Welsh Assembly

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Wednesday, 13 October 2010

The Final Betrayal?

Well there we are. No witty or pun-tastic title to this blog my avid reader(s). Good Liberal Democrats have had to put up with a lot in the last couple of months. Biting their lip when a cap on housing benefit is introduced. Sitting on their hands when child benifit is axed. Recoiling in horror when their party gleefully encouraged the savage expenditure cuts. But now the Holy Grail of Liberal Democracy has been snatched and its contents quaffed by the Tory behemoth.

I condemned the Labour Party when it introduced fees. It promised not to in its 2001 manifesto and it betrayed that promise. It caused a generation of students, already furious about the invasion of Iraq, to view the Liberal Democrats opposition to both of these issues as principled and just. But this betrayal is perhaps more insidious. To say that tuition fees are merely an issue for the Liberal Democrats is to suggest that Tories merely have a mild dislike of the European Union. It is their political life blood. An issue which for two general elections allowed them to wax poetic about the (correct) injustice of tuition fees and the mountain of debt that students hopes and dreams would be buried. For some Liberals, even a graduate tax would be an unacceptable compromise and nothing but the complete abolition of fees would suffice.

But the Lib Dems have not delivered this compromise. They didnt even lower fees. They couldn't keep them the same. They didn't even manage to keep fees from only be doubled, which the media predicted. The Lib Dems have delivered for this Tory Government unlimited fees which theoretically could lead to fees and debts even in excess of Cameron and Osbournes huge personal wealth. And therin lies the hypocrisy. A government who's sole endeavour is to destroy the bulk of debt this country is 'supposedly' in, is now going to massively increase the personal debt of each and every aspiring solicitor, teacher, nurse, policeman, and business person. And predictably, St. Vince and all the 'Coalitionistas' with their trademark piousness have claimed this package is 'progressive and fair'. Maybe they now believe the fantasies they still deludedly entertain that if you call something progressive  (like their regressive budget) it is fair and progressive. Unfortunately the only thing progressive in this ragtag of grievances that they call an education policy is that the cost of paying off student loans is going to get progressively harder and longer. The coalition claim that higher interest rates for the better off will make the better off pay more. But this ignores the fact that the rich can and will pay their fees off quicker and therefore avoid paying over-the-top interest on their loans and will pay less than poorer students. At least Britain can now proudly boast to be top of at least one of the unviersity rankings. We will have the most expensive public universities in the world.

During the election, as Britain experienced the dawn (and rapid dusk) of Cleggmania, the Lib Dems put out a Party Political Broadcast called 'Say Goodbye to Broken Promises'. The way the lib dems ruthlessly exploited this issue is going to come back to haunt them beyond even the next general election and may even be noted as the pivotal moment if the Liberal Democrats, as we know them, cease to exist. Before the election every Liberal Democrat MP signed an NUS Motion pledging to vote against (not abstain) any legislation to increase fees. The Liberals are about to take back this pledge and maybe lose young voters for a generation or for good. What many devasted Lib Dem voters may now be asking is, 'Can I take back my vote at the last general election?'

By Dominic Turner from my blog 'A Public Service Announcement'

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