This evening the division bell rang out across the Parliamentary estate calling MPs to the lobbies to vote on the highly controversial measures to treble tuition fees. For some MPs I imagine the division bell sounded more like a death toll.
After their decision to back such an incredible blow to young people across the UK I cannot see any other way for Liberal Democrats other than down. Down in the estimation of those people who voted for them in the general election and down in the estimation of those students that the Lib Dems pledged to support.
Over the past weeks and months we have seen waves of reforms across all departments introducing some of the deepest cuts we have seen in generations. The issue of Tuition Fees has without doubt been the most contested of them all and today saw students protesting outside the House of Commons in Parliament Square in a final attempt to make both Lib Dem and Conservative MPs see sense on this issue.
All around Westminster the audible pleas of this country’s future generation of scientists, artists, engineers and doctors could be heard from most MPs offices. As the division was called Government MPs called just as forcefully in the Commons in support of their proposals that will act as nothing more than a disincentive to thousands of students across the UK to pursuing further study. Today I spoke with a student who told me they had hoped to be able to go on to study at university but that they now felt that they simply wouldn’t be able to afford it.
The Government claim that they are committed to fairness in tackling this country’s deficit. George Osborne in particular said that he “would not balance the budget on the backs of the poor”. Despite this the Coalition Government have consistently introduced massive cuts across the board. Support for thousands of young people across the country who want to go on to further study is being pulled away from underneath them today and despite what the Government has said this reform will hit the poorest areas the hardest.
The Government is also abolishing the Educational Maintenance Allowance, something which particularly in an area like my constituency often makes the difference between someone choosing to go on to further study or not.
As the vote was called I was confident that my vote was being counted to defending the future of young people in my constituency and across the UK. I know that many MPs did not feel the same and the Lib Dems in particular can never again argue to be the progressive alternative in UK Politics.