Saturday, November 13, 2010

LibDems Planned to Ditch Tuition Pledge Before Election

Rob Wilson's new book 5 DAYS TO POWER caused a bit of a stir last night when I was on the Nolan programme reviewing the papers (scroll in two hours) with Mehdi Hasan. We spent most of the first half an hour discussing it. Wilson reveals in the book that the LibDems had decided to ditch their tuition fees pledge in advance of the election during preparations led by Danny Alexander for any possible coalition talks. Nick Watt has the full story HERE.

The Liberal Democrats were drawing up plans to abandon Nick Clegg's flagship policy to scrap university tuition fees two months before the general election, secret party documents reveal.

As the Lib Dem leader faces a growing revolt after this week's violent protest against fee rises, internal documents show the party was drawing up proposals for coalition negotiations which contrasted sharply with Clegg's public pronouncements.

A month before Clegg pledged in April to scrap the "dead weight of debt", a secret team of key Lib Dems made clear that, in the event of a hung parliament, the party would not waste political capital defending its manifesto pledge to abolish university tuition fees within six years. In a document marked "confidential" and dated 16 March, the head of the secret pre-election coalition negotiating team, Danny Alexander, wrote: "On tuition fees we should seek agreement on part-time
students and leave the rest. We will have clear yellow water with the other
[parties] on raising the tuition fee cap, so let us not cause ourselves more

The document is likely to fuel criticism among Lib Dem backbenchers and in the National Union of Students that the party courted the university vote in the full knowledge that its pledge would have to be abandoned as the party sought to achieve a foot in government. Within a month of the secret document, Clegg recorded a YouTube video for the annual NUS conference on 13 April in which he pledged to abolish fees within six years.

Read an extract from Rob's book HERE.

Buy the book HERE.


Vole Strangler said...

Whatever you say about our junior partners in the coalition government, they are likely to be the single biggest cause of political cynicism and voter apathy in a long time. Their political opportunism is breathtaking. It beggers belief that they could ever again resort to the slurs and dirt of their typical political campaign literature in which they are whiter than white and offer a political utopia.

Simon Lewis said...

Amazing revelation. What is now obvious is that they are no worse than Phil Woolas. As you have said before the electorate should decide. In this case all 57 should be reacalled and by elections fought. Also, a censure motion should now be called by the opposition on this issue. The referendum should be abandoned forthwith as the Libs are a total waste of space.

claude said...

I firmly agree with Vole Strangler above.

David Boothroyd said...

It's not news to reveal that the Lib Dem leadership felt the tuition fees pledge was something the party should not keep - the Nuffield Study goes into some detail about the leadership's previous attempts to dump the policy (pages 108-110).

What beggars belief is that, having fought tooth and nail internally to get rid of the policy, and (as Rob Wilson's book now makes clear) fully intending never to press it in coalition negotiations, nevertheless the leadership and Nick Clegg in particular made it a high profile part of their election campaign. Lib Dem critics have always denounced their hypocritical preachiness but there really hasn't been such a clear proof of it yet.

Old BE said...

I am beginning to like Clegg and the other senior LDs more and more. I think they realise what a mess the country is in and what can be done about it.

Tim said...

So the Liberal Democrats were happy to soak up students' votes by pretending to espouse a policy that they did not have any intention of following through with?

Students must feel like turkeys who have been tricked into voting for Christmas.

javelin said...

Why not drop it now if it such an issue?

Michael Heaver said...


Anonymous said...

I would have a great deal more sympathy for the NUS over the issue of being duped over top-up fees if they didn't make an endless habit of it. I haven't forgotten their unequivocal backing for Labour in 2001 over this self-same issue, on the grounds that Labour had 'no plans' to introduce them!

The only people the NUS have to blame for the situation where politicians have repeatedly duped them and exploited them are themselves. Time and again the judgement of their leadership has proven lamentably deficient, to the point of naïvety. What is genuinely frightening is the thought that many of these idiots with poor judgement plan to have political careers themselves.

That said, still very wrong of the Liberal Democrats to go big on top-up fees in the full knowledge it was a hot potato they would drop at the first opportunity/sign of power. Just as wrong of the Tories to go big on inheritance tax and Europe, or Labour to go on economic stability and prudent finances - shall I go on?

Anonymous said...

The LDs have always been free and easy with policy since they never seriously thought they would be in govt.

Increasingly they have to decide who to tie their wagon to. Labour seem intent on burning bridges.

You can not be slightly pregnant. The LDs are making decisions now from a government perspective which they have to live with and justify.

If they don't justify them then their mistakes will quite likely help the Tories. Mr Boothroyd is strangely correct.

Anonymous said...

So Libdems were preparing for an U-turn, which is realism and not dogma. What is despicable is Labour Party which burdened students with tuition fee a few years ago on the back of a handful of votes from Scottish Labour MPs whose constituents did not have to pay the tuition fee, and they in the govt commissioned Lord Browne (their buddy)to report on university fee and funding, are now turning round without any shame and blame the Tories for implementing the recommendation. The Labour HE spokes person Denham is a pillock. We have a situation that a large percentage of students 45% want to go university, and how are we going to pay for this? How do we fund the universities which are expanding fast? Most of them going to post-92 universities, the former polys where the drop out rate is as high as 40%.

Victor, NW Kent said...

It is a well-known fact that once in power a reforming government finds that few reforms can be achieved in any reasonable time frame. So, an incoming government is much closer in deed to the old one than it preached it would be.

The LibDems were a party in perpetual opposition so no policy was too outre to be espoused. Harsh realities of office quickly reduce those dreams to pipe dreams.

Labour, had it retained power would also have had the Browne Report - they commissioned it. Their policies would have been very much like those the Coalition has adopted on universities - needs must.

I suspect that Labour is delighted that they can sit back and carp at the Coalition's cuts knowing full well that they would have been doing the same. The electorate, after 5 more years of conditioning by the BBC, will throw the Tories out and put the wastrels back in power. Only a massive revival of the economy will prevent that and that is where the trade unions come in - Labour insurance.

Twig said...

The LibDems could abolish tuition fees altogether if they stopped paying the EU 45 million pounds a day.