Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Will Tuition Fees Kill the Lib Dems?

Tomorrow sees the vote in Westminster on tuition fees and all indications suggest that it will be tight. For the Government it’s being described as their first big test but for the Lib Dems as a party it means a lot more than that.

Over the last few weeks we have seen the Lib Dems come under heavy fire from student groups who rightly feel betrayed.  It’s not surprising how angry students and young people are about this. The Lib Dems did after all make a complete about-turn on tuition fees almost as soon as they got their feet under their ministerial desks.
Many in the Lib Dems do feel uncomfortable about their party’s sudden change in position. Some big hitters, like Sir Menzies Campbell and Charles Kennedy, have already expressed their intention to vote against this policy and others are still deciding where they stand. It will be interesting to see how many Lib Dems keep their own pledge to students and vote against the rise in tuition fees in the vote tomorrow.
We already know that all Lib Dem ministers have now agreed to vote for the changes. Although there was a ridiculous wobble by Vince Cable earlier in the month when he had hoped to be the minister responsible for the Bill and abstain in the vote! (sorry Vince Government doesn’t work like that).
But there are also many Lib Dems who are private secretaries and junior minister who still have to decide how to vote. It will be interesting to see how many of these people, who have something to loose, will rebel against the Government.
The Lib Dems (in recent times anyway) are rarely a party of Government, so they rarely have to prove that they have the courage of their convictions.  This is the first time for a generation that they have been put to the test, and in my view they have been found wanting. Even if the Government looses the vote tomorrow, the damage for the Lib Dems is done and it will, most likely, be lasting.  
Their actions on this issue may have created a generation of young people who will never vote Lib Dem again.
Helen Martin- STUC

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