Left Watch

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The Liberal Democrats' remarkable u-turn on tuition fees

By Tim Montgomerie

The LibDems' tuition fees u-turn, expertly executed by Vince Cable in the Commons, was the right thing for the higher education sector. As the Business Secretary said, it is "no longer feasible" to oppose tuition fees given the debt situation. I also applaud Mr Cable's attack on what he called the "misguided" target of getting 50% of young people into university. I found myself nodding vigorously when he said that an apprenticeship could be just as valuable as a degree; "if not more".

But before we move on it is worth noting that the Liberal Democrats' policy on tuition fees wasn't any ordinary policy. Nick Clegg and most other LibDem MPs and candidates signed a pledge promising to vote against an increase in tuition fees. The party's website set out a timetable for scrapping all fees. At the last two elections, twinned with the party's anti-war stance, it was a policy that was vital to LibDem success in a number of university towns. It's time for promises to be kept, said Nick Clegg. This video records the LibDem leader's words:

Although I'm pleased that the LibDems aren't sticking with their old position and therefore endangering sensible funding of Britain's universities, voters, partricularly student voters, won't quickly forget the dishonest campaigning of Britain's third party. The fiscal situation isn't any worse than was obvious at the time of the General Election. LibDem candidates in university constituencies deceived voters and there should be a price for that.