Sunday, December 05, 2010


Lib Dems Face Realities of Power

According to the ST 63% of voters think it would be wrong for the Lib Dems to break their election pledge and vote for tuition fees to rise; only 26% think it would be right. 45% in the same poll, think Vince cable should vote against it too. Problem is he is the architect of the hike in fees and as a Cabinet minister he ius also obliged to support his own government or resign. When he said he was thinking of abstaining I thought this one of the most bizarre possibilities in recent political history.

It6 seems clear that the smaller Coalition partner is totally bemused by the fix they have got themselves into. Cable has now said he'll vote for his own policy which is reneging on the pre-election pledge but at least is consistent with the coalition agreement. When they accepted the deal they thought they had covered bases on tuition fees by winning the right to abstain but Andrew Rawnsley makes a good point in his article today:

At the time they struck their deal with the Tories, the Lib Dem negotiators thought they had got themselves a "get out of jail free" card. But it was pretty much bound to become an unsustainable position in government and it became completely unfeasible from the moment that Vince Cable was appointed business secretary and the cabinet minister responsible for higher education.

This is painful for the Lib Dems as they have pushed the Tories to make a more generous offer on the new fees system than otherwise would have been the case. But it seems the party will split three ways, though no-one yet knows the numbers: one sliver for the increase; one against and another abstaining. The third option, favoured by Simon Hughes, is pretty much a cop-out and is redolent of the traditional criticism of the Lib Dems: that they prefer to sit out difficult decisions, retaining moral purity but failing to engage with political realities.

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