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Day: December 7, 2010

Lib Dem Ministers make the right call

So the Lib Dem ministers are going to back and vote for the Tuition Fees Bill that’ll be discussed and go before the House of Commons on Thursday. They are defying a pledge they made and in some eyes snubbing the electorate. So why are they making the right call? Because when push comes to shove – this isn’t the bill where we should draw a line in the sand.

Look I think university students should get a free ride. I believe tuition fees are bad. However I also do not think it is the biggest issue facing the country today. This is what really filets my Chilean Sea Bass (if you get that reference then you are awesome). If the Lib Dems make this the bill that they stand up to the senior partners in the coalition and vote the motion down then morally we have to leave the government benches and return to the opposition. Technically the coalition could survive but morally we would have no right being in government voting down a bill – a bill we even have a right to abstain on no less.

Also if we do not vote for it then we are perceived as weak but the electorate – and quite frankly the Lib Dems look weak today. They look like a fractious party not sure which way to turn. Damned if they do and damned if they don’t. If they vote for it they are defying a key pledge – never a good thing. Abstaining is weak. Voting it down would move us away from government and would show the party unable to make the big decisions and would slow down other bills that government are bringing in that are Liberal.

So vote against this bill and should we leave the government benches (which I think morally we would have to do) then we would be walking away from House of Lords Reform, Political Reform, the Pupil Premium (which is fantastic) and other bills that have yet to be announced. Do we want to walk away from all those for this?

Now I know if we left the government benches we would be in the majority in opposition – the thing is – none of these bills would get through. The Tories would pull them out or they would re-write them and make deals with the nationalists to get them through in different formats. The government would not have to pander to the Lib Dem voices around the cabinet table.

When Nick Clegg and the team were discussing what to do after May 5 this year everyone was protesting to ensure the leader and the party knew they wanted fairer votes. Fairer votes was the most important thing. We won a referendum on AV from the Tories as part of a coalition. So all is good. However now Lib Dems don’t care about this so much – tuition fees are the buzz word of today.

Well listen to this folks. If (and I am making the assumption here that we leave the government benches if we voted en masse against the Tuition Fees Bill and honoured our pledge) If we vote against the bill and leave the government benches then would the Tories still allow a referendum on this subject? Even if they did with enough Labour backbench support and localised support the country will probably vote the referendum down. The Lib Dems will be seen as weak and that only Labour or the Conservatives can form a strong government so why vote for a political system that would allow the leafy weak Lib Dems a larger say in the HoC?

The Lib Dems are junior partners in a coalition. I’ve said it on more than one occasion and people just don’t seem to see it. The big mistake was clearly the party and their prospective MPs signed the pledge. That was the big error of judgment. I know that some MPs may have felt it would sway them votes but remember the student vote is neither the strongest nor the biggest turn out around.

Many students aren’t registered and many don’t bother to vote as they are busy watching Hollyoaks and getting drunk. Many are registered to vote at their home address and not at their uni one and therefore don’t vote whilst at university as they don’t have the foresight to sort out a proxy or postal vote. So pandering to the students is not a great idea in terms of votes.

Are those who protested for Fairer Votes the same as those who are protesting for Free Universities for all? If so then these two issues might well be mutually exclusive at this point in time. That is the way things are and that cannot be changed at this juncture. If the Lib Dem ministers vote this down on Thursday then tuition fees will stay – just not at the higher threshold – but they would also lose the higher repayment threshold and the scholarship scheme – oh and universities would get shitter as the money would still be coming out of the budget. So everyone’s degrees will be worse and will have less value.

Yes folks this isn’t ideal but this system is actually fairer and more beneficial long-term for young people. LEA’s will still pay the fees for the poorest students and the repayments would start kicking in when people are earning a good wage. Do you want to pay £4k a year for an average degree with badly funded universities with no resources or pay 6k a year (yes i know 9k is the limit but they’ll be for the rare circumstance) and get a good degree from a well taught course with excellent facilities and teaching?

The tuition fees bill is the best way forward for young people today. I firmly believe that having read in detail what the alternatives are. Free education for all is not affordable at the moment and even if it was – the Tories have no desire for it and therefore it would never go through parliament. We are breaking a pledge which is not good – not good at all – and many will rightly feel hurt and betrayed by it – but I put forward the PoV that we are not a one-issue party. The good the party are doing in government is out weighing the bad and if they do not make a law better and fairer because it goes against their utopian view then we would be doing the country a disservice.

The Lib Dems will go through the fire whatever they do. Might as well go through the fire and make a positive difference. So vote for the Tuition Fees Bill and do it with your heads held high Lib Dem MPs. It is better than the alternative and as a party we should do things that make life better for the people of this great country and not condemn our young people to substandard education which will mean their prospects for employment will be even worse. Better to pay good money for a great degree than pay money for a poor one.

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