Tuesday, 7 December 2010

TUITION FEES: THIS IS NO TIME TO ABSTAIN

Splits weaken parties, and sometimes destroy them. The reputation of the Liberal Democrat brand is being undermined with each passing hour as the impression grows stronger that on the issue of tuition fees we are not only divided but clueless.

The case for supporting the recommendations of the Browne inquiry is strong, and if I were in the Commons I would be voting with Nick. The real damage to the party comes not from our adjusting course to take account of changed conditions, nor from rebellion by backbenchers on grounds of individual conscience, but from the impression we are now giving of being all over the place.

Some Liberal Democrats will vote for the recommendations, some against. Some want to defer the vote, others want to abstain. In short, we are creating the impression not just of being weak, but of being a joke.

I would rather us have a reputation for being tough (but fair) bastards than for being indecisive.

Liberal Democrat MPs must now decide how to vote. If they want to limit the damage there should be only two options for them to consider . Either they vote for the recommendations, recognising that they provide funding for higher education in a progressive manner that protects those on lowest incomes, or they vote against on grounds of individual conscience.

There are times when an abstention is an honourable third option. This is not one of them.

3 comments:

Phil said...

I'd hate to have to break ranks with one of my favourite politicians, but what, pray, are the strong arguments in favour of cutting the block grant for teaching and completely eliminating humanities funding?

The tuition fee rises are not the policy. They are the expected result of the policy, that policy being cuts. Again.

The target of the cuts and the determination to make "student choice" a driver of degree uptake (read: another attempt to make the EMH apply to broad swathes of society that it has no bearing on, even after the EMH has been disproved in the narrow sector that it is relevant to) smack not just of High Toryism but of utter philistinism. This is a report written by someone who thinks the study of history is a luxury that we, as a nation, can sideline, safe in the knowledge that someone will study it and that will be alright in the end, or something.

I await your responses quite eagerly, because you're a politician I like an awful lot. We don't always have to agree with everything the good guys say, but I must say there's not much that gets me past this particular embrace of a particularly craven bit of New Labour propaganda.

Phil said...

hmm... test? bloody google accounts, never know if they've worked...

ROX said...

When the ConDems were formed I was opposed and Chris Davies turned on me and said he'd "no time for fair weather friends".

Now he says the LibDems are in danger of being seen as a joke. Can't he see that the party IS now a joke? The cuts are Tory policy not LibDem policy and but for the overweening arrogance of Clegg, Cable et al the LibDems would be opposing the whole university funding farce.