I see that my friend and colleague Michael Carchrie Campbell has taken to task one of the email Lib Dem members received last night. I'm going to take to task the other.
Nick Clegg, after the announcement of the Browne Report inviting comments to be sent to him. Apparently according to last nights email the special email address that was set up received over 1000 responses. Yet only five points were raised in the response all carefully worded to sound supportive:
- concern that the proposals would result in a free market in higher education
- some key progressive elements of Browne’s report, particularly the repayment system similar to the concept of a graduate tax, and highlighted the need for Liberal Democrats to emphasise the positive aspects of the report, while ensuring that the most vulnerable are protected
- suggestions we should make savings elsewhere and increase taxation to fund higher education
- need to focus on Further Education and apprenticeships as well as higher education
- concern that those from disadvantaged backgrounds wouldn't be able to go to university under Browne’s proposals
"We will scrap unfair tuition fees for all students taking their first degree, including those studying part time, saving them over £10,000 each. We have a financially responsible plan to phase fees out over six years, so that the change is affordable even in these difficult financial times, and without cutting university income. We will immediately scrap fees for final year students."
and how this grinds instead with an increase in the tuition fee cap. If we were promising responsibility with our financial account how can we say we have allowed for even these difficult times yet are doing the opposite. It wasn't just a NUS pledge than many of us signed it was a manifesto commitment that "even in these difficult financial times" we would not need to burden our students further.
All we got under the question of making savings elsewhere was the same old drivel we were hearing from Cameron pre-Election not the bold, fairer, progressive language that the issue of tuition fees has raised through every conference debate we have had on the issue down my 22 years within Liberal Democrat circles.
I for one not am not going to be a shrinking violet on this one. Nick if you are going to be writing to members cut the drivel and actually answer our concerns. As Jennie Rigg put it so eloquently the other day "it would help if it was not worded as though giving a lecture to the hard of thinking".