The Pledge

“I pledge to vote against any increase in fees in the next parliament and to pressure the government to introduce a fairer alternative”

That was the NUS pledge that I signed.

The new proposals are fairer. So – those who are angry at me and feel ‘betrayed’ do at least need to look at the comparative proposals and see if they are ‘fairer’. It would have been much easier to vote against – in a constituency like Hornsey & Wood Green where some Labour voters supported me – but as popular as that might have made me – why would I vote against something which will help poorer students when my mission is a society that is more equal.

For anyone actually interested in the detail – I paste some below.

• No-one pays a penny upfront. Students don’t pay, graduates do.
• For the first time, part time students won’t have to pay up front fees.
• All students will repay less per month compared to now.
• The lowest earning 25% of graduates will repay less overall.
• No-one earning £21,000 or less will pay anything (which will be increased each year in line with earnings).
• It will be the highest earners – around 25% of graduates – who will pay back more than they borrow.
• More than half a million students will be eligible for more non-repayable grants for living costs. Almost one million students will be eligible for more overall maintenance support.
• There will be an extra £150m for a new National Scholarship Programme for students from poorer backgrounds and we will introduce tough new sanctions of universities who fail to improve their access to students from backgrounds.
• The Council of Mortgage lenders has confirmed that higher fees will not impact on graduate’s ability to get a mortgage. Student loans data are not shared with credit reference agencies, so they will not impact on an individual’s credit score (either positively or negatively). Mortgage lenders worry about monthly outgoings which are lower than at preset.

This system gives graduates more disposable income when they need it most, when they’re starting out in their careers and moving home because their monthly payments are lower.

Monthly repayment comparators – our system versus the current system:

Job Title/Starting Salary/ Our System / Current System / Annual Saving                                  

Investment Banking / £38,250  / £129.38  / £174.38  / £540.00

Police constable (London) / £25,536 / £34.02 / £79.02 / £540.00

Average graduate scheme / £25,000 / £30.00 / £75.00 / £540.00

Engineering / £23,500 / £18.75 / £63.75 / £540.00

Social worker / £23,500 / £18.75 / £63.75 / £540.00

Police constable (outside London) / £23,259 / £16.94 / £61.94 / £540.00

Teacher (outside London) / £21,588 / £4.41 / £49.41 / £540.00

Librarian / £19,000 / £0.00 / £30.00 / £360.00

Third Sector / £19,000 / £0.00 / £30.00 / £360.00

Junior Sous Chef (London) / £18,000 / £0.00 / £22.50 / £270.00

Plumber / £17,313 / £0.00 / £17.35 / £208.17

Care assistant /£13,000 / £0.00 / £0.00 / £0.00

0 thoughts on “The Pledge

  1. @Joe
    but why is a 80% necessary? especially considering the government won’t receive any return on their income until many years down the line (once fees are being repaid). What other sector is being hit this brutally?
    another thing i’m tired of is that everything is politically justified by saying “this is what (insert party) would’ve done”. I would have problems whoever enforced this policy! It seems people think It’s a competition about who’s got the better idea, when it should be about finding the right solution for the country. Are you saying that we couldn’t have waited another year (as stated, there won’t be any significant savings in the short term) whilst having further debate, so that we could could at least try to find a policy that is right. It might’ve ended up being the Condem policy, we should have at least exhausted all other possible avenues, especially when dealing with something as important as HE.
    The haste of the policy has only resulted in more rioting, we’ve had 3 large demonstrations in 1 month because people knew that’s all the time there was until it was voted on. If the vote was in a year then I’m sure there would’ve been protests on a less frequent basis and in a less desperate manner and it would’ve provided more time to win people over. Instead they looked as though they were forcing a deeply unpopular policy through, completely disregarding the opinions of students… this has won them no friends, and in terms of the Lib Dems, has lost them a key demographic. IMO, the policy was rushed through because the Government knew it would be unpopular and would rather suffer now and give themselves 4 years to ride out the storm.
    This may just be Tory bashing, but i believe the tories had no intention of having a discussion about it because this is their ideology, and some of them are annoyed because it didn’t go far enough (LiB Dems at least get some concessions).

  2. “Steve, you’re right that the original Lib Dem policy of scrapping fees is regressive because free university education would be almost entirely a handout to the middle classes.”

    That is not what I said. Talk about spin!!! How is it a handout for a graduate to pay more in tuition fees and tax (compared to the average non-graduate) than the cost of the tuition they received?? The argument put about by the tories that non-graduates subsidise graduates is a big fat lie. It is an especially odious lie when non-graduates on low incomes believe it. Low income earners receive more in public services than they pay for through taxes. As such, they are subsidised by graduates. What’s really going on in the minds of the tories is that they think it is unfair for high income earners pay more for higher education than they receive in tuition (be they graduates or non-graduates). Hence the reason they like tuition fees rather than progressive taxation.

    “And this does mean that the rioting students are attacking us from the right. We have compromised on a much more progressive policy than scrapping fees, which results in a smaller handout to higher earners.”

    I’m sorry but that is just a complete distortion. The new system is regressive (for the top three income deciles of general earnings and across a wider range of graduate earnings), whereas scrapping fees and replacing them with either income tax or a graduate tax would be unquestionably more progressive and in keeping with Lib Dem policy.

    The new system unfairly punishes those who will end up on middle incomes as those on high incomes will pay a smaller proportion of their gross income over the repayment period (the definition of regressive). Not only that, but the overall tax burden is being shifted to middle income graduates because of the reduction in the teaching budget from general taxation. Many graduates (possibly excluding those on longer courses) who end up on ~100k salaries (and obviously those above that amount) will now pay less of their income towards higher education over their lifetime than before!!! It is very much a right-wing policy in that regard. The protestors are spot on in attacking the proposals for being contrary to Lib Dem policy objectives and for them being Tory ideology. They’re not easily fooled by the few sweeties being thrown to them in an attempt to make it look like they care.

    The reason the tories rejected the graduate tax proposals was because they feared a small number of potentially high earning graduates would leave the Country to study abroad as the tuition cost would be less than the cumulative tax burden over their lifetimes. However, the new tuition fee system disproportionately attacks graduates on middle incomes. There are many more of these graduates and they will now be incentivised to leave the Country after studying here (teachers, nurses, social workers, etc), leaving the taxpayer with the bill whilst another Country benefits. In deciding to go with tuition fees rather than a graduate tax, the government clearly shows where its priorities lie – protecting a small number of high earners, rather than the much larger number of middle income earners. The system as it stands will create deficits for future governments if graduates leave to study abroad (it will create deficits anyway in 35 years time as large numbers of loans will need to be written off. Talk about passing on debts to future generations!).

  3. Steve, you seem very energised by the difference between the graduate tax and the proposed graduate contribution system. But remember the NUS proposal also has a cap on lifetime payments. So what is the difference of principle here that you object to.

    And yes income tax is progressive, but it is not so progressive that if you increase it to pay for a benefit largely to higher earners that that package is progressive.

    In any case arguments of the kind ‘if you increased taxes on the rich to pay for it then policy X would be fair’ are a false prospectus because in reality the burden of taxation does and will fall rather more on lower and middle earners, and high earners tend to be good at avoidance. Taxes on the better off are already higher than Labour could stomach while they were in power, when you consider measures like the increase in the top rate of CGT (which will also diminish avoidance), and frankly I don’t see any of the parties itching to push them further up.

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  5. Lynne

    Time will tell, but this looks to me like a politically fatal misjudgement.

    Clegg ‘admitted he was wrong’ to sign the pledge. What an affront to the electorate! Wrong or not, your inclusion in a government is a result of that pledge. The pledge was a contract with the voters that you have reneged on. You cannot just turn around and say, “Yes, we know you voted for us because we said that but we are don’t believe it any more so we are going to do the precise opposite.” You are holding a totally dishonest position.

    The reason that the Libdems are getting the flak for this and the tories are not is that we already knew the tories wanted to take the country to pieces for the benefit of the few and to the detriment of the many. We voted for you because you specifically said that you would not do that. Now, you are doing it. You had the support of this constituency because your heart appeared to be in the right place and you campaigned to get the right things done.

    So answer this. I believe that to have a strong Britain we need to invest in the community in the long, medium and short terms at the same time as encouraging enterprise – that both are necessary and our strength cannot be provided by one alone. This is hardly a loony lefty position, and close to what both you and the Labour candidate said at the hustings in St. James’. By voting for you, I have ended up inadvertently supporting a government diametrically opposed to this point of view. Labour, however lost they may have got, still appear to believe this philosophy and appear to still have their hearts in the right place. How would you advise me to vote next time?

    Your position is untenable and you have lost the trust of your constituency. Why will you not resign now following your broken contract with your voters on fees? There would still be time to rebuild your standing with local people before 2015 and you could perhaps retain your seat, but that can’t happen while you are still in bed with the tories.


  6. Michael,

    The Lib Dem position in government is not a result of that pledge. While we came close to gaining a few of these university seats we targetted, we didn’t actually gain them. That is to say, the anti-fees policy was rejected even in many university seats, in favour of pro-fees Tory and Labour candidates. Neither party offered to budge on this in May when this die was cast. So while it was wrong to sign the pledge, it would have been even wronger to have thrown the country into turmoil in May by refusing to allow a government to be formed.

    I’m not clear what you are referring to as ‘taking the country to pieces’ but it is clear that any government would have needed to deal firmly with the deficit. Labour’s plans may have delayed some of the spending cuts by up to a year, but they would still happen, and we would all end up deeper in debt as a result of the delay, leading to poorer public services and higher taxes in the long run.

    You wont find any opposition from Liberal Democrats on the need to “invest in the community”, but a warm heart does not imply a soft head. Soft heads got us into this mess, and be glad it hasn’t been left entirely to the cold hearts to get us out.

  7. I’ve read some sophistry and BS on this blog but the above takes the proverbial. Still Lynne will be pleased there is one fan left although apparently it’s not soft head Vince and it’s not clear whether Joe is an actual constituent.

    I used to have a soft head soft spot for the principle of PR but having seen where the lack of an outright winner has led us my warm heart has grown out of it. And of course we have the Lib Dems to thank for delivering two party politics.

  8. The problem with the tuition fees policy is that it is one in which everyone looses. It alsmost certainly saves no money for the taxpayer and may cost money (according the Higher Education Policy Institute). Even with £9000 fees it will leave universities worse off. And it does both of these while tripling the debt incurred by students.

    It seems that everybody loses. In particularm the excuse that money must be saved doesn’t work, because it doesn’t save money.

    The only reason one can see for such total ineptitude is that it is a purely ideological move towords privatisation of Higher education. It is beyonf belief that lib dems could have agreed to such a policy.

  9. “It is beyond belief that Lib Dems could have agreed to such a policy”

    Hear hear!

  10. What needs to be re-iterated – and what is most disingenuous about Lynne’s blog – is that none of these proposals have yet been rendered into draft legislation.

    It’s not possible to ‘check the detail’ adequately particularly with regards to Widening Participation. We do not know how many students will have access to the financing scheme and how those numbers will be determined.

    I’ve read the Browne – there are a number of questions still unanswered in the government’s response to it (e.g. the information Higher Education institutions will be required to provide, the proposed overhaul of Careers Advice in schools, the creation of a new applications and finance ‘portal’ etc.).

    The vote on raising the tuition fee cap used the statutory instrument framed by the existing, Labour legislation. The vote on the 9 December was an abuse of parliament and the public besides the other issues.

    The massive cuts to the teaching budget in the next few years, and the creation of a ‘level-playing field for private, for-profit companies’ (Willetts), will create short-term chaos and will cost jobs, departments and threaten entire institutions in London.

    It’s disastrous and the relative merits of loan vs tax are a distraction.