“I believe it is time…for promises to be kept”
These were the words i heard amongst 500 or so others at the NUS conference in Newcastle,
Whos words were they? You can see the full video here and yes, you guessed it, Nick Clegg, who addressed the conference via video link and as you can imagine, was met with rousing applause.
All three main party leaders spoke to the conference through video. Gordon Brown looked like a man already defeated, receiving a few murmurs and the odd applause. The response to David Cameron was, well, as you can already imagine what a student response would be to the policy and ideas of the Conservative party. Then we finally came to Clegg; a receptive response from the applauding conference floor, people were optimistic.
Nick Clegg signed a pledge to fight campaign and vote against any potential rise in tuition fees. On top of this, we must also remember that more than 500 Liberal Democrat candidates signed the pledge, including every single elected Liberal Democrat MP.
The signing of this pledge gained the respect of thousands of students for the Liberal Democrats. I think we can be pretty sure that a large quantity of support for the Lib Dems came from the very students that they had promised to support. Which begs the question; would the Lib Dems even be where they are now if it wasn’t for these students who helped mandate them to help govern this country?
I began this article before 3.30 today, which was in the build up to hearing Vince Cables response to the Browne report in parliament. It’s now pretty much confirmed; Cable and Clegg have turned their back on students and now seem to be in full support of the Browne review. Shame on them I say. I have recently wrote an article for the Wessex Scene on the ‘Importance of being political’, which talks of MP’s being accountable to you, having your say and making sure the government listens to you. With what has just happened, it is no wonder there are so many people who are politically apathetic in this country.
Now we all know not all manifesto pledges can be fully implemented as promised in the way they were, things change, some barriers can go up, other immediate priorities can slow the process, it can be just like that here at SUSU. However, for Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats to make such a U-Turn in their pledge, is quite frankly disgraceful. The excuse “we didn’t know how much of a mess this country is in”, as echoed by Baroness Warsi earlier this week in Question Time, is simply not good enough, and will not wash with the electorate.
How an earth can people supposed to trust politics and political campaigns if that’s the case? How can any sort of campaign by any party be credible if they can get away with that excuse so easily? These are questions I think Clegg and his colleagues should be answering to us right now.
I firmly believe that if the Liberal Democrats do abandon their pledges to students, that they will lose a massive amount of the electorate in future elections. Students are the future of this country, some of the brightest and the best, people who hold an intense interest in current affairs and who are likely to have a leading influence in contemporary and future politics. It’s not only students that will feel seriously let down by the Lib Dems, their parents, older siblings of future students, the students of tomorrow. These are all people who were perhaps that little bit on the fence with their vote and gave it to Clegg due to his promises on tuition fees; i wonder how many people would retract their vote given the opportunity right now. They will not forget.
I believe this revelation by Nick Clegg and Vince Cable on behalf of the Liberal Democrats to be an utter disgrace and would not be surprised to see many people questioning their party’s integrity and asking serious questions about the legitimacy of its leadership.
I don’t believe anyone can watch the video mentioned earlier in this post and not feel extremely let down by Nick Clegg; he gave students a promise by pledging his own and his party’s support to them. It seems that the excuse that the coalition government “didn’t know how much of a mess this country is in” is a good enough excuse for his party to abandon all promises given. This is not good enough for Students.
In regards to the Browne review, Rob makes all the clear points in his blog and talks about how we as a Union are now hoping to move forward in this.
Many of you will be left feeling upset and deflated after today. However it’s so important that we do not give up the fight. Universities have to help us defend these potential savage cuts to Higher Education, the battle starts nationally. Sign up to the National Demo and make your voice heard right in the heart of London. Students and young people from all around the country will be turning up in their masses; Southampton must join the fight!