Principles and the price of power

Clegg making his pledge to abolish tuition fees

Newsnight was interesting last night.

Not something you’ll see me write often. Let’s face it, Newsnight is not the journalistic powerhouse it once was. Paxman is not the big beast he used to be. He threw it away when he moved from looking at the state of the nation to the state of Marks and Spencer’s Y-fronts.

However, last night was interesting because of the segment on university tuition fees. Not because it had ground-breaking coverage, or because of any incisive questioning or even full-on bullying from Jezza. It was because of a one-line throwaway comment he made. It went like this:

“Unfortunately, no Liberal Democrat MP was available for interview on Newsnight”

The reason that sentence was interesting was because only a few months ago, every single elected Liberal Democrat MP signed a pledge stating that education should be free at all levels. They also agreed to actively oppose the raising of tuition fees cap.

The reason they all signed that pledge, produced by the NUS, was that the opposition to tuition fees was one of the central policy planks of the Liberal Democrat manifesto. It was such a popular policy that some psephologists say that it played a significant part in the surge of support just before the General Election.

It’s now being reported that the Browne Report will recommend a rise in tuition fees leading to students leaving with debts of £36,000. During the election, Nick Clegg claimed he had fully costed the total abolition of all fees. Now, he is claiming that it is a completely unaffordable policy.

After being so vocal in their promises to oppose all tuition fees, just how many Liberal Democrats in Parliament are going to stand by their principles? And just how many of them will shed those principles for a taste of power?

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One comment

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