12 December, 2010


The Good
Firstly, I want to say well done to those Lib Dem MPs who stuck to their pledge and voted against the rise in tuition fees. This included Jenny Willott (Cardiff Central) who resigned as Chris Huhne's parliamentary aide, as well as the other two Welsh Lib Dems - Mark Williams (Ceredigion) and Roger Williams (Brecon & Radnorshire). Three of the MPs from the East voted against the rise - Bob Russell (Colchester), Julian Huppert (Cambridge) and Simon Wright (Norwich South) - though the later seemed to take a lot of persuading...
Three other brand new MPs opposed the fee rise - Ian Swales (Redcar), Mike Crockart (Edinburgh West) and Stephen Lloyd (Eastbourne). As did the Liberal Democrat Party President Tim Farron (Westmorland & Lonsdale) and former leaders Menzies Campbell (Fife North East) and Charles Kennedy (Ross, Skye & Lochaber).
The other 9 who kept their promise were Annette Brooke (Dorset Mid & Poole North), Andrew George (St Ives), Mike Hancock (Portsmouth South), John Leech (Manchester Withington), Greg Mulholland (Leeds North West), John Pugh (Southport), Alan Reid (Argyle & Bute), Dan Rogerson (Cornwall North) and Adrian Sanders (Torbay). Martin Horwood (Cheltenham) was also intending to vote against the government, but was at the climate change conference.

Those on the Fence
Excluding the two at the climate conference, there were 6 Lib Dems abstaining: Lorely Burt (Solihull), Simon Hughes(Bermondsey), Tessa Munt (Wells) - one of the new MPs, Robert Smith (Aberdeenshire West & Kircadine), John Thurso (Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross) and Stephen Williams (Bristol West). All six represent a pledge broken, and I can no longer support them.

The Betrayers

Then there are the 28 who voted to increase tuition fees to up to £9,000. If I'd have gone to university paying fees of £9,000 - as would be likely, because I'm studying a humanities degree - I would have left university with a debt of just under £40,000. That's almost double my predicted debt of £21,000! I can't see how it saves any money at all... I'm certain I will never pay off my £21k before it's written off, let alone double that (which would average out at £1,333 a year for 30 years). But this is about more than just tuition fees, this is about TRUST!
Here, I will detail those in the Liberal Democrats who have betrayed their voters, students, and their party.
The Cabinet
Nick Clegg - Deputy PM (Sheffield Hallam); 
Vince Cable - Business Secretary, (Twickenham); 
Danny Alexander - Chief Sec. to the Treasury (Inverness, Nairn, Badenock, Strathspey);
Chris Huhne (absent at Climate Conference, but intending to vote with govt.) - Energy & Climate Change Sec. (Eastleigh); 
Michael Moore - Scottish Sec. (Berwickshire, Roxburgh & Selkirk).

The Ministers
Norman Lamb - Chief Parliamentary and Political Adviser to the Deputy PM (North Norfolk);
Nick Harvey - Minister of State for the Armed Forces (Devon North);
Jeremy Browne - Foreign Office Minister (Taunton Deane);
Lynne Featherstone - Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Equalities (Hornsey & Wood Green);
Ed Davey - Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Employment Relations, Consumer and Postal Affairs ( Kingston & Surbiton);
Sarah Teather - Minister of State for Children and Families (Brent Central);
Paul Burstow - Minister of State for Care Services (Sutton & Cheam);
Steve Webb - Minister of State for Pensions (Thornbury & Yate);
Andrew Stunell - Parliamentary Under-Secretaries of State for Community Cohesion (Hazel Grove);
Norman Baker - Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Regional and Local Transport (Lewes);
David Heath - Deputy Leader of the House of Commons (Somerton & Frome);
Alistair Carmichael - Liberal Democrat Chief Whip (Orkney & Shetland);
Mark Hunter - Assistant Whip (Cheadle).

Worse than this, there were 11 Lib Dem MPs without paid ministerial positions who broke their pledge and voted to increase tuition fees - four of these were brand new MPs:
Gordon Birtwistle (Burnley);
Stephen Gilbert (St Austell & Newquay);
Duncan Hames (Chippenham);
David Ward (Bradford East).
The others were:
Alan Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed);
Tom Brake (Carshalton & Wallington);
Malcolm Bruce (Gordon);
Don Foster (Bath);
David Laws - former Chief Sec. to the Treasury (Yeovil);
Jo Swinson (Dunbartonshire East);
John Hemming (Birmingham Yardley).

These 28 people no longer speak for me, for the Liberal Democrats, or the UK's students.

I call for all those who broke their pledge to stand down at the next parliament.
As that seems unlikely, I call on local parties to deselect those who have betrayed the party and instead stand candidates who are honest and stick to their pledges unconditionally.

07 December, 2010

Ahead of the vote on tuition fees

So on Thursday 9th, we have the House of Commons vote on Higher Education, which is now focused more than anything else on whether to increase tuition fees or not.

I think it's unlikely that Greg Mulholland's attempt to have the vote on tuition fees delayed will be successful, and this will leave Lib Dems with a choice. They can support the rise in tuition fees, they can oppose rise, or they can abstain.

The numbers suggest that the motion need not be passed, if enough Lib Dems vote against. Contrary to what has been said by Paddy Ashdown and others in the media, tuition fees was flagged up as an issue by the Liberal Democrat special conference in May 2010 - which I attended - where conference passed this motion, submitted by Liberal Youth:
"Conference notes that many Liberal Democrat MPs signed the NUS ‘vote for students’ pledge against any real-terms rise in the tuition fee cap. Conference calls upon Liberal Democrat ministers and MPs to ensure that on any decision made on Lord Browne’s report on higher education funding, they above all else take into account the impact on student debt. Conference affirms the Liberal Democrat objective of scrapping tuition fees."

This issue is more than simply about tuition fees; it's about trust and about restoring trust in politics. All of the Lib Dem MPs, plus 92 Labour MPs and 3 Tory MPs signed the NUS pledge (see Matt King's blog for full details). These MPs went further than simply making a manifesto commitment, to personally pledge to vote against any rise in tuition fees. No ifs, no buts.

It seems pretty clear that those 92 Labour MPs will stick to their pledge, and media interest is - quite rightly - on whether the Liberal Democrats will stick to their individual promises; or whether they are just like any other party, saying one thing in opposition, and doing quite another in government.

As a Liberal Democrat activist, I can safely say - wait - pledge, that I will not support or campaign for any MP who does not vote against the rise in tuition fees. Further to this, I will push for the de-selection of Lib Dem MPs if they vote for the rise in tuition fees, and would consider campaigning against them if they chose to stand in future elections as Liberal Democrats.

We are a party that hold honesty and transparency in the highest regard, and when our MPs make a pledge, they should damn well stick to it. If they don't then they're certainly not sitting in parliament in my name.

10 November, 2010

Tuition Fees Protests

So today saw 50,000 students marching through the streets of London at the proposed rise in tuition fees to £6,000 and £9,000. If you were to switch on the news, you'd probably get the impression that this was a mob of rabid students tearing through the capital destroying everything in sight, but thankfully it looks like the majority of the protest was carried out peacefully. The Police sensibly showing restrain for once, but probably underestimating the number of officers needed.

Protesters outside Conservative Party HQ - AP
The breaking into Tory HQ wasn't good, but I was surprised how quickly Aaron Porter (NUS President) and others condemned it. Well not so much surprised - I mean their number one concern is their own reputation, it would seem - but if there had been no word from NUS straight away about the violence, I can't help but feel it would have sent a stronger message to the government. Perhaps a feeling of "crap... this is only going to get worse..." Instead, the 'anarchists' and 'Trotskyites' have been blamed and NUS shuffles off into the corner looking embarrassed at a peaceful protest gone wrong.

I'm certainly no fan of violence and it's a big shame that those on both sides were injured (3 police and 6 protesters, is the latest), but it had happened, and surely it's better to play that to your advantage to shock the government and to get a message across? The breaking of a few windows and desks are a tiny dent in the pocket of the Conservative Party in comparison to the damage of saddling a whole generation of new students with millions of pounds of debt every year...

02 November, 2010

German University - Seminars Begin!

Today we had our first full and proper politics seminar in TU Darmstadt. The module is taught in English and entitled "Early Visions of Global Governance", which is mostly centred around pre-WWII idealist thought. Naturally, you can't study idealism from this period without focusing heavily on thinkers/theorists in the UK and mentioning the International Politics department at Aberystwyth University.

The seminar today was on (classic) Realism, and the ways in which theorists such as EH Carr dismissed, or argued against, the idealism which came directly before them.

Our reading for the seminar was Carr and Herz - the latter with whom I can't say I was familiar before now - but relatively easy, as I guess you would expect with the only English-language module taught in a German-language political science department.

One thing which I noticed today is the knowledge the students in our class have about the subject. It's not that they don't know what they're talking about - they know a great deal, and doubtless more than me! - but they seem to take a different approach to dealing with the subject than I had done whilst studying IR theories and Realism in Aberystwyth.

We (myself and Abi) have chosen to do our presentation on the Welsh Liberal David Davies (1880-1944, MP for Montgomeryshire 1906-1929) who was an important idealist, an active supporter of the League of Nations, and who funded the creation of the Chair of International Politics in Abersytwyth.

On Thursday, we launch into our seminar on Parties and Party Systems, and Friday we begin Local Politics in Germany. These are two topics I've not really covered before, or at least not since A-level Gov & Pol, and certainly nothing like the EU Politics, 20th Century Propaganda and Studying Hamas modules which I took in Aber over the past year.

But with today's seminar, one thing's for sure: it's certainly nice to be speaking in my native tongue and dealing with subject matter I can understand and have a grounding in!

30 October, 2010

A return to blogging

I've finally decided to return to the world of blogging. Sometimes you just feel like you have a lot to say, but no-one to say it to, so writing at a computer screen sounds like the perfect answer.

Expect blogs on German and UK politics, as well as any random musings which I feel I must write.

08 January, 2009

Gaza Crisis

I have been closely following the situation in Palestine since the end of the ceasefire on Boxing Day.

The force used by Israel has, in my opinion been completely disproportionate to the threat. They have killed over 600 innocent and defenceless Palestinian civilians, compared to the 9 Israelis killed. The bombing of UN-run schools sheltering refugees, and of other civilian targets including Mosques in unacceptable.

Today, the Red Cross (Red Crescent in Palestine) have accused Israel of failing to fulfil its obligation to help wounded civilians in Gaza. Pierre Wettach - head of the ICRC in Israel & Palestine claimed Israel's military "must have been aware of the situation but did not assist the wounded - neither did they make it possible for us or the Palestinian Red Crescent to assist the wounded." According to the BBC "One medical team found 12 bodies in a shelled house, and alongside them four very young children, too weak to stand, waiting by their dead mothers."

Someone I know is out in Gaza helping medics deal with the situation. Yesterday, one of the medics she had been working with was shot by an Israeli sniper and is now in hospital. Her blog can be found here.

I really hope the Franco-Egyptian Ceasefire Proposal can be accepted quickly and we can get back to finding the solution for everlasting peace in the region, which Israel and Hamas seem so intent on evading.