subtitle

...a blog by Richard Flowers

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Day 3621: Is it Time to Recall… Aaron Porter?

Tuesday:


The Coalition proposes that new graduates pay an amount every month proportional to their ability to pay, with additional help for the lowest earners, repayments to be capped at either thirty years or a maximum total payment ("paying off the loan").

The NUS proposes that graduates pay an amount every month proportional to their ability to pay, with additional help for the lowest earners, repayments to be capped at either twenty-five years or a maximum total payment ("for fairness").

So can ANYONE explain to me why the NUS' proposals are fair and reasonable but the Coalition's are wickedness incarnate?


Today, Captain Clegg has written to the Leader of the National Union of Students, Mr Harry Porter, to ask him to stop gathering elves and pixies and warlocks to march on Hogwarts Cowley Street and instead really consider the actual proposals.

So consider the actual proposals is what I did.

Mr Porter has been getting a lot of facetime in the media recently, leading demonstrations against the government's tuition fees proposals, condemning the Liberal Democrats for breaking their pledges and generally being "the chosen one".

But has anyone told the people marching behind him that his own proposals are FUNCTIONALLY IDENTICAL to the Coalition's?

A quick comparison:

Graduates earning less than £15,000 would pay nothing under EITHER scheme.

Graduates earning between £15,000 and £21,000 would pay MORE under the NUS scheme: yes, that's right MORE under the NUS scheme. Graduates on £15,000 to £21,000 would pay 0.3% of their earnings under the graduate tax and nothing under the coalition's proposals.

Graduates earning over £40,000 would pay LESS under the NUS scheme. Yes, again, it's not the way around you would expect. Top earners would only pay 2.5% under the NUS's tax proposals but would pay 9% under the government's loan and repayment scheme.

Now, I may be being THICK here, but the NUS appears to be proposing a system that is much more generous to the RICH than to the less well off.

Isn't that just a little bit… dishonest?


But how does Mr Porter manage to magic up enough money from the scheme, given that the better off will pay so much less? Ah, well he thinks that he has discovered a cauldron of free money.

You see, the NUS scheme will apply to ALL graduates, not just people starting new degrees in 2012. That's what they call "retroactive taxation", or changing the rules after people have already made their choices. After all, it's not like you can give your university degree BACK. Oh, but they've "had the benefit" of further education, says Harry Porter, it's only FAIR that they pay up now.

Well is it fair? The deal for those people was, surely, they would get an education paid by other taxpayers, and then they would pay their taxes to fund their children's education (not to mention their parent's pensions and their own health service and so on). Haven't they kept their side of the bargain? Isn't this just a sly tax increase on a lot of people who don't actually earn all that much extra for their time at university, a lot of nurses and teachers and, well, university lecturers?

Isn't that just a little bit… dishonest?


Then there's the time horizon. By which I mean, what happens as time goes on and your pool of graduates who didn't pay for their degree at the time gets smaller and smaller. At them moment, say Peter wants to go to University. Peter is going to pay for his tuition from graduate taxes he pays in the future, but he won't need to put in as much because the pool will also be getting contributions from Peter's dad.

In the fullness of time, at most once they have their twenty-five years of tax-paying, the pool won’t be getting that "extra" income from Peter's dad. When it's time for Peter's kids to go to university, they'll have to pay their tuition fees from their own tax contributions just like their dad… but they WON'T benefit from any extra contributions from Pete himself, 'cos HE'S already paying for his own education.

Isn't this pushing costs onto the next generation… which is rather what the NUS accuse the Coalition of doing.

Isn't that just a little bit… dishonest?


Mr Porter is trying to get a head of steam behind the idea of taking the Liberal Democrat's own proposals for "right of recall" for dealing with corrupt MP's who break the law and using them to "recall" Liberal Democrats who signed the NUS pledge (and, one assumes, subsequently break that pledge).

(Never mind the STUPIDITY of a proposal that would open EVERY SINGLE Opposition MP – all of Hard Labour and that Green and the Scots and Welsh Nasties and all – open them ALL to recall for failing to implement THEIR manifestos. Oh yes it would. Since CLEARLY failure to achieve an overall majority is not an excuse for not fully implementing your manifesto.)

In the words of one Student Union president, Mr Joshua Forstenzer of Sheffield University (no doubt quoted for IRONIC reasons):
"If they flip-flop or do a U-turn on this issue, they are betraying the electorate. It is a fundamental democratic principle that we should be able to remove them."
I'm sure Mr Joshua will be calling for the removal from their Parliamentary seats of Mr Andy "crash and" Burnham, Hard Labour's education spokesperson, and Mr Ed "Bully" Balls, Hard Labour's former education spokesperson… and Mr Alan Johnson and Johnson, one time Hard Labour education minister… and Mr Blanket the Security Blunket one time Hard Labour education minister, all of whom stood on a manifesto promise to not introduce top-up fees and then voted to introduce top-up fees. Otherwise, of course, he'd be flip-flopping and U-turning HIMSELF!

I have to say, the FUNDAMENTAL democratic principle is that if you think your representative told you one thing and then did another then you will get a chance to throw them out in less than five years anyway. But perhaps you think that deceiving your electorate is SO heinous that you just HAVE to take a pop at them earlier.

But if DISHONESTY is your measure for facing a RECALL, then shouldn't the first person on the list be… well… Mr Harry Porter himself. For being just a little bit… dishonest.



I think that a university education ought to be available to everyone. But I think that it should only be taken up by people who are academically inclined. Other people should have other opportunities.

The system we have at the moment means that fewer than half of young people get their opportunity because all the effort goes into getting as many as possible squeezed into a university course that won't necessarily be any use to them.

If you're not going to provide those opportunities to the people who DON'T get to go to university, then your system IS transferring a benefit, money in fact (the cost of subsidy), from the unprivileged to the privileged.

I suppose in those terms it's kind of fair to ask graduates to bear some extra cost of their education rather than raising general tax and getting people who never went to university to pay for it. (Though as I say, I'd rather have a RANGE of opportunities so there's something for EVERYONE)

The NUS proposals recognise that. That's why THEIR system isn't so very different from the Coalition's. It just seems that they want to make things easier for themselves by squeezing people who are already pretty squeezed.

And it seems they want to BLAME the Liberal Democrats a system that Hard Labour commissioned, that the Conservatories support and that they agree with.

Only WE made the government proposals FAIRER than theirs.

Remind me: what have they got those students marching for again?

I cannot recall.
.

32 comments:

Michael said...

Remind me: what have they got those students marching for again?

Because your Parties MP's pledged to scrap tuition fees & now Lib dem hypocritical Ministers are going to vote for an increase, because that haven't got the balls to stand against Cameron (apart from one)& they sold their souls for power.

Millennium Dome said...

No, no, Mr Michael, that's HOW they got people marching – with rhetoric and hyperbole.

But if what they're marching FOR is a fairer deal, then what the Liberal Democrats got from the Coalition is the fairest deal on the table, and the NUS – and Labour leader Mr Potato Ed – are not being honest about their own position on "graduate tax".


Nobody "sold their soul" (well, unless it was Hard Labour selling out to Lord Blairimort); we made a COMPROMISE.

And we didn't do it for "power"; we did it for two-and-a-half billion pounds worth of pupil premium; for a tax cut for every basic rate tax payer (and no tax cut for dead millionaires); for a green deal and a green investment bank; and for the first real chance of political reform in fifty years, not just the AV referendum (that's the LEAST of it) but also an elected House of Lords, fixed term Parliaments and yes even right to recall. There were FOUR pledges on the front of our manifesto and, golly, we got all of them.

People who voted Liberal Democrat GOT WHAT THEY VOTED FOR.

And ON TOP of that we abolished I.D.iot cards, will end child detention, deferred renewing Trident, raised the banking levy and so on…

The Coalition is so full of WIN for Liberal values and policies it is no wonder that there's so much screaming and wailing from Labour's "blank sheets of paper" politicians and, let's face it, Labour wannabes in the NUS (Mr Porter stood as an "independent" but is a member of the Labour Party; isn't that a little bit… dishonest? Or as you might say hypocritical.)

Neil Monnery said...

Spot on.

Any idea that calls for 'retroactive taxation' is quite frankly idiocy and anyone who proposes that with a straight face should be laughed out of his or her position.

As for the 'right to recall' bit - that is what gets me the most. Things and circumstances change. When will people understand this?

He is a typical union leader - thinks he or she has far more power than they actually do and it goes to their heads.

Andy Hayden said...

@Michael Did you not read past the headline. (BTW you mean Party's MPs'.)

An excellent article, I really wish more people would argue about the *policy* and not about protest because the (Labour) NUS feel that the Lib Dems have hamstrung their party. Graduate tax sounds like a terrible idea, I can see why NUS want to silence any debate and want to continue with empty rhetoric.

I remember back to before the election, where Clegg was clear* that he would make a coalition with whomever had the most votes and seats, and that 4 core values would be at the helm of any negotiations. This statement stunted the Lib Dems election hopes (effectively further polarising the vote), but at least it was honest. Abolishing fees was not something the Lib Dems could accomplish without a majority, without one voting against *any* rise in fees (which probably comes with other decreases) would never be progressive, but a mistake.

*As clear as any politician can be.

Paul Walter said...

MD, Excellent reply to Michael above by the way.

I'm just guessing, but isn't the difference between the NUS and the Coalition proposal the proportion of fees to be paid by graduates versus the proportion to be paid via general taxation?

So yes, the NUS proposal is bonkers but they intend to pay (I'm picking a number out of the air) 30% of the tuition fees by it.

Whereas the coalition government proposal might be fairer in itself, but it is intended for the graduates to pay 80% of the tuition fees.

So if you have two options:

1. Have £30 paid for in a rather unfair way

versus

2. Have £80 paid in a fair way

...Then number 1 tends to win because it is far less of a burden on the graduate.

Is that not the case?

Abdul said...

This Makes sense, but is the NUSs gripe that they oppose the rise- not the method?

Martin said...

Well this is all very true, if you accept the premises that:

1) Universities need more funding to keep growing and 'competing' (as if being up with Harvard matters a bit to any 17yo in the UK)

2) Of all the stakeholders (students, business, society at large), it's only the students who can't simply say 'bugger off' with no consequence when asked for a significant increase in their contribution.

Stupidly, the NUS have entirely acquiesced to both of these.

Regarding first, what students want themselves is the maintenance of the present funding deal (and in the 90s, we fought for the previous regime of grants), and don't see that this requires maintenance of the present scale of what that's funding.

Regarding the second, where are the NUS voices pointing out that higher education doesn't just benefit the students themselves? Funding hihger education from the general populace doesn't simply transfer benefit from poor to middle class. It provides the training engine for every service in society - from health to satellite TV - and the vast majority of the job creation.

Once you give up both of those, then you've got nowhere else to go than something very like the Govt or NUS proposals. The NUS has mirrored the Labour Party for a long time. In this - as with so much else - both NUS and Labour have utterly failed to provide an alternative political analysis that goes beyond simple managerialism.

Lee Griffin said...

Re: Retroactive taxation. You can tax only graduates that earn over a certain amount, regardless of when they graduated and this is supposedly an immoral way of pinning people in to taxes they didn't chose.

But change the paradigm VERY slightly and tax everyone (graduate or not) another 1p who earns over a certain limit (like a higher threshold maybe) and this is morally perfectly fine?

Obviously the latter is more workable anyway, but I find the calls of retrospective taxation on a certain portion of the population that are earning comfortably over the average wage in the country is a little bit too much of a "rah" argument for me.

I think I better write out the rest of my thoughts in a blog post as they're getting a bit long for this comment.

The TL;DR is that the Lib Dems and Tories here have done nothing to save money in real terms, and perhaps that's why the Lib Dems can sit behind this...they know how reversible this policy is in reality, but what they have done is make a system inherently more unfair to a specific set of people. And it doesn't matter how much more fair it's made for others, you can't negate unfairness in one area with increased fairness in another.

Andy Hayden said...

@PaulWalter Picking numbers like that - out of thin air - probably isn't helpful. The issue is that the fairness, from your question, in itself is fairly subjective: it depends which graduate you ask.

As a low earner (less than £21k) you would feel it was much fairer that you had to pay nothing under the proposed system.

As a high earner you would feel it was unfair that you would have to pay more under the proposed system.

Of course, this is the problem with all tax systems: high-earners would do better from a flat rate, but (we can all agree) it's much better to have a sliding scale (taxing low-earners less).

@Martin You're exactly right, Labour need to join the discussion... asap. Currently it looks like it's going to pass them by.

DW said...

Hi Fluffy,

I think they are marching because what we are suggesting is going to become LAW!

What the NUS is suggesting isn't.

I personally hate both ideas.

You said "The deal for those people was, surely, they would get an education paid by other taxpayers, and then they would pay their taxes to fund their children's education

Exactly why the costs should go onto the higher rate tax bands.

The students are protesting about what is about to happen! They want all the politicians to go away and come back with a better solution.

Two wrongs do not make a right.

"My ideas not worse than yours" is not a solution

Millennium Dome said...

So many comments, so little time to reply!

Let me give it a go. Sorry if I miss you; thank you to the people being supportive, it is much appreciated.

Millennium Dome said...

Dear Mr Abdul

"is the NUSs gripe that they oppose the rise- not the method?"

I suspect that the STUDENTS (as distinct from the NUS) are marching because they are against fees ALTOGETHER.

The NUS, however, appear to accept the need to raise additional funding from graduates

Their graduate tax proposal, I estimate (because I can’t find what actual bands they are proposing) might raise a figure something like 2.5% of your salary above £15,000 for 25 years – say that's about the national average salary of £25,000, then you get 25 x 2.5% x £10,000 is a total of £6,250. Interest and inflation factors mean that the real present value of that would be less than a £6,000 fees loan, but it's in the same ball park.

So all it appears to be is that they want a different NAME for almost the same sort of payments. Which is IRONIC given that Mr Porter has been quoted as saying the Government cannot "rebrand" the fees system as an effective graduate tax.

Millennium Dome said...

Dear Mr Martin,

I think you have a fair point that by buying into Hard Labour's line, the NUS have essentially boxed themselves into having to support either the tuitions fees or tuitions fees by another name – and have chosen the latter to engineer an artificial distinction between themselves and the government.

I think I have to disagree that students would want to KEEP the CURRENT system. Most people who look at it realise that they would pay LESS each month under the Government's proposals. As I say, students are almost certainly marching to have fees abolished altogether – that's not an unfair position, and it's one that the Liberal Democrats support and promised to try and implement.

Also, you suggest that one of the false premises is that "Universities need more funding to keep growing and 'competing' "

I think it's wrong to conflate "growing" with "competing". Universities are growing because the last Government saddled them with a target of getting 50% of young people through their doors by any means they could. I agree that that is FLAWED.

But what do you mean by "competing"? It is maintaining world class standards and reputations? Because I do NOT think that we should be allowing standards to slip.

Millennium Dome said...

Dear Mr Lee

"it doesn't matter how much more fair it's made for others, you can't negate unfairness in one area with increased fairness in another"

Semantically, is it POSSIBLE for a system to be fair for some people and unfair for others? Surely not. If it's unfair for some, it's unfair. But if ALL available systems are unfair to someone (and hence unfair) shouldn't you try to MINIMISE the unfairness?

But I do accept your broader point that taxing people on the benefit they CURRENTLY receive is NOT unfair.

(And that the "retrospective"-ness of this may be over-egged in some quarters)

I think we both end up at the conclusion that income tax (possibly the higher rate band) is a better place to tax this benefit.

It's just unfortunate that that option WASN'T on the table.

Millennium Dome said...

Dear Mr DW,

""My ideas not worse than yours" is not a solution"

I did not say that it was; I said that it was a little dishonest of the NUS to suggest that THEIR solution was not worse than the Governments, when in fact it has all the same features and if anything looks LESS progressive.

I can't agree that the difference between the NUS position and the Lib Dems is that we are making the law and they aren't. Surely the POINT of their campaign is that they want THEIR suggestion to be the law instead of ours.

(A CYNICAL voice suggests the POINT is to get Mr Porter on telly and hence into a safe Labour seat, but let's ignore that, shall we.)

It's just that the NUS campaign is: "do this thing that is very like the thing that you are doing but has a different name".

I don't think that students actually are marching in support of THAT.

I think that the students are marching because they do not want to pay fees AT ALL.

And that's not an unfair position to take. If I happened to have between twelve and eighteen billion pounds (two million students at six to nine grand a year) about my fluffy person I should be happy to have no one pay any fees.

But that's the problem. I DON'T have twelve billion pounds, and neither does the Government.

To pay for tuition fees – to pay for ANYTHING, really – the Government only has three options: raise taxes, borrow from the money markets, cut something else. Beg borrow or steal.

Raising more tax damages the economy, it takes money out that Government spending inadequately returns;

Borrowing money is what got us into all this trouble in the first place.

If we are to cut, then cut what?

I'm not offering alternative solutions here. The Liberal Democrats HAD a plan to abolish tuition fees paid for by tax rises and spending cuts, but the Conservatories vetoed it, so we're left trying to make the LEAST WORST tuition fees system.

And I just want to point out that the NUS's alternative is ACTUALLY almost exactly THE SAME, and has all the same flaws and failings under a different name.

DW said...

Hi Fluffy,

"Its liberal democrate policy to remove tuition fees" And we do this by voting to raise the fee's?

I can just hear the coallition discussion. We need to make some cuts. I know lets hit the people who have no political voice, lets hit those who have no vote, Lets hit those for whome it is illegal to protest. Lets punish the next generation for this gernerations excess. (My young son was told by his teacher that if he joined a protest, he would be classed as truant,he would be breaking the law and his parents could be fined.) We need to remember the students marching are not protesting for no fees. They are already paying. The are protesting to protect the next generation who have no voice.
Attack the NUS as you wish. But do not attach the students to them. Just as most liberal democrats do not wish to be attached to this Government.

Paul Walter said...

@Andy Hayden - I only quoted those figures for illustration. I suppose I could have put x and y in instead. But the question remains:

What proportion of funding by:

a) the general public's taxes

versus

b) Graduates paying taxes or fees or loans

do the NUS proposals suggest to fund University tuition?

The government's proposals are, I understand, 80% of b). If the NUS are proposing less than 80% of b) then it could well be that their proposals are siginificantly less onerous on graduates and therefore the main point being made by MD (i.e that the NUS and the government proposals are virtually the same in terms of fairness) would not be valid.

Millennium Dome said...

Dear Mr DW

Hello again!

""Its liberal democrate policy to remove tuition fees" And we do this by voting to raise the fee's?"

No, I said it is LIBERAL DEMOCRAT policy, not COALITION policy. The Coalition's policies are made up of a whole load of compromises between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatories. We got a LOT of Liberal Democrat policies into the agreement – I listed a few of them above – but we didn't get this.

We have to vote for some things we DON'T want because in return the Conservatories vote for things that THEY don't want.

One of our compromises, in return for a load of other stuff, was that we wouldn't oppose Conservatory policy to accept the outcome of the (Hard Labour commissioned) Browne review into funding.

Even so, Mr Dr Vince has worked VERY HARD to make the policy that came out of the review MORE FAIR: with lots more help for the least well off many more people will get their fees paid for them, and with the higher threshold every single person who has to pay back will be paying back LESS than under Hard Labour.

Is that as good as abolishing them like we promised? No, of fluffing course not. Is it better than what you would have got from the Conservatories without us? Or quite frankly what you would have got from Hard Labour who, I say again, COMMISSIONED BROWNE in the FIRST PLACE? Bet your life!

And even so (again!), President Tim Farronheit and others have said that they WILL vote against like they pledged to, and Mr Dr Vince may abstain no matter how silly it makes him look if that's what the Party agrees.

And you know what? The darned policy will STILL pass, and we will STILL get the blame and it will STILL be better than it would have been without us.

"I can just hear the coallition discussion."

Well, if you are hearing voices you MAY want to see your doctor.

Is that a flippant answer? Yes, it is, but only because you are making up a RIDICULOUS scenario and ascribing EVIL motives to politicians as though they behave like JAMES BOND VILLAINS.

(And as it happens we DON'T believe that the Deputy Prime Minister can personally micro-manage every classroom in the country which makes it even more absurd to hold Nick Clegg responsible for the actions of every bullying teacher. And if your son was told he'd be breaking the law, then that was a law that HARD LABOUR brought in, not us!)


"Attack the NUS as you wish. But do not attach the students to them."

As this has actually been my position all along, I'm glad you're finally getting there.

Seriously, the ENTIRE point of this piece is that the NUS claim to represent the students wishes is BOGUS; and any students who believe that the NUS campaign is for an outcome in any meaningful way different to the Coalition's policy are mistaken or misled.

And actually, most Liberal Democrats DO want to be attached to this government, because, contrary to what is often said, we would rather be DOING SOMETHING to make bad things a bit better than sitting on the sidelines being PIOUS and POINTLESS.

Millennium Dome said...

Dear Mr Paul,

Just to CLARIFY: the METHOD of the NUS proposals is very similar to the Coalition proposals; the actual numbers involved produce different outcomes for pretty much the reason that you are identifying – the NUS scheme involves taxing MORE people than just the graduates for whom the loan/graduate tax pays the tuition fees.

Most graduate will pay MORE under the Coalition scheme:

I estimate the NUS would have someone earning £25,000 pay £20.83 per month for twenty-five years making a total of £6,250.

The Coalition scheme has the same person pay £30 a month for thirty years (and then the balance of the loan is written off), a total of £10,800.

Ironically, though, the NUS scheme benefits the better off the most; and some lower earners would actually pay under the NUS's proposals where they would pay nothing under the Coalition's.

My POINT is that this is down to the numbers; the NUS are making out that it is some huge point of principle, but really the actual mechanics are the same.

Or to quote the old fable about Monsieur Toulouse Lautrec and the duchess:

"Madam, we've ESTABLISHED what sort of a lady you are; now we are merely HAGGLING over the price."

DW said...

Hi Fluffy,

You call me Pious and pointless, I would say I am an idealist ( A term I know is now used as one of derision).
I am a father who is trying to protect his children.

Let me explain my situation :-

My son is 15 so far a straight “A” student.
His dream was to go to Cambridge. He would be the first from both my or my wife’s family to go to university. (I left school with 4 CSE’s)
He came to me last week and said he didn’t think he would go to University.
I explained to him that a degree would give him choices and opportunities in life. Choices that I never had. I told him not to worry about the fees.

He then said “ With all due respect Dad, I have done the sums, and anyway it will be my debt not yours.”

I cried that night! I feel I have betrayed my son.

I could spend my time picking through your comments and arguing the toss about integrity and pledges but that would be useless because you are a pragmatist and life for you is about compromise and making the best of a bad job. Just remember those decisions are effecting our children’s future.

Millennium Dome said...

Dear Mr DW

"You call me Pious and pointless"

I ABSOLUTELY never did!

Please, read it again! I said that the LIBERAL DEMOCRATS had a CHOICE; either to get down and dirty and join the Coalition OR to sit on our hands, polishing our reputations. That pious and pointless accusation is one that is thrown at the Party a LOT, often in the form of: "of course the Lib Dems can say anything; they'll never be in power". I said we as Lib Dems REJECTED the accusation, and proved it by our actions.

But it was never about YOU.


Please, please encourage your son to look at his sums again.

In the first place, there is going to be MORE help for the least well off. That may not apply to your circumstances, but it's worth looking at.

In the second place, it will cost NOTHING up front. You won’t have to find ANY money in order to pay university fees, AND there will be more help for maintenance while you are there. You won’t pay a penny after you've graduated, either, until you are earning £21,000 and then you will only pay 9% of what you earn OVER £21,000. (That's £30 a month if you earn the national average of £25,000; it gets steeper the more you earn, but only in proportion to your ability to pay). The debt WON'T count against your credit rating, so it won't stop you getting a mortgage or a loan.

There IS a real betrayal of your son's future here, but it's NOT by you and it's NOT by us; it was by those people who first blew all the nation's money and are NOW for their own political reasons deceiving you that the Coalition policy is a Sisyphean burden but that their own graduate tax proposals are fair and affordable.

I'm not going to pretend that these graduate loans are a lovely option, but it's a lot less horrible and a lot more affordable than the scary stories of Hard Labour and their NUS wannabes are putting out.

You should NEVER give up on a DREAM just because of MONEY.

Paul Walter said...

MD - many thanks for that very clear response. Love the quote!

Paul Leake said...

"(Never mind the STUPIDITY of a proposal that would open EVERY SINGLE Opposition MP – all of Hard Labour and that Green and the Scots and Welsh Nasties and all – open them ALL to recall for failing to implement THEIR manifestos. Oh yes it would. Since CLEARLY failure to achieve an overall majority is not an excuse for not fully implementing your manifesto.)"

This lets down a lot of very sensible analysis. The thing that seems to be getting people wound up are all the Lib Dem candidates who signed the NUS pledge as candidates saying they would vote against rises in fees. It clearly wasn't the sort of pledge you'd make as a LibDem if it was conditional on being in majority government - the LibDems after all were committed to scrapping fees. Every single Lib Dem candidate told their constituents that if elected to Parliament that they would oppose higher fees. Now those that were successful have to square that with the coalition's mixed bag of proposals.

Paul Leake said...

"(Never mind the STUPIDITY of a proposal that would open EVERY SINGLE Opposition MP – all of Hard Labour and that Green and the Scots and Welsh Nasties and all – open them ALL to recall for failing to implement THEIR manifestos. Oh yes it would. Since CLEARLY failure to achieve an overall majority is not an excuse for not fully implementing your manifesto.)"

This lets down a lot of very sensible analysis. The thing that seems to be getting people wound up are all the Lib Dem candidates who signed the NUS pledge as candidates saying they would vote against rises in fees. It clearly wasn't the sort of pledge you'd make as a LibDem if it was conditional on being in majority government - the LibDems after all were committed to scrapping fees. Every single Lib Dem candidate told their constituents that if elected to Parliament that they would oppose higher fees. Now those that were successful have to square that with the coalition's mixed bag of proposals.

oneexwidow said...

Just another word of support - an excellant post!

DW said...

Hi spoke to my son as requested,

He gave me this example to quote.

You go to buy a car. The saleman says we are offering two methods of payment. Method 1 you take a loan out for 10K. Pay back X amount until you have paid back 10K interest free.

Or you can take a loan out for 30K pay slighlty less back each month but get charged 3% interest each year for 30 years or until you have paid it off. Oh and by the way you can't pay it back early.

Which deal do you want?

Millennium Dome said...

Dear Mr DW,

Thank you for commenting again, and thank you for talking to your son again.


It's a nice analogy, but there are two problems with it.

(And can I just say the payback rate is not "slightly" less; it's £540 a year less, and that's not exactly to be sniffed at. But that's being picky so it's not one of my problems.)

No, firstly, the problem is you're not buying the SAME car.

You can EITHER have a clapped out banger for £10,000 OR you can have a new car that works for £30,000.

Because that's the problem with the existing scheme: it doesn't raise enough money to pay for the existing universities.

If you want the swanky up-to-date university education, then you have to get the extra twenty grand from somewhere else.

Labour ACKNOWLEDGED this; that's why THEY (with the Conservatories) set up the Browne commission in the first place to raise more money from students once they've graduated. The NUS ACKNOWLEDGE it too, hence their own graduate tax proposal, to raise more money from students once they've graduated.

You're going to say: "ah, but the last government WAS getting money "from somewhere else"; the Coalition is cutting the public contribution, so how's that fair?"

But the killer fact is the previous government was BORROWING the money in your name anyway. Yup, that's right, you got saddled with a huge student debt whether you went to university or not. And you WILL be paying back their debt for years out of your taxes.

So it's not like you wouldn't end up with thirty grand of student debt; it's just a bit more honest and obvious to tell you up front.


But secondly, and it's the bigger problem, the salesman's NOT offering you the choice of option one. It's just not on the table. Not from the Coalition, not from the Labour Party, not from the NUS.

I'm SORRY that there was what LOOKED like a better offer from the car dealer last year (with the caveat that the shorter repayment terms were covered by the much higher service charges – i.e. smaller loan but long term higher taxes), but since then it's turned out that that deal was BANKRUPTING the UNIVERSITIES.

Your choice is: "buy the car" or "don't buy the car".

You can't base your choice on whether it will cost more or less than a deal that is not available.

You need to decide whether the benefits from "having a car" i.e. going to university outweigh the future costs. Remember, there are no costs now, and there may be no costs at all if you qualify for support or if after graduating you take a job paying less than £21,000.

If you are academically minded, particularly if you are good a maths or science, then I suggest that that ARE.

(It is said that on average graduates earn more than non-graduates by a hundred thousand pounds over a lifetime. The maximum payable under the fees/loan scheme proposed is something like £40,000 over a lifetime. So just on crude mathematics, on average graduates will still be sixty grand better off than non-graduates.)





PS: Note, the Liberal Democrats had a scheme for getting ALL the cost of Higher Education from general taxation. But we didn't get enough votes. The 60% of people who voted Labour or Conservatory voted for parties that wanted to RAISE tuition fees. And THAT is why they are going to be raised.

Millennium Dome said...

Dear Mr Andrew (oneexwidow),

Thank you, it's always nice to get support!

Millennium Dome said...

Dear Mr Paul,

"clearly wasn't the sort of pledge you'd make as a LibDem if it was conditional on being in majority government"

But you could say that about manifesto promises too. The one that immediately springs to mind is that every Labour MP was elected on a manifesto promise to introduce a referendum on AV. And then they voted against exactly that.

Do we recall the entire Labour Party? Do you think that someone with say Lord Ashcroft's money might not think of doing that, if thems the rules Labour/NUS are going to play on?

Which should be more binding: someone else's pledge that you've agreed with enough to sigh up to, or your own manifesto which is supposed to be a statement of your most important beliefs?

Either you accept that ALL pledges made during an election are subject to the decision of the electorate (a rule of "only valid if we get into majority government" if you prefer) or none of them are.


As it happens, the NUS graduate tax proposal effective breaks their own pledge not to increase fees. What should be the sanction on them?

Bernard said...

MD,

"Nobody "sold their soul" (well, unless it was Hard Labour selling out to Lord Blairimort); we made a COMPROMISE."

For the next general election, can we expect a list of pledges that the Liberal Democrats will be happy to compromise on?

Seeing as they will not achieve a parliamentary majority in my lifetime, I guess we all need to get used to the abandonment of policies for the good of the Coalition...

BTW: Good luck getting AV through!

Millennium Dome said...

Dear Mr Bernard,

You talk about compromise as though it is a BAD thing. Only fundamentalists refuse to compromise. Only MAD people think they are right ALL THE TIME.


I never said we were "happy" about compromising on tuition fees, or that of all the policies THAT was the one to get compromised upon. But the Tories WOULD NOT give us the twelve billion pounds to abolish them.

But since you claim to be against compromises, I suppose we must assume that you are against the compromises that we won from the CONSERVATORIES too. So I guess you are therefore in favour of cutting the education budget and cutting funding to science, spending more on prisons and on Trident, spending even less on benefits. Those are all areas where the Tories compromised, but compromises are BAD aren't they?

I wish that WE had had a list of all the policies that LABOUR were going to flip flop on. Their manifesto said they would introduce an AV referendum and they voted against one. Their negotiators said that they insisted on tuition fees being increased to SEVEN thousand pounds and they just voted against increasing them to SIX. They claimed that they had a plan to cut the deficit, but we haven't been told where they would save a single bean. It would be so much easier to negotiate a compromise with people who don’t just basically LIE all the time.

So what should we have done: join the Coalition, get 65% of our manifesto and suffer a rise in tuition fees or quit the coalition, get 0% of our manifesto and STILL suffer a rise in tuition fees?

James said...

Bernard: For the next general election, can we expect a list of pledges that the Liberal Democrats will be happy to compromise on?

I would certainly expect so, the Lib Dems had one for the last election.

At the front of the Manifesto there were a number of key priorities:

a fair chance
for every child
• Ensure children get the individual attention they need by cutting class sizes
• Made possible by investing £2.5 billion in schools targeted to help struggling pupils
• Give schools the freedom to make the right choices for their pupils

fair taxes
that put money back in your pocket
• The first £10,000 you earn tax-free: a tax cut of £700 for most people
• 3.6 million low earners and pensioners freed from income tax completely
• Paid for in full by closing loopholes that unfairly benefit the wealthy and polluters

a fair future
creating jobs by making Britain greener
• Break up the banks and get them lending again to protect real businesses
• Honesty about the tough choices needed to cut the deficit
• Green growth and jobs that last by investing in infrastructure

a fair deal
by cleaning up politics
• Put trust back into politics by giving you the right to sack corrupt MPs
• Restore and protect hard-won British civil liberties with a Freedom Bill
• Overhaul Westminster completely: fair votes, an elected House of Lords, all politicians to pay full British taxes

Everything else, if we entered a coalition would be (and were) up for debate.

I, personally as a Lib Dem, think that the Lib Dems got a good deal in the coalition agreement, but the fact is, 65% of the voters voted for parties committed to fee increases and only 25% voted for parties against. As democrats who seek consensus, the sad fact is that the consensus in this case was heavily against our basic beliefs. The changes we did get made to the policy are for the better, and if we get a majority next election we will set about abolishing them.