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Walking through fire

Nick Robinson | 20:44 UK time, Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Nick Clegg says he and all his fellow Liberal Democrat ministers will "walk through fire" together when they vote for a rise in tuition fees on Thursday. He has urged all his MPs to join him but knows that many will refuse.

Clegg sees this as a vindication for the tortuous process of consultation he's pursued in recent weeks and which has left him, Vince Cable and other ministers open to mockery for suggesting that they might abstain.

The Lib Dem leader's message to his party tonight was to "stop beating ourselves up" and to start recognising that they had moved from being a party of protest to a party of government. He told them that their opponents wanted the debate to focus on broken election pledges made in opposition but it was time they moved on to talk about the choices they had made in government.

Clegg has - unless ministers change their minds between now and Thursday - seen off the threat of ministerial rebellion and resignation. However, his party will now split three ways:

• Clegg, his 17 government ministers and backbenchers including I understand David Laws, Alan Beith, Malcolm Bruce, Tom Brake, David Ward, and Gordon Birtwistle will vote for the rise in fees. In all, Clegg expects at least half of his 57 MPs to vote with him.

• Former leaders Charles Kennedy and Menzies Campbell look set to lead a group of a dozen or more voting against. Some close to Clegg claim that only three MPs actually disagree with the government's policy but the rest are opposed on the grounds that they will be breaking their pre-election pledge.

• The rest will abstain taking advantage of the Coalition Agreement and the fact that backbenchers will not be whipped.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    They really had no option; I doubt the Coalition could have survived a series of ministerial resignations, which even abstaining would have required in my opinion, and that helps no-one right now, not even Labour, who need time to actually come up with what they will stand for. Until the opposition do decide on what to do about university funding they have little to contribute to that debate, as the LD leadership might be right that, unpleasant though it is, the current plans might be the best option that can be passed in the House in the current economic climate. I would hope not, the rise in fees is terrible, but at least some of the plans are improvements.
    ------------
    He told them that their opponents wanted the debate to focus on broken election pledges made in opposition but it was time they moved on to talk about the choices they had made in government.
    ----------------
    I'll bet they do, it is very embarrassing. Of course, before anyone gets any ideas, none of the other parties can claim to have never reneged on a manifesto promise, but the Lib Dems did make a big fuss about this particular pledge.
    ----------------
    Clegg sees this as a vindication for the tortuous process of consultation he's pursued in recent weeks and which has left him, Vince Cable and other ministers open to mockery for suggesting that they might abstain.
    --------------
    I doubt it will be a vindication; there is a momentum to the anger against them now, and just the possibility it could have happened will be enough. Any slight concession has been leapt upon for months as a betrayal, and they have u-turned on several things to fan the flames, and getting the ministers to act like ministers will not be remembered as well as the idea they had considered abstaining even when they agreed with the policy. No opposition worth its socks would let that slide.

  • Comment number 2.

    "He told them that their opponents wanted the debate to focus on broken election pledges made in opposition but it was time they moved on to talk about the choices they had made in government."

    Does Clegg not understand that is the whole point. The pledge was made to get them elected to government. they Lied and not for a point of principle but for personal ambition.

  • Comment number 3.

    I wonder how Simon Hughes will be voting. He's had a fair amount to say on this issue of university tuition fees - been on the TV a great deal recently. Plus he's the "conscience of the party", isn't he? ... Simon Hughes.

  • Comment number 4.

    If the message Clegg and Cable were putting across was "We still believe in abolition of tuition fees and will continue to campaign for it in future, but we are junior members in a coalition and this is the best compromise we could get from the Conservatives", then maybe they would have got away with it. But instead Clegg has more or less said that he has been in favour of a rise in tuition fees all along and it "was a mistake" to pledge to remove them - ie he lied to win votes. That's basically electoral suicide.

    If he's scared to damage the coalition agreement because he thinks the Tories will scupper the Electoral Reform policy, then he's deluding himself. The Lib Dems are going to be so unpopular after this that the AV referendum doesn't stand a chance.

    This whole vote is asking the wrong question anyway. What we should be asking is how can we provide a suitable level of education for our 18-21 years olds at an affordable cost. By use of online learning, collaboration between universities, and so on, the cost of tuition for most students could easily be reduced to less than £3000. The real question is how much University research the Government should be funding, not how we can get undergraduates to subsidize their lecturers' research.

  • Comment number 5.

    Seems like Nick Clegg has made the correct decision for the sake of holding the government together.
    He didn't really have much choice than to do this. The people who send in many comments to the Guardian articles full of hate towards the LibDem MP's are, I suspect, almost all labour supporters. The few genuine LibDem supporters will never forgive the 'broken' pledge even if every LibDem MP voted against at this late stage.
    This coalition is proving to be a lot stronger than the media thought possible, and this will ensure they do hold together for the full term of parliament.
    I seem to remember many pundits/experts/political commentators and Labour supporters saying the coalition would crumble within a few months, a year at most, I think they will be proved wrong.

    Perhaps if labour can start contributing to getting the country back on its feet financially and socially, they might get some respect. If labour continue rudderless and leaderless simply objecting to every government proposal and denying any blame for anything, they are finished politically.

  • Comment number 6.

    My children have finished their university courses so, in that sense, I do not have an axe to grind over the tuition fees. What does interest me is our democracy. Sorry to bore anyone again, but what the LibDems have done is far worse than any previous scandal including the questions for cash and excessive expenses claim. They were voted in on the promises they made before the election and, if they break those promises, then they do not hold their positions legitimately. Clegg has tried to make it seem as though he made a mistake before the election as though that absolves him from any responsibility for what he is doing now. Just the opposite. He is admitting that he was elected on something he said that he is now not following. In the same way that the election of Phil Woolas was declared void because he told lies about the other candidate, then the election of Nick Clegg should be declared void.

    At the next election, we will not be able to trust what any LibDem candidate says and they will not be elected. Why put a cross next to a LibDem candidate, when you that they will do the opposite of what they said they will do.

    The media will also be against the LibDems both because the media will want the Tories to win and also because the media feel tricked by the LibDems.

  • Comment number 7.

    "... but it was time they moved on to talk about the choices they had made in government"

    Easy for Clegg to say as he was not let down by the electorate yet he is the one letting down the electorate. When I unilaterally decide not to pay back my bank loan I had previously agreed to pay, can I just tell my bank to "move on" and that I had made subsequent agreements and that they have to appreciate that I place greater importance on those subsequent agreements that benefit me more (as I already spent their money) ...

    Clegg seems to be living in parallel universe and is taking the Lib Dem party on a road to ruin and they are all believing his words and ignoring the actions of those they supposedly represent (despite MPs claiming to know better) !!

    Seems politics no longer serve the people and thus Clegg has basically helped destroy a political system - as nobody will believe politicians again. At least they will still be claiming their expenses for the next 5 years before getting their fabulous pensions.

  • Comment number 8.

    I would imagine they worked this out as a group. Ministers (plus wannabe ministers) to vote Yes and then a mix of abstain/No, such as to maximise conscience-salving but without risking defeat of the measure. Wouldn't surprise me if some carrot & stick was deployed to get the desired end result. If the upshot of this is we've seen the end of politicians running around pre-election making "pledges" (as opposed to the tried & tested, and more tractible, notion of a manifesto) then perhaps it will be no bad thing. Poor recompense, though, for the other upshot - pricing young people from modest backgrounds out of our top universities. Or, at the very least, a nudge in that direction.

  • Comment number 9.

    The LibDems have always styled themselves as the party of principle - their USP if you will. What a difference a ministerial car and salary will make where priciples are concerned. In my opinion their betrayal is all the more egregious given the stance Mr Clegg took during the pre-election debates etc - both in terms of their alleged probity and their manifesto promises.

    May the Clegg cabal live in "interesting times".

  • Comment number 10.

    I have a some sympathy for the LibDems. BUT have a look at their election broadcast - a mere 8 months old.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wEYMIaq0GgM

    Is it any wonder the students are angry.

    For me the failure of the LibDems was in making a promise that they knew they couldn't keep. And then not understanding that if you are going to break a promise you need to carefully prepare the ground and explain your reasons in detail. That was not done by Clegg or Cable. That was the real failure in practice - it showed fundamental political naivety.

    In my view the Coalition will survive but only because people like Clegg and Cable now have no other option.





  • Comment number 11.

    'Politics have no relation to morals.'
    Niccolo Machiavelli

  • Comment number 12.

    This is a side issue, being dealt with while politicians ignore the elephant in the corner.

    Why are all parties seemingly wedded to the idea of sending 50% of school leavers to university?

    That's the problem.

  • Comment number 13.

    If politicians want to make this policy fairer for all, why don't they introduce a retrospective tax on those graduates like themselves who benefited from free university education; after all, so the argument goes, these people have benefited from increased salaries and improved quality of life so it should be time for pay back.

    It would also reduce the amount of tuition fees being demanded of todays students who have absolutely nothing to do with the cock up cooked up by the intelligent graduates who rule our lives.

    If Brown, Clegg and Cameron, together will all their cohorts were contributing their bit, that for me would be fairer than what is being proposed now.

    And I'm a Tory!

  • Comment number 14.

    As for the specific issue, Clegg is just going to have to suck it up and the Lib Dems as a party need to learn a valuable lesson.

    While all parties lie (e.g. Labour on the Lisbon Treaty and Conservatives on prison for those carrying knives), if you very publicly sign pledges and court a particular group of voters, then you shouldn't egregiously break promises made to them.

    But we are where we are. Given that no-one will scrap the silly 50% target, we must reform how we fund higher education.

    If the two options are the one on the table or a graduate tax, then I for one am wholeheartedly in favour of the former. The latter is an indefensible example of double taxation (we already have income tax, which is based on earnings) and it's fundamentally wrong that someone should have to pay more for their degree than it's market value (at the time they took it).

    That Ed Miliband supports it says all I need to know about him: I'll never vote for him. Alan Johnson, on the other hand, all of a sudden looks a lot more sensible...

  • Comment number 15.

    10. At 10:47pm on 07 Dec 2010, Cassandra wrote:

    'In my view the Coalition will survive but only because people like Clegg and Cable now have no other option.'

    They never had any other option. It was the ConDem coalition or nothing. A NuLabDem deal wouldnt have work as it would have involved dismantling Browns programme. So it was ConDem or Opposition.


  • Comment number 16.

    Ummmm Lars @ 12 that might have been the issue when you were a boy but the world has changed. Every member of the G20 is now committed to increasing the number of young people going onto tertiary education to well over 50%.

    But hey maybe you know better.

  • Comment number 17.

    Not @ 15 - I agree they had no other realistic option at the time of the election. I was talking about now and into the future. The problem is the LibDems played a weak hand badly.

    The Tories have only got stronger in Coalition.

    Labour has improved significantly in the polls - even though they do not have any policies or even much to say.

    It is only the LibDems that have gone backwards. They now need the Coalition more than the Conservatives. Moreover, their negotiating power within the Coalition is being eroded with every passing day.

  • Comment number 18.

    Every member of the G20 is now committed to increasing the number of young people going onto tertiary education to well over 50%.

    But hey maybe you know better.
    -----------------------
    I wouldn't know about that, but I recently left university, and the number of international students who explained they were doing a second degree in the UK because a single degree was no longer enough in their own countries because of such targets was extraordinary. They would often claim the most menial of jobs were not open to them because so many other graduates were competing for them.
    -------------------
    If the two options are the one on the table or a graduate tax, then I for one am wholeheartedly in favour of the former.
    -------------------
    I'm not wholehearted about it, but I would agree.

  • Comment number 19.

    16. cassandra

    You greatly overestimate my age!

  • Comment number 20.

    Oh, I should add that my objection to the 50% target is in no way intellectual snobbery etc.

    I lament the lack of and, to some extent, stigmatisation of vocational training.

    Give me a skilled plumber over someone who graduated from Thames Valley University with a 2.1 in Geography any day.

    And also, since when was a degree the be all and end all in life? I would much rather have a compassionate and attentive 'old school' nurse than a negligent one who has a piece of paper outlining her nursing credentials.

  • Comment number 21.

    19 One_Lars_Melvang

    16. cassandra

    You greatly overestimate my age!

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

    She has form for this offence!

  • Comment number 22.

    16 Cassandra

    Every member of the G20 is now committed to increasing the number of young people going onto tertiary education to well over 50%.

    But hey maybe you know better.

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

    This isn't much of a defence of the policy - "everyone else is doing it".

    Why should 50% be the right number rather than say 80% or 20%?

    How many jobs require someone to be educated to degree level?

    When everyone has a degree then what next - 50% of young people must have a PhD?

  • Comment number 23.

    We now have clear confirmation from Nick Clegg that we cannot trust him.

    He allowed us to go into the polls on the basis of at two clear manifesto commitments: To abolish tuition fees over the medium term and to oppose the deep and accelerated public spending cuts.

    BUT WE KNOW FROM LIBDEM LEAKS THAT HE DECIDED TO DO PRECISELY THE OPPOSITE ON BOTH ISSUES BEFORE THE ELECTION! His comments today reveal that he isn't even going to try and hide behind "having no choice because of the deficit" - he is clearly true believer in a fee-based system - and always was.

    I and thousands of other tactial voters were deliberately and cynically deceived by Clegg: I will never forget it and will oppose the LibDems at every opportunity until he is out of office.

    The loan system is a nonsense - funding higher education out of progressive income taxation would see the cost fall across the income distribution in a virtually identical way, but without the £20 Bn Student Loan Company Debt or the millions it will cost in pushing bits of paper around the country, let alone the Byzantine system of fee caps, grants, exemptions, claw backs and hardship payments which inevitably create anomalies and inconsistencies.

    Unfair on those not going to university, I hear you cry - but if those that do go and pay the price, why should those that did not benefit from their skills without paying? People only pay tax on the basis of their incomes - those that don't go to university but make a packet should still pay their share - this is not the basis for the 99% of the rest of us to have to live with this nonsense.

    We are not unconnected individuals - we are an interdependent society that has to compete in the world and therefore we tax people according to their ability to pay, we invest in the next generation to ensure our future and we need skilled people to work in and grow our economy - some come from universities, some from vocational training.

    Higher education is being made an extension to the public school system - there is no "fairness" involved here - when there is a simpler, cheaper and totally progressive alternative in the shape of the taxation system, so why do we have to try and turn higher education into some bastardised form of tax collection system by the back door, bending over backwards, sideways and every-other-way so that the libertarians can feel that they have "rolled back the state" from higher education?

  • Comment number 24.

    Lars @ 20 I agree that we need to provide a far broader range of tertiary courses - in particular vocational courses.

    And apologies re the age thing. I now fear I am in fact older than both you and AS71

  • Comment number 25.

    No worries on the age thing, Cassandra. It's probably better to be perceived as older on a forum; all too often your views are simply dismissed if you reveal yourself to be 'young'. On this particular issue I'm glad you've outed me, as it were, as 'young'. I wouldn't want people to think everyone my age is on the rampage in London and wants to behead Nick Clegg.

    I'm glad you agree on the need for more vocational courses. I think it's a scandal that we don't focus more on them, along with practical training, especially that which can take place while in a job. Frankly, I think it's mad that we seem to be requiring degrees for midwives and nurses, among others. A piece of paper doesn't give me more confidence in someone's abilities. I just need to know that they're competent and dedicated to their job.

    I resent the idea that we need 50% of school leavers to go to university because the very notion implicitly labels those that don't as failures. This is, of course, patently nonsense. Exhibit A: Alan Sugar.

    If we had fewer people going to university and we targeted funding towards subjects where we need more graduates (e.g. engineering) then we could even afford to give students grants. I don't think the country would be worse off economically or socially. Quite the opposite, in fact.

  • Comment number 26.

    It isn't big or brave to vote for something when you got into government on votes obtained fraudulently by promising to do the exact opposite. This was more even than a manifesto commitment as it was emphasised in pledges made on unversity campuses up and down the country. Thus whatever the rights and wrongs of the actual debate about student fees, it is anti-democratic for Lib Dems to do anything but vote against this plan.
    Pity Charles Kennedy who built the party up on principles, still retains his own and will now see his successor throw it all away for very little in return. Mind you it seems quite likely he'll be in charge again after 2015.

  • Comment number 27.

    24. At 11:41pm on 07 Dec 2010, Cassandra wrote:
    Lars @ 20 I agree that we need to provide a far broader range of tertiary courses - in particular vocational courses.
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Now we are getting somewhere; I won’t bore you with my numerous previous posts.
    This is surely the way forward for our younger generation; you can always go on to a degree in later life if you wish.
    Next question – what are the Condems doing to redress this imbalance?

  • Comment number 28.

    Only goes to show what we have known all along. You can't trust the Lib Dems. They don't do what it says on the tin.

    Having broken their promise in the previous manifesto on a referendum on the European constitutional treaty, it's surprising that so many gullible people voted for them again at the last election. Lib Dem manifesto 'promises' are nothing more than an electoral fraud.

    Under Clegg, the party has no credibility left. At least Campbell and Kennedy are sticking to what they pledged - and what they believe to be right.

    The policy is wrong and should be rejected.

  • Comment number 29.

    # 22 AS71

    "Why should 50% be the right number rather than say 80% or 20%?

    How many jobs require someone to be educated to degree level?

    When everyone has a degree then what next - 50% of young people must have a PhD?"


    Personally, I don't think targets or quotas are helpful. I believe the issue should be about people having a choice and being able to study to degree level if they want to. Not everyone will want to go down this path, and nor will everyone feel they 'need' a degree. But it's not for politicians (or anyone else) to decide - it should be a matter of choice.

    If these proposals go through, then only young people with rich parents will be able to afford to study. That can't be right.

    As for whether the degree is 'needed' for a particular job is totally irrelevant in my view. Studying, even for its own sake, broadens peoples horizons and helps them to become more aware of the world around them - hopefully more 'rounded' citizens.

    Obviously we need doctors, scientists, engineers etc... but what about writers, philosophers, poets, artists, archeologists etc? And even if you think a particular job doesn't 'need' a degree, who are we to deny others the opportunity if they want it?

    We live in a funny world where minor celebrities are held in awe, but people doing more 'humble' work are ignored. If a road sweeper or refuse collector wants to study, who are we to say he or she doesn't 'need' a degree? Do you really think narrow-minded politicians are best placed to judge what society 'needs'?

  • Comment number 30.

    Nick,

    Has Clegg had a Blair makeover and come over all biblical?

    Is he quoting Psalm 66.12 to his Liberal brethren?
    "Thou hast caused men to ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water: but thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place."

    I hope his brethren remember the Wisdom of Solomon 16.16:
    "For the ungodly, that denied to know thee, were scourged by the strength of thine arm: with strange rains, hails, and showers, were they persecuted, that they could not avoid, and through fire were they consumed."

    p.s. Was Cameron hinting at the end of the United Kingdom when he said that William would be the 'future king of England'? Or does he just not understand the constitutional settlement of the UK? He should brush up on his history. There hasn't been a king of England since the Union of 1707.














  • Comment number 31.

    Clegg and Cameron completely underestimating the British people. We may not be the most militant but enough is enough. Slowly but surely the fight back is gaining momentum.
    https://www.ukuncut.org.uk/

    Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg we reject you and your policies. We reject your attack on the poor and public services and your protection of greed.
    And Mr Clegg.... your abhorrent lies and u-turns will not be forgotten..

  • Comment number 32.

    The poison chalice - that is what Vince has been given. That is what Clegg is holding. Cameron must be laughing and Ed must be smiling too. The LibDems are a party which are tearing themselves apart and they were nicely set up.

    By making their pledges before the election the LibDems identified student funding as a major issue. They knew it was a weakness in the Tory case. So why allow a LibDem MP (Vince) to have to deal with the problem? It is a Tory policy and they have got a LibDem minister to carry it out and get the blame. A bit like giving a passer by a brick after you have smashed a window and hear the police sirens. If Vince had not been the minister then the whole lot of them could have abstained. They still would have been criticised, but at least they would not have had to argue the case so vigorously; a Tory would have had to do that.

    The damage to British politics is serious. There is a whole geneartion of voters who will never vote LibDem. The drive for voting reform will be lost. I am not sure about AV, but losing that vote will remove the possibility of reform for a generation. Why do we need a change? Our political structures have seen us decline in comparison with other countries over the last 60 years. You may blame it on education, benefits, business regulation and development but something has gone wrong. There is inequality and lack of ambition. Real change needs a vibrant political climate.

    The sad thing is that Cameron in his way is trying to change things. I think Ed is inclined that way too. But with a 2 party system the best way to win the next election is to play safe and appeal to the stodgy middle. By pressing the self distruct button the LibDems have ensured that this state of affairs will continue.

  • Comment number 33.

    Walking through fire.

    So far as I am concerned Mr Cleggs fireproof suit is defective and he is burned - he has lied to obtain votes and signed up to a position personally which he has revealed he did not believe in when he signed up to it.
    He cannot be trusted.

    I hope people remind him of this at the AV referendum, I shall.

  • Comment number 34.

    "Every member of the G20 is now committed to increasing the number of young people going onto tertiary education to well over 50%."

    The G20 have committed themselves to a lot of things that they've never got a hope in hell of achieving Cass. It might not be too prudent to think that this one is going to be nailed to the mast all the world over. Especially when a considerable amount of the work in those G20 countries is being offshored to South East Asia. Politicians are the same the world over. We're all governed by 24 hour news cycle.

  • Comment number 35.

    One_Lars_Melvang wrote:
    This is a side issue, being dealt with while politicians ignore the elephant in the corner.

    Why are all parties seemingly wedded to the idea of sending 50% of school leavers to university?

    That's the problem.
    ---------------------------------------------

    Congratulations, you have won. Unless we intend to build an economy that requires 50% graduate jobs, on the expected salary band that would trigger the loan repayments, we are wasting a lot of peoples time and money.

  • Comment number 36.

    31#

    Funny how your bunch of ragtag impoverished students and washed out right on Camden mature student hippies with their iphones werent picketing the offices of Guardian Media Group compared to having a go at Topshop, isnt it lefty? You got any idea how much tax they have avoided paying and for how long??

    Numptys the lot of 'em, who shouldnt be let within a dozen miles of a ballot box.

    Thats the thing with lefties. Say one thing, throw the red meat at the dumbed down plebs to get them chucking a few bricks, and then go and do the complete opposite.

    At least with Blue Labour they're not trying to hide the fact that its all about who holds the levers of power. The Red Tories have made the political middle ground and certainly the moral high ground about as inhabitable as Bikini Atoll.

  • Comment number 37.

    @32-I agree. Indirect results of the Coalition fees policy include:

    1. Saints Clegg and Cable besmirched; and

    2. the LibDems robbed of the very people who would have been their foot soldiers for the referendum.

    Was this an unfortunate side effect of LibDems entering government or was it clever tactics by the Tories? Poor Nick and Vince will of course never be able to admit they were out maneuvered.

  • Comment number 38.

    Warning/apologies - lengthy rant to follow
    -----------
    That is what Clegg is holding. Cameron must be laughing and Ed must be smiling too. The LibDems are a party which are tearing themselves apart and they were nicely set up.
    ------------------
    All parties are themselves coalitions, with factions that are sometimes wildly at odds with other parts. Ken Clarke is apparently very pro-Europe for a Tory for instance. The Lib Dems are no different in this, but the other parties are doing a good job encouraging them to divide, of course they are, but I think that is a shame. As 32. says, the damage to our system could be huge.

    The Lib Dems really did have almost no other option than to enter into a coalition with the Tories if they wanted to be credible about coalition government, which has been a big thing for them. Some genuine changes in policy have alienated some, but right from the start the media for one seem baffled by the very idea of parties working together, calling out any cooperation which entailed give or take. The Lib Dems had no choice but to play the long game and hope it pays off, but it doesn't seem to be working. They don't have enough seats to have a strong enough voice to avoid some major back downs and that isn't acknowledged because if we disagree with something the why hardly matters to us. Now some, such as on this page, say things like AV have no chance because of their lack of popularity (though I don't think it would pass regardless of their personal popularity), as if changing the voting system has anything to do with them - if it passed and people still dislike the LD they are not benefiting from it in the end anyway, so why not vote yes if you are in favour then, and it is not as if it is purely a LD policy, Ed Miliband wants it.

    The tuition fees debacle has been serious and they deserve plenty of stick for what they have admitted is a high profile u-turn, but the smug, hypocritical attitude of opposition politicians is unwarranted, especially when their own ideas might be worse - we won't know until they come to a decision - and is just a strategy. If they can get people to repeat 'The LD's are doomed' enough times, it will have an effect; people have mocked voting LD for a long time as a wasted vote already, and this exacerbates that, and it isn't because they are righteously angry at the LD doing what politicians do, it is a ploy to gain support without having to actually put forward your own case. The Tories would have done the same had they not won out in the end.

    Personally I think the 50% target is arbitrary and a large part of why there is little choice but to raise fees as Clegg and co say, though I would actually be happy to pay more to support students of all types, even if it meant losses elsewhere, but no party advocates that that I am aware of. For the moment, and despite their u-turn, this current proposal backed by the LD is the best way forward, mostly by virtue of not being challenged by another policy, and railing against them feels good no doubt, but is there a better option being presented by a major party to vote for?

    I don't know if I shall vote LD next time around, as there were plenty of their policies I didn't support and was actually glad they dropped in the Coalition agreement(though not this one), but I'm keeping an open mind: they made a public and ill advised pledge they couldn't carry out, and we shall have to wait and see if they have learned not to make impossible promises. I wouldn't hold my breath.

  • Comment number 39.

    Ah, I see this morning Alan Johnson has changed his mind and that a graduate tax is the best way forward. Granted, not a turnaround on a pledge, but still a quick swerve, though it is good the opposition appear to be getting ready to present some policies to take on the LD ministerial u-turn with - perhaps they feared attacks without having their own position to put forward wouldn't work on this issue for much longer. The polls would seem to disagree, but good on them. I look forward to student responses to new Labour plans.

  • Comment number 40.

    What I don't understand is that before the elections, the Liberals went out of their way to get students to vote for them?
    Why didn't they refuse a pack with either the Conservatives, or Labour?
    This way they could have held on to their principles.
    Having seen the Liberals sitting in the European Parliament on the right of the camber next to the EPP. I think that they are not what they say they are.

  • Comment number 41.

    I suspect quite a few of the DEM part of the CONDEM's will hope that this little hicup in this crossroads marriage, will be forgotton come the next election! And I suspect this little tactic might work?

  • Comment number 42.

    Why didn't they refuse a pack with either the Conservatives, or Labour?
    -----------
    Because of our current voting system even if numerically the LD got the same number of votes they would have far less seats than the other two. Therefore their only hope of being in government, which is naturally their goal as a political party, is through a coalition. If during the first hung parliament in generations they had refused to enter into some sort of arrangement with one of the other two, their claims to believe in cooperative politics would seem false and the wasted nature of voting for them would seem even greater, as even when they had a chance they refused to make concessions in policy for the sake of the national interest.

    The extent of the arrangement was certainly up for debate, but a minority government probably would not have lasted, with the LD's blamed for provoking another general election (which they in particular have no money to fight). They really had no good options available, as only one coalition was possible and it was the one the majority of the party is more opposed to. I said at the time of the election they were screwed by all the options unless they get lucky. This tution fee business has been poorly handled, but they had never been able to get across their difficult position to the public, or if they did the public does not care, which they should be very worried about.

  • Comment number 43.

    Backbenchers not whipped, Nick? Now there's a thing!

    I would like to know what the public view is on this. No mention of polls on the Been, the obsession has been with the Libbies and Vince.

    I suspect there is a lot of disquiet and unrest in the Tory shires.

    I'm not happy ... Dave, I'm not happy ...

  • Comment number 44.

    41. At 09:20am on 08 Dec 2010, redrobb wrote:
    I suspect quite a few of the DEM part of the CONDEM's will hope that this little hicup in this crossroads marriage, will be forgotton come the next election! And I suspect this little tactic might work?
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------
    Not so sure myself. I think come the next election (maybe 2013) this will be one of several policies that may make up the Tories twenty-first century Poll Tax.

    If they don't want an immediate switch back to Labour, Dave & GO will have to come up with some pretty impressive 'bribes' in the next four years to get the non-hard core Tory faithful working for, and turning out at, the polls.

    It's not too late, yet, for Dave to make the Coalition look really big by pulling the Bill and saying 'we realise the nation is not with us on this, we will consult further' and offering a referendum. That would chop the legs from under Labour (again), keep the Coalition intact and rebellious Libbies on-side. It would also confer a certain stature on the junior partners!

    Can't pass this opportunity by: Hey Dave! Let's be really careful out there today.

  • Comment number 45.

    #lefty11

    "Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg we reject you and your policies. We reject your attack on the poor and public services and your protection of greed.
    And Mr Clegg.... your abhorrent lies and u-turns will not be forgotten."

    Mr Brown and Mr Miliband, we reject you and your policies. We reject 13 years of attacks on the poor (doubling tax with the removal of the 10 pence tax band), the pathetic decline in educational standards (as shown in the published Country league tables) and your protection of greed (Knighting the head of RBS, encouraging expenses fiddles, encouraging banks, increasing public sector managers and overpaid Quango bosses).
    And your lies (Iraq war, no tuition fees) and U turns(Lisbon Treaty referendum, trebling tuition fees) will not be forgotten.

    All lefties, we have a coalition of Conservative and LibDem parties for a 5 year term, get over it, Labour were thrown out.

  • Comment number 46.

    36 Fubar_Saunders

    Funny how your bunch of ragtag impoverished students and washed out right on Camden mature student hippies with their iphones werent picketing the offices of Guardian Media Group compared to having a go at Topshop, isnt it lefty? You got any idea how much tax they have avoided paying and for how long??

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

    The usual hypocrisy of the left. I saw Toynbee on QT a few years ago lecturing us on global warming until someone on the panel reminded her that she jetted off to her second home in Italy most weekends!

    A cut and paste from The Times below:

    In the words of Polly Toynbee, “what they found is truly shocking” after The Guardian launched an offensive on corporate tax avoidance and spent more than three months trawling through company accounts and trademark registers in a host of tax havens.

    But what is truly shocking is that, while leaving no stone unturned in other companies’ accounts, the investigative team neglected to look in its own laundry.

    It turns out that Guardian Media Group (GMG), the newspaper’s parent company, is one half of a joint venture that is, wait for it, incorporated in the Cayman Islands. Eden Bidco, the holding company formed by GMG and private equity house Apax last year to acquire Emap, enjoys freedom from troublesome levies by being registered offshore.

    GMG pointed out that this arrangement was at the request of Apax, which has a network of Cayman-registered companies, and that Emap itself and GMG pay UK taxes in full. But still, as a paper so willing to throw stones, linking up with a firm steeped in offshore accounting is one glass house too far.

    Source

    https://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/columnists/article6959685.ece



  • Comment number 47.

    re #14
    The cause of the whole problem is that i) Tories are scared to put up income tax, especially higher rates, ii) some Tories hate higher rate tax, iii) higher rate tax payers - despite higher incomes are, on the whole but not exclusively so, greedy, and iv) the higher rates of income tax are currently too low and are applied too low on the income scale.

    Interestingly, the Libbies (prior to and at the Election) seem to me to have the best handle on the tax situation and its fit in the big picture.

    The other options would be:
    a) add enough to income tax to provide first degree for free to tax-paying UK nationals,
    b) add enough in proportion to all three tax bands to etc., or
    c) add enough to the two higher rate tax bands to etc.

    I think we also need to switch fuel duties back to higher rate taxes as well so ... let's discuss!

  • Comment number 48.

    31 - I'm curious, Lefty. All this tax dodging. Is it as a result of new laws introduced by the coalition? Has it only just started? Course not.

    Why didn't this 'fight-back' start under Labour? They had 13 years to change tax laws if they wanted to. Why didn't they, if what's happening now is so terrible?

    As for Philip Green, his wife owns the shares in the company that controls the shops and she lives abroad. What law would you pass, Lefty? Insist that wives live in the same country as their husband? Ban wives from owning property and insist all property is held by the husband? Very progressive. I wonder if the protestors have actually thought that through. Probably not.

  • Comment number 49.

    46 - Good spot. Typical lefty hypocrisy where it's always somehow OK for them to do the things they condemn when others do them.

  • Comment number 50.

    13. and finally...

    I think this idea of yours is very fair, though politically unattractive for the Conservatives. I have an alternative... perhaps a way of minimising the cost for these students, of which we are targetting 50% to have tertiary education, is to make parents pay from secondary school for their tertiary education. This can be done on the basis of schools with a percentage >xx% that go onto tertiary education - the very reason those parents select the free comprehensives in the first place. This will allow natural selection of parents to decide if they want to pay this tax earlier on for the benefit of their children, rather than ride the system. It will also mean the cost is spread out far more (people and time) and is hitting parents who undoubtedly got their education for free or next to free. Those children who go to university from a school with less than xx% were clearly achivers given the state of the school, and therefore deserve to have 5 years for free, picking up a reduced tab for 4 years - which their intellect allows them to weigh off the cost of education against future gains, they will now take. I myself will not suffer as my children go to public school and I seem to pay tax for a benefit I do not receive - directly.
    As such, Conservatiev big hitters not affected, those reaping the rewards pay, and the poor achievers will get it under half price.

  • Comment number 51.

    FairandTrue - I'd rather be a Leftie than a Rightie and a Wrongie.

    No-one voted for a coalition - if the country can't decide - then there should be a second vote for either of the two parties that gained the most votes.


  • Comment number 52.

    Just listening to Two-Brains on R4 W'sH on Tuition Fees.

    Oh dear! They obviously haven't really thought this thing through. Interestingly, he faced some better questioning from the other contributor than from all the highly paid Beeb journos and presenters.

    They are going to face some big problems in three, four and five years time. Unpaid bills, inflation, Unis closing, Chief Exec & Dirs of Loan Co. grumbling about lack of bonus, no money etc.

    This one will run and run .....

  • Comment number 53.

    The smug tories must be loving this.

    They now know they have a full term in office because the lib dem mps know if they brought down the government the majority of them would not get re-elected.

    It reminds me of a Doctor Who episode with Peter Kay. The Lib-dem party is no more. It has been absorbed.

  • Comment number 54.

    48#

    "I wonder if the protestors have actually thought that through. Probably not."

    They dont think about anything. They dont have the capacity for thought. Useful, meat-headed "followers", with the solitary purpose of shouting and carrying placards. Plus various assorted rabble-for-rent from the sink estates who are just there for a punch up. No different to downtown Tehran.

    Hardly surprising then that a political movement or party that espouses such verbal and physical intimidation and coercion of the ordinary citizen should find friends in Labour party members such as lefty11.

    If these bone-heads had two brain cells to rub together they might just realise that they're being played. Played by cynical people who will quite happily ride on their backs and see them arrested, but as soon as they've got what they want from them will drop them faster than you can blink.

    Ignorance, I would say in this case, is probably bliss.

  • Comment number 55.

    No-one voted for a coalition
    ----------------
    I would have if it had been an option, even if not all that is hashed out by one, such as this whole tuition fees mess, is to my liking.

  • Comment number 56.

    46#

    Guido's been running with it as well. GMG still have not paid corporation tax from 2008 on 300M GBP profit.

    https://order-order.com/2010/12/05/polly-missed-guardian-tax-demo/

    https://order-order.com/2010/12/06/more-left-wing-tax-hypocrisy-from-richard-murphy/

  • Comment number 57.

    I think that the LDs were ill-advised to make personal pledges to abolish tuition fees prior to the election. Easy to make such pledges when the most realistic outcome of the election was an opposition role for the LDs. As part of the coalition they should accept the greater responsibility that comes with their new-found power. Could Clegg have made a more powerful, statesman-like defence of the proposals? Surely yes. Despite this, do we really think that a majority of LD voters at the last election voted LD solely because of the pledges? Perhaps they should consider the wider impact that they have achieved in altering Tory policies.
    Others have made the point about the target to get 50% of schoolleavers to university, this should not simply be about choice, those schoolleavers actually need to be able to meet a university's standard for admission. A govt that brings in such a policy should consider the cost implications. There has to be a limit on what we can afford, just as there is for defence, health and all other aspects of the govt's budget. Greater emphasis on vocational training would be welcome as would increased funding from employers eager to ensure new recruits have the appropriate skills and knowledge.
    Criticism of the scheme should be seen in terms of how it avoids upfront tuition fees and will reduce the costs for students, particularly those on lower incomes, and the lack of a credible alternative.
    Perhaps we need to consider whether every university is well-managed from a financial perspective; whether each course offers real benefit and value for money. Also interesting is the BBC report on the UCU study which refers to many of the less financially stable universities are those that "recruit a significant number of widening participation students".

  • Comment number 58.

    OLM @ 12
    Improving the skills level of your population is one way to create wealth. It's why the US would still be far richer than Zimbabwe even if all assets magically vanished overnight. A century ago we didn't bother to educate the working classes past the age of twelve. Technology is the driving force for change and government targets reflect that, they don't dictate it. The challenge is making sure the skills fit the needs of the economy but to hanker after an era when tertiary education was for the elite is reactionary twaddle.

  • Comment number 59.

    "The cause of the whole problem is that i) Tories are scared to put up income tax, especially higher rates, ii) some Tories hate higher rate tax, iii) higher rate tax payers - despite higher incomes are, on the whole but not exclusively so, greedy, and iv) the higher rates of income tax are currently too low and are applied too low on the income scale."

    (i)(ii) - 'scared' and 'hate'? Or maybe they know they don't work and are counter-productive?

    (iii) - If someone said that working class people were, on the whole, lazy, you'd accuse them rightly of blind class prejudice. But I suppose your lefty leanings allow idiotic sweeping generalisations, so long as they apply to the wealthy.

    (iv) - see (i) and (ii) above. Or maybe you could give us your thoughts on what tax rates ought to be?

  • Comment number 60.

    56 - Guardian couldn't be more champagne socialist if it tried.

    Cutting down your tax bill when you employ a nanny. Haha.

    Probably spend the money they save on more fair-trade coffee.

  • Comment number 61.

    There are so many ludicrous comments posted on here critiquing the 50% figure that is the target for Tertiary education. The question these people should ask themselves is how many poorly paid unskilled jobs can this country sustain that will have to be subsidised in some way by the skilled wealth creating workforce. This unskilled workforce will be competing against developing countries wage rates and to be compeitive and allow the people doing the work to have a living wage the rest of us will have to subsidise them (and I include protectionism as a form of subsidy) or watch them starve to death.

    I suspect that the 50% figure for education and/or training is too low a figure if we want to be a competitive economy that can pay its way and compete in the wealth creating economy. I deliberately put training in here as I suspect that is the problem with this debate, e.g. all tertiary education needs to be academic and only academic training needs to be paid for (patent rubbish). There is a need for an enormous variety of wealth creating skills both traditionally academic and traditionally vocational (after all Medicine is a vocational training but is also highly academic!) and the job market needs both. English graduates can create wealth, Journalism, TV production etc. etc. so do Engineers etc, however so do people who develop "skills" plumbers, brick layers, customer service reps and this people also require training and this should also be subsidised to the benefit of all of us. I really believe that subsidising education and training benefits the whole community increases the wealth creation capacity of the country and hence its quality of life. It is also a lot less exoepensive than subsidising unskilled workers throughout their whole careers while also criticising them for the subsidies.

    I await the attack from the absurdist wing of right of centre opinion

  • Comment number 62.

    I suspect that the 50% figure for education and/or training is too low a figure if we want to be a competitive economy that can pay its way and compete in the wealth creating economy. I deliberately put training in here as I suspect that is the problem with this debate
    -----------
    You are correct. If vocational training is included in the 50% rather than just 'must go to university', then I would have no problem.

  • Comment number 63.

    I think Nick Clegg is just going for broke. He surely knows by now that he has no chance of being an MP for Sheffield after the next election. He represents a University seat and unless he votes against the tuition fees he is doomed. This would have meant him resigning from the Government. I think he has just decided to hang on and try and achieve something in the next 4 years or so.
    This would have not been a big issue if it was just a manifesto promise that did not survive the coalition agreement. Nick has made it into a big issue by signing the pledge to vote against and using it all the time throughout the election to get student votes. If he had not made such a big deal of it he wouldn't have the problems now.
    I am enjoying the language that both he and Danny use -straight out of the choice architecture rulebook from the nudge unit. I know they are trying to convince themselves that the proposals are fair and its not just political ambition that is causing them to vote with the Government. However, I think it is a lost cause to convince the rest of us. I think they should take some advice from Harold Wilson 'when you are in a hole stop digging'

  • Comment number 64.

    25. At 11:58pm on 07 Dec 2010, One_Lars_Melvang wrote:

    If we had fewer people going to university and we targeted funding towards subjects where we need more graduates (e.g. engineering) then we could even afford to give students grants. I don't think the country would be worse off economically or socially. Quite the opposite, in fact.


    If you weren't so young, I'd say that was spot-on.

  • Comment number 65.

    54. At 10:31am on 08 Dec 2010, Fubar_Saunders wrote:
    They dont think about anything. They dont have the capacity for thought. Useful, meat-headed "followers", with the solitary purpose of shouting and carrying placards. Plus various assorted rabble-for-rent from the sink estates who are just there for a punch up. No different to downtown Tehran.


    Scare the hell out of the establishment though, don't they?


  • Comment number 66.

    58. pdavies

    If you are to label my post reactionary twaddle then I'm simply lost for words with regard to how I might describe yours.

    For a start, if you think that education is the sole reason for the wealth differential between USA and Zimbabwe then I worry for your sanity. Undeniably it plays a part (a big one, even) but stable, democratic government might help facilitate wealth creation, don't you think?

    If Zimbabwe committed itself tomorrow to an arbitrary target of 50% of school leavers going on to university this would not magically improve that country, or any others' prospects. The figure is not magical. It takes no account of the needs of an economy and it gives no indication of the quality of the teaching or the students. But if you and others remain convinced that worthless pieces of paper in spurious subjects from joke institutions are the measure of a country's prospects, then so be it.

  • Comment number 67.

    65#

    I dont know if "scare" is the right word mate. "Irritate" would probably be closer to the mark, imvho.

  • Comment number 68.

    I have to say the opposition and Alan Johnson in particular are doing a spectacularly good job of making the coalitions job easy on the fees front with there indecisiveness on what should be done.

    Its worth considering that whilst ever increasing numbers were being pushed to go to University ove rth last 10-15 years the effect it has had is that there are a number of people speanding a long period of time undertaking study which in no way benefits there long term employability and to differentiate themselves the top students are often now looking to do a master or Phd and tehrefore wont just have the debt burden caused by these new fees but also the costs they incur doing these further studies.

    This is evidenced by the fact that in a survey of finalists at prsent 26% are expecting to do postgraduate study against only 20% expecting to start work the following year and a furtehr 16% expecting to start to look at that point. This came up when I was doing a course regarding our recruitment for the coming year (I work at a large accountancy firm) and its interesting whilst many feel this will differentiate them you start with the same salary as someone who only has undergradauate level study and this is the case most places.

    The message was clear though that where you study matters more than ever as we recruit primarily from a relatively small number of Uni's Warwick, LSE, UCL, Nottingham, Loughborough etc which are all top institutions and likely to be at the top end of teh fees now charged but at least you will be making yourself more employable. My fear is for students who attend mid or lower tier Uni's that whilst there fees may only be £6k v's £9k but they will end up doing further study or potentially being no more employable than where they started.

    To me the whole perception of higher eductation mneeds to change it should be available to everyone but those who go should be doing so because of teh right reasons not because everyone does.

    I can tell you now knowing that its possible to start at our firm straight from 6th form and after one year be placed onto the same salary and training programme as graduates would make me think hard about going. Given its a 3 year programme by the time you're 22 you could be a qualified accountant with 4 yrs work experience and earning £44k+ with no debt would sound appealing comapred to having just graduated with a £40-50k debt amassed and just starting on £26k?

  • Comment number 69.

    31. lefty11

    'Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg we reject you and your policies. We reject your attack on the poor and public services and your protection of greed'

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

    No, 'we' do not. Speak for yourself.

    Whatever disappointment I feel in the coalition; whatever righteous anger people feel at a broken Lib Dem promise; how ever many ill-judged policies and actions thus far, nothing compares to the discredited last Labour government.

    There is a good reason that Brown and co were comprehensively rejected at the ballot box.

    I'm well aware that these rioters and other members of the great unwashed are upset at having a wicked Tory in Number 10. Fair enough. But these demonstrations have a terrible whiff of political opportunism.

    Where were the smashed windows at Labour HQ when tuition fees were introduced? Why meek silence on billions of pounds of tax avoidance when Labour were in power? Why no protests at The Guardian's offices right now?

  • Comment number 70.

    29. DistantTraveller

    I actually agree with your sentiment. There is inherent value in studying an academic discipline and it's too crude to reduce this debate to one purely about earning potential.

    In an ideal world, I would have no objection to funding all students. In such a utopia I would obviously choose grants as more appropriate than loans.

    The problem for me, as I've been at pains to point out throughout this thread, is the sheer number we are expected to support financially nowadays. People talk of politicians themselves having been subsidised when studying and point out the unfairness today. In principle I agree with the criticism, but we must compare like with like. In, for example, Vince Cable's day the government could afford to fund him and his cohorts because there weren't that many of them.

    I would still support funding in such a way nowadays, but it's infeasible with the numbers. Loans and targeted bursaries, coupled with direct industry investment/sponsorship would help.

    Coming full circle and addressing your point about the value of studying, whilst I agree in general, I do think that in a time of economic crisis there will be many taxpayers who question the need, for example, to fund a Media Studies undergraduate from the University Plymouth purely so that that person can develop as an individual. Call that facetious if you will, but people will ask the question as to whether or not it's fair.

  • Comment number 71.

    Maybe the Lib Dems should read Chambers Dictionary definition of PLEDGE
    'something given as a security, solomn promise,, to bind by solomn promise, a token of love or binding obligation' Hardly something flippant as they would have us now believe.

    Maybe Ken Clarke should read it too. i.e knife crime.

    I trust neither party will insult the electorate at the next election by offering us their manifestos. Not worth the paper they are written on or the time spent dreaming them up.

    Nick Clegg could have kept the status quo and not raised fees. At least he would have had some credibility, now there is none.

    How can they even talk about £21,000 being the threshold before students pay back the fees, when they will be in debt £40-£50,000. Would politicians be please to be earning that kind of salary???
    By the time they have paid income tax, NI pension contributions, rent, council tax, food, savings etc., there would be nothing left. I say don't bother to get yourself in to such debt debt. There are currently so many graduates who cannot get jobs.

    I can never understand how people who have opted out of the state system for school, can then opt in for University education. Surely if we really want a fair socity those that could afford to pay school fees should continue to pay the same level of fees for their University Education. What's another three years, if you have been paying £19,000 a year?

    Offering people from less well off backgrounds free education only serves to make them feel like second class citizens.
    I know, I am a pastoral tutor at aUniversity where the vast majority of students come from very well heeled families and they look down their noses at those who struggle to get themselves an education.

    I am not surprised by the Tory stance on this but totally shocked by the Lib Dems. I thought they were people with high morals and principles

  • Comment number 72.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-11946351

    Ah, scratch what I said about Alan Johnson earlier in the thread! Sheer buffoonery.

  • Comment number 73.

    71 - "There are currently so many graduates who cannot get jobs."

    So it could be argued that the last thing we need is lots more.

  • Comment number 74.

    OLM @ 66

    Your post addresses a range of points that I didn't make. In fact, I didn't even say your original post was reactionary. I just said it was reactionary to hanker after an era when tertiary education was for the elite. And it is. Why not go the whole hog and restrict secondary education to the upper classes? That served us well in the past, when GB was truly G.

  • Comment number 75.

    Apparently the nation has no money left to continue to subside higher education? It has other priorities (sic). Understandable perhaps when we have so many unemployed graduates and those that are employed are often selling coffee or working in retail sheds.

    Why oh why then is this government allowing EU students to continue to BENEFIT from subsidised higher education. You could not make this stuff up!

    Did we join the EU to disadvantage this nation's children and at the same time promise to pay for / subsidise the education of any number of EU nations' children? I think not.

    Who benefits from this misuse of public funds?

    Who ultimately will pay the bill?

    You guessed it!

    This will wreck OUR childrens' futures and what is left of the UK economy - simple.

  • Comment number 76.

    74. pdavies

    Apologies if I misconstrued what you said. I thought that as your post, addressing mine, ended by referring to 'reactionary twaddle' that was how you viewed my opinion.

    I don't think it's reactionary to hanker after an era where university education is for the elite. I haven't used the expression 'tertiary education' because I think that term is broader and encompasses vocational training, which was once ably provided by polytechnics.

    But with regard to university I am an unashamed elitist and meritocrat. The most intelligent should go on the strength of their applications, if the general public is to fund them. If they are to fund themselves, then of course it must be open to all.

    As for your obviously tongue-in-cheek suggestion that we revert to a position whereby only the upper classes can go to university, of course I utterly reject it. Like I said, I'm a meritocrat and I certainly don't believe that you have to be rich to be clever. I would dearly love to see a return to grammar schools and reap the rewards of increased social mobility by having the brightest from poor backgrounds go on to achieve great success at our best institutions.

  • Comment number 77.

    75. Bandolier1

    I'm afraid our relationship with the EU is yet another elephant in the corner. It's dancing away, making one hell of a racket, but the politicians have turned the other way and have their fingers firmly stuck in their ears.

  • Comment number 78.

    59. At 10:41am on 08 Dec 2010, AndyC555 wrote:
    "The cause of the whole problem is that i) Tories are scared to put up income tax, especially higher rates, ii) some Tories hate higher rate tax, iii) higher rate tax payers - despite higher incomes are, on the whole but not exclusively so, greedy, and iv) the higher rates of income tax are currently too low and are applied too low on the income scale."

    (i)(ii) - 'scared' and 'hate'? Or maybe they know they don't work and are counter-productive?

    (iii) - If someone said that working class people were, on the whole, lazy, you'd accuse them rightly of blind class prejudice. But I suppose your lefty leanings allow idiotic sweeping generalisations, so long as they apply to the wealthy.

    (iv) - see (i) and (ii) above. Or maybe you could give us your thoughts on what tax rates ought to be?
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------
    Andy, on my politics - you haven't been paying attention to my posts, even on this particular Blog. Go back and read!

    Effectiveness of (high basic rate and) higher rates of tax - many of the present politicians in the HoC and Lords were lifted out of poor backgrounds, given tertiary education and great opprtunities thanks to ... higher rates of tax.

    Suggest, in present situation from 6/4/2008 - VAT at 15% or less {as Chancellor I'd have been happy to pick a fight with the EU on that one} 15% up to £30K, 30% up to £60K, 45% up to £120K, 60% from £240K plus 75% - 90% on ALL bonuses (not just bankers) that are not shared equally between all employees of a company. Short term goal of Chancellor to reduce NI to nowt, Fuel Duties by 50% {over medium term also} with medium term goal to start reducing higher rates of tax slightly and regularly as economic/fiscal/debt+deficit situation improves. I'll let you calculate that one.

    PS: What would you do? Flat rate of tax? NI, Petrol, Diesel, Council Tax all up and secondary as well as tertiary education charged for? {NB: New Labour were planning to introduce charges for secondary education had they had another four terms in power.}

  • Comment number 79.

    Perhaps a way to solve the funding problem is to allow people to reclaim training and education fees against tax - just like companies do.

  • Comment number 80.

    What I would like to understand is why it costs so much to provide a University education.
    I currently send my son to private school where he receives education / teaching for 7.5 hours a day, 5 days a week in a class size of about 23, he is provided with lunch, there are after school activities available 5 days a week and games on a Saturday morning....and I pay £9,500.
    Why then should we need to pay a similar amount for 9 hours of lectures a week given to an auditorium of students (up to 100 - if they turn up) plus one hour of tutorials - over a shorter academic term.
    It just doesn't really seem to add up.

  • Comment number 81.

    Why then should we need to pay a similar amount for 9 hours of lectures a week given to an auditorium of students (up to 100 - if they turn up) plus one hour of tutorials - over a shorter academic term.
    It just doesn't really seem to add up.
    ------------
    The number of hours in lectures and seminars varies a great deal, but for my undergraduate course at least we were told 75% of the course was reading and studying utilizing the resources provided by the university. You can struggle through without doing that, but I imagine they would say they provide the opportunity for you to seize, and it is significantly more difficult if you don't do so. Plus most lecturers don't see lecturing as their primary function in my experience, for valid reasons; they have to research and publish to keep their jobs, and the university's do more than just teach people. The staff have important functions beyond schooling that need to be funded.

  • Comment number 82.

    This debate has been all about the lib dems' renege on a pledge rather than the policy and this seems to have got lost in the debate. I was against tuition fees when Labour said they would not introduce them, then did and when they increased them again in 2004. Our voices went unheard as they did on many things, particularly in education and the economy. I am still not pro them but we are where we are and my daughters have now graduated and are paying them back at a monthly rate they actually find quite difficult. The new scheme is more progressive but very few people seem to focus on that but the assumed figures of £40k debt which is actually unknown as we do not know what universities will charge what yet. I told my girls to think of it as a tax as the total amount of debt are just frightening especially to 18 year olds.

    The debate should be about who pays for tuition fees - the state or the student? - I think a combination.
    If the student, is the scheme fair? - I think it is.
    Is it time to look at other higher education models and limit the number of university places to just the 20% of those with the best academic achievements, maybe on a proportional basis across the state, independent and selective establishments. This will involve universities closing but we will need more vocational colleges perhaps working closely with local businesses. Stop making students think university is the only route to a successful career.

    Labour got many things wrong in education over the last 13 years.
    One was to dumb down the exam system to manipulate league tables. One was to invest a whole bunch of money in widening participation but with no real results as the reasons for poor students not going to the best universities are more complicated and cannot be solved with money alone. Another was to encourage upto 50% of school leavers to go to university without putting a proper funding structure in place and not being politically brave enough to have the debate about where we were going in Higher Education.

    I am not a lib dem voter but I think all credit to them that they are taking the difficult decision to vote for the policy and working to make it fair. That is much braver than abstaining and certainly braver than the hypocritical labour supporters who as usual have a "blank page" or "mixed messages" when it comes to HE funding.

  • Comment number 83.

    OLM various

    I find your rants in favour of exclusiveness funny,misinformed and not so much reactionary as old fashioned.

    Your criteria that only the most able go to university would have excluded Einstein, who struggled with mathematics all his life, there are other distinguished exceptions.The wider point is that `A` level grades were a poor guide to degree success in a recent study by the Sutton trust:-

    Comparing pupils from comprehensives with those from grammar schools and independents with the same `A` grades,the comprehnsive pupils went on to achieve a higher class of degree than their grammar and independent peers.Comprehensive students with lower grades caught up and achieved equal degrees.So meritocratic entry is not as simple as you suppose.

    It is the case that a degree in law,medicine or languages produces a higher average financial return than a degree in arts or the humanities,but all graduates benefit from a graduate premium,even those with a "a media studies degree from the University of Plymouth."

    Do you find phrases like "The great unwashed" funny? They make you sound funny,belonging in the pages of "Punch",circa 1895.

    But underlying the tenor of your rants is class prejudice despite your meritocratic protestations.Who are you to exclude people from universities,restrict them to vocational training unless they pay their own bills.The women who have brought up a family and enter university through access courses?,the part timers,those wanting a change of direction.Education is a public good as well as a private benefit.Government proposals would make the proportion of state funding here the lowest in Europe.

    A student contribution to fees? Why not? But up to £9000 a year? combined with an 80% cut in the funding for arts and social sciences teaching.Deeply reactionary,the fees would almost wipe out the graduate premium for students in the arts and humanities.Educational policy determined by market forces! Where is the justice in that?


  • Comment number 84.

    The LibDems claim this policy is "progressive", but it can't possibly be. If students have to pay back £30,000 of debt when they start earning £21,000 this means that any chance they might have of scraping together a deposit for a mortgage will be eroded. If their education teaches them anything, therefore, they will progressively demand higher salaries. This means professional people will earn more money, the divide between rich and poor will increase, leaving those at the bottom with even less access to professional services than they have already. In other words, not only does a rise in tuition fees hit the middle classes, but it also kicks those at the bottom in the teeth.
    The argument should not be one of how much tuition fees should be, but rather one of working out how much money is needed to pay for higher education using state money and start from there.
    I am a life long LibDem supporter, but like everybody else I know who voted for them last time around, they won't get might vote again.
    I don't want to live in a society where a politician can sign a pledge to get voted in and then do the opposite whilst in government. Treachery!

  • Comment number 85.

    I am a life long LibDem supporter, but like everybody else I know who voted for them last time around, they won't get might vote again.
    I don't want to live in a society where a politician can sign a pledge to get voted in and then do the opposite whilst in government. Treachery!
    -------
    Yes, thank goodness no other parties have ever promised to do something, something to do with tuition fees perhaps, before an election and then done the opposite when in government. You shall have plenty of options to choose from no doubt.

    It's a big turnaround, and for many a deal breaker and that is fair enough, but let's be reasonable and not forget that no political party can claim to be innocent of the same type of action and tar only the Lib Dems with that brush of treachery (in general terms, as you state, as opposed to on this particular issue).

    I take no issue with people for whom this turnaround is too much for them to ever consider voting for the LD again, and I'm not certain who I'll vote for next time even (it will depend on the issues at the time) but I do take issue with pretending they are the only party guilty of such actions, as though it is unprecedented. The very next post of this blog makes that clear. And as 82 points out, too often it means the debate is focused in the wrong direction. Even with an embarrasing and annoying u-turn, a policy can still be the best of what is actually proposed as opposed to what we, and even those marching students, would find ideal. If they don't agree, fair enough and keep up the struggle, but from the quotes of some many are being reactionary and not actually evaluating matters. I am sure they will in time.

  • Comment number 86.

    Clegg Minor seems to think he's such a hero. Not so students, prospective students, and their parents who took Libdems at their word. The Tories, meanwhile, will be laughing up their sleeves all the way to the next election.

  • Comment number 87.

    67. At 11:53am on 08 Dec 2010, Fubar_Saunders wrote:

    I dont know if "scare" is the right word mate. "Irritate" would probably be closer to the mark, imvho.


    In some cases.
    I went into Lancaster this afternoon (market day - always a thrill), and watched a student demo in the square. There were about 30 well-behaved students, 8 policemen, 4 mounted police and 2 policemen with riot gear pretending they weren't there, and 2 mounted policemen in the square, completely swamped by people trying to pat the horses.
    I'm telling you this in case it doesn't make 'Newsnight'.

  • Comment number 88.

    83. bryhers

    Just because you disagree with me that does not make me misinformed. It is hugely arrogant to think otherwise.

    As for Einstein, given that the criterion for university entrance I suggested was intelligence I think that he might just about have earned his place, don't you think?

    I don't find phrases like 'the great unwashed' particularly funny; I merely used it in this instance because, looking at those assualting police officers and vandalising property in London, it appears very accurate indeed.

    Describing my posts as rants doesn't make them so. Thank goodness you are not the arbiter of what is rational.

    Your allegations of class prejudice are so far wide of the mark you wouldn't believe. You have no idea of my background so how dare you presume to know my views on class.

    You mentioned women who have brought up families and those who decide to study part-time, seemingly as a stick to try and beat me with. I've no idea why. Nowhere in any of my posts have I suggested that such people shouldn't be able to study at university. I've been consistent throughout: if you're clever enough, you should be allowed to study wherever will accept you on the strength of your application.

    The current system whereby we tell people that a degree is the be all and end all is unfair on those who get a poor degree from a poor university, then find that they have racked up a huge debt and cannot get a job to repay it. It is nothing short of a scandal.

  • Comment number 89.

    While it is true that the LibDems are not the first party to abandon pre-election policy whilst in government, the cavalier way in which they have implemented a total volte face on tuition fees really does take the biscuit.

    Party policy was to phase out tuition fees all together over a six-year period. Remember, this was a fully costed policy based on figures available prior to the May election. Since then, the economy has done better than expected. So why the gung ho approach to getting this new policy in place come what may?

    Politicians are experts at kicking difficult decisions into the long grass; if ever there was a case for doing this it's with tuition fees! Greg Mulholland has actually been trying to get the party to do this given reports that show the LibDems haemorrhaging support from women and students who previously voted for the party.

    The annual conference in September could actually see the party rip itself apart. Grass roots LibDems simply won't stand for this! Naked self-interest alone -i.e. survival of the party- should dictate that Clegg and co start listening to what its supporters are saying: this policy is mad!

  • Comment number 90.

    After all of their years as a minority party they were able to make us believe they were a progressive party. 8 months in power has shown their true colours. David Cameron said before the last election that Liberal voters should join the torys, they didn't but he has found a new way to force them to join him. From "I agree with Nick" to Nick will do what he's told it hasn't taken him long to light a fire they have to walk through.

  • Comment number 91.

    Funnily enough, after many years of voting for the libdems as a more 'sensible' left of centre party than labour, an abiding memory of their campaigns is their constant propaganda about how THEIR party is DIFFERENT and BETTER than the others and how they will break the mould and act with integrity.
    Now it seems their word is as worthless as the others and a pledge is a mere subterfuge to gain a vote.
    Having achieved a share of power they have cast off their leftish sheeps clothing and gone wholeheartedly for full blooded elitism.
    Little Nick will soon be fully assimilated into the Conservative Party and the rest are history!

  • Comment number 92.

    Maybe the LibDems should look at the tuition fees problem a different way.

    For example, have they ever considered why anybody would vote LibDem at the next election?

    They can't deliver on a central promise of the manifesto to phase out tuition fees, so anybody who voted for them because of that isn't coming back, are they?

    A HUGE amount of students gave their votes to the LibDems because of that policy. They'll go elsewhere next time.

    Many other LibDem supporters actually do want an ethical party. Remember, Nick Clegg put huge emphasis on not being like either the Tories or Labour during the last election campaign. But he is now just like them. So that desire for real change at the election has just been ignored. That means the LibDems don't stand for change, either!

    In their one shot at government, the party has therefore alienated all its core voters in one fell swoop. Do these people view voters as truly stupid?

    Thank God Charlie Kennedy isn't going to vote for the hike. I hope Simon Hughes doesn't either.

  • Comment number 93.

    Im not sure what Clegg and the Lib Dems are thiking really. The only reason they are in this government is because of the students, as a student myself i voted for the Lib Dems based on their stance against fess and i no many other students who did the same, so with us they would be no where no power, i think that the party and mainly Clegg himself is an utter disgrace and is only out for personal gain.

  • Comment number 94.

    Nick,

    Can we get some things straight here about the Lib Dem position?

    1. Sometimes Clegg claims he has 'no choice' but to accept partnership with the Tories in government - wrong, he did. He could have opted for a supply and confidence deal over the whole parliament, a time-limited s&c deal, a timetable for a short parliament on a common programme with freedom to vote on a party basis... he had BAGS of choice. He could even have opted to go into opposition, scuppering the chance of a Tory minority government lasting to the weekend and causing a second election. The Lib Dems had a choice. Sadly, the trappings of office proved to much of a lure for Nick Clegg.

    2. Clegg often says 'we didn't win the election so we have no right to dictate our terms for government based on our manifesto'. The point is, of course, neither did the Tories: they did not win the right to impose theirs either. Clegg did have some lines in the sand (including fees) and he has obligingly eradicated them. Convenient when what's on offer are ministerial offices no doubt.

    3. Clegg says that 'sadly, when we came into government we saw we could not honour our pledge on fees'. Not true. You could have done so by persuading the Tories that slashing the equivalent of 79% of the funding for one key sector for growth in our economy (higher education) is nuts. You didn't even try. Moreover your pre-election pledge was simply to vote against any planned increase in the HoC. Now is the time to honour that pledge.

    4. Finally, Nick Clegg seems to suggest that 'walking through fire' is somehow a matter of showing the electorate that the Lib Dems are fit for government and somehow now a 'serious' party because they can renege on promises like everyone else. What he is actually demonstrating is that the long nurtured reputation of the Lib Dems for honest politics is a busted flush; retrieving lost trust will be impossible for him hereafter.

    I am a lapsed Lib Dem member (I left soon after Clegg succumbed to the lure of the red boxes and the dispatch box) and expect to see the party I have voted for in every election since 1979 (Liberal, Lib/SDP and Lib Dem) eradicated at the next one. I am betting on no more than 6 Lib Dem seats after it takes place. I am also hoping to see some new and genuinely liberal party arise for which I can vote by 2015 or soon after.

    By then Mr Clegg will be just a bad dream and, hopefully, an ex-MP and, I suspect, will be carrying a Tory party membership card in his wallet in any case.

 

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