Thursday, 2 December 2010

More wriggling from the Lib Dems

I heard a Lib Dem MP verbally wriggling yesterday as he tried to explain why the proposed changes on tuition fees are not in breach of the pledge which his party made at the election in May.  His argument was that there were actually two elements to the pledge; the first was no increase in fees, and the second was to make the system fairer.  And they had succeeded, he said, in the second.
He actually went further and described the changes to the repayment rules as turning the fees from a debt into a graduate tax, because the amount owed was no longer a total which had to be repaid, but a maximum which people would repay according to ability to pay.  It was a valiant effort.
It does, though, highlight a point that I’ve made before; the difference between student debt and a graduate tax is more in the eye of the beholder than a difference of substance.  Simply calling it something different and changing the rules for repayment are not enough to alter the underlying fact that students are incurring a significant future liability in order to pay for their university education.
Changing the nomenclature and a bit of clever presentation are not the same thing as abolishing student debt, and making the system ‘fairer’ is not the same as overturning it.  But I guess that some politicians will continue trying to persuade us that they are.


Unknown said...

John - the LibDems efforts at dissembling make me cry - whether in laughter of despair, I haven't quite worked out yet!

Vince Cable is by far their most capable, credible and principled politicians, and to hear him saying that he will possibly fail to vote for a policy that he himself proposes defies satire! Peter Cooke couldn't do better!

In my view, the coalition won't last long after the referendum on AV is lost. Danny Alexander and Nick Clegg will probably declare themselves tories, and the rest of the party will revert back to the obscurity from which they came! General Election in October!

Anonymous said...

Hold on - didn't your own party's Assembly Group propose a graduate tax at your conference this year?

John Dixon said...


I'm not sure that the coalition will fall after the AV referendum. Don't forget that the Lib Dems are not actually in favour of AV at all; they, like Plaid, prefer STV. I don't really understand how they've got themselves into such a mess over a system that they don't want anyway... I wouldn't expect an early election.


Strictly speaking, no. They suggested that the party should consider the feasibility of such a tax. You might argue that that implies tacit support for such a proposal, and you might be right. However, the suggestion was defeated by the party's membership, so it is not Plaid policy.

Anonymous said...

"Hold on - didn't your own party's Assembly Group propose a graduate tax at your conference this year?"

Yes and weren't able to convince the membership, so lost. Plaid is a democratic party.

Unknown said...

John - I agree that the Libs want more than the AV - but that is what they were fobbed off with, and the price that they have paid for the referendum is now becoming obvious, with the cuts being implemented by hitman alexander,and especially with the student fees issue. I really doubt that once the referendum is lost, that Clegg will be able to hold his party together. It is early in a government to hear such rumblings as we are hearing from the likes of Simon Hughes. The peasants are revolting!

And let's face it - the Libdems have never had much of a stomach for government! They prevaricated and then turned it down twice in Wales, and most of the party, I suspect don't much care for it now they have got it in London!

It is quite obvious that Ed Milliband doesn't share my analysis, as he seems to think that he has all the time in the world to get his act together! Could be an expensive mistake!

Anonymous said...

"Yes and weren't able to convince the membership, so lost. Plaid is a democratic party."

So the AMs will be bound by party policy? As they were when they voted to raise the fees to the current level despite what their party's manifesto said?