Sickening Lib Dem Weasel Words 21

I am not at the moment resigning from the LibDems over the tuition fees issue. But I have seldom in politics seens anything as nauseatingly insincere as this statement from the Liberal Democrats Federal Policy Committee.

Tonight, Wednesday October 13, the Federal Policy Committee of the Liberal Democrats held their regular meeting.

During the meeting they held a special session to discuss the latest announcements following the Browne Review.

In a statement following the meeting, the committee spokesperson said: “FPC confirms the Liberal Democrat party policy remains to phase out tuition fees.

“We are now in a coalition government and we will continue during the period of discussion and consultation to work with our coalition partners towards achieving a policy that meets our key concerns and is progressive

I am not going to deconstruct it because it makes me want to vomit. Over to you.

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21 thoughts on “Sickening Lib Dem Weasel Words

  • Craig

    AF, I love your optimism.

    “to work with our coalition partners towards achieving a policy that meets our key concerns and is progressive”

    is exactly how Clegg is trying to characterise the Browne report.

  • Neil

    Craig, you have completely misunderstood the pint of this statement.

    The Federal Policy Committee (FPC)rarely put out statements at all, and when they do it is almosts always because they are unhappy with something the leadreship have done.

    This is the FPC clarifying our party’s policy, emphasising that party policy and coaltion government policy are not necessarily the same thing, and encouraging the leadership and our MPs to keep fighting for a more progressive policy.

    By the way – I agree 100% with your previous post on this issue and susect the majority of the FPC agree with you.

  • Craig


    The weasel wording of the last paragraph of the FPC statement is entirely incompatible with what you state was their intention.

    If the FPC ment to produce a reaffirmation of the policy of abolishing tuition fees, they could have just said that. They are plainly talking about a different policy when they talk of “A policy that meetsour key concerns”.

  • Leo

    “We are now in a coalition government and we will continue during the period of discussion and consultation to work with our coalition partners towards achieving a policy that meets our key concerns and is progressive”

    That suggests that:

    a) There is any “working with” (rather than “working for”) to continue.

    b) There are any “key concerns” left which have not been thrown under a bus and which there is a hope in hell of achieving if the LibDems continue as they have been doing.

    Wasn’t scrapping — scrapping, not massively increasing! — tuition fees one of the key concerns?

    The LibDems have simply joined Labour as a party I will not vote for again in the foreseeable future.

    (Who I will vote for, I have no idea. The only valid democratic option I see available to me at present, as someone who wants to live in a civilised society that values health & education above war & the rich, is to take a giant dump in the ballot box the day after a serious curry. Only there’s a risk that would be counted as a vote for one of the three shitty parties on offer…)

  • AF

    I don’t like that aspect of the Browne report, nor necessarily the leadership’s reaction to it, either (there are some bits of the Browne report, specifically the stuff on repayment of loans that I do support).

    But there does have to be a recognition that coalition policy is not necessarily going to reflect either party’s policy, but could be some form of a hybrid.

    And given we don’t have a Lib Dem Government, the costings in our manifesto aren’t necessarily going to add up – they were reliant on us implementing the decent chunk of our plans.

    @ Leo, there is an announcement today that tuition fees for the least well off will effectively be scrapped (as part of the ‘fairness premium’).

  • Mark Golding - Children of Iraq

    Vince is losing his grip, this is a fundamental issue for Lib Dems; ‘Lib Dem ranks are heavily loaded with graduates who have seen the benefits of a degree to themselves and whose liberalism makes them deeply committed to sharing those benefits as fairly as possible.’

  • Leo

    @AF, We all knew that a Tory/LibDem coalition, with the LibDems very much a minority, would involve compromise.

    Compromise is fine.

    What we have, though, is a 100% Tory government where the LibDems are not resisting or shaping things *at all*. In fact, they’re *actively supporting* some of the worst things the Tories are doing, many of which *directly contradict* pre-election promises and pledges.

    Then Vince Cable says things like this:

    “We were trying to score a point against the Conservatives, if you like. Okay, well that was in the election. We have now moved past the election.”

    In other words, “I did a bait & switch on the electorate and I’m not even going to apologise for it.”

    Cable did it again more recently with his comment that “we are not in an ideal world.”

    Apparently the world qualified as “ideal” before Vince Cable was elected to power, as he was happy to promise things only possible in an ideal world, but now that Vince Cable is in power, just a few months later in exactly the same economic conditions, the world is no longer “ideal”.

    Well, quite. In an ideal world people like Vince Cable would not be in power. Nor would any of the other sell-outs on offer.

  • Anonymous

    And a double whammy for good measure from Cameroon and Cleggover.

    15 October 2010

    Spending Review: Universities ‘to face £4.2bn cut’By Hannah Richardson,

    BBC News education reporter

    Students and their families face a steep increase in tuition fees

    Universities in England face funding cuts of £4.2bn in the coming Spending Review, an e-mail leaked to the BBC News website suggests.

    Universities UK head Professor Steve Smith wrote to vice-chancellors saying this week’s Browne Review set out figures that “confirm our worst fears”.

    He says they signal a £3.2bn or 79% cut from teaching and £1bn from research in next week’s Spending Review.

    The government said it could not comment.

    This is because the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said it could not speculate about the Chancellor’s spending review plans.

    Currently universities are given around £11bn in government grants a year – this covers undergraduate and post-graduate teaching, research funding and infrastructure.

    The UCU lecturers’ union said cuts of the order being discussed would lead to university closures while the National Union of Students warned the government was stripping away the public funding of universities.

    In his letter to fellow vice-chancellors, the UUK president suggests the impact of the Spending Review will be more important than Lord Browne’s review of fees published this week.

    This is “because potential cuts have been getting worse and worse”, he says.

    He continues: “Browne explicitly says that Hefce (England’s university funding body) will have teaching funding of £700m; the current sum is £3.9bn.

    “This implies a cut of around £3.2bn in state funding.”

    This would represent a 79% cut in the teaching grant.

    “Browne’s figures confirms our worst fears” Professor Steve Smith

    Universities UK president

    He adds: “Browne’s figures confirm our worst fears. Cuts in the order of £1bn for research also appear to be proposed.”

    A £4.2bn cut in funding would be almost four times that which universities had been expected to make by the previous government.

    ‘Lost funding’

    Professor Smith says the Browne report, which itself called for unlimited tuition fees, was framed by “what is coming on October 20”.

    And he adds that universities will do all they can to “replace as much of this lost funding as possible”. This means raising tuition fees to make up for lost state funding, he says.

    But he also warns that this may not be possible before 2012, when the government is expecting to have measures in place to allow for a rise in fees.

    He adds: “The biggest worry is simple to state: if Browne fails to get through the Commons, or gets unpicked, or gets accepted but only after major changes are made, we will simply not be able to replace the unprecedented reductions in state funding that are coming in the Spending Review.”

    Responding to the claim, the general secretary of the UCU, Sally Hunt, said: “It is hard to believe that any government could contemplate making £4.2bn cuts to higher education given that it generates massive economic growth.

    “Cuts of this magnitude will leave many cities and towns without a local university and our students paying the highest public fees in the world.”

    She called for an urgent review of the impact of “these unimaginable cuts”.

    President of the NUS Aaron Porter said: “The devastating scale of the cuts to publicly funded degrees planned for next week is laid bare by this admission.

    “The true agenda of the coalition government this week is to strip away all public support for arts, humanities and social science provision in universities and to pass on the costs directly to students’ bank accounts.”

    He accused vice-chancellors of standing by plans that would lead to many universities closing down.

    A spokesman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills dismissed the figures as speculation

    He added: “Lord Browne made recommendations to government this week on a new funding system. His proposals are for graduates to make a greater contribution to the cost of their education, linked to their ability to pay.

    “These recommendations are currently under consideration and are informing our comprehensive spending review negotiations with the Treasury. Ensuring the university sector is properly funded remains a key objective for the government.”

    But Shadow Business Secretary John Denham said the coalition was clearly planning unprecedented cuts in higher education.

    “It will mean pushing all or most of the cost of the university education onto students.

    “For Britain in a global economy it will damage one of the main drivers of growth, jobs and prosperity,” he added.

  • Alfred

    Liberals like to appeal to the youth vote, no doubt because youth is more susceptible to small bribes and bullshit than the population as a whole. Thus, the promise of four years on the taxpayer socializing at uni is a natural for the Lib-Dems. But if one wishes to justify subsidized higher education as a rational social policy, then one must give satisfactory answer the following questions.

    If higher education benefits the individual, why should the public pay?

    If higher education does not benefit the individual, why should the public pay him to pursue it?

    As I pointed out in a comment on Craig’s October 13 post, the economic benefit of a higher education obtained today is highly questionable. But in any case the benefits of higher education will be unevenly distributed among individuals. Those graduating near the top of their class, whether in physics or philosophy will likely succeed economically according to their ambition and will owe that success in part to their education.

    However, when close to half the population attends university, there is a vast difference in ability between those at the top of the heap and the rest, and it is not obvious that a BA in ancient philosophy will sufficiently enhance one’s earnings in, say, the restaurant trade to compensate over a lifetime for the loss of four working years. So it appears that while there are some who benefit economically from a higher education, there are many, perhaps the great majority, who do not.

    The implication seems clear. For those of high ability a university education should provide rewards more than sufficient to compensate for the cost. For the rest, university education should be considered a consumption good not an investment, and therefore, not a fit object of public expenditure.

    Some may argue that a degreed proletariat constitutes a social good justifying public expenditure, but this is questionable. There is today no limit on anyone’s access to information and the lack of a higher education can be a powerful spur to self-education and a constraint on complacency. As Stephen Leacock, I think it was said, PhD stands for philled up.

  • Clark

    The UK is on course to becoming a work camp. No, you can’t sign on. No, you can’t get any more education. Go work for the minimum wage. Sell those fries.

    “Have a nice day!”

  • Ron

    The Tories and the star-struck Cleggies are about to ensure we are stuck with a two party system for the forseeable future. They will show the electorate that voting LD gets you one of the other parties, with no influence from the Lib Dems. Just when it should have been possible to deliver the system that has obtained in the UK for years the coup de grace, they screwed up. Oh dear.

  • Vronsky

    It’s all deja vu in Scotland. Up here the Libs promised to end tuition fees, then in coalition with Labour kept them, but moved them to the end of the course and called them by a different name. They then took every opportunity to boast that they had ‘abolished tuition fees’. Only the more fastidious among them spoke of abolishing ‘up-front’ tuition fees.

    In Scotland the Lib Dems are joined to Labour at the hip; they keep each other afloat. South of the border they fill the same function for – well, anyone, it seems.

  • Clark


    what needs to change is the structure of both work and education. Trying to price something like education by examining categories is misleading.

    I attended secondary school in the ’70s. Each pupil was given career guidance. We were warned that computers and automation were changing the world of work. Robotics was expected to hugely reduce the manufacturing workforce, and “Expert Systems” would reduce the numbers of “experts” required. The working week was expected to become shorter for everyone, and people would have to change their lives to occupy their increased spare time.

    Now I think would have been a good thing. People with more time can educate themselves, partake in community-building projects, become politically active, develop their hobbies to the point of excellence, etc. They can socialise more and discuss important matters. There would be more time for better parenting and informal education.

    Then I saw a documentary about how people change when they work less hours. A piece of research showed that 36 hours per week is a threshold. On average, a person working 36 hours or more comes to see their employment as the most important task, their highest priority. Below 36 hours, their home and social life will come to dominate. I knew right then that “The System” would fight to keep the long working week, and I was unsurprised that the European Working Time Directive was fixed at 36 hours, or that the UK refused to accept it. “The System” requires specialists with some amount of obsession, and the “Powers That Be” want a misinformed population with insufficient time to become activists.

    In my Utopia, people would have more than one “job”. They’d each put some time towards the ‘menial’ tasks that are so necessary but which most people avoid. They’d put other time towards something administrative. Yet more time would be spent in ongoing education. Putting time towards each of these activities would be required for respectability, in much the same way as “having a job” is now (even if that “job” is morally destitute). You’d only earn respect as a well balanced individual if you showed your willingness to (a) do menial tasks, (b) take responsibility for coordinating a group of people occasionally and (c) continue to learn.

    “The System” has a crisis. It can’t reduce the working week, or the workers loose their obsession. It can’t produce enough “jobs”, so there are people left without. It tried extending “education” – but mostly full-time – it couldn’t reduce working hours so that workers could get some education – but “education” was orientated towards “qualifications”, and the statistics now show that the “qualifications” aren’t leading to “better jobs”, so the whole “education” project loses its “economic justification”.

    “The System” is orientated to maximising economic output. It was unsustainable, and this is what things look like when it starts to fail. The solution is a reassessment of our values.

  • technicolour

    Clark, I remember a parent of a friend of mine explaining the utopia of a 3 day week – a utopia people then believed in. It sounded more than sensible to me, and still does. If there aren’t enough jobs, reducing the number of hours people work will create them. And a work/life balance is vital for sanity, I agree. Bill Gates, for example had 5 minute toilet breaks programmed into his day. And the Thick of It seems fairly accurate. Sound & fury, signifying – ?

    Not sure a ‘system’ can want anything, though? Certain people in it, perhaps.

  • David Allen


    Neil is right. You’re picking on the wrong guys. The majority of the FPC almost certainly genuinely believe in phasing out fees and think Clegg and Cable have both got it wrong and played their hand badly.

    As the FPC statement hints, what Clegg and Cable should have done was to throw all their toys out of the pram and force the Tories to grant real concessions – failing which they should have stuck to the pledge. I hope most MPs will in any case stick to the pledge and try to compensate for a failing leadership.

  • Clark

    Hmmm, maybe systems don’t “want” things in the same sense that people do, but yes, systems effectively become actors, with some independence from the individuals from which they’re comprised. Consider Chomsky’s “propaganda model” of the corporate media, or even Lovelock’s Gaia. In a corporation, shareholders will vote in board members that are likely to make more profit, without examining their ecological or humanitarian record.

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