Lib Dems of principle
In my column for The Independent on Sunday today I say that the only Liberal Democrat MPs entitled to hold their heads high (ish) are Charles Kennedy (right), John Leech* and “the third man”. They are alleged to have abstained on the vote to join the coalition at the MPs’ and peers’ meeting on 11 May. (Does anyone have any further intelligence on the identity of the third abstainer?)
My argument is that the coalition agreement was pretty clear that the Lib Dems would not oppose the findings of the Browne report on university finance, expected at the time to involve higher fees. So the decisive moment was 11 May not 9 December.
But I argue that Vince Cable could have done a better job of selling the pass, as it were. He should have called his plan a graduate tax, even if it technically wasn’t, as Paul Waugh reported last week that he wanted to in July. Interestingly, the BBC reported his speech at the time as proposing a “graduate tax” (had it been briefed?).
I conclude by taking a negative view of the Lib Dems’ prospects of recovering from last week’s disaster. It is easy to say that we should not write them off yet; but I don’t think it’s true.
However, the excellent Iain Martin has a five-point plan to get the party back on track:
1) Change the party’s name. ‘Not the Liberal Democrats’ is currently available.
2) Change Nick Clegg’s name.
3) Ban Simon Hughes from going on radio and television. It will probably require a control order.
4) Hope for the best.
5) Er… that’s it.
*I described Leech as the “new” Lib Dem MP for Manchester Withington, which my good colleague Ben Chu points out is only true in the sense that 2005 is not that long ago.Tagged in: liberal democrats, nick clegg, student finance, tuition fees
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