A very tough day in the UK today, with the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition passing(just) its proposal to triple university tuition fees and cut allowances for some students. There is a huge wave of protest in the UK that has got pretty ugly, with Prince Charles car attacked, the NUS condemning the violence and stories flying about police tactics.
Leaving aside the substance of the issue, which represents fees of up to 9,000 pounds, for many casual observers in New Zealand it might be hard to understand why this debate and vote is so significant in the UK, and why the focus is so much on the Liberal Democrats. Martin Kettle in the Guardian has a good description of this, and believes that this is the beginning of the end for the coalition.
From a Liberal Democrat perspective many backbenchers voted against their leadership today because it was clear party policy not to raise fees, but also because many, including their leader Nick Clegg signed pledges not to raise fees. Those Lib Dem MPs in electorates with large university populations are worried.
Signing a pledge such as this is not new. There are many of us here who remember Lockwood Smith’s 1990 promise not to raise fees. To remind, here is the evidence. (h/t Moana Mackey)