Tuition Fees, Compromises and Crossing the Line

Last time I posted on this site, it was in support of the coalition. Let me make it clear that I still do support the coalition. I understand that coalition means compromise, and I have swallowed many already.

Last weekend, at regional conference, I proposed the following motion submitted by my local party:

Conference notes that:

I)Liberal Democrat ministers in Government have taken the decision to promote increased tuition fees for students
in Higher Education.

II)On 13th October 2010 the Federal Policy committee issued a statement confirming that Liberal Democrat policy
remains to phase out tuition fees. A policy that was included in the 2010 election manifesto and the amended motion
passed at the special conference in Birmingham on 16th May 2010.

III)The prospect of increasing student debt acts as a disincentive, particularly among prospective students from
poorer households, to those students engaging in degree level courses.

IV)Many Liberal Democrat candidates who are now Members of Parliament signed the National Union Of Students ‘Vote
for Students’ pledge which stated “I pledge to vote against any increase in fees in the next parliament and to
pressure the government to introduce a fairer alternative”

Conference calls on Liberal Democrat Members of Parliament to:

I)Honour the pledge they made before the election and vote against any increase in Tuition fees.

II)Work with our coalition partners and others to introduce a fairer alternative.

Like just about every candidate I know, and all of our current MP’s, I signed the NUS pledge. This means that for any of our MP’s to vote for a rise in the cap on tuition fees requires a 180 degree U turn on a specific firm pledge made to voters. One of the most depressing things we all hear when canvassing is ‘you’ll say anything to get elected, and then when you get in you’ll do what you like.’ If we dare vote in favour of an increased cap, it will be ruthlessly exploited by our opponents – and who can blame them.

I am all for compromise, but on this occasion we have no choice. We have to maintain our integrity, or else we have nothing. Sorry Mr Cameron, we can’t help you with this one – we all made a promise.