The Fiberal Democrats

I went to my first meeting as I new fully fledged member of Cardiff Labour Students, if you saw any snippet of the news you can guess what the dominating topic was. I live in the Cardiff Central constituency, my MP is Jenny Willot who is a member of the Liberal Democrat party. During the lead up to the election, the Liberal Democrats kindly organised a Q&A session in the union with the big man himself- Nick Clegg. And guess what he repeated and repeated and repeated to students that day. THE LIBERAL DEMOCRATS BELIEVE EDUCATION SHOULD BE FREE, apparently now they do not feel the same.

Allowing for the rather dubious claim that the coalition government had absolutely no idea what kind of mess the country was in when they came to power and the fact that the Libs cannot have all their policies passed as they are in the minority in the government then perhaps we could allow for the fact that they already have revoked the promise they made to students in their first year in May (they would have their last year of university for free if the Libs got into power), and that they may have finally realised that it isn’t really economically possible for university to be free. This is not where the buck stops though, with the Browne report released yesterday, it is quite obvious to anyone that university fees will not even stay the same. I don’t want to jump the gun and assume that the coalition will do everything suggested in the report, I think it is far more likely that they will put a cap on university fees and claim that this is ‘progressive’. Clegg told students they had a voice, we could make a difference in the general election and we probably did, but for what? All Lib Dem MPs signed pledges with the NUS to trash university fees. A pledge which was clearly not in any way taken seriously. Clegg was asked in a lot of interviews, usually when he was slagging off the other parties, whether it was easy for him to make policies, like getting rid of tution fees, because there was a slim chance of his party getting into government and having to follow through on their promises. It seems like that was more of a prophecy than question now.

Probably nearly every party has broken an election promises when they came to power, the Libs appear to be planning to break them all. Scrapping university fees was not a policy for them, it was a principle, as they told us many times. The Lib Dems milked the student votes and now they have abandoned that vote. As one lady said on Question Time last week ‘shame on the Liberal Democrats’.

I did not vote for the Lib Dems (as you can probably tell) and I don’t happen to think university should be free but I feel angered that the Lib Dems have abused their power, their speeches to students now sound rather patronising. Not only are they raising fees but they are not going to bridge that gap by raising the loan. There is nothing fair or progressive about that, no matter how many times the coalition claim they are. The thing that disappoints me most though, is that few students will go out in protest, few students will make their Lib Dem MP accountable for the promises they made them. Few students care about the fact that only the rich will be able to go to university if these policies are passed. This should be a really scary idea and yet most students will not care.The middle class mothers of England were livid last week that they would be losing their pocket money, how on earth will they pay for lunch with their ladies now?

The Liberal Democrats have revoked their promises on nearly everything that really matters, voting against renewing Trident and making the tories hold a referendum on changing the voting system is not enough. In all honesty, who really cares that much about Trident when they see the effect of the cuts? How much do parents care about changing the voting system when they are worried that they will not be able to afford for their child to go to university? Perhaps their child benefit will cover it though, as the Tories are always telling us the benefit system rewards not going to work. I am certain the £20 a week for a first child and £13 a week for every subsequent child will be enough. By any logic or mathematics having children is  not a good money-making scheme but that’s a story for another day.

It is ludicrous that the coalition is claiming to be progressive, to pretend that everyone in society will be shouldering the burden. If they so believe that everyone will be affected by the cuts equally then MPs should have been the first to take at least a pay freeze or even a cut. David Cameron could have used his own money to re-decorate number 10 instead of using the public money. Neither is the coalition protecting front line services, they may not be making cuts but they are also not raising the budgets in line with inflation and therefore front line services are losing out, one hospital I saw this morning had to cut £12billion from somewhere. And yet the country can afford a tax break for married couples, or so the conservatives claim. I read this week that the £1billion saved from cutting child benefit for higher earners (i.e. fuck all), which is about as much it is estimated to cost to give a tax break to married couples. There is nothing progressive about tax breaks for married couples, ‘new conservatism’ does not exist. You should not have to get married to have a tax break, a “new conserative” would accept the fact that people may choose not to get married and should not be punished by the state for that. Hardly liberal to offer the choice to get married or pay more tax.

This week there was a meeting in Cardiff University for the presidents of societies, a list of the way in which cuts will affect CU’s societies was read out. What did the Conservative Society do? They walked out, I think that says it all…

Did you vote for the Liberals? Are you angry?


2 thoughts on “The Fiberal Democrats

  1. Liking the blog, however, even though you talk about the negative effects of the cuts, which I agree, are plentiful, maybe not to the same extent as you do, but plentiful nonetheless; you failed to argue what would happen if the coalition government had not decided to manage the deficit. What would have happened had there been no firm action taken on the budget? That we had let it grow and grow to unmanageable levels left for our children to one day ‘maybe pay off.’ Even though they had nothing to do with it. It doesn’t strike me as fair, it doesn’t make economic sense, it doesn’t make ethical sense either.

    Speaking more broadly about the raising of university tuition fees, you also did not mention why tuition fees needed to be raised, the funding gap for universities that the last Labour government had failed to tackle and kicked into the long grass. This was a firm decision taken by a government based not on political opportunism (much like the Labour Party’s preposterous decision to oppose any and every cut made) but on doing the right thing. Frankly, yes, students will be burdened with more debt, myself as one of them, I understand the affects that this will have on students. But I can’t really see any other alternative, the governments’ cupboard is bare and the very fact that the Liberal Democratic Party is backing the raising of tuition fees must indicate that this is the correct decision to be taking at this time.

    I do enjoy reading your blog though, just had to vent my spleen! : ) xx

    • Thanks for your comments, no one ever writes back! I’ll start with the point about tuition fees. I wanted the blog to be about the ethical argument behind the Liberal Democrats change of policy on university fees, particularly because they obviously targeted student voters. Mainly it was about my frustration that people are so apathetic about politics. Most of the people I know who voted in last election just so as a novelty, a kind “it’s my first time so I will” kind of attitude. They also all voted for the Lib Dems based on the idea that they wanted their last year of university to be free but aren’t remotely bothered or considering going to see our MP about it.On a similar note it also made me think how much students must have felt betrayed when Labour introduced top-up fees when they promised they wouldn’t in their election campaign but that’s just a side note. I agree with you completely that university fees do have to be raised. One of the reasons I didn’t vote for the Libs is because I don’t think university should be free, partly because it just isn’t economically viable and if we want British universities to continue to give the high standard of education they currently provide then fees do need to be raised. The government cannot ignore that universities are having massive funding problems and I think to an extent Labour did ignore that. I do think a cap does need to be put on fees though, I think everyone agrees that, I doubt the coalition wouldn’t put a cap on fees. The part I do find scary though is that they are not proposing to raise the loan which will obviously mean only “privileged” people will be able to go to university. I know I’ve been on a bit of tweet happy rant today but honestly I wanted to mainly to be about questioning how politically apathetic students and most of Britain are. I think I got too side-tracked and it became a bit of a rant about everything.

      On the bit about the economy, firstly yes I agree that it is easy for Labour to criticise every cut that is made but I really do think some of them are quite ludicrous. It is also incredibly annoying that the first word out of every member of the coalition begins “because of the mess”, they also cannot use that as an excuse for every time they feel they are unpopular. All figures are released, they were in parliament, if they didn’t know the extent of the deficit then they should have been more vigilant in making sure they stayed on top of the country’s economics. I knew the coalition would use it as an excuse to make harsher cuts than they proposed prior election and I’m just sick of hearing it. If David Cameron had had his way then the banks would have been de-regulated much more and we could have been in an even worse position. And like I said I see the coalition contributing very little to reducing the deficit so it really isn’t that we’re all in this together. Today I was talking to my friend who is a police officer, she was saying that he’s being told to let someone go nearly every week and that the police staff who are left are going to be massively overstretched. To claim that’s cutting waste is misleading and that’s certainly not protecting front-line services. It is also counter-productive since they were be more crime which is left uninvestigated or not investigated properly, there will be less police presence. She was saying that her dad feels that all of the hard work he put in changing the area for 20 years will just be undone because they just wont have the resources to maintain it. It also seems like a complete oxymoron to me to claim they will reduce unemployment when they are making so many redundancies and there are already far fewer jobs. They claim they’re getting people off benefits and into jobs, what jobs? To me it just seems by sheer mathmatic sums it is just impossible.

      I don’t agree that not making drastic cuts now doesn’t make economic sense, there’s a fair argument either way. Ireland has gone back into double-dip recession, arguably, due to making huge cuts because high unemployment means people are spending less so then more businesses go under and you can see how the cycle goes. What Labour proposed is pretty much the keynesian model which has been used very successfull across Europe in this recession and the previous. It’s basically the idea that you have to invest money to make money. So basically you make some cuts obviously but by putting some of the cuts off and re-investing you create a positive cycle so for example, the governments sets up a building initiative so then the people who sell the materials keep their business going so their staff stay employed and keep spending, there will be new contracts for the builders, etc and usually the markets respond positively to this because the money keeps flowing. Then once the market has recovered to a reasonable standard, usually takes about a year or so, then you make cuts and if everything goes to plan the market is secure enough not to go back into recession. The keynesian model is well respected and like I said has worked a lot so there’s definitely an argument for it being incredibly dangerous to make big cuts now but there is the other side of the argument which, as you know, the country is accumulating more debt daily because of interest. I agree with the keynes’ model but you know we all have different opinions.

      And last thing, you won’t be saddled with the debt because education is a devolved area 🙂

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