The Futility Monster

He'll pointlessly derive more enjoyment out of your resources than you

Wargaming Vince Cable

Posted by The Futility Monster on July 15, 2010 @ 16:47

A certain website tried to stop me stealing this. I guess it didn't work...

It’s amazing how the news seems to have been dominated all day, and some of yesterday, by a speech that Vince Cable is making on what to do with university tuition fees and student loans. Fancy that, a Lib Dem making the news for the right reasons…

There’s only one problem with this little bit of excitement. The small fact that it’s out of his hands…

Rumbling away in the background is a review of higher education funding. The Lord Browne review, set up by Labour, is going to deliver its verdict within the next few months or so. Lord Browne has the freedom to report what he likes, and today’s headlines are merely that Vince Cable has made a recommendation to that review, a recommendation that may well be jettisoned.

If it is, and the review comes to a different conclusion, we should see the first true test of the coalition. The Conservatives are sure to back the results of the review, because it is the perfect way to wash their hands of the issue. Meanwhile, the Lib Dems are in a bind, because of serious pledges made to oppose any rise in fees at the last election, and the coalition agreement, which has guaranteed they can “abstain” from voting.

Naturally, an abstention will ensure the Conservatives still carry the day. And I highly doubt abstaining will be enough to rescue the reputation of the Lib Dems if the proposals do indeed suggest increasing the fee cap. That would be the end of the student vote, and probably the end of the future of the party.

The Lib Dems have already pissed off a great number of their core electorate, regardless of whether the activists are loving the coalition. Poll ratings of 15% are shockingly bad, and they will plunge even lower if the party makes the wrong call on higher education.

OK, so maybe I should reassess. Perhaps this is the clearest sign yet that this is where we’re headed. Surely Vince Cable would not be setting the party up for a fall if Lord Browne is going to go against him? Surely he is not setting up a huge elephant trap for the party to fall into and end up a bloody mess in the aftermath of a parliamentary vote seeing some back the government, others abstain, and the rest joining the opposition?

I hope he knows what he’s doing. Today’s speech will serve to raise expectations that the Lib Dems are not going to turn their back on over ten years of university policy.

In line with most of the coalition so far, I fully expect that, in the end, they will produce a policy that gets Tory and Lib Dem support. A little from column A, a little from column B. In which case, it’ll all be very boring.

But if it’s boring, it will mean the Lib Dems got their way, and put a major plank of policy into action in the process.

Maybe the quantity of the headlines really does indicate that something is afoot here…


3 Responses to “Wargaming Vince Cable”

  1. paul barker said

    Try growing a spine, at least wait until we do badly in some actual Elections before running your party down. Sorry to be blunt but whingeing is never attractive.

    • I thought this was quite a “middle of the road” post. I’m firmly in wait and see mode, both on this and the coalition in general. But I don’t think I’m alone in being fairly confident that if we play the student tuition fees issue wrong, we’re in big trouble – and we’ll be staying at 15%.

  2. […] Wargaming Vince Cable on the Futility Monster’s blog. ‘I hope he knows what he’s doing. Today’s speech […]

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