Wednesday 13 October 2010

University Fees and the Lib Dems

Back in May I voted in a General Election for only the second time in my life (well, I did spend 30 years abroad). I voted Lib Dem. Never for a second did I consider voting Tory (and considering Ken Clarke is the MP here, my vote wouldn’t have made much if a difference anyway), and Labour, even if it did manage the credit crunch right, had long ago sold out its old values.

The Lib Dems seemed honest. But like so many con men, the real truth only emerges later. Their leaders, at least, have been perfectly happy to throw away minor things like ideals and scruples for power. The latest, and worst, is the U-turn the party has made on the rise in university fees.

Britain was its young educated so the country can continue to compete in the world. That, we’ve been told, is a necessity. But now there’s the barrier of massive debt hanging over graduates, as bad as anything America has cooked up in the past. It’s a hurdle that will put many ably qualified people off going to university, and there’s no real set of scholarships in place to benefit those who are poor but academically gifted.

Once more it appears to be a case of the Tories aiming to make the rich richer. Those wealthy families who can afford it will easily be able to send their offspring to university, after which they’ll be in good jobs and essentially set up. The poorer, on the other hand…yes, the students will have to earn a certain amount before they start paying back this money, but the interest rates aren’t being kept low to help them. Suddenly everything is at market value, even your future, which you’ll mortgage for a degree to enter the marketplace with the promise of a good future.

Labour isn’t without a large share of blame in this, either, for introducing top-up fees in the first place, which seems to me to be a sell out of the idea of equality and education. But that was under Tony Blair, who at heart was about as Labour as my cat. The jury is still out on what Ed Milliband can offer. But it won’t have to be too much to draw many voters away from the Lib Dems. Possibly including me.

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