The Futility Monster

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

Posts Tagged ‘tuition fees’


Posted by The Futility Monster on October 18, 2010 @ 23:13

Hello to whoever is reading this

As a Lib Dem member, and someone who joined the party many years ago because of tuition fees, amongst other issues, which made the Liberal Democrats a truly distinctive choice in British politics, I thought I’d respond to your e-mail.

I fully supported the Lib Dems in 2010 as truly the only genuine alternative to the same old rubbish from the main two parties. So much time and effort committed. When I saw us surging in the polls, only for us to be disappointed on Election Day, it broke my heart.

The choice of our leadership to back the Browne Review turns my stomach. We have done nothing other than sell our policies down the river since we went into government. And all for what: an AV referendum that no one wants?

Yes, I know we didn’t “win” the election, but neither did the Tories. And neither did we have to put our MPs in Cabinet posts which would end up causing the greatest difficulty for our party. Witness again today Chris Huhne issuing yet more screeching u-turns on our policies on nuclear power.

Sorry “Nick”, but if the party is doing nothing other than back solutions which consistently appear to be Tory – the kind of thing David Cameron would have done anyway – then there really is no point in pretending to be a different party any more. Call a special conference to formalise the merger now, and those of us still with a conscience can reform as a genuine centre-left, social democratic party.


The Futility Monster


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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…

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Conference Call

Posted by The Futility Monster on September 22, 2009 @ 06:44

Does Bournemouth really look like that? I wouldn't know...

Does Bournemouth really look like that? I wouldn't know...

It would be wrong of me to let the Lib Dem Conference pass without some comment on the kind of things that have been coming out of it since it started. After all, it’s ending tomorrow!

The first point of “excitement” to the media came when Nick Clegg downgraded the tuition fee policy to no more than an aspiration. That got Charles Kennedy a little worked up when he suggested it may damage the “heart” of the Lib Dems.

The one worry I have about this change of party position is that it has been justified by the terrible economic position the country is in. But, in fact, one could justify tearing apart the entirety of Lib Dem policy on the basis of the recession.

No… there is something suspicious about it. After all, there have been rumours in the past that senior Lib Dems have been trying to distance themselves from the policy. It now almost seems too convenient that it has been one of the first policies placed on the bonfire as a victim of the credit crunch.

It’s the same feeling that I have when I hear Cameron talking about cuts. I suspect he is a “cutter” by instinct anyway, like most of the Tory party. They’ve been desperate to give the public sector a serious slashing ever since they left office. Now they’ll be able to do it with the most wonderful of covers provided by an economic backdrop that no one can deny.

I fully expect other Lib Dem priorities that are a little costly to join tuition fee abolition on the shelf.

My real problem though is what it does to future recruitment of the party. If we want to grow, we must continue to work hard on the youngest generations, the students and youth, to convince them to choose us. Catch ’em while they’re young, they say. It worked for me.

Meanwhile, other policy planks have included the over £1m property tax… which I think is broadly a good idea. It was quite amusing to watch Andrew Neil yesterday try to defend the poor, downtrodden elderly who might, unbeknownst to them, be sitting on a property goldmine. I don’t think these people actually exist other than in the minds of our opponents on this policy. And even if they do, they will be able to escape paying it as that’s part of the plan.

Then there’s a little something today which might just be a game-changer. Are we really going to call for an end to the Afghanistan war? That’s what the headlines are going to say even if the detail is much more complex. The public would be on our side for sure. But it’s one of the most difficult international issues we’re going to face in the modern era. I really don’t know what the right answer is.

Otherwise, conference hasn’t been all that exciting. A frippery here or there on airbrushing, raising pay of soldiers, some “savage” cuts… it’s all much of a muchness for Lib Dems these days.

But hey, I guess that’s what Conference is all about. It’s not really about selling policy to political geeks like me. It’s about trying to get some airtime for the party’s agenda to the people who are switched off from it most of the year.

The jury’s still out on that one…

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Bloody Students Again

Posted by The Futility Monster on July 28, 2009 @ 00:44

Urgh. What are this lot so happy about? Their degrees are likely to be bloody useless. Like mine.

Urgh. What are this lot so happy about? Their degrees are likely to be bloody useless. Like mine.

… was the first thing I thought when I began to muse about the topic of today’s blogpost, but with the issue of universities still burbling in the background while “success” in Afghanistan is widely celebrated, I thought it was still worthy of some further comment. But I won’t be making a habit of it, I promise.

Yes: in the past couple of days there have been a stream of stories about what’s going to happen to university tuition fees: culminating in this one from the Sunday Times which suggests that both Labour and the Conservatives are preparing the ground for significant rises.

Then, as if to hammer home the point today, Lord Mandelson came out (no, not like that) and all but told us that tuition fees are definitely going to rise by tacking on the usual caveat of helping the lower classes achieve degrees too.

What I find curious about all of this is, first of all, why now? A partial answer is that there is a review coming up required by the legislation that introduced student top-up fees. But that is not for many months and is, ostensibly, independent. The conclusion: it’s very clear that the debate is being framed in preparation for this review to basically say that only one answer is appropriate: fees must be allowed to rise.

Which is exactly why so many of us were implacably opposed to tuition fees in the first place, that they would be the thin end of the wedge that sees us moving closer to the American system of a financial market between the universities – where the poor don’t bother going at all, the lucky working class have to go to the cheapest (and worst) universities, while the elite continue to dominate at the top, which feeds into the continuing class divide. Typical Britain, one might say. That’s not to say things were perfect before tuition fees were introduced – they weren’t – but it’s clear to me that we’re going in completely the wrong direction.

My second point of curiosity regarding this current debate is also answered somewhat by the financial crisis. After all, as I pointed out a few days ago, it seems Mandy has chosen to lead the way by starting the cutbacks process already. Testing the water, if you will, against an easy, low turnout, target who are lost to the Labour Party for a generation anyway. Well, did you really think the cutbacks would have started by abolishing the pensioners winter fuel payment? No, of course not. Spending cuts are going to focus substantially on those who don’t matter electorally – and that’s entirely the youth’s fault for not voting.

Thirdly, and on a partisan point that I just can’t resist making – if Labour continue to ignore students, and the Conservatives choose to follow them down the same path, then the Lib Dems will remain the party of students for years to come. Today’s activists become tomorrow’s councillors and MPs – and the Lib Dems aren’t doing too badly in certain parts of the country out of all this.

If the Lib Dems continue to play this one carefully, talking about what is fair even when the chips are down and the economy is turning against you – as we did on the Gurkhas issue – we may continue to carve ourselves a neat little niche that could be very productive come election time.

Ahh. The refreshing aroma of principled politics!

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Dear Generation X…

Posted by The Futility Monster on July 23, 2009 @ 00:01

Let The Good Times Roll!

Let The Good Times Roll!

Thanks for your postcard from Spain! Glad you made it there safely. Where is the cruise off to next? I look forward to your next missive from the Carribean!

Just thought I’d let you know how things are back at your place. Don’t worry, I have been feeding the cat, but she doesn’t really like the Tesco Value cat food that I’ve been buying. What the hell do you feed it on?!

Anyway – I hope this doesn’t come as too much of a shock to you but I thought I’d admit that I’m looking to find somewhere else to live. It’s been great lodging with you and all that, but I feel I need some space of my own.

The only problem is that my search isn’t going so well. I can’t find anywhere decent to live on a reasonable budget. I know this must be totally alien to you. After all, you’re all sorted with the huge amount of equity you’ve got in your house (yes, even after 15% house price falls!). Oh, and that tiny mortgage which is currently at historically low interest rates. No need even to fix it because interest rates won’t be going anywhere any time soon!

But when I go into the bank I get told I need to raise a 20% deposit. On a £100,000 house (not many of those around in most parts of the country) – that’s just not feasible. And it’s so hard to save up for a deposit because of how much rent I have to give you. Yes, I know it’s all inclusive (apart from food, I can just about afford that!) – but I was wondering if there’d be any chance you could reduce it to give me some breathing space to put some money aside?

I just need to get away. After all, you know what they say about renting: it’s dead money. If only I could get a mortgage then it might actually work out better for me – the mortgage payments would actually be lower than what I’m paying you!

But these banks are such tight bastards. I think they forget that we own most of them, and those we don’t have us to thank for rescuing their sorry arses from the destruction of capitalism as we know it (and now they can go back to rewarding each other handsomely for swindling the taxpayer of its cash without any give on their side!). I know you had to delay the start of your cruised because of that little problem with the Icelandic banks, but at least Alistair Darling got your money back!

The other problem is the jobs market. Maybe I’d be able to get a lower deposit on a mortgage if I was earning more. But you know times are hard right now. Oh, wait a minute, you don’t.

Still, at least my student debt can only rise by the rate of inflation. I got the statement the other day: I owe them £20,000 and haven’t yet paid a penny of it back. Maybe I never will. Just as well that doesn’t show up on my credit check, eh! But I guess this is what happens when you graduate in the middle of a recession. Great timing on my part, I’m sure you’ll agree! Still – you didn’t have to pay tuition fees, so what do you know! Thanks for pulling up the ladder!

Yes, I know you didn’t think Tony Blair would do that either. But we didn’t think he’d do a lot of things. Still, it wasn’t just you that voted for him; he did con the whole nation after all (well, some of the nation, anyway). Yes, even I was happy when he got elected, but I was only young at the time. Young and naive. Maybe you should have known better?

Better go. The post’s just arrived. There seems to be a few letters for you. One of them is from the Premium Bonds. Another £50 win again?

They say the sun shines on the righteous.

Looking forward to your election as Supreme Pontiff. That Benedict bloke will have nothing on you!

See you soon,

Generation Y

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