Like many of my fellow Liberal Democrats, I’ve spent a lot of time recently defending the party’s decision to go into government with the Tories. Much of the debate is happening on Twitter, which leads to two problems. Firstly, you have to squeeze your arguments into 140 characters, which doesn’t leave much room for nuance or for factual background. Secondly, there’s a large contingent of tribalist Labourites trolling around.
Put those two together, and you get this (as well as the accompanying facebook campaign). Seems like a lot of people are quite angry with the Lib Dems for dropping our policy for a phased withdrawal of student tuition fees.
Look at the list of names signed up to the campaign. I can’t see all that many Lib Dems. In fact, it’s peppered with Labour Party members, including NUS President Aaron Porter. I’m sure a lot of these people are sincere and genuine in their opposition to tuition fees, but they’re not exactly running this campaign out of a selfless desire to improve the Lib Dems’ policy position.
Worryingly, the Labour campaigners don’t seem to grasp the concept of a coalition. No party has a mandate to carry out its policies in full. There has to be compromise. Unfortunately, this time, our position on tuition fees didn’t make the cut.
Truth is, we didn’t decide against scrapping tuition fees. The British people did, when they failed to give a majority to the only party proposing to scrap them: the Lib Dems. If we were running the show, there’d be a bill going through this year, abolishing top-up fees for final-year students. Compare and contrast with the Labour Party in 2004: a thumping majority, enough to do what they liked (even with 71 of their own MPs rebelling) - and they chose to break a cast-iron manifesto promise, condemning a generation of young people to crippling debts. Against that background, this sanctimonious and tactically-motivated posturing from Labourites really sticks in the gullet.
If, like me, you’re a student, and if, like me, you’re wondering how to get rid of tuition fees, then consider this. In power, Labour introduced the damn things. The Lib Dems want to scrap them, and if ever we’re in a position to do so, we will.
Now, which party should you spent your efforts fighting against?