The Lib Dems are not the government’s “human shield”

 

I do dislike the fashionable explanation for Lib Dem unpopularity, that they are the government’s human shield for unpopular measures.

Their poor performance in the latest local elections is largely  down to two words “tuition fees”.  This single policy has so far proved the most unpopular of all the government’s measures, and has generated the strongest protests. This was not a Conservative policy which the Lib Dems were made to sign up to. This was a  policy designed by Dr Cable on the back of the Browne Report, commissioned by the outgoing Labour government. It damaged Lib Dems because they had promised the opposite before the election and had made it such a  big issue.

In previous elections Conservatives had campaigned against tuition fees and opposed Labour’s introduction. In 2010 Conservatives  decided we could not find the money for their abolition, given the obvious hole in the public finances. We said we would study the Browne Report and come forward with proposals, but we knew abolition of fees was unaffordable. They might have to go up. Lib Dems made tuition fees a high profile issue of their campaign, and challenged many Conservative candidates to defend Labour’s fees when they were promising their abolition.

When the Coalition formed Lib Dems sensibly negotiated the right to sit out a new higher education policy and to abstain should we need to vote for higher fees. So far so good. Yet Dr Cable, on receipt of the Browne Report, decided to come up with his own scheme for much higher fees and then to recommend that Lib Dems voted for it in the Commons.

 

Conservatives did not make him do that. Many of us were very surprised he did. Some of us lobbied him on aspects of the scheme. I was worried about access to eduction and lobbied for more generous access funds. I was also worried about the high initial costs to the taxpayer in the form of higher borrowing to meet the demand for loans, as I thought the idea of changing the financial arrangements was to lower the  burden on the public accounts, not increase it. I favoured a more gradual approach.

 

The main point is this. There was no group of Conservatives designing the tuition fee scheme, no group pressing for it. It was not Conservative policy. The tuition fee scheme was designed by Dr Cable, and pressed by him. Conservatives went along with it, often reluctantly. We were breaking no promise to electors by doing so, as we had left open at the election how HE would be paid for.

Lib Dems are not the Conservatives’ shield on this measure. They were full partners who choose to design this part of the government’s policy. Conservatives did not come into the government with a series of unpopular policies which we wanted help in making palatable. Both parties have a difficult job to do to clear up the inherited financial mess, and they just need to get on with collaborative working with that in mind.

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50 Comments

  1. Stuart Fairney
    Posted May 7, 2011 at 7:16 am | Permalink

    The Lib Dems have been a pseudo-serious protest vote in the past, but when you ask why someone positively votes for the Lib Dems, you tend to get silence.

    Now that the protest vote thing has gone, I rather fancy the Lib Dems are facing long overdue extinction.

    The real question now becomes where do former Lib Dem voters go and what impact will this have on national politics? Interesting times.

    • Ken@Ayr
      Posted May 8, 2011 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

      Well in answer to where LibDem voters are liable to go certainly in Scotland we saw quite clearly they would go for anyone but Labour or Tory. We ended up with the nats running the show at Holyrood unfortunately.

      In my neck of the woods the LibDem vote disappeared almost entirely and went to the SNP with absolutely enormous swings taking seats for the nats. It was astonishing stuff actually.

      No idea where they will go in English constituencies. No idea why someone would vote libdem either unless it was simply tactical voting either. There is a gap to fill as an alternative party in England. Anyone want Alex Salmonds mob? Please?

      At least I can still cling to the fact that I voted Tory and returned a Tory (one of the very few) in the Holyrood elections. Small beer though and Scotland still seems to want to be nannied to death.

  2. lifelogic
    Posted May 7, 2011 at 7:17 am | Permalink

    Liberals came into power with a series of silly policies designed for votes that they never expected to have to implement. Having made such a big deal of tuition fees they should have insisted on a graduate tax which could have been structured anyway to have a very similar financial effect to the fee/loan scheme. It would have saved them some face, rather dishonestly perhaps. Just like the labour slight of hand on the EU constitution and Lisbon treaty.

    There other policies in particular the green anti nuclear stance, the pro EU and general move to ever more government and regulation also need to change.

    The Union will give Cameron further troubles. If there is to be a vote on it. It is (as was devolution Scottish and Welsh devolution) a matter for the English voters as well as the Scottish.

    He has a problem with his Pro EU stance and opposition “with every fibre of his body” to the break up of the Union. The choice is really between allowing the break up of the UK and being subsumed into a socialist undemocratic EU or to leave (or just have a minor free trade agreement) with the EU.

    Where does he stand – pro EU and the Union looks like a daft combination. Cast Iron will hopefully have trouble continuing to deny the UK an EU referendum.

    • REPay
      Posted May 7, 2011 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

      Let’s remember that Labour was keen on devolution because it believed Scotland and Wales would be reliably Labour should the Tories ever return to Westminster. Remember with Labour it is party first every time.

      • lifelogic
        Posted May 7, 2011 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

        Indeed and Labour were very stupid in to think Scottish devolution, in particular, would help them. I never thought it would always believing it would help the SNP.

        But then Labour think that paying the state sector to dig pointless (or worse damaging) holes then fill them in helps the economy and that free at the point of use NHS works really well and that 50% income tax, 12% NI, 17.5% VAT, 40% IHT, 11% Employers NI, fuel duty, car tax, insurance tax, air flight tax and all the rest is a really good thing for the economy too.

        Mind you so does Cameron with the substitution of 20% VAT!

        • a-tracy
          Posted May 8, 2011 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

          Employer’s NI, above earnings of £136 per week, is 13.8% since April 2011.

    • Ken@Ayr
      Posted May 8, 2011 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

      He should bring in an EU referendum before Alex Salmond calls the Nat one in Scotland.

  3. Javelin
    Posted May 7, 2011 at 7:24 am | Permalink

    I still believe that university fees are wrong. They are a good investment by the tax payer. The £50k debt will be paid by the existing tax payer as lower house prices.

    I also think that too many people get degrees. The depth of understanding required by the degrees, I did 25 years ago, are beyond the 40-50% of people who go to university.

    • APL
      Posted May 7, 2011 at 8:53 am | Permalink

      Javelin: “They are a good investment by the tax payer.”

      That would rather depend on the particular course. Do we need any more
      civil administration degrees?

      Political studies degree courses
      Social engineering degree courses
      Marketing degree courses

    • Simon
      Posted May 7, 2011 at 9:25 am | Permalink

      Javelin
      “The £50k debt will be paid by the existing tax payer as lower house prices. ”

      Sorry , don’t understand .

      Can you explain please ?

      The trend is for our citizens to become significantly poorer . They cannot compete with the BTL’ers and foreigners when it comes to buying a home .

      Should measures be taken to ensure that they don’t have to ?

      For instance restriction of ownership of houses in the lower 3 price quartiles in an area for British Citizens as has been successful in the Phillipines , Malaysia etc ?

      • Javelin
        Posted May 7, 2011 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

        I meant graduates have debts that will be taken into account by mortgage lenders. The amount that comes off The available mortgage will be the size of the student loan. Over time this will work it’s way through the system and house prices will fall.

    • HJBbradders
      Posted May 7, 2011 at 10:08 am | Permalink

      Javelin,
      I agree with both your points: fees are a bad idea and also there are too many university students. Now go the extra step and one has to conclude that either we have less students and no fees or 50% of the population attending university and fees.

      • Iloathlefties
        Posted May 7, 2011 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

        This is exactly the point and the privately admitted policy. To 1. Reduce the number of students who attend University and 2. Reduce the number of silly pointless degrees. The consequence however is 1. The policy wont effect the rich or poor (paid for by tax payers) but just the middle classes who as always have to pay the lions share of Government policy. Real irony.

      • Javelin
        Posted May 7, 2011 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

        Yup. I think we should have less students. This is going to sound intellectually snobby. But I was at a uni bar and two girls from the local poly started chatting to me – they were attractive – and lived in a small campus opposite. Anyway once I started talking about philosophy as one of them was doing it for a term, but the sharpness in their mind just wasn’t there. Philosophy to them had the same semantics as the rest of their degree. If course I didn’t reject them as people because of this but I did realise that a degree in philosophy was pearls before swine. Im sure once the girls got older they would understand philosophy fully but given their education at that time they didnt. So now that the intake to university has trebled those girls would be a red brick uni and girls who ended up working in the local bank would be at the poly. Of couse we could be pushing students ALOT harder like they do in India and those girls would have been up to speed to understand philosophy. But as things stand political correctness at one end and 50% university places at the other don’t add up.

    • REPay
      Posted May 7, 2011 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

      The aim of education today is not to give people skills and knowledge but to make them more equal. The GCSE is far more CSE than GCE (for those of us old enough to have done the latter.)

    • lifelogic
      Posted May 7, 2011 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

      In general graduates do not earn more – outside a few over protected professions such as law (an area which badly need addressing with anti competition rules as it is clearly against the public interests). In fact the movement has sadly been to actually create even more trivial but protected areas of so called certified “experts” in heating equipment electrics and similar). This make the work place far less efficient.

      University graduates earn more generally because they were clever at the outset rather than due to their degree qualifications. Too many people do pointless second rate degrees of little real value at tax payers expense and at second rate institutions. The confusion over cause and effect is always used by politicians to make false claims.

      The problem with the loan scheme is that so few will able to repay the loans, given the anti-growth big state & high energy price policies in place and the absurd tax levels. The fact the EU student are also entitled to the loans and I assume less likely to repay is also an absurdity like most EU policies.

      Hopefully the loan scheme will at least make potential students think what course they wish to do what it will lead to and consider the cost and benefits any course.

      I am constantly amazed by how many complete twits (often in parliament) seem to have firsts in PPE or similar at Oxford and that is supposed to be one of the better institutions. Lets have some engineers, accountants, business people and scientists please – but doubtless they would all rather sensibly leave the country with the current Cameron direction in place.

    • James Clover
      Posted May 7, 2011 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

      “Is beyond…” If you are going to let slip your undoubtedly high standard of education, always check your grammar. The sacred rule of posting.

  4. JimF
    Posted May 7, 2011 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    It is becoming more like a Greek tragedy. Libdems promise electors great things, electors fall in love. Libdems cannot deliver, electors’ love subsides and eventually turns to rancour. Libdems then turn on the god which made it so, and all ends in bitter disharmony, with the Libdems returning to their roots as a party of high ideals, false hopes but little support and no power.

  5. Mike Stallard
    Posted May 7, 2011 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    Nicely said! A blatant breaking of an election pledge removes all traces of trust.
    The main problem, it seems to me, is that HE was ruined by Mr Blair. 50% of school leavers going to university may have been an election winner but that was before all the lesser university graduates, after throwing their (rented) hats in the air, found that nobody wanted them, despite their First Class Honours.
    I now find that the local Comprehensive school is offering degrees (Methwold High). So much has the whole system been debauched by Labour. It really was not like this before 1997. I was there, teaching. A Level really meant something. The Lower Sixth really was a time of general learning and having fun.
    So now what?

    • James Clover
      Posted May 7, 2011 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

      Could you clarify that point: your local school is offering degrees? Shurely shome mistake?

  6. A.Sedgwick
    Posted May 7, 2011 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    “Their poor performance in the latest local elections is largely down to two words” – protest vote. This was their main electoral weapon, it has disappeared. Apart from 2005 when they achieved some widespread popularity through their charismatic leader and opposition to the Iraq war they are largely a bi-product of the undemocratic two party system. Whether national or local government much of their support comes from people who want to vote but have had enough of tweedle dee and dum politics.
    The result in Scotland shows that PR can galvanise the electorate into using their votes for a party they want instead of the national situation where only about 500,000 in marginal constituencies are truly enfranchised. I doubt if we will be hearing much more about PR only brings coalitions for awhile. If only Blair had enfranchised the English they way he did the Scots and Welsh.

  7. alan jutson
    Posted May 7, 2011 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    John

    Thanks for the background information on this as a reminder, but I think the reason the Lib Dems lost out, was not just this pledge alone.
    A lot of Lib Dem supporters are simply totally unrealistic in their expectations

    Listened to “talk in 9.00am on radio 5 yesterday”.
    Absolutely amazed that most of the critisism of Clegg from many angry Lib Dem supporters, centred on the fact that he has not fullfilled ALL of his election manifesto promises. Time after time they were reminded by more sensible contributors, that they did not win the election outright, but came third, that they were part of a coalition where the Conservatives agreed to forgo some of their election manifesto pledges, so the Lib Dems had to do the same, but all to no avail.

    Clearly having been out of power for decades, some Lib Dem policies had become totally unrealistic.

    Given that often people voted for them as a protest vote, and the Lib Dems found themselves in the unusual situation of being in a position of influence and power, policies then had to be tempered with realism and responsibility with regard to the state of the economy and the coalition agreement.
    Their fair weather supporters seem to have failed to understand this simple truth.

    In short, I beleive that Lib Dem support had grown over the years, to a point where it had a very large number of fair weather protest supporters, and they have now simply decided to leave for pastures greener (not the Green Party alone), what support is left, is probably a reflection of their true core support.

    It is a shame when LOCAL ELECTIONS are influenced by National events, as many hard working councillors (of all Parties) lose their seats, but it seems it is forever the case.

    On another topic, pleased AV has been kicked into the long grass for a long time, anyone trying to reserect this, wants their bumps felt.

    • James Clover
      Posted May 7, 2011 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

      Another interesting point is that after the TV debates, Clegg was raised to the level of a god, and there was serious debate about whether the LibDems would actually be the first party in the election. As it was, a certain coolness set in and they actually gained a disappointing 23%. One must assume that that represented the more resolute Lib Dem voter.
      And this figure is now down to 15%. Even as junior partners in a coalition, 15% hardly gives them much right to govern; they should go quietly about their business, trying not to attract too much attention to the fact that they actually still form part of the government of our democratic nation.
      Will they modestly withdraw from the limelight for a while? Ask Cable, a man whose entire career seems to have been built on one quip (Mr Bean).

  8. DavidB
    Posted May 7, 2011 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    This article and the comments are so interesting I would dearly love to spend the day here, but have to work, so I have little time.

    I chuckled wryly when I read that heading. I have long thought the Conservatives were playing a blinder viz the libdems. Now their vote is collapsing which party gets the benefit? It depends where you are in the country but I’d be pretty sure the UK wide picture will be more Cons than Lab.

    The elephant in the room on the HE funding issue is that we have made HE one of those sacred cows like the NHS. The intelligentsia value it supremely. The middle classes see it as the guarantor of their living standards and the aspirant view it as the key to social advancement. Our politicians jump on any bandwagon and are frightened to admit that we cannot afford to provide it free to half the population, and like tower blocks in the sixties throw money at quantity not quality.

    My degree is in a science. When I got it ( 30 odd years ago ) there were a handful of positions where it was of practical use. My fellow scientists went off to be accountants and teachers. Im sure we need some scientists but if the main source of employment is teaching others then maybe its time we wondered about why its taught at all. And that is sciences. What about the plethora of degrees from divinity to art history to ancient Greek to …..?

    We have lost sight of the original purpose of our HE system. Rather than admit that and redesign the whole thing the politicians of all parties have settled on a fudge. We will unleash the market on the system by sticking the bill for it on the customers. With luck they will do the cost benefit analysis and the system will shrink itself. Like our unaffordable welfare system, our unaffordable pension system, our unaffordable military commitments and our unaffordable aid budget, when are we going to wake up and fix the mess?

    Arguing who came up with the charging plan is a distraction. We should be arguing what it is we are buying and why we need to buy it ( or whether ) in the first place.

    Good article however, I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him, and all that .

    • forthurst
      Posted May 7, 2011 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

      I don’t know what your degree was, but let us say Physics, for sake of argument. Physics teaches the scientific method leading to scientific proof. Those who have not studied it are prone to magical thinking and can be easily led into believing in past and future phenomena for which no credible scientific evidence has been produced or for which no possible scientific basis exists, simply because of the production of a fudged report.Physics teaches problem solving: both Francis Crick and Tim Berners-Lee were physicists, taught by phyicists, who used their acquired skills to create complex solutions outside of their original fields. Lesser mortals can do likewise on a more modest scale in their chosen fields of activity. That is without examining applied physics (engineering) which has created the modern world and continues to do so.

      We need more scientists and engineers because they represent the modern scientific way of thinking which can solve problems rather than the primitive magical thinking based on unproven and frankly unlikey hypotheses of too much that exists in the humanities.

  9. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted May 7, 2011 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    People have had the blinkers taken from their eyes regarding the “all things to all men” LibDems. The fallacious idea that they are a human shield for the Conservatives probably came from a briefing from them. I am glad to see you stating the facts about who constructed the new tuition fees scheme, namely Vince Cable. The LibDems would like everyone to think that it was the wicked Tories and they were forced to support it as part of the coalition agreement. In fact the selfsame, duplicitous Vince Cable is touring the broadcasting studios today labelling the Conservatives as “ruthless, calculating and very tribal”.

  10. acorn
    Posted May 7, 2011 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    If you woke up in Scotland today, you are represented by a Scottish parliament constituency MP; seven Scottish parliament regional MPs; and a UK Westminster MP. If you woke up in England, you have one UK Westminster MP. Surely some mistake?

    With a bit of luck and judgement by the Scots, we could get rid of 59 of our current 650 Westminster MPs. Of the current 533 English constituency MPs at Westminster; about a quarter could be declared persona non gra·ta, on account of their Scottish accents. There are another 58 MPs from Wales and NI, that we should tolerate for the immediate future, pending HoL reform or abolition.

    Meanwhile, the Batman and Robin of the coalition, that is Danny Alexander and Nick Clegg are actually running the show. Dave and the Radical Reformers (release of their new album: “Open Public Services White Paper” has been delayed again), are backing off every which way to keep this coalition together. When, now would be a good time to stick it to the people, general election style. With a commitment to an English parliament referendum naturally.

  11. Michael Read
    Posted May 7, 2011 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    Well, Cable was still behind tuition fees on the Today programme this morning. The party’s mistake, he argued, was to make that pledge before the election.

    I don’t think you are going to escape culpability by scapegoating the LibDems for tuition fees. The Tories will be the firing line too.

    In spite of what you have previously argued, the acceptance of a £50k debt/loan at the age of 21 or 22 is not reasonable, and probably enough to lose you the whole of the middle ground.

  12. electro-kevin
    Posted May 7, 2011 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    One thing which has come out of the Coalition and which is priceless for the Tories and should be played on a lot more:

    “Labour left us in a financial mess.” Paddy Ashdown on QT this week. He among many of his party colleagues are saying it. Labour did it.

    The LibDems were beside the Tories as they inspected the books. They are as vocal as anyone that Labour were an economic disaster for Britain.

    If the Tories had won outright would there might not have been such good witnesses to this fact.

  13. Mark
    Posted May 7, 2011 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    Whilst I agree wholeheartedly with your observations about the Lib Dems and tuition fees I think you are airbrushing the extent to which higher education policy is also the brainchild (!) of David Willetts. It was he who set out the Conservative manifesto commitment (immediately implemented) for an extra 10,000 places at a time when it is obvious that the provision of undergraduate degree places is way in excess of what makes economic sense, with high dropout rates and poor standards of many degree courses make them a wasted investment.

    Education policy needs to concentrate on securing much better value, by driving up standards so that students can achieve a given standard in fewer years (as used to be the case), and so that resources are not wasted on those who will not benefit significantly. We need to ensure that the most able get their talents extended – but that means giving access to excellent schooling, rather than expecting university to make up for 15 years of educational failure by the school system. Willetts joined Cable in refusing to tackle the real issues that need to be addressed. I agree with others who say that we should return to no tuition fees – but cutting the number of places accordingly, so that the investment pays off in higher incomes and taxes. If we returned to the system where funds were provided through local authorities we could also ensure that EU students were paid for by their home countries rather than being a burden on UK taxpayers.

  14. Norman Dee
    Posted May 7, 2011 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    The lib dems are a pain in the proverbial, formed from embarrassed socialists and wishy washy right wingers, they have never had a place in government and never should have. Cameron’s backtracking on Europe, and generally poor electioneering lost him the election, and his punishment was to look after the lib dems, sort of like community service. Now the tail is trying to wag the dog, unfortunately the dog is not at it’s best or it would bite the thing off.
    New Leader , new direction, new election, new start, new world,

    • James Clover
      Posted May 7, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

      An excellent post. I love the community service comment; very apt.
      The whole notion of LibDems being given a bite of government also recalls the concept of Care in the Community, poor souls whose refuge in permanent opposition has been heartlessly stripped away, leaving them wandering the streets of Power.

    • lifelogic
      Posted May 7, 2011 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

      It seems that Cameron is however just a wishy washy Liberal and the Liberals are useful to enable him to take the wishy washy, big state, pro EU and pro Green religion line without being sorted out by those in his party with more sense.

  15. Neil Craig
    Posted May 7, 2011 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    On a broader level the unique selling points of the Pseudoliberals was that they were a protest vote, that the electorate didn’t know about the silliness of their policies (ie being even more loony than the Lab/Tory’s on windmillery and switching the electricity off) and that they hadn’t broken their promises in power (not having been in power). They have now discredited themselves on all 3 leaving no actual reason, apart from habit, for anybody to vote for them.

    They have been in power before in Scotland, with Labour, and didn’t so discredit themselves – indeed they were widely seen as the more competent part of the ticket. Perhaps they would have been wiser to support a Labour government on the grounds that they would look good by comparison, a tactic sometimes used by girls at dances.

  16. BobE
    Posted May 7, 2011 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    Where will the Lib Dem ex voters go in 4 years time?. That will decide the next government. Labour gained the most in these elections though some did go Con.
    Lib Dems are a spent force, probably below UKIP next time.
    Labour is likely to win next time but not under Mr Milliband.

    • lifelogic
      Posted May 8, 2011 at 6:41 am | Permalink

      If Cameron sorts out the economy and restricts the EU growth the voting tide will go strongly to the Tories.

      No sign that he will do yet though quite the reverse.

  17. rose
    Posted May 7, 2011 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    It is their vanity and self-centredness which must have turned people off, at a time when the nation is in dire straits. So what, if Mrs Andrew Marr and her friends push the idea that the Liberals are the Conservatives’ human shield, so that Liberals will agitate for detachment from the coalition? Most people just don’t like bad losers or whiners. Whether it be “Papa why do they hate you so?” or the Conservatives being bracketed with National Socialists and Communists, the Liberals offended the British sense of fair play. Dr Cable’s final outburst of pique this morning will have convinced them they were right.

    The conservatives were widely believed by the media to have come back from the wilderness when Mr Osborne promised to raise the threshold of inheritance tax to £1m. We don’t however hear anything about the Conservatives’ broken promise on that. The Media doesn’t want to stir it on that one. And Conservatives themselves are grown up and understand that their winning policy got sacrificed in the forging of the coalition. I don’t think it had to be, but I wasn’t in on the negotiations. So why all the fuss about a Liberal policy getting sacrificed too? Because the media is unbalanced and has no interest in fairness, only in stirring up trouble to break the Coalition and get in a permanent Liberal/Socialist government.

  18. forthurst
    Posted May 7, 2011 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    HE has now degenerated into a racket, North American style where armies of students waste three years whilst receiving Cultural Marxist grooming variously disguised as sociology, psychology, history etc. The truth is that a high proportion of students will be running up huge debts without having obtained any possible benefits in terms of their life skills or employability. They are being swindled.

    Entrance to the best universities is a lottery because the examination system has been dumbed down so that able students are not being facilitated with being able to demonstrate their superior intellectual skills even if they were lucky enough to go to an academic school in order to develop them.

    Why is it that third world students are taking international versions of our dumbed down exams which are more equivalent to the old Os and As?

    There is a lot wrong: there is a malignancy in the educational establishment which has progressively undermined our once world class free education system. There is far more to sort out than fees. A progressive rollback of all the educational ‘advances’, mixed ability, mixed sexes, exams and teaching aimed at the lowest common denominator, the elevation of the non-academic to the level of the academic, comparitive religion and sexual education for toddlers etc.

  19. REPay
    Posted May 7, 2011 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    I noticed that this phrase, Human Shield, used consistently by the BBC, went unchallenged on Any Questions last night by a rather limp Justine Greening. The failure to establish any narrative about the credit crunch continues to be a huge weakness of the Tories. The Tories seem to just roll with whatever narrative is made up by BBC/Labour.

    The word progressive is anotherirritation. Quentin Letts attacked it on the same programme last night. It is simply a hoorah word to make the left feel superior. I always translate it as statist.

    • Brian Tomkinson
      Posted May 7, 2011 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

      Jeremy Hunt and not Justine Greening was on the version of Any Questions I listened to last night along with Quentin Letts, Baroness Williams and Douglas Alexander. I think that had Justine been on she wouldn’t have been anywhere near as “limp” as Jeremy Hunt, she is one of the Conservatives’ better performers.

  20. rose
    Posted May 7, 2011 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    Of course it makes sense to reduce the numbers of undergraduates to what they were in the fifties, and not to charge fees. It also makes sense to bring back grammar schools.

    The trouble is most people now want their children to get comprehensive education till well into their adult years. It would be very hard to sweep these aspirations away. That is presumably why the Conservatives haven’t brought back grammar schools: too many of their potential voters’ children wouldn’t get into them – and so it would be with going back to having just 20 or so good universities.

  21. Alte Fritz
    Posted May 7, 2011 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

    On Newsnight on Wednesday, Michael Crick opined that a good night for the Conservatives would be evidenced by fewer than 600 lost seats. A bad night for the LibDems would be more than 500 losses.

    The Conservatives’ success is the untold story from the election, and it will remain untold. Obviously, Conservatives do not do anywhere near well enough in many big cities, but to show asmall net gain was stunning.

    This would not happen if human shield tactics were used. Why do the Conservatives not use Campbell or Mandelson like attack dogs to savage the BBC?

  22. English Pensioner
    Posted May 7, 2011 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

    One reason why, up to now, the LibDems did well in local government was that they tailored their policies to the constituency on a local basis. No one compared what they were proposing around the country. They could implement a particular local policy in, say, Yorkshire, and no one would notice that they were proposing something totally different in perhaps Essex or Dorset.
    However, you can’t do this in National Government; the same policy has to apply everywhere, and they’ve simply got caught-out as trying to be all things to all men.

  23. Javelin
    Posted May 7, 2011 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    There is a strong point that has been missed. AV is the best thing that could have happened to the lib dems. If they would have won both main parties would have moved even closer to the central ground squeezing the lib dems out. Parties like the greens and UKip would have then picked up votes around the edges. The libdems would have become student/pensioner party with policies on free fees and council tax.

    Losing the AV vote is the best thing that could have happened to the libdems

    • norman
      Posted May 7, 2011 at 11:07 pm | Permalink

      Completely agree.

      If we had full PR lots of votes would be drained away from the ‘big three’ and given to smaller parties in the knowledge that the vote wasn’t being wasted. Same with AV – instead of people using a protest vote for the (up until recently) credible Lib Dems they could have used their first preference as a protest vote for UKIP, BNP, Greens, whoever, then voted Labour or Tory second.

      In a few years when their ‘achievements’ in this coalition starts to fade in the memory, the Lib Dems can once again positions themselves as ‘not the Tories or Labour’ and resume their place as the Party of protest safe in the knowledge that no one else is able to usurp their role.

      It’s a pity UKIP is named UKIP and is so shambolically ran. A credible party campaigning on responsible government and direct democracy could hoover up huge numbers of votes.

  24. a-tracy
    Posted May 8, 2011 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

    JR “I was also worried about the high initial costs to the taxpayer in the form of higher borrowing to meet the demand for loans”. Isn’t this just a rob Peter to pay Paul situation though and what you loan students to pay direct to universities you shall take from the Universities direct payments from another government budget?

    Isn’t this tuition fee con trick just a graduate tax but only on those unfortunate (English only) teenagers whose parents both work full time and earn more than £25,000 pa as a household. When I had children I thought that when they reached 18 they would be considered adult and assessed as an independent adult – I never bargained on our income determining how much their higher education would cost them, whilst their friends who live just over the border in Wales can be educated in English Universities with no tuition fees.

    I can understand the argument for helping to pay for accommodation and food (maintenance grants), for teenagers whose local university isn’t high in the league of universities for their chosen subject but they academically are gifted or talented in their chosen topic, what I can’t understand if why a majority English Conservative administration agreed to charge one English adult (after graduation based on their personal earnings) fully for their tuition fees but another adult (who could be in the same job on the same earnings) less! Can you please explain why your party thought that decision was right and just?

    Did the Browne Report suggest tuition fees anywhere near £9000 per annum?

    What have you done about EU students and how you will get their tuition fee repayments off them? What % of EU students that have British Student Loans are not paying anything back after graduation? What % are only paying the interest back?

  25. Andrew Gately
    Posted May 8, 2011 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    I watched as Vince Cable almost single handedly nationalised Northern Rock, during this process I was shocked at some of the outrageous statements that he made and unfortunately these statements seemed to go down well in the media and with the general public who did not seem to really understand what he was commenting on.

    I think that although his statements seem to go down well he is not the most intelligent person and that he will do damage in whatever position he is given with the coalition.

    I have read in many places that he was chief economist to Shell but the truth is he was a freelance economic advisor on certain low level projects and certainly nowhere near strategic level.

    I think that it is a fair bet that when the going gets tough for the coalition it will be VC who be first to jump ship and then to try and bring down the coalition, he is a man in a hurry.

    • sjb
      Posted May 8, 2011 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

      Andrew Gately writes: “I have read in many places that he was chief economist to Shell but the truth is he [Cable] was a freelance economic advisor on certain low level projects […]”

      And the source to support your statement is …?

      btw, it appears he was intelligent enough to become President of the Union at Cambridge University, obtain a PhD from Glasgow University, pass the very tough recruitment process demanded by the Diplomatic Service, and be appointed a Fellow of Nuffield College.
      http://vincentcable.org.uk/en/page/vincecable

      • rose
        Posted May 9, 2011 at 10:22 am | Permalink

        And dons used to get two votes, but Oxford and Cambridge still voted for AV, along with Lambeth, Islington, and Glasgow Kelvin. Higher education doesn’t guarantee intelligence, wisdom, or judgement.

  26. JoolsB
    Posted May 8, 2011 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

    If you have to pick on the students, and only the English ones at that, to plug the deficit, why couldn’t you at least do it by having the courage to save money by putting an end to Blair’s 50% quota instead of now making higher education in England only for the well-off. I have voted Conservative all my life and actually gave weeks of my time last year campaigning for them but I will never forgive them for what they have done to the youngsters of the England, the talented ones that is, the potential scientists and doctors of the future who will now decide not to pursue their dreams, no matter how talented they are rather than spending the next thirty years in debt.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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