...a blog by Richard Flowers

Monday, December 06, 2010

Day 3627: There SHOULD be a three way split on Tuition Fees… and lots of other issues!


There was a lady on the BBC news last night saying that there might be "embarrassment" if the Liberal Democrats voted in different ways on Tuition Fees.


Are YOU embarrassed, Lady from the BBC? Because I'm not.

There are several very complicated and difficult-to-resolve issues in collision here and the Liberal Democrats are obviously and very publically trying to think them through and take opinion onboard. And, unsurprisingly when you ask a bunch of people ELECTED to be independent thinkers, some come to different conclusions.

This is called DEMOCRACY.

But the Lady from the BBC calls it "embarrassment".

I will tell you what is EMBARRASSING. A meeja who are either so ILL-INFORMED (and too LAZY to put themselves right) or so MENDACIOUS (not mentioning any names but she's a senior columnist for the Grauniad who now literally cannot write a column without actively distorting what Captain Clegg really says) that they think "MPs think long and hard about how to vote" is a gaffe rather than a FLUFFING JOB DESCRIPTION.

It seems to me that the MORE complicated and controversial an issue is – I won't say "more important"; in a week when North Korea is bombing South Korea and Iran has a fully functioning nuclear program, get a sense of perspective! – the HARDER the issue, the more political parties are expected to have INSTANT policy and UNANIMOUS agreement.

I mean never mind that Hard Labour don't actually HAVE a policy on this; that the Hard Labour leader, Mr Potato Ed, thinks that we should have a graduate tax and the Hard Labour Shadow Chancer, Mr Johnson and Johnson, thinks anyone who supports a graduate tax is a moron. Like THAT's not embarrassing AT ALL.

Here are just a few of the issues:

We made a promise to vote against any rise in tuition fees.

But we also got a better deal for students by being in the coalition than anyone else was offering.

From a purely pragmatic point of view, the pledge gave us LEVERAGE. The ability to say "this is going to be very painful for us" might not have been enough to get the increase in fees cancelled, but it certainly enabled us to demand a hugely BETTER deal for students than any that was on the table from Conservatories, Labour OR the NUS.

So do we break the pledge or say "get stuffed" to the better deal that we negotiated?

What would be the cost to students of any ALTERNATIVE that might have to be come up with if we DID keep the pledge and vote against?

We COULD vote with Hard Labour on this one – opportunistically, Mr Potato Ed will vote against the Browne report that his own former government commissioned because beating the Coalition is more important to him than having an actual policy – and together we could outvote the Conservatories and stop the rise.

But Master Gideon ISN'T going to find any OTHER money for Higher Education so wouldn't we see MASSIVE cuts in university funding, probably closing a number of departments and cancelling the courses of thousands of students. And what could we do about it? Nothing. Because we'd have surrendered our ability to negotiate on the issue.

So was it better to BREAK the pledge and get a better deal for students or KEEP the pledge and guarantee a worse deal?

And there's a BIGGER PICTURE: what are the consequences for the Coalition if we break the Coalition Agreement on this?

Do we get more good, more Liberal Democrat policies implemented by staying IN the Coalition in spite of this than we could possibly do outside of it? Does that outweigh ENOUGH the COST of breaking the pledge? Or is that just the ENDS justifying the MEANS?

These are DIFFICULT decisions to make and I expect our MPs to MAKE difficult decisions, and I expect them NOT TO ALL MAKE THE SAME DECISIONS.

Contrary to popular opinion – and meeja expectations – they are NOT a row of CABBAGES.

I think we were QUITE RIGHT to make the pledge to oppose any raise in Tuition Fees.

Was it naïve and possibly stupid and certainly bad POLITICS and will we pay a price for breaking the pledge? Yes to all of those things.

But it was also principled and noble and a little bit wonderfully mad and it was the RIGHT THING TO DO.

So I support President Tim Farronheit and former leaders Sir Mr the Merciless and CK1 when they say that they will keep their pledge and vote against any rise in tuition fees.

But I ALSO support Captain Clegg and Mr Dr Vince when they say that they will vote FOR the Coalition policy because they believe that it is the best possible deal they could have got.

And I EVEN support Mr Hugs if he wants to abstain because that is what we agreed in the Coalition Agreement.

I see the contradiction in that. But "Party Unity" is a RUBBISH reason for overriding disagreements when you should argue them out make your case and in the end see how many people you have convinced by taking a vote. That's democracy for you.

And it's NOT an embarrassment.


Unknown said...

Spot on! You & your daddies should be in the Cabinet.

Paul Walter said...

Well said MD. If the BBC want to know about EMBARRASSMENT they should listen to this:

Mister Naughty James got his knickers in a right twist

James said...

They simply don't understand how a truly democratic party operates - the media that is, not Mr Clegg n co :-)