Party and Public will end up having no confidence in our MPs

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Good enough then, good enough now.

The Tuition Fees battle continues to rage, with a petition signed by 104 PPCs from last May’s Westminster Election having been sent to all 57 Liberal Democrat MPs.

Personally*, I hope that if the MPs vote against Party Policy – that is, for the increase in tuition fees – they are challenged by their local parties for the right to stand again as Liberal Democrats.

Perhaps it is time for the Leadership to be challenged publicly at Lib Dem Spring Conference in Sheffield. Would a vote of no confidence in the Party Leader in his home city be in order?

A petition, calling on all Liberal Democrat MPs to vote against the proposed rise in tuition fees when this is debated in Parliament before Christmas, has been sent to all the 57 Liberal Democrat MPs.

This petition has been established in opposition to the coalition government’s current proposed policy on tuition fees and has been signed by 104 of the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidates at the 2010 General Election (over 15% of the total Lib Dem candidates).

The petition was conceived and produced by Craig Bichard, with the support of Derek Deedman, the Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidate for Arundel & South Downs at the 2010 General Election. Craig is a 19-year-old student and passionate member of the Arundel & South Downs Liberal Democrats, and it is his ambition to become a Liberal Democrat MP in the future.

Both Craig and Derek feel very strongly that unlike manifesto policies, which are aspirations to be delivered by an overall majority government or used as a basis for a compromise agreement in a coalition situation, the unconditional pledge made by Liberal Democrat Candidates to vote against any rise in tuition fees is a promise which must be kept – and 103 other Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidates at the 2010 General Election agree and have signed the petition. All agree that this is a red line issue and the provision in the Coalition Agreement for Liberal Democrat MPs to abstain is not sufficient.

Derek Deedman‘s blog

The petition in full is reproduced below:

During the General Election campaign many of our MP’s (and now government ministers) signed a pledge with the National Union of Students that they would vote against any tuition fee rises during the course of the next Parliament. The wording of this pledge clearly indicated that this would be unconditional; regardless of whether the party was in government or in opposition. The party has been very clear for many years about its view on tuition fees and that we feel they should be abolished.

However after the recent publication of the Browne review into university funding it now seems entirely likely that although tuition fees will be capped this will be done to an unacceptable level of somewhere between £9000-£9500 per year with almost all courses costing at least £6000 per year.

Stopping this from happening is vitally important. Not just for the benefit of students but also for the Liberal Democrats. There is one thing that sets the Liberal Democrats apart from other political parties; this is that when we say we will do something during election campaigns we then do it in government. This can be seen in how the income tax threshold will rise to £10,000 by the end of this Parliament, the AV referendum on 5th May 2011, the reduction of MP’s to 600, the Pupil Premium and the delay over the replacement of Trident. We have achieved this and more despite the compromises of being in a coalition.

Nick Clegg emphasised this best of all during the televised leadership debates when he said that the Labour and Conservative Parties have given us “Nothing but broken promises”, he also emphasised that “The Liberal Democrats are different”. Finally and crucially he announced how he wanted to create a “New politics” and part of this vision was for parties to do in government as they claim they will in opposition.

It is time for us to remind him of these important values. The rise in tuition fees is designed to fill in the £2.9 billion black hole that will be left in the teaching funds for universities after the announcement of cuts of 40% in the spending review. However in the context of reducing the deficit this is a drop in the ocean and these savings could surely be better achieved elsewhere. For example during much of Margaret Thatcher’s time as Prime Minister the top rate of tax for the highest earners was 60% and yet today in harder financial times it is 50%. Yet it is students (hardly the richest people in our society) who will be paying for the last generations mistakes. This may be a hard time economically but this is a battle we must win.

We are different and must show that we are; especially now that we are in a position to do so.  Otherwise this party will rightly face many more years back in the political wilderness having been labelled as ‘just like the other lot’.

So are these savings of £2.9 billion worth it? Is this price worth the loss of our party’s integrity and our values? If not then we must let the leadership know how we feel and stop these fees from rising while we still can.

We, the undersigned Parliamentary Liberal Democrat Candidates at the 2010 General Election, call on Nick Clegg, Vince Cable and all the Liberal Democrat MPs to vote against any increase in tuition fees, as pledged to the National Union of Students and publicised as such during the 2010 General Election campaign.

There must be better alternatives and we must find the right one; or the else the party and the next generation of students will rightly feel let down for the next Parliament and beyond.

Thank you all for your time, we will all be watching the results of the vote very closely.

Signatures

Derek Deedman (Arundel and South Downs)

Godfrey Newman (Horsham)

Simon McDougall (Littlehampton and Bognor)

Martin Lury (Chichester)

5. Bernadette Millam (Brighton Pavilion)

Andrew Falconer (Runnymede and Weybridge)

Paul Elgood (Hove)

James Blanchard (Huddersfield)

Jon Underwood (Tiverton and Honiton)

10. Mark Chapman (Spelthorne)

Andrew Aalders (Central Suffolk and North Ipswich)

Wendy Taylor (Newcastle upon Tyne East)

Nick Perry (Hastings and Rye)

Peter Carroll (Maidstone and the Weald)

15. Alan Bullion (Sevenoaks)

Roger Barlow (Macclesfield)

Richard Baum (Bury North)

Nigel Quinton (Hitchin and Harpenden)

Nigel Bennett (South Suffolk)

20. Chris Nelson (Kettering)

Chris Bramall (Stourbridge)

Sam Boote (Nottingham East)

Adam Carew (East Hampshire)

David Ord (North Tyneside)

25. Adrian Collet (Aldershot)

Gareth Epps (Reading East)

Chris Foote Wood (Middlesbrough)

John Dixon (Cardiff North)

Philip Eades (Poole)

30. Steven Lambert (Aylesbury)

Philip Latham (Stockton North)

Lynne Beaumont (Folkestone and Hythe)

Michael Mullaney (Bosworth)

Brendan D’Cruz (Castle Point)

35. Jamie Matthews (Pudsey)

Helen Flynn (Skipton and Ripon)

Edward Fordham (Hampstead and Kilburn)§

Alex Berhanu
(Ilford North)

Richard Grayson (Hemel Hempstead)

40. Howard Keal (Thirsk and Malton)

Iarla Kilbane-Dawe (Edmonton)

Paula Keaveney (Garston and Halewood)

Steve Guy (Wycombe)

Rob Hylands (Gosport)

45. Martin Pierce (West Ham)

Tim McKay (Edinburgh South West)

Elizabeth Jewkes (City of Chester)

Daniel Roper (Broadland)

Stephen Glenn (Linlithgow and East Falkirk)

50. Chris Tucker (Slough)

Dave Raval (Hackney South and Shoreditch)

Margaret Rowley (Mid-Worcestershire)

Mike Willis (Loughborough)

Andrew Simpson (Northampton North)

55. Colin Ross (Wolverhampton North East)

Fiona Hornby (Devizes)

Paul Smith (Enfield North)

Tom Snowdon (Amber Valley)

Anna Pascoe (South West Devon)

60. Denis Healy (Hull North)

Tony Hill (Maidenhead)

Jane Lock (North Swindon)

Les Jones (Morecambe and Lunesdale)

Paul Brighton (Alyn and Deeside)

65. Ian Robertson (Rutherglen and Hamilton West)

David Harding-Price (Sleaford and North Hykeham)

David Rendel (Newbury)

John Loughton (East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow)

David Hall Matthews (Bradford West)

70. David Smith (Wakefield)

Jerry Evans (Birmingham Hall Green)

Carol Woods (City of Durham)

Denise Hawksworth (Bolsover)

Mark Blackburn (Westminster North)

75. Jonathan Bramall (Dudley South)

Jane Brophy (Altrincham and Sale West)

Peter Reisdorf (Wirral West)

Jill Wareham (Isle of Wight)

Jane Kulka (Reigate)

80. Paul Dixon (Sunderland Central)

Susan Gaszczak (Rayleigh and Wickford)

Sally FitzHarris (Kingswood)

Simon Partridge (Great Yarmouth)

David Rundle (Banbury)

85. Mike Collins (The Cotswolds)

Margaret Phelps (Witham)

Stephen Martin (North Warwickshire)

Graham Oakes (Exeter)

Nigel Jones (Newcastle under Lyme)

90. Trevor Carbin (South West Wiltshire)

Farooq Qureshi (Leyton and Wanstead)

John McClintock (Chatham and Aylesford)

Nigel Rock (Kinelworth and Southam)

Christian Vassie (York Central)

95. Linda Jack (Mid Bedfordshire)

Kevin Ward (Glasgow East)

James Monaghan (Morley and Outwood)

David Goodall (Southampton Itchen)

Joe Naitta (Derbyshire Dales)

100. Robin Lawrence (Wolverhampton South West)

Lucy Care (Derby North)

Richard Nixon (Brigg and Goole)

Sally McIntosh (Mid Derbyshire)

Alan Beddow (Warwick and Leamington)

*This post is purely my personal opinion, not that of the Northern Ireland Liberal Democrats.

§ (deleted) as was included originally in error. (updated 30 November 2010)

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