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.

1 comment:

Mark Cole said...

Good, stirring stuff Linden! :-)