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Sunday, 23 November 2014

Tuition Fees: A Tale of Two Pledges

The above image may remind you of someone. Google search Nick Clegg tuition fee pledge 2010 and a similar image may appear. Well when I say similar, there are a few noticeable differences. Nick looks rather happy and smiley while I'm striking a rather serious look. His pledge sheet is nicely word processed where as mine is home made.  Yet on the whole the images are similar and you may be thinking that this extends to their intent as well. Both Nick Clegg and I belong to neither of the main  two political parties. We are both fully aware that there is slim chance that either the Lib Dems or the Greens will form a majority government on our own following the next election but there is a chance that we may help to form a coalition government in a hung parliament scenario. However this is where the similarities end. In 2010 Mr Clegg knew full well that he would not be able to deliver the above pledge as leader of a majority Lib Dem government. Yet he and his party still trot this out as their excuse for not keeping their promise ie that they 'surprisingly' didn't win the election. About as surprising as Autumn following Summer.
Mr Clegg could have insisted on the keeping of his pledge as part of the coalition negotiations and deal. He didn't and it was dropped at the first hurdle. His much parodied apology was for making the pledge in the first place and not for dropping it. The simple truth is that the Lib Dems were only ever half-heartedly against tuition fee rises in the first place and only then in order to gain the student vote. The Conservatives and Labour will simply increase the fees whenever they feel like it, that much is clear.
However the Green Party can be relied on to oppose tuition fees regardless of circumstances. On a personal level I will never break the above pledge. This is because tuition fees add to long term inequality. A student who goes to a fee-paying school is likely to have his/her fees paid upfront by their parents, given that they are lower per year than the school fees in many private sector schools. They will emerge from university with no debt. Yet a state school student whose parents cannot afford to pay the fees up front will emerge with £27.000 fee debt as well as living cost student loans debt on top. Later in life when the latter student is hit with loan repayments with added interest (in other words a massive stealth tax), the former student pays nothing.
Therefore I will never vote for for the keeping of or the extension of the fee system.

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