djm4: (Default)
David Matthewman ([personal profile] djm4) wrote2010-11-24 06:53 pm
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Breaking pledges

I'm getting increasingly frustrated with Nick Clegg's statements on tuition fees (and that starts from a fairly high level of frustration with him for singling them out as one of our long-term policies that might have to go in 2009).

Look, the point is not that the Lib Dem manifesto said that we'd phase tuition fees out. Everyone understands that we didn't win the election, so aren't in a position to implement everything in the manifesto. What we compromise about - and whether we compromise at all or just stay out of government - is up for debate, of course, but it's not a betrayal of principles to fail to implement a manifesto commitment if you lose an election.

No, the point is this pledge that Nick Clegg and all other Lib Dem MPs signed back in February. This is what it says:

"I pledge to vote against any increase in fees in the next parliament and to pressure the government to introduce a fairer alternative."

Here's the problem: nothing in that pledge becomes impossible just because we lost the election. Nick's still an MP, he still gets a vote, and that vote can still be against an increase in tuition fees.

Yes, I understand that Nick Clegg now doesn't want to. I get that he now thinks that the Browne Report offers a progressive fairness premium or something - I'm sorry, I'm losing track of the jargon these days. I also understand that under the terms of the coalition agreement, MPs agreed to abstain at worst on tuition fee rises (that was noted at the time as being a hostage to fortune, but with everything that was going on then, I can genuinely forgive that slip up). But Nick Clegg's not even going to abstain, apparently; he's going to vote in favour.

A pledge, though, is a pledge. It's a serious commitment that should not be lightly broken, and people will be quite reasonably angry with you when you do. Menzies Campbell understands this. Vince Cable appears not to. It might be seen to be OK to break a pledge if unforeseeable circumstances made keeping the pledge impossible, but it's not OK to break it because it's now politically inconvenient.

And it's really not OK to act as though the pledge were a manifesto commitment that the Lib Dems could only stick to if we won a majority government. It was a pledge to vote against a policy, not a pledge to ensure the policy didn't get passed. Nick, Vince and the rest can still vote against the policy and, IMO, should. Alternatively, they can 'fess up to voluntarily going back on the pledge, and plead changed circumstances; it'll still make people angry, but it's better than falsely claiming that being in a coalition now makes the pledge impossible to keep.

And all MPs should probably be a lot more careful about making pledges that they don't really mean. They might get called on them one day.
barakta: (Default)

[personal profile] barakta 2010-11-24 10:50 pm (UTC)(link)
Yes. This! Thank you - I was recalling one of your posts about why you personally objected to a graduate tax after a LD con some years back - idealogically etc.

I believe your 1) 2) and 3) are all things which would have made me respect Clegg more. He is missing the point big style and the students are FURIOUS and they will punish the LibDems for it and Clegg's attitude of "Don't protest stupid students you don't understand" is not helping!

I have been debating some of this on and off all day as various annoying union people tried to hectoring me for not being a Labour Party supporter/voter. I said I voted Lib Dem and while very disappointed with Clegg and the whole tuition fees and education stuff as you describe I don't think I could have made better use of my vote. And I have HUGE issues with trade/student unions being SO Fucking Labour that people who do not identify with Labour politics are made to feel uncomfortable and traitorous even if they support the same general aims as the union.

I agree the Browne review contains many progressive things (part time student stuff is very unexpected and very needed) and indeed I believe there is evidence to suggest English fees have increased equality university participation for poorer students compared to the Scottish system which is allegedly the same - I must find the cite for that though. But there is still the issue of "burden of debt" even if you don't have to pay it off which I feel has not been resolved adequately.
doug: (Default)

[personal profile] doug 2010-11-25 06:44 am (UTC)(link)
The "study our proposals before protesting" thing is extra annoying since the details are not available. Even the headline points have proven misleading.

And he did the "well if you look closely, squint a bit, it's like a graduate tax innit?" which is ... very wrong. There is a specific claim one could make around the likely overall lifetime financial contribution by some students given some assumptions, which may or may not be true (depending on what the scheme actually does) but (a) it misses the point that the psychological impact is quite different, and (b) he didn't make that specific narrow claim, it was a fuzzier, broader one that is simply Wrong.

I had a lot of respect for him in making a decent fist of a bad situation after the election but I have shifted to contempt.
nanaya: Sarah Haskins as Rosie The Riveter, from Mother Jones (Default)

[personal profile] nanaya 2010-11-25 08:47 pm (UTC)(link)
I do find it frustrating how Labour - who, in their 13 years of majority rule, caused a lot of the current mess by introducing up-front tuition fees and the 50% target - got off relatively lightly, both at the time and now. But the fact that they were let off doesn't mean I think we Lib Dems should be, so I'm not inclined to press the point.

*Very* much my feeling on the subject, yes, although it's slightly more complicated by the shifting cast of individuals over the last decade and a half, but basically yes.

In fact, yes to the whole comment. I was having an interesting conversation about experiences of attitudes to money in poorer circles, and your 2nd paragraph certainly sums up a few of those ideas quite well.