Published on 9 Dec 2010

Nick Clegg: Winning the battle but not having a good war

“I wouldn’t be having this chat unless we were worried about the vote,” is what senior Lib Dems have been telling potential rebels.

But that argument is not getting them very far, as most Lib Dems can add up and see that though the rebel numbers are rising the vote will be won. The Lib Dem leadership wants to avoid a tight vote though.

Deputy Leader Simon Hughes is coming in for particular stick from colleagues. “He’s had more positions than the Kama Sutra on this”, one fellow Lib Dem MP said. “He’s not rubber, he’s putty.”

But it’s the leader most people have got their eyes on.

Nick Clegg himself knows he hasn’t had a good crisis. Even his party critics admit he has an arguable case on tuition fees but has been “facing inward” too much, engaging in a public therapy session with his own parliamentary colleagues rather than selling the policy to the outside world – “doing a Blair” as one MP put it – talking over the heads of his own party to win the argument in the country.

Problem is the pledge/trust thing. He made a huge amount about it in the election campaign and he finds it hard to be heard over the din of people shouting that back at him.

Tories complain that some of their leadership’s persuasion tactics have been a little heavy-handed. One MP was told not to expect any help with the re-selection when his constituency boundary was redrawn and took it rather badly.

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11 reader comments

  1. Citizen Smith says:

    The bottom line here is that an MP should represent the electorate and follow through on the promises made. VOTE NO.

    I do not accept that Vince Cable, Paddy Ashdown, David Cameron, Nick Clegg or all those others who are jumping on the bandwaggon of ‘we didnt win therefore we cant implement our policies’…. BULL!

    Simon Hughes ‘abstention’ will be no different than a ‘yes’ vote and will show him as an indecisive person who does not follow his constituency advice/request/instruction. He will be regarded as untrustworthy and someone who has no courage to follow through. He will do himself a service by voting ‘NO’. If he doesnt he will pay the price. He should join with the other ‘NO’ faction …. no time to waiver!

    The smoke and mirrors game is appalling. Take away all the information that has been circulated about who pays, when (upfront or later), the various caps, indexation, part-time students, the poorer students,the conditions if 6000 is exceeded etc…….The one key fact is that THE FEES WILL INCREASE FROM 3000 to 9000 ….. THREE TIMES WHAT IT IS TODAY.

    For you MPs out there….VOTE ‘NO’… not ABSTAIN!

    1. Tom Wright says:

      I didn’t go to university, and I don’t see why my taxes should subsidise three years at the student union bar. I don’t see any evidence of value for the general public in a lot of degrees. Some (not all) are plain waste.

      Like IT, which often ads up to a history of computing and spends time on obsolete technology decades behind current practise. Or Nursing, which ought to be taught on day release by people employed in hospitals – not duped into three years of debt in return for what’s ultimately an average income. Or Media Studies, the degree that’s proven to reduce life time earnings capacity, or, Business Studies, whose graduates all believe they are qualified to run the show despite any real experience because they spent three years being lectured by professors who’ve never worked outside the public sector. I could go on.

      The NO vote needs to get real and stop pretending that money grows on trees. Why the hell should ordinary tax payers, most of whom didn’t go to university and don’t enjoy the benefits in employment that it brings, subsidise YOU?

      Yes, the lib dems were wrong to make the promise. But it would be far, far, worse to pretend ANYONE could keep it.

    2. Saltaire Sam says:

      Even if your view on taxpayers paying for university is right – and I don’t think it is, because graduates contribute a lot to this country’s prosperity – you should still be concerned about this debate.

      A major reform is being rushed through that none of the parties offered in the election.

      We’ve already seen that politicians have largely privatised dentistry which used to be part of the NHS.

      Now they are going further down that road because GPs who just want to be doctors, will call in private firms to run the budgets and you can bet that soon those companies will start to sell us insurance policies for special treatment just like the dentists.

      And having established that university students should pay ‘because they benefit’ how long will it be before some tory chancellor decides what’s fair for tertiary education is fair for secondary and then primary?

    3. Tom Wright says:

      Saltaire, your idealism is to be commended, but your sense of practicality deplored.

      Most if not all of those opposed to the rise in tuition fees have their hearts in the right place, but what they don’t seem to be able to grasp is that we can’t afford it. We have two choices: stick our heads in the sand and pretend that we can spend without consequence, or live within our our means.

      The Coalition’s decision has been a choice between evils, between a rock and a hard place. There was no clear and easy solution to the funding crisis in our universities, so whatever they did was going to be unpopular and widely criticised. Choosing to go ahead and do it shows character. Especially on the part of the Lib Dems.

    4. Tom Wright says:

      Revisiting this post I am staggered at how contrarian you are. All the thrust of your previous posts have argued that those of us who earn more should pay more, yet here you are arguing that those who enjoy the career advantage that degrees supposedly bring should not pay towards their cost, because they benefit society. It may surprise you to find that many of them go on to work in banks. Why is education a special case? It’s hard not to draw the conclusion that you have a knee jerk anti govt position of Tory = wrong without first looking at either the policy or the lack of anything approaching a response from the opposition

    5. Saltaire Sam says:

      Tom, my preference would be that university tuition be provided out of tax revenue, especially if income tax was fairly imposed i.e the more you earn, the more you pay. That way people who get rich thanks to their degrees, would contribute towards the next generation.

      (I realise there is an apparent unfairness in wealthy non graduates paying but I tend to think that the country as a whole benefits from a well educated population, so I’m willing to live with that).

      What I find nauseating about the current situation is that you have a generation who not only enjoyed free tuition but also grants imposing these new fees. The likes of Cameron and Osborne are against a general rise in income tax and won’t even act against those who dodge paying their share, but they are happy to impose what is in effect an extra tax on young graduates as soon as they earn £21,000.

      I just think if the millionaire cabinet ministers think it is right for tuition fees to be paid by those who benefit, they should apply it to themselves, especially Dr Vince Cable who presumably spent about 8 years studying at the taxpayers expence.

    6. Tom Wright says:

      your comment about a generation who enjoyed free uni is wrong. Today nearly half of all young people go to uni. Back in the day it was more like 15%, so in fact, the older you are, the less likely you are to have enjoyed the benefits but the more likely you are to be paying the tax. As per my original post, a lot of degrees enrich no-one – they are a vile con perpetrated on the young, who get far less career advantage than they think they will and massive debts.

      I’m with Cameron and Osborne on being against a general income tax rise. Income tax is destructive of ordinary people’s standard of living. Income tax is already ‘progressive’ (I hate that term, cancer is progressive). The more you earn, the more you pay, and the more you pay as a total proportion of earning. The wealthy, are already paying more. In general, I think the coalition policy on tax.

      I’d sooner see a rise on the the point where tax is payable (coalition policy) than an increase in the subsidy of the privileged. Yes, Uni is a privilege regardless of background, to go is to be privileged, working class or not.

  2. Stuart says:

    And Next May when there is an AV Referendum …

    A bit of an aside but, given the lies it seems the Lib Dems have been telling us all, how do they except anybody to believe them next May when they try and pursued us all to vote for their favoured AV electoral system (which they believe will give them more MPs !!).

    So when Clegg/Cable goes campaigning and tells us “it means … and will do …”, then when legislation is drawn up we will start hearing him (and other Lib Dems) telling us “I may have said … but I was thinking something completely different and decided not to tell you”. We may get the “but we are in a coalition and …”. Probably “I regret having promised …”. And it will all mean “thanks for your votes and sorry suckers”.

    Given the mistrust they have so rightly earnt, the student fees issue has almost certainly destroyed any chances they may have had to introduce the AV electoral system.

    1. Saltaire Sam says:

      Quite right. I was in favour of electoral reform but I’m now having second thoughts if it means that as soon as a party enters coalition it can do a 180 degree turn on the policies it campaigned on.

      It was always going to be a tough sell but now the two top salesmen have been shown to have no moral fibre, I don’t even think it is worth wasting the money on the referendum.

  3. Celine says:

    They keep talking about the poor.How about those of us that work hard and would like our children to get a good education,but cannot be classified as poor as total family income is £40000.My Children don’t get any of the means tested grants or rebates.They’ll come out in serious debt because of this,which their contemporaries from poorer backgrounds won’t have.The message being sent is, if you are from a middle class background, you are well and truly stuffe.It’s so sad that having worked hard to improve one’s lot in life,you get robbed by the government.I am currently unemployed due to all the cuts and has been looking for another job for the past 6 months.I am wondering if my family won’t be better off i just claim jobseekers allowance,which up till now i have avoided doing.Since the criteria is who got free food vouchers,i’ll be getting in touch with my council soon to register for those.

  4. property lady says:

    The Lib Dems have been exposed for having no backbone, I have a feeling this is just the start.

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