A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The LDs and the Right of Recall

The Lib Dem Manifesto just five short months ago when they were, or falsely marketed themselves as (in seats where they sought to compete with or squeeze Labour), a party of the centre-left proposed a right of recall for MPs found responsible of serious wrongdoing.

More useful would be a right of recall when you feel you have been conned into voting for a party that then does the opposite in government to the principles and policies it proclaimed in an election.

If that right existed then students who voted Lib Dem because of them all signing the NUS pledge on tuition fees might be queuing up today to recall the MPs for university seats gained from Labour in 2005 and held in 2010. I note that some of the individual MPs concerned propose to do the right thing and rebel but that does not nullify the fact that the policy will go through only because they agreed to go into government with the Tories. This sort of policy would not command a majority in the House of Commons if there was a minority Tory government rather than a Coalition. A Lib Dem Secretary of State, who signed the NUS pledge himself, has conciously chosen to announce the new policy rather than make it a red line within the Coalition.

What makes this 360 degree policy flip most reprehensible is that the voters taken for a ride were overwhelmingly first-time voters fired-up on idealism. Turning them into jaded cynics who cannot believe a word a politician says is a disservice to democracy and political engagement as well as a con-trick of epic proportions.

Is this the political path SDP defectors like Vince Cable and Chris Huhne saw themselves setting out on when they quit the Labour Party?


Anonymous Tom said...

I'm sure you feel the same about the reprehensible way Labour were elected in 2001 on a manifesto promise not to introduce top-up fees... then did exactly that?

I wouldn't be so sure this policy would be voted down if the Tories were running a minority government. After all, Labour introduced tuition fees, commissioned the Browne review, and Lord Mandelson was happy to suggest pre-election that he would support its recommendations, including removing the cap on fees. Surely Labour and the Tories should be joining together to vote this one through in the face of Lib Dem opposition?? After all, that would be the principled stance...

5:55 pm, October 12, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you not consider that voters were taken for a ride by New Labour back in 1997. Tony Blair was elected on a wave of popular support across the political spectrum, including normal Tory voters, on the promise of a brave new land.

What did we get, well how about tutition fees for starters, the ending of grants and no referendum on the Lisbon treaty. Is that, somehow, not taking voters for a ride. As one who was fooled by the charisma at the time at the time, nothing will surprise me again with politicians, least of all the ability to always blame the other parties.

6:36 pm, October 12, 2010

Blogger johnpaul said...

without being pedantic labour were elected in 97 on hte promise not to have tuition fees, then they sttod in 2001 saying they would have em,so it wan't against what hey said they would do

9:12 pm, October 12, 2010

Blogger Merseymike said...

Quite simply, yes

No wonder we all call then the FibDems

This debacle should finish them off of there's any justice

10:25 pm, October 12, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, I never really post comments on blogs but I feel compelled to in this case.

My name is Ryan and I am a student at the University of Manchester. I voted Liberal Democrat at the General Election, but I do not regret it.

Let me be clear right away, I am disgusted by the conclusions of the Browne Report. Words cannot capture the contempt I feel for the well-off Vice-Chancellors and Ministers who have reaped from their free education a plunder of life-long success, and whom now see fit to deny the next generation the same freedom of opportunity.

Yet for you to say that this is the fault of the Liberal Democrats because they formed a Coalition with the party that - get this - kinda won the general election makes me angry.

The abstention of the LibDems may be, to paraphrase, the triumph of evil via the silence of good men, but this does not forget your party's history. New Labour - more so than any other party - has made this possible.

I am quite convinced my younger brother will now not be getting the benefit of a university education - the burden is bearable for my family now, but triple or quadruple that and it would be crushing - and for that the Liberal Democrats must shoulder some of my tremendous disappointment. Vince Cable, with his rather perplexing theory that taxing richer graduates more somehow apologises for effectively taxing graduates more, has left me more disappointed than I ever have been with a political figure, so do not interpret my complaint as a partisan knee-jerk defence-of-the-party rant.

However, please do not insult my intelligence either, by suggesting I would favour a recall. A recall to what end? So we can all happily vote in a Conservative MP to eagerly vote in favour, or a Labour MP who frankly doesn't really care either way? That line about us idealists turning into jaded cynics is arrogant beyond belief, as if New Labour did not routinely break promises, as if New Labour was not the epitome of "let's forget about principles and just go for power".

To not even have the consistency and principle to say "sorry, but we support tuition fees" is what is disgusting and makes me more a cynic than anything the Liberal Democrats have ever done. And the NUS is even worse! Supporters of tuition fees even now, yet so quick to condemn the LibDems for, erm, not being as anti-NUS policy as they were before. I feel as if the political establishment has betrayed my parents and brother today, who have always worked hard and always tried to better themselves at no cost to the state - and yet will somehow now face strain beyond anything previous or the choice of not sending their second son to university. The Conservatives and LibDems deserve blame, but just as much do Labour, who have made this possible with their deceit.

Disgraceful; deceitful; hypocritical.

You might even call it reprehensible.

11:43 pm, October 12, 2010

Anonymous Alun said...

"New Labour - more so than any other party - has made this possible."

Actually that isn't true. The university funding crisis (such as it is; though I suspect no qualifying remarks will be needed after the second coming of the Geddes Axe) has a wide range of causes and many people can be 'blamed', but I would suggest that you have a look at the impact of the policies of the Thatcher and Major governments on universities before screaming about everything being the fault of 'New Labour'.

It's also worth pointing out that a junior partner in a coalition that is prepared to do a heel-face-turn on so many previously crucial policies is functionally useless; a parliamentary tool rather than an actual partner in government.

1:49 am, October 13, 2010

Blogger Bluenote said...

Summarizing the comments, one can but conclude that all three main political parties have contributed to the situation we now have, where students no longer enjoy free higher education. All are culpable to a greater or lesser extent despite the individual ministers involved all having enjoyed the days of no tuition fees and student grants.

Sadly, though, one has to conclude that, as a nation, we can no longer afford to fund university education for all yet, the universties themselves need more money to maintain high standards.

Perhaps the real fault lies with encouraging so many to seek university degrees when a sizeable proportion would have been better served by the courses offered by the old polytechnics or by apprenticeships. That, of course, means accepting the reality that we are not all equal and some are no more suitable for university courses than they are for playing for Manchester United.

11:46 am, October 13, 2010

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

11:52 am, October 13, 2010

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

The old polytechnics are now universities but still offer useful vocational courses. These institutions are where the expansion in HE has been.

The expansion has been to get the UK up to the same levels of degree-educated workforce as our major industrial competitors.

We can't compete on low-cost labour in a globalised economy so we need a highly-educated workforce.

Unless we are inherently thicker as a nation than our competitors we should aspire to educate a similar percentage to degree level

11:56 am, October 13, 2010

Blogger Bluenote said...

Perhaps we should try to encourage major companies to offer apprenticeships with the prospect of leading on to degree courses for those suitable.

For example, my grandson has just been awarded a scholarship as an officer cadet in the Australian Army where he does three years at university followed by a further year at the military academy. Fully funded, even paid whilst studying, in return for which he must serve a minimum of six years.

Similar schemes in the private sector do exist, I understand, but not in the numbers one would like to see.

2:05 pm, October 13, 2010

Blogger Merseymike said...

Isn't the point that the FibDems specifically targetted students - and , indeed, it was one of the few groups who responded to their appeal.

Whilst those who favour other aspects of their policies may well stick with them, those who simply supported them for this reason alone have little reason to do so, particularly if they primarily opposed the return of a Tory government and thought a FibDem vote was a way of doing this

12:24 am, October 14, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said anonymous student. The reaction of Labour would be funny if it wasn't so blatantly opportunistic, now deploying all the arguments against fees that they ridiculed when they introduced them! Luke had better hope Brits re inherently thicker than other nationals, otherwise you might get rumbled on this one. And while we're on the sacrosanct nature of manifesto commitments, I wonder if you could remind me of the outcome of the referendum on the Lisbon treaty. Must have been out of the country when that was announced!

9:11 pm, October 15, 2010

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

I was against fees when they were introduced. Ask anyone who was at the hustings for Castle Point parliamentary selection in Jan 2004

10:33 am, October 18, 2010


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