which the refusal to grant the referendum was based.

    Bear in mind, the electorate dont tend to drill down as deeply in such matters as some of the rest of us and there are some who feel that regardless of whether it was a treaty or a constitution and regardless of how similar one document was to the other, that a promise to hold a referendum on the subject was broken by a party which had a manifesto pledge to hold one.

    I see exactly what you're getting at and I agree with the thrust of what you are saying.

    But, IMVHO, the scenario Nick highlights here and this one have a striking number of similarities, where an electoral promise "appears" to have been made and then cast aside for political expediency.

    The same could be argued about Cast Iron Dave's promises to hold referenda on Lisbon, which melted when it was ratified and also, brought to more prominence recently, his pledge to repeal the EU Human Rights Act in light of the failure to deport the young chap who stabbed the Headmaster Philip Lawrence (Turns out that the problem there that prevented the deportation was not the Human Rights Act, but the EU Directive that allows free movement of people and labour across the member states. No chance of repealing THAT).

    All three examples retain a central similarity. Politician attempts to score points and attract support on a touchy, divisive subject, plays to the gallery and when invited to put up or shut up ends up beating a hasty retreat or is left with egg on face.

    Thats my take on it anyway. Hope you're well.

  • Comment number 42.

    I am one of the 104!

    Nick - it absolutely WAS NOT clear that the Coalition programme meant higher tuition fees. The text from the Coalition Programme for government is as follows:

    "We will await Lord Browne’s final report into higher education funding, and will judge its proposals against the need to:
    – increase social mobility;
    – take into account the impact on student debt;
    – ensure a properly funded university sector;
    – improve the quality of teaching;
    – advance scholarship; and
    – attract a higher proportion of students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

    If the response of the Government to Lord Browne’s report is one that Liberal Democrats cannot accept, then arrangements will be made to enable Liberal Democrat MPs to abstain in any vote."

    So it was still a big "IF" at the time the Coalition was agreed.

    And it seems that only in the last few days has Nick Clegg been considering the possibility of Lib Dems abstaining - up to then he's been all for them voting in favour! It seems it's just this sort of grassroots strength of opinion that's making him have to rethink.

    Finally, the really ironic thing about "the response of the government to Lord Browne's report" and abstaining is that it is a LIBERAL DEMOCRAT (Vince) who is providing that government response, but because that response is indeed one that the Party cannot accept, they are now having to consider abstention!

    Martin Pierce, Lib Dem candidate for West Ham, 2010 General Election

  • Comment number 43.

    It is not so hard.

    LibDem ministers abstain as they are entitled to or they must make a much better case why any alternative to this proposal is so much worse that they have to vote for it rather than abstain or vote against. e.g. if we do not do this then there will be X fewer places, X cuts in other budgets to fund it, X loss of quality etc.

    Backbench LibDems who signed must vote against - irrespective of whether they were consulted in the agreement or not. It is a matter of trust pure and simple. Public trust that is.

    Public trust in politicians is low - all seem to have got that (or their speach writers had at least) during the election - so any pledge freely made by them to the public must be honoured.

    We have a representative democracy - they are OUR representatives - so any pledge on specific policies made to the voters trumps any other agreement between politicians at any time.

    This was a position of principle so the pragmatists in the coalition can sort out how to deal with the results of whatever happens in the chamber afterwards.

    One thing we can be relatively certain of at the next election however is that they won't be any large number of pledges being signed by candidates who think they may even have a chance of elections.

  • Comment number 44.

    The answer, surely, is simple (see end if your attention span is short)...

    The coalition agreement trumps any pre-election statements, that is clearly understood it seems by all except these idiotic "activists" who came up with the ridiculous statement:

    "There is one thing that sets the Liberal Democrats apart from other political parties; this is that when we say we will do something during election campaigns we then do it in government”.

    TRIPE. There has never been a Lib Dem in government before, and given the opening paragraph of this post (which is essentially in agreement with just about everyone else's view, including Nick's) to vote against would be to show the Lib Dems as people who could not even be trusted to stick by their LATEST promise.

    BOTTOM LINE. There is an agreement that they can abstain if they wish, so each MP should simply vote their conscience. That lives up to the coalition agreement.

    Clegg must discipline any MP that votes against, in the strongest possible manner. Cable is the one with a problem. He must first make his position clear - did he produce this legislation with the coalition agreement gun to his head? If so, he may say so clearly and then abstain, otherwise... he cannot freely propose legislation and then abstain.

    Why is this difficult?

  • Comment number 45.

    I find it delicious that the LibDems are in this position. I guess it will be a wake-up call for them on the way that things come back to bite you. It is about time Labour stopped moaning and got their house in order to save themselves from the same fate.

  • Comment number 46.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 47.

    24#

    Now someone having the guts to be that blunt, I probably would vote for. :o)

  • Comment number 48.

    #39 Stephen Lambert wrote:
    "If I had of been elected in May, I would be abstaining as a minimum, as that is what we agreed to do as a condition for being in Government"

    If you mean that you would either abstain or vote against then you are breaking the coalition agreement. This does not say that abstention is a minimum. It's either support or abstain.

    "A duplicity of failed libdem candidates"

  • Comment number 49.

    I think you are all missing a major point here and it is not even about trust it is about Cleggs fundamental beliefs in fairness of saddling stuetns with debt whcih has clearly changed dramatically.

    I recommend you listen very carefully to Cleggs unequivocal stance on this and nothing he has said about the current policy can make this any better for him or his party.

    Every student in the land should send this link to his parliamentary adn consituencey email address

    https://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/news/national/8126015.Press_conference_with_Liberal_Democrat_leader_Nick_Clegg_speaking_at_Oxford_Brookes_University___GVs/

  • Comment number 50.

    I see that we are being taken over by a siren of failed libdem voices.

    The other problem you ahve is that Nick Clegg has actually strongly approved the coalition's policy on the funding of higher education. It would be stranage for him to now abstain on it, yet alone vote against it.

    Rocks or whirlpools? I suspect you are going to choose both.

  • Comment number 51.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 52.

    #33 Jon112dk

    I have never read such tripe. "Thousands of people voted Lib Dem to keep the Tories out", eh?

    Firstly, you can only speak for yourself, and...

    Well they got what they deserved. The idea is you vote for what you DO want not some clever, convoluted way of voting for a party you don't want - so in voting that way, just exactly what government did they think they were voting for?

    The upshot of what you suggested is a coalition and they got that - so what is their problem? That is isn't a Lib-Lab one as usual? Serves you right for trying to be clever mate - vote your conscience in future.

  • Comment number 53.

    Clegg made a colossal strategic blunder in signing that pledge and being so sanctimonious about it, given the way the polls were a hung parliament was very likely and the LD's were likely to have been in government . People should also remember that Labour set up the Brown Review which produced these proposals and both they and the Tories had agreed to adopt it's findings so even if Labour was still in power the LD's would still be in this pickle.

    This is what happens when you chase a quick headline and leave yourself little wriggle room!!

  • Comment number 54.

    #38 wonder why Nick is not running this as this is more important than the current topic because we will be training people at uni and there will be no jobs to support them at the end of the day ?


    We need an election right now where politicians with principle stand and we have a proper debate on the future of the UK and how we fund the requirements of the UK.


    BAE-systems is largely not a UK company ?

  • Comment number 55.

    The problem for the LibDems is that they made the pledge at a time when anyone interested in politics knew a coalition was likely and that large spending cuts were required.

    The LibDems shamelessly marketed themselves to students in particular as the new progressives.

    So they were in a hole of their own making long before the Browne Report was finalised. But since then they have made the situation even worse. Clegg and Cable announced they were supporting Browne's recommendations at the time the reoport was announced. They should have used its release as the starting point for a discussion.


  • Comment number 56.

    Good to see that the actions of a handful of otherwise feckless youfs are putting the issue of student fees to the forefront.

    Usually we have the tories on here telling us how they just don't care what is happening to other people and how it is a good time to be a psychopath or whatever. A few windows get broken and the same smug tories are bleating about 'illegal actions' and the cost of policing.

    Ho, ho, ho.

    Clegg is squirming on the issue of fees, lets hope he can be kept squirming.

  • Comment number 57.

    Another idea, anyone?


    Yes Nick and Election where journolists also do there job too in holding ALL parties to account

  • Comment number 58.

    POWER @ ANY CO$T! As NuLabour eventually found out....ET TU so to speak! Would be nice to see the wheels coming off this little made in hell coalition.....but I think the WHIPS will be at full stretch to get all thier little piggies so to speak in line! here-in lies british politics, its a GAME, some play it better than others!

  • Comment number 59.

    "You've hit the nail on the head." - fair and true @ 26

    Who, Robin? I suppose he has, yes. Always does. Trouble is, which nail and which head? If it's the wrong ones, you're better off missing.

    Anyway, your user name ... I like it! I'm picturing myself in the dock of some reactionary court (some trumped up charge) and looking over at the jury, seeing you sitting there, and giving a huge smile of relief. That's if you are F & T, of course. We do get one or two misleading user names on here, "tory and proud" is one, for example. Can you believe that?

    Re the blog topic: a problem for the Lib Dems, this. Tuition fees. A pledge does indeed trump a common-or-garden manifesto "promise" (inverteds since they aren't) but as you say Nick, there's the Coalition Agreement to think of too - that's very important. It's the agreement on which this government is based, thus has to be respected.

    Problem, though, for the Lib Dems. Said this already, haven't we? But it is, it truly is. David Cameron isn't Margaret Thatcher - he's David Cameron - however the tories are still the tories; if you choose to get close to them, coalesce even, then there's a price to pay as regards integrity. Sleep with fishes, you smell bad in the morning.

    So, what to do?

    I suggest they work a deal out whereby the serious and reprehensible chaps - the ones like Vince Cable and Mr Clegg - abstain and enough of the backbenchers are allowed to vote against (just this once, since it's tuition fees and there was a pledge) so as to give vent to some spleen, and allow a modicum of political principle to be retained - but not so many votes against as to defeat the government. The arithmetic then says that some of the BBs will still have to join C & C in the abstain lobby (although not actually a lobby, is it?); the challenge for the Lib Dems - which I leave them with - is how to decide who gets to be pious and who has to take one for the team. There'll need to be some sort of tangible reward, I would imagine, for those in the latter group. Perhaps a signed photo of Nick Clegg, or a night out with him in Sheffield. Will need to be something good, is my point.

  • Comment number 60.

    A manifesto is a statement of your principles and what you hope to achieve in government if your party gains an overall majority. Obviously, a coalition involves compromises; but voters have to know in advance which manifesto commitments are negotiable in coalition and which are core principles and pledges that will not be sacrificed - otherwise, how can voters make an informed decision?

    By making a great deal of their pledge beforehand, the Lib Dems garnered thousands of votes primarily because of their stand against tuition fees. I do think they are honour bound to keep that pledge;if not, they are utterly discredited and their word will never be trusted again.

  • Comment number 61.

    I really don't know what universe these people are populating. No wonder they failed as candidates as who would vote for such a precious bunch of never-beens?

    The fact is that the Liberal-Democrats lost the General Election as did Labour and as did the Conservatives. But in order to provide a viable government the Liberal-Democrats and the Conservatives formed a coalition around an agreement that did not reflect the totality of the pledges made by each party at the election.

    Coalition politics is about compromise. It is extraordinary that Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidates do not understand such a fundamental principle of the coalition government idea their party so fondly rabbits on about. No wonder they failed to get elected: they probably thought the election was a beauty contest.

    I would agree that the education system in this country is a shambles. I would agree that higher education should not be financed by the students but I also feel that the expansion of so-called higher education has been very badly bungled over the years to the point of exaggeration and hyperbole.

    However, the time when our next door neighbour, Ireland, has been crushed and humiliated as part of the Euro-crisis, when our own government is trying to manage down a fiscal deficit of humungous proportions, when our national debt is rising at a rate of knots, this is not the time to engage in grandstanding of the political sort.

    The best answer has been given in Message 24 above. it is time that the political class started to grow up and learned how to keep their pants dry.

  • Comment number 62.

    A few facts about the people currently going to university, easily gleaned from respectable uk-based internet resources.

    Fewer than half of current university undergraduate students have five good GCSEs in core subjects.

    Only about one sixth of current students are studying subjects of any real use to national productivity (maths, science, engineering, medicine, modern languages).

    Only just under one half of students, on graduation, will obtain jobs on a salary exceding the average for full-time employed eighteen year-olds.

    My conclusion is that more than half of students are not up to the academic standard fit for their studies, more than half of them do themselves no good by going to university rather than going straight from secondary education into a job, and many fewer than half of them acquire skills which are, ultimately, of any use to the nation at large.

    Quite simply, there is no point in the majority of students currently at university actually being there. A policy that dis-incentivises university education for the less capable students is, inherently, a good one and should be thoroughly and widely supported!

  • Comment number 63.

    All I can say to the Lib Dems is that lets just hope that the conservatives dont get the same kind of cold feet when it comes to pushing YOUR pet projects through, eh?

    After all, if they were allowed to abstain on the same things that they felt sorely about, no matter how much YOU wanted them and how important they were to YOU, despite the public voting you in to third place, despite you then going into coalition with the largest party (and therefore having to comprimise some of your deeply held convictions in return for a share of power) I should imagine YOU'd be pretty cheesed off too, huh?

  • Comment number 64.

    "I'm picturing myself in the dock of some reactionary court (some trumped up charge) and looking over at the jury, seeing you sitting there, and giving a huge smile of relief."

    Mate, with the only kind of court you're likely to end up in, there wont BE any jury. Ever heard of Diplock?

  • Comment number 65.

    49. At 12:12pm on 29 Nov 2010, ReDinOxford wrote:
    I think you are all missing a major point here and it is not even about trust it is about Cleggs fundamental beliefs in fairness of saddling stuetns with debt whcih has clearly changed dramatically.

    I recommend you listen very carefully to Cleggs unequivocal stance on this and nothing he has said about the current policy can make this any better for him or his party.

    Every student in the land should send this link to his parliamentary adn consituencey email address

    ================================

    The NUS and students can make a far more direct and personal impact on Nick Clegg.

    Become the voice of opposition to the AV referendum - actively campaign against it and make it clear why. This will have a far bigger impact on senior LibDems political futures (as short as most of them will be).

  • Comment number 66.

    #59 sagamix

    If you were sitting in the dock and noticed I was one of the jurors,and you were Innocent, you would have every reason to smile.

    Although I generally support the Conservative party, I do post adverse comments about them when I believe they are wrong (renewing Trident,scrapping Ark Royal and Harriers, allowing high rate tax payers to get winter fuel allowance and bus passes, leaving an absurdly high housing benefit of £2000 per month), and I also 'praise' the LibDems when I feel they are right (raising the tax allowance to £10000).

    So I don't think my user name is as far off the mark as others may.

    The only thing I have ever supported labour for was the minimum wage.

  • Comment number 67.

    Re 33. At 11:44am on 29 Nov 2010, jon112dk wrote:
    "Thousands of young people voted liberal-'democrat' with the intention of keeping the tories out of office. Then clegg single handedly put them into office and multiple LibDems joined the cabinet."
    A few minor points:
    (a) As #52 points out, tactical voting is fraught with difficulties, and if your tactics backfire that's most likely because they were incompetently planned.
    (b) Many thousands of middle-class people voted LD with the intention of keeping Labour out of office (or at least keeping individual Labour candidates out).
    (c) Your scare-quotes around 'democrats' seem to suggest that you think the party has somehow violated democracy by going into coalition with the party that accrued the most votes at the GE: not an entirely obvious contention. Also I seem to recall the party endorsed Clegg's position, so it's hardly accurate to accuse him of acting dictatorially - the LD constitution forbade it.
    (d) As other commenters have pointed out, given that the Browne review was commissioned by the previous government - and that the Opposition have no coherent policy on the issue at present - it seems wholly plausible that a Lib-Lab coalition would be in the same position. Would you, under those circumstances, be up in arms and insist that the LDs left the coalition and hooked up with the Tories?


  • Comment number 68.

    Let's see if I can get this baby closed down, as it has been open much too long and some getting back from work tonight may have a crack at an opinion, which would never do now Mr. Neil's mob are vying for the privilege.

    Seems to me chewing endlessly over yesterday's news pledges vs. agreements rather pales to insignificance, when we can be much more worried, as BBC's early crews seemed to be, over who got more dissed (currently PMDC over various royals and other over-randy in-power-at-the-time senior types) today.

    Plus the foreign affairs fall-out of half of the East End of the Med being a little less united and focussed in where the problems lie than other BBC editors seemed keen for any to be aware... if they bothered to find out more than faxed in PR as news from favoured stringers.

    Speaking of which, off to see what Mr. Crick has 'sourced' lately.

  • Comment number 69.

    I feel sorry for the 104 LD candidates who didnt win - clearly weren't enough students in their constituencies they could fool with a highly public pledge they weren't goanie stick to.

    The Torylition compromise argument is about as flimsy as you can get - this was clearly one of the LDs top policies designed to buy student votes. Its pitiful to watch Clegg and Cable try to argue all sorts of woeful excuses as to why this is OK - particularly laughable is the one about not realising how big the deficit / debt really was - was the hm-treasury.gov.uk website down that day?

    Yes, lets all have a grown-up political argument and view. For starters dont arrange for TV cameras and newspapers to watch you sign a vacuous pledge you have little intention of honouring just before a general election.

  • Comment number 70.

    Whilst the Liberals are indeed hand-wringing with the dilemmas of power, I look forward to similarly probing articles from Nick on

    1. Labour's divisions, which include no coherent policy on tuition fees at all, and

    2. How successful the Coalition has been in avoiding the long-promoted double-dip recession, and thus how Labour and their media sympathizers got it so badly wrong.

  • Comment number 71.

    60. At 12:38pm on 29 Nov 2010, hillydown wrote:
    A manifesto is a statement of your principles and what you hope to achieve in government if your party gains an overall majority. Obviously, a coalition involves compromises; but voters have to know in advance which manifesto commitments are negotiable in coalition and which are core principles and pledges that will not be sacrificed - otherwise, how can voters make an informed decision?

    By making a great deal of their pledge beforehand, the Lib Dems garnered thousands of votes primarily because of their stand against tuition fees. I do think they are honour bound to keep that pledge;if not, they are utterly discredited and their word will never be trusted again.
    =======================
    Exactly right.
    No amount of mealy-mouthed wriggling can alter this fact.
    You tear-up a firm pledge and you are finished - 9% poll rating at present I believe.
    If they want to survive as a party the rank-and-file must put the boot in NOW.

  • Comment number 72.

    61. At 12:42pm on 29 Nov 2010, stanilic wrote:

    "It is extraordinary that Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidates do not understand such a fundamental principle of the coalition government idea their party so fondly rabbits on about. "

    I find it extraordinary that you can't understand what the pledge was about. It has nothing to do with who is in power, be it coaltion or otherwise. It is about a promise that the individual MPs made to vote against any increase in fees - they can vote against whether they are in power or not. Compromise is what should come of the coalition manifestos, whereas a pledge to vote against should be upheld regardless of the subsequent government. Quite simply they should have either not made the pledge or not been so quick to jump into bed with the tories without reading what they were agreeing too.

    The only way I can see them coming out of this with a shred of respect is to just come out and apologise, say that they made the pledge in good faith but circumstances have changed, and that the system they are proposing is for the greater good. Not what Clegg and Cable are currently doing which is trying to pretend that they aren't braking any promises and that they are doing what the intended all along. After all of Clegg's campaigning to be a cleaner politician he seems to be worse than the lot of them.

    @ 62 jrperry

    I would agree than any policy that deters less capable students would be a good one provided it encourages the more capable ones. This policy that is being pushed forward does neither from what I can see. It only deters those that have no mind to being in £50k worth of debt before they even start work.

    I'd also point out that of those subjects you mentioned (maths, science, engineering, medicine, modern languages), only medicine pays particuarly well. So what encouragement is it to make it even less worthwhile to go to university to be an engineer or a scientist?

  • Comment number 73.

    62. jrperry

    Good points & well made.
    The University system has been abused for many years now by Conservative & Labour Governments who saw an opportunity to massage the unemployment figures to suit their own political gains.

    OK the system needs to be overhauled, but the Tories don’t seem to have answered the big question of where the kids are going to go instead.
    As I’ve mentioned several times before, the Further Education review should have included all Adult & further education & included Apprenticeships as well.

    The likes of the CBI should have been involved & a long term plan bashed out to satisfy future skills requirements, but instead the ConDems have literally condemned a whole generation to the scrap heap.

    This whole issue goes way beyond University tuition fees & goes to the very heart of the future of our country, a future that our current Government obviously doesn’t think we have.

  • Comment number 74.

    Vince Cable has spent much of his political career giving an air of one who believes himself holier than most. Typical of his party, he has donned with great flourish and enthusiasm, the mask of superiority that was provided by the promise of perpetual opposition. There was always the danger that he would, one day, have to face up to the consequencies of real politique and horse trading - as much a feature of single party government, as it is of coalition. The fact that he is having to do so in relation to a policy which he himself is sponsoring merely adds a comic twist.

  • Comment number 75.

    The Lib Dems just did what all the other parties would have done in their position. They broke their word. All politicians do it. In fact, this kind of behavior is expected by the electorate. Only the extremely foolish believe that their party of choice is incorruptible.

    This is indicative of a wider problem in politics. We now know that a politician’s word is worthless. It doesn’t matter if they promise to do something for there will always be an excuse as to why that wasn’t possible. Labor promised not to bring in tuition fees. Did they stick to that? The Lib Dems promised to vote against any further increases and now you have their activists pretending that it will all be okay if they abstain. Is that what they promised to do?

    I have lost all faith in the majority of the older generation. I see nothing but a bunch of dull eyed slaves. A group who at every turn denigrate my generation, while at the same time making us pay for their mistakes. So politicians and bankers have ruined the country’s finances, why do the young have to pay for our elder’s greed and hubris?

    You price us out of the housing market, you charge us for what you received for free, you label us generation Y (Y bother) and then shackle us with debt.

    And no, I am not a student. I never went to university. To me this is about more than fees. It’s a moral issue. It’s not right to make us pay for a debt we played no part in creating. "But we are all in this together" I hear you cry. Are we really? Individuals and companies avoid paying a massive amount of tax (check out vodaphone), I don’t see any extra effort to close down this practice. The bankers are the only group in society who are sacred to this government. They still get away with paying billions in bonuses even when owned by the taxpayer. The rest of us get shafted at every turn.

    My generation has basically been told "you are not worth it". And you wonder why there is such a lack of respect from the youth? Why respect a society which shows you no respect? Why bother?

  • Comment number 76.

    The only thing ALL Lib Dem MPs can do is vote against the fee increase. They were very clear about this action when they were getting votes and being elected for it. You cannot enter into a (written) contract and then, having taken your "payment" (votes) unilaterally withdraw and not provide what you had offered and received advantage for.

    Clegg promised a "new politics" - one it seems of lies, fraud and deceit.

    The Hughes idea of abstention does nothing except continue the breaking for their pledge. They all signed the pledge and to maintain any credibility they must now ALL vote against the increase.

  • Comment number 77.

    Any ideas? says Nick.

    It is clear that there is no consensus on this. There are fundamental issues of how many people should go to university, who should pay for them and how it is rationed. Coalition is about building consensus and the whole proposal should go back to another Commission.

  • Comment number 78.

    52. At 12:17pm on 29 Nov 2010, chris911t wrote:
    I have never read such tripe. "Thousands of people voted Lib Dem to keep the Tories out", eh? Firstly, you can only speak for yourself, and ...

    ...

    Serves you right for trying to be clever mate - vote your conscience in future.
    ==========================

    Who said I voted for them?

    Try to get your facts straight before you start with the usual psychopathic tory 'I don't care about you' jibes.

  • Comment number 79.

    "A policy that dis-incentivises university education for the less capable students is, inherently, a good one and should be thoroughly and widely supported!" - jrp @ 62

    Yes, I reckon. But in the meantime we have a policy - this one - which dis-incentivises university education not so much for the less capable but for the less affluent. It's true that there's a strong correlation between family affluence and good A level grades (for many and varied reasons) but affluence and the ability to handle - and benefit from - a university education are most definitely not one and the same.

    It becoming potentially very expensive to go to a top university is a development which risks reinforcing further the link between parental means and chances in life. As such, it's not a development we should welcome. I certainly don't.

  • Comment number 80.

    #75 in manyways I agree with you , ask yourself why Gordon Brown brought in IR35 in 1999 though the backdoor that attacked hardwroking selfemployed people rather than taking on the City and their bonuses.

  • Comment number 81.

    I think its a disgrace that tuition fees are set to rise to such high levels. All political parties have been palpable in this crime. For 40 years I have encouraged my inner city pupils to work hard and go to university, and I am proud to say a significant number took my advice. However, for the families of my students debts of this kind are not part of their natural lives. They will be scared and discouraged; sound bytes of: "no up front fees" will count for nothing. I would have preferred that the number of university places were reduced and they were free. Provided, of course, that entry to the universities was a genuine meritocracy and avoided the "Oxbridge" interview.

    How can encourage a currently very able student to study medicine, when she would rack up a debt close to £100,000. She lives in a foster home. Politicians you must be so removed from reality in your ministerial cars and parliamentary Ivory Tower.

    On another point, but linked, this country needs engineers and mathematicians not accountants. Until accountants earn less than engineers et al the economy will continue to suffer.

  • Comment number 82.

    At the risk of seeming hopelessly naive, I would suggest that agreements can be re-negotiated.

    I’d like to see political recognition of the fact that this fee-rise issue affects more than party politics. “What does this mean for the credibility of the Lib Dems, and for their future prospects?”, “How is Labour getting political mileage out of this?”, “What does this mean for Cameron?” blah blah blah.

    I've recently read a book called 'Jilted Generation: How Britain Has Bankrupted Its Youth'. It observes - very astutely - that the culture of individualism that germinated in the late '50s, blossomed in the decades after, and persists today, negatively influenced long-term trends in political culture across the spectrum in one very key way: citizens began to be treated by the government and by political hopefuls as individual consumers are treated in a marketplace, and similar strategies to the ones used to win them over were applied to voters. Election campaigns aimed, above all, at capturing and retaining power for political parties.
    Blair's personal pledges to the electorate in '97, they point out, included guarantees that Labour would, "... cut class sizes to 30 or under for five-, six- and seven-year-olds..." and "... fast-track punishment for persistent young offenders..." and a commitment to keep "... interest rates as low as possible..." I quote from the book: "There were no values linking these different pledges, there was no ideological critique or vision of society at work, only piecemeal responses to the focus groups."

    I’m not suggesting that the Lib Dems cynically cheated the electorate, but their handling of the fees issue has made their campaign pledge seem like a very definite pitch in that general direction. I believe it’s right that they now be held to account, and that the government as a whole display flexibility on an issue that is causing young people across the country to demonstrate in the streets.

    Cameron has said, in justification of his new happiness survey, that there's more to life than making money. Exactly. And education for reasons other than getting a job is one of them. How about he, and the coalition, and Vince Cable - instead of waiting a few years and at a cost of at least £2m - all take into account the unanimous opinion of the largest ‘focus group’ on ‘happiness’ that they could hope to assemble?

  • Comment number 83.

    There is little to add on the subject of personal integrity. Either the LibDem MPs have integrity or not, only time will tell. A week ago, I emailed my LibDem MP explaining why I would no longer consider voting LibDem and very quickly received an automated email promising a full response. Needless to say I am still waiting. I have also emailed a LibDem councillor, no response!

    I am becoming aware that what Nick Clegg says is not worth the paper it is written on, but is this the same Nick Clegg who branded AV a poor consolation for PR? We are told that this is the jewel he extracted for supporting the Conservatives into power. Watering the referendum down to "status quo" or "AV" is also selling out previous LibDem voters. If you vote yes, we could be saddled with AV, if we vote no, politicians will then say the electorate don't want PR (yes, they are a twisted bunch).

  • Comment number 84.

    The liberal democrats making one of the largest political U-turns in its party's history will undoutbedly have the effect of turning this country into a two-party system. Irrespective of the argument over what is the right course of action over tuition fees, the biggest loss will be the death of a third voice in UK politics. If the vote on tuition fees is passed, no significant proportion of the population will vote Lib Dem for the foreseable future. The legacy of this will haunt British politics for a long, long time.

    I think the really irksome aspect of this debate is that almost all the attention is on the Lib Dems over tuition fees (which I can understand in principle), but the reality is that it will be the Tory and Labour votes in the Commons that will pass the legislation - it was Labour who brought in top up fees, and both Tories and Labour supported in principle a rise in up front fees.

  • Comment number 85.

    "Mate, with the only kind of court you're likely to end up in, there wont BE any jury. Ever heard of Diplock?" - fubar @ when I'm

    I have, yes. Scandal. Still, given the charge I'll probably be up on is caring a little bit too much about the disadvantaged, a guilty verdict is perhaps the right one.

    Hey, you don't support our top unis becoming the preserve of the wealthy, do you?

  • Comment number 86.

    62. At 12:45pm on 29 Nov 2010, jrperry
    Only about one sixth of current students are studying subjects of any real use to national productivity (maths, science, engineering, medicine, modern languages).
    =================

    Why is it every time tories try to come up with a list of 'valuable' degrees they produce a list of the ones which (except medicine on that list) have near zero career prospects in the real world?

    If you want a degree with an economic future, look no further than the one run by McDonalds in conjunction with manchester metropolitan university. Yep, that's a right - a McDonalds degree. That degree will have funding, students and jobs at the end.

    Lets all get degrees to serve non-existent industries: great idea.

  • Comment number 87.

    #11 23 26 39

    Correct, Labour never promised a referendum on the Lisbon treaty. The referendum promise was on a European consititution, and the never was a European consititution.

    Labour also never promised not to introduce or increase tuition fees. The 2001 manifesto said there were "no plans" to introduce top-up fees, and in fact increased fees only came in after the 2005 election. So even though it was not great politics, it was not a broken pledge or promise. It is pretty obvious that saying you don't have plans for something does not preclude having a plan to do it later - particularly if later is after another general election.

  • Comment number 88.

    "The only thing I have ever supported labour for was the minimum wage." - fair & true @ route

    For which I congratulate you. Touchstone issue.

    As is this one, tuition fees. Do we want to give up on the notion of ability as the prime driver of access to our top universities? Plump for money instead. Increase further the advantage of the more affluent (already so pronounced pre university via the ever-increasing hegemony of private schools)?

    Maybe we do, but it's a big decision and it's one we should think long and hard about.

  • Comment number 89.

    Gosh, sagamix is having a go. I am trying to work out if I am wounded or flattered.

    Either way the central issue with the LibDems is simple; they decided to go 'table d'hote' with the tories in this coalition and they can't now demand an 'a la carte' menu as well.

    They either stay at the main table and enjoy the ride or they should quit and now they have their out... conscience or no conscience. If they want to be blamed for breaking the coalition agreement at a time of national emergency with our European partners being bailed out one after another - so be it.

    It's a great time to be a tory...

  • Comment number 90.

    72 jizzlingtons

    If you read all my post 61 you would have understood the point I was trying to make.

    A pledge was made at a time when the entire political class were frightened to speak the truth for fear that nobody would vote for them. Then there was the Greek crisis and the political class finally came out with the truth that the country was broke. The pledge was then quite obviously foolish, catchpenny and not worth the paper it was written on. It was a mistaken political stunt.

    Cable has been quite clear in saying that the coalition agreement cancels out election pledges. He is right as nobody won the election and so a constitutional arrangement had to be cobbled together, what is worse, this then had to be done in the context of a financial crisis.

    My suggestion is that unless you are trying to make some feeble catchpenny political point of your own that you accept the unpleasant truth and move on.

    I don't think that causing the collapse of the coalition and grappling with the consequential financial crisis is really worth a politician's pledge.

  • Comment number 91.

    85 "Still, given the charge I'll probably be up on is caring a little bit too much about the disadvantaged, a guilty verdict is perhaps the right one."

    Yes, indeed. The charge of "caring so much about the disadvantaged that you actually DID something" was dropped for lack of evidence.

  • Comment number 92.

    At 12:45pm on 29 Nov 2010, jrperry wrote:

    Only about one sixth of current students are studying subjects of any real use to national productivity (maths, science, engineering, medicine, modern languages).

    Do we if know that this information is correct or not? Perhaps we could ask some social scientists.


  • Comment number 93.

    Lib-Dem tuition fees policy has to be seen in a wider context, and I have sympathy with the 104 who see a conflict between Lib-Dem policy in government and a political commitment to social justice.

    For instance the Lib-Dem commitment to increasing social mobility conflicts with a withdrawal of EMA from 16-19 year olds,bringing members of this group onto the streets.

    According to the Sutton trust,16 + educational participation among the poorest fifth doubled from 1997 as a result of EMA.A subsequent report by HEFC showed a 70% increase in university entrance from this group. A success story,but EMA is now scrapped!

    Then state funding for arts and social science courses at Uni has been cut by 80%,the balance to be met by increased fees.What are we doing to our children?,the lowest government subvention for universities in Europe and an act of cultural barbarism.

    The struggle going on in the hearts and minds of Liberal Democrats is between power and right.It`s a moral dilemma to which there is no exact answer.







  • Comment number 94.

    "in order to provide a viable government the Liberal-Democrats and the Conservatives formed a coalition around an agreement that did not reflect the totality of the pledges made by each party at the election." - stanilic @ 61

    They did, yes. But only the Liberal Democrats had one of these written-in-blood things ... these "pledges". The Conservatives, wise old birds that they are, have learnt from bitter experience (e.g. their pledge right up to 08 to match Labour's public spending levels) not to go down that route.

  • Comment number 95.

    85#

    Cant say I'm really bothered to be honest mate. When you say "top uni's", do you mean those by reputation and results, or just what are perceived to be the most illustrious?

    Some are always going to have a more solid reputation than others when it comes to particular subjects. Where an Oxford PPE may be seen as the path to political superstardom of the future, Coventry University (formerly the Lanchester Polytechnic) has been churning out world class car designers for years who have gone on to make a real mark in the automotive industry across the world. Both seen as "top" establishments in their own rights, in their own fields. Cant see any of the politicos busting their butts to ensure that lower income candidates can still beat a path to Far Gosford St in Coventry somehow...

    Personally, I think a lot of the noise about this is just that. Noise. Somebody has aptly mentioned on here that there are too many mediocre students going to university to do degrees in subjects that are no good to man nor beast and then bemoaning the prospect of coming out at the end of it flipping quarter pounders whilst being saddled with student debt that they'll probably never get a big enough job to repay.

    Prospective candidates, in my humble opinion should think long and hard about whether they not only want to but also need to go to Uni to develop and further their chosen career paths. One of the problems that this and the current immigration policy is producing is incredibly granular demands by the recruitment industry where prospective candidates without degrees are being filtered out by recruiters, which alienates yet another generation, one that has been paying taxes into the system for the last 15-20 years and have got by perfectly well upto now without degrees and have excellent professional experience on their side.

    All sacrificed on the altar of the bottom line, short-termism and lack of forethought.

    So, to be honest, I dont really care if Uni becomes the preserve of the rich. If they're rich and stupid, they wont get in unless the entrance criteria are a joke. And if they are a joke, what does it say about the reputation of the establishment? Not a lot.

  • Comment number 96.

    I find it amusing to read the comments on this (and nearly every other blog) from Lib Dem's who state they want the AV system to come into force - which will lead to a coalition gov't EVERY time - and then constantly complain that the coalition isn't doing exactly what they want!

    What do you honestly think you get from coalitions? Nearly every blogger on here says they are all for AV or another voting system - what you don't honestly realise is that you will get nothing but coalition after coalition. What you all seem to want is a nice cosy coalition gov't that will do whatever YOUR party wants, all the other coalition partners MUST give way, OUR promises are more important than yours

    In the Netherlands it has always been this way - the gov't is formed by at least 3 and at the moment somewhere in the region of 4-5 partners. All of whom made election manifesto's and made promises to get votes, the difference here is that they know they will have to trade hard to get policy pushed through; they will have to negotiate hard to get some part of their idea into the policy

    The coalition here took months to even form, as all parties had to negotiate what they wanted from their respective manifestos, and they all have had to renege on some stuff - this is part and parcel of how it works people!!

    People in the UK just don't get how it works. You want AV/PR as long as one party is in charge. And it has to be your party that gets it's way

    My prediction for the future: Come the next election we will get a majority government (don't know which side...) and we will go back to the 2 horse system of Red/Blue, each gets a go - and you will all moan like hell that it's not fair blah blah blah

    You get the government you deserve

  • Comment number 97.

    87#

    All accurate statements, but as you say, although it may be good politics - ie you can get away with it on a technicality - unless you explain specifically what you mean, there is always going to be a perception that you're being less than totally honest. Particularly if you're trying to tap into a populist issue in order to canvass votes.

    More fool the electorate for falling for such a simple linguistic trick, you may say. However, if you've engineered their education to the point where they dont recognise such political gymnastics for what they are, then it does prove that you can fool most of the plebs for most of the time.

    It reinforces what someone else said on here; canvass by focus group, govern by lobby and self interest.

    Is that really what we want?

  • Comment number 98.

    Radha Spratt 82:

    I endorse much of what you write.The culture of economic individualism which underwrites the idea that higher and even secondary education should be self financing, overlooks two important consequences:One is that education is a public good,opening up alternatives and possibilities which enrich individuals and culture,second,an educated and mobile workforce is an engine of national growth and renewal,economic,military and cultural.

    No,and the poor don`t need to pay.Britain as the most unequal society in Western Europe could find more creative ways to fund public services!

  • Comment number 99.

    #75 madvillain

    Whilst I agree with some of you sentiments I think they are a little eschewed. We are all indebted, not just the younger generation

    I won't be retiring until - well I don't honestly know! We all have to pay more for the bankers greed, for the governments spending, for all number of reasons

    I don't blame the 'older generation' for it. We are all to blame, we borrowed the money, we voted in the government

    We owe those guys everything we have, our freedom, our independence, our way of life. You are lucky - if you were part of the 'older generation' that you think ruined everything you would have been conscripted into a war in which many hundreds of thousand of people lost there lives and encountered untold horrors, to defend the way we live today

    They were dying at the rate of thousands per day - you have to retire a bit older. Care to swap?

  • Comment number 100.

    "Britain as the most unequal society in Western Europe could find more creative ways to fund public services!"

    We've probably had quite enough of "creative" accounting and the such like over the last 20 years already, bryhers...

 

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