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?