Today’s tuition fee vote is a milestone for the Liberal Democrat party. It is the first time the party has had to seriously consider the wisdom of a policy designed for permanent opposition from the perspective of government. Twenty-seven of the fifty-five present and able to vote decided to vote in the national interest for a policy that was well-designed, fair, and should ensure sustained quality in the higher education for the many, not the few. They should be congratulated.
We cannot attribute exact motives to the twenty-one who voted against and seven that abstained, there is no coherent support for a single alternative proposition and most rely on either borrowing from unborn children, or damaging jobs and growth with higher taxes. But we can reasonably assume many had an eye to local tactical concerns or found breaking the pledge difficult and put career or conscience before country.
The student protesters, or rather the minority who turn up for a rumble not a grumble, once again, have damaged the opposition case. Assaulting horses, vandalising property and endangering peaceful protesters by putting them in harms way. Aaron Porter of the National Union of Students I feel would have been wise to call for a mass silent protest to highlight those excluded by higher fees. Both a more compelling way to make his point, and as a way of marginalising the extremists.
The change in policy is not secure yet, the House of Lords may well demand further concessions and prove a target for a new pledge campaign. But this vote was an important hurdle and the party needs to rally round and move on.