I’ve read, seen and digested the views and opinions of students, politicians, parents and commentators on the new tuition fees proposal. After much deliberation I believe that the Liberal Democrats who are Ministers should vote for the new tuition fees, those outside the Government can vote as they wish, but preferably for or abstain.
The reason why is what we’ve agreed on in the Coalition Agreement. The argument that we’re breaking promises, principles etc. was lost when tuition fees was not negotiated as a red line during the 5 days after 6th May.
All the MPs who are getting hot under the collar now had a chance to state that tuition fees had to be non-negotiable at the time of the coalition talks. They didn’t, if they did they didn’t complain hard enough to our team of negotiators.
We, as members, had a chance to reject the Coalition Agreement if we felt that tuition fees were that big an issue. We didn’t. Some members like Linda Jack and David Rendell did voice their concerns and voted against, I admire them for that.
It was obvious to all that once tuition fees was dependent on the Browne review a rise would happen, to claim otherwise is naivety at best, downright wishful thinking at worst. Our role then is to get as best a deal as we can, to make it as progressive as possible.
We have done that, the proposals mean no fees up front, payments starting at £21k, 30% of future students will actually be paying less for their Higher Education than under the current system. A graduate tax is virtually the same proposal except there is no cap or guarantee that the money will only be spent on Higher Education.
If we want to be a party of protest, snipe from the sidelines and see none of our policies implemented then we can go back to that, but I want to see Liberal Democrat policies implemented and you can only do that in government. We are now in Government, we must govern.