Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Firewalk with me, Clegg tells his MPs

The Lib Dem MPs are meeting right now to discuss their position on increasing tuition fees for students in England.

Outside committee room 11 in the Commons we've just been given a briefing on what Nick Clegg told the meeting at the beginning.

He said he would have preferred if the Lib Dems had "walked through the fire together" on Thursday's vote but he now accepts that this will not happen.

He said he was proud of the "great strength" the Lib Dems had shown under pressure in recent weeks and that there was no animosity despite strongly held opinions.

The meeting goes on for another two hours, we expect, and the outcome will probably be the same as it was at the beginning, with those determined to vote against doing so. Maybe some of the abstentions will be persuaded that if they're going to take pelters anyway then they might as well do so standing by their leader.

Others may have read the detail of the YouGov poll on voting attitudes to the Lib Dems and the tuition fees issue.

Candidates standing for the Scottish parliament next May will be punished at the polls if their Westminster MPs vote for higher tuition fees in England, according to a new opinion poll.

The YouGov poll found that people voted Liberal Democrat in the General Election, 49% would be less likely to back them again in the Scottish Elections should they back an increase in fees.

Eleven Scottish Lib Dem MPs are under pressure not to back the Tories by voting for a rise in tuition fees on Thursday.

Students are furious that Lib Dem MPs signed a pledge against student fees during the election but could now go back on their word.

Treasury Minister and Inverness MP Danny Alexander is backing party leader Nick Clegg in voting for fees. But former leaders Menzies Campbell and Charles Kennedy have voiced opposition. Edinburgh West MP Mike Crockart is considering resigning as a parliamentary secretary in protest over the issue. Others may abstain from the vote in an attempt at party unity.

The poll also revealed good news for Scottish Liberal Democrat candidates. Should their fellow MPs vote against higher tuition fees, with 47% of those undecided voters stating they would be more likely to vote Lib Dem in the Scottish election.

The poll, commissioned by NUS Scotland and UCU Scotland, also found that overall 52% of people oppose the government’s plans to raise tuition fees, with only a third supporting the proposals and that 60% of Scots who voted Liberal Democrat in the General Elections oppose the increase in fees;

Liam Burns, President of NUS Scotland, said the fees increase would mean over £40,000 of debt for any Scottish students wanting to study in England and a drastic reduction in public spending on university teaching salaries which would slash the Scottish Government’s current budget.

He said: "The proposed changes to loan arrangements will strip tens of millions from the student support budget in Scotland which we already know is inadequate, and higher fees elsewhere will fuel calls for English students who vote in Scotland to pay much higher fees to avoid a cross border flow of ‘fee refugees’. These proposals are bad news for Scotland.”

No comments:

Post a Comment