Tuition fees. No two words in the English language drive more fear into a Lib Dem heart. It has become not only a stick for other politicos and the media to beat the party with but the electorate themselves think a stick is far too tame and keep imploring the previously stated politicos and media to turn that stick into a baseball bat, then drive in some nails to said baseball bat, coat the baseball bat in cow pats and then and only then start swinging at the Lib Dems.
As has been written about here (and on many other fine websites – and some bad ones too no doubt) this has been a lot of the Lib Dems own doing. We can go around and around in circles about the nuance of the Lib Dems were a junior partner in a coalition and did actually put a lot of their 2010 manifesto into place but no-one cares about facts, facts are for losers, we live in a post-fact era and the only things that make sense are black and white, right and wrong, Will or Gareth (ok that last one is quite an old reference) but I think it is fair to say that the simpler the better when it comes to issues these days.
I do wonder though at times how we actually got to the position where we are. On Sunday Vince Cable penned a piece about Brexit and how it hurt the chances of young people not only now but potentially for generations to come. Most economists would agree that this is an accurate statement and that Brexit will not be beneficial in terms of either jobs, opportunities or salaries going forward. Yet instead of people going ‘right on Vince’ ‘You tell it like it is’ ‘fuck me that old geezer actually knows some shit’ or words to that effect, social media was full of one issue, yes, tuition fees.
Apparently tuition fees is an issue that won’t ever go away, it is radioactive and will still be used to bash the Lib Dems in 2197 when the aliens invade but allow humanity to have an election on whether they should be enslaved or not. The Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell will implore people to reject enslavement and embrace freedom but the hard left will go, ‘well you lied about tuition fees so I can’t trust you, now where do we sign up for a stint at the sulphur mines on Rigel IV?’
For you see tuition fees has very little to do with actual tuition fees. The policy is inconsequential to the emotion that people feel when talking about them. Families and young people want their children to have every opportunity going and therefore believe a free education for as long as they want it helps enhance those chances to find a path they’ll enjoy and will bring them a good life.
Fair point you would say but when the country is facing an obstacle that won’t just pinch financially but will actively shut down opportunities and jobs, the very same people who are desperate to keep education free are far more blasé. It is like they can’t see the big picture and that put side by side, tuition fees is a grain of sand whereas Brexit is the entire beach.
This doesn’t even take into consideration the actual cost to the tax payer of free education at higher institutes of learning. That is a debate that very few actually want to have but it is a legitimate one. Most people can understand and tolerate their taxes going towards health, defence, crime prevention, education up to adult years but why should someone who earns a low salary be part paying for someone they don’t know to study Philosophy at the University of Central Lancashire? I’m not saying I have that opinion but what I am saying is I can see that opinion and it is perfectly justified.
When Labour introduced tuition fees and then top-up fees when they were last in government, it was a story for a day or two and then life moved on. For the Lib Dems though it is something that everyone wants to throw at them mercilessly. Labour were able to win a fourth consecutive term in government even after an extremely unpopular war because the electorate took into account the whole picture. Now though people want to find a small issue and use it to supersede the bigger one.
Tuition fees was a dark day for the Lib Dems but Brexit will be an eclipse for the whole country for generations. Yet as Jeremy Corbyn leads Labour forward and quite possibly towards government, he does so still envisioning and supporting a departure of the EU that will leave his supporters poorer and with fewer life opportunities. They know this but they don’t care because they’ve grown to see that life (and politics) is simple. Good and bad, black and white and Jeremy Corbyn is good.
A lady called Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett wrote in the Guardian a piece entitled Brexit will be catastrophic. Yet I still support Jeremy Corbyn and it sums up everything I have said here. A devout Corbyn supporter who knows that he’s happy to screw her over but yet is still highly enthusiastic towards the man. ‘I felt politically homeless (because of tuition fees, I would never countenance voting Lib Dem)’ she writes as once again tuition fees is clearly a much bigger issue than Brexit and that my friends (and enemies and those who are indifferent towards me) is the where we are today.
Tuition Fees 1, Brexit 0. One day future generations will look back at ours and wonder why anyone ever felt that killing off the liberals was worth it just over an issue like whether adults should all be entitled to free education. It may be important but compared to what else is going on not only in the world but also in our back yard, it isn’t even in the top 25 issues yet for a great swathe of the electorate, being morally superior is vastly more important than making better lives for themselves, their loved ones and for those who come after them.
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