Nick Clegg must resign

Before we are taken into Hallam in a handcart, the Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg must resign.

There are many reasons to be cheerful as a LibDem supporter:

*Sure Start protected, social care fund of £2million, income allowance up by over a grand next year with a promise to reach the manifesto pledge of £10,000 by the time of the first ever fixed-term parliament, referendum on voting reform, museum charges still free, end of ID cards, end of the DNA database, scrapping of Section 44, increase in Child Tax Credits and available to more families by 2012…..

…..and then…..

Then there’s the shadow. The dark, thick, acrid smoke covering all the good news, turning it inside out like the toxic fog that does for the chrous-line Simpsons. The scare-story in today’s Guardian today – I assume the headline “LIBDEMS REALISED THERE WOULD BE A HUNG PARLIAMENT AND ACTED ACCORDINGLY” was considered too pedantic – nevertheless taps into the problems right at the heart of our Party and its role within the Coalition.

Clegg has delivered exactly what all activists and Councillors and voters wanted; LibDems in Government, giving the Conservatives a liberal accent on civil liberties and tax. But it’s the shadow, the darkness, the storm…

A few days ago, whilst returning on train from Manchester, I struck up conversations with students coming home from the NUS march in central London. All 5 of them – two each from Manchester and Salford, two from UCLan – agreed with despondency and regret that the march had largely been a disaster. As one said; “It was a great march, until we came out from a 20 minute break in Costa to find all Hell had broken loose.” Another said “We picked up stragglers who just wanted to start a fight, we won’t be on the middle pages never mind the front page.”

But any ire focused at the SWP and pick-n-mix anarchists ruining the march was nothing compared to what they had in store towards Nick Clegg. Not Liberal Democrats generally, I noticed (talking with them as a ‘supporter’, assuming telling them how I was a committed activist and former Councillor would colour the debate somewhat). Specifically Nick Clegg. One told me;

Clegg came to every Uni, day after day, telling us ‘Vote for me and I will help abolish tuition fees. My vote was to him on that one promise, and now that promise is broken. I feel betrayed.

Another said;

All I can see now is Nick Clegg lying about tuition fees and a left wing Labour leader wanting them scrapped. That’s it for me, and all our branch (of the NUS) feel the same. Labour will get thousands more student votes now and it’s all because Labour are taking the right words on scrapping fees, that’s just what we want

A few days later, a mate of mine talking on this issue said;

Clegg just comes across like Phil Woolas, lying to get elected. What’s the difference? He should be done for fraud

Each and every attack on Clegg – their voice hoarse, their hearts deflated, their LibDem support utterly compromised – rang in my ears like church bells. Although I don’t believe “Clegg = Woolas” (whilst Phil knew his election material to be untrue, Clegg had no notion of the election result until it happened), the substantive point still stands. The one policy which was our magnet for support has become repellent, abhorrent.

Partly due to bad PR, implementation of the Browne Report has tainted our Party as dream-stealers. The proposals for tuition fees deal with the unholy mess handed to us by Labour. Increasing the pay-back salary to £21k and rightly dismissing the grossly unfair Graduation Tax is amongst the better of very limited options. It’s not right, it’s not pretty, but here is where we find ourselves…

…I just have to blame Clegg for getting us here. During our Leadership Election – “Calamity Clegg”, remember that? – I voted for Chris Huhne as my first preference and spoke against Nick at every opportunity. At the time, he did not convince me. I didn’t like him at the time and I don’t trust him now. His leadership has become toxic. “Word Association” with Liberal Democrat buzzwords comes up negatively everytime. We’re achieving too much good whilst in Government to have the tuition fees mess drag us out of office.

I support all those LibDems – such as my Presidential preference Tim Farron – who won’t just abstain but vote against the fee proposals. This is the kind of progressive and independent matter of conscious actions I would expect from anyone on the LibDem backbenches. Such matters of principle clearly shut down when Clegg’s ministerial car opened.

For the good of the Party – maybe even for our survival as a Party in the longterm – Nick Clegg must stand down. I had no idea of the strength of opposition to him, the manner in which his personal standing is dragging the whole party in the mud. To get anywhere near the standing before the election, his actions now have to ensure elections later are not ballot-box killing fields.

I want the Party to remain in the Coalition, doing all it can for the people of Britain in the aftermath of Labour’s disastrous economic illiteracy. To do anything in this regard, the one man whose role is causing dense fog to cloud all other considerations of our Party must to the honourable and right thing.

Nick Clegg must resign as Leader as soon as possible.

Advertisements

NUS – the problems with issues

First things first, the old-fashioned, good old facts. I am against tuition fees, always have been, from the moment Labour introduced them in 1997 while I was just starting out at college. “Where did this policy come from?” we asked, in somewhat stunned confusion. Well, nowhere, for Labour sprung them onto the nation without much introduction.

(The same, of course as top-up fees, another post-election surprise from Labour)

I don’t know what the NUS have been smoking, but their current violent attitude spilling across the centre of London really does nothing to make them look like the mature counter-argument to university funding. The NUS have got this completely and utterly wrong. By promoting millions of pounds worth of damage to persons and property across London as part of their “debate”, the NUS “leadership” is showing the very worst characteristics of student politics. Shouty, slogan-sore ignorance on a national scale.

Their collective amnesia is stunning. Labour’s introduction and promotion of tuition fees have brought us all to this state, where the only affordable option is to keep the system going with the improvements suggested by Liberal Democrat MPs now in Government. There is no point, at all, in solely blaming the LibDems, as the NUS are doing with all the coherence of a bus-stop drunk.

Graduation Tax proposals were highlighted by the Browne report as being unfair, for they would be levied on students from the moment they earned around £7,000. The new tuition fee proposals, as recommended by Liberal Democrats in Coalition Government, would see repayments START at £21,000, an increase from £15,000. This is an improvement, something the NUS cannot hear above the screaming and gnashing of teeth.

Labour sewed tuition fees into the fabric of university funding. The NUS has to explain what system it would introduce instead of tuition fees, one which would raise AT LEAST the same amount of money. Nobody in the NUS has come up with a credible reason why the entire nation should be expected to pay for university education out of general taxation.

Their “plan” to force by-elections in every LibDem seat is also indicative of their ignorance. There is no “recall MP” law in place yet, that LibDem proposal is still to make it through Parliament (as with the fixed-term parliament proposal, and increasing tax allowances and all other promises made, these things take time). The “right to recall” is only for MPs who have broken the law – such as Phil Woolas. What has Nick Clegg done to break the law? Nothing.

I have great sympathy with anti-tuition fee protesters. BUT I do not, cannot, accept the view that the only organisation responsible is the Liberal Democrats and the only recourse is setting fire to the Square Mile. The NUS has got its argument completely wrong. In the court of public opinion, they resemble the very worst kind of student protesting stereotype.

Labour got us into this mess. If they had increased University funding in line with all other public spending splurges, this mess would not know be realised. There is no point in whinging about the result of the General Election, not trying to rewrite history to present Labour as “friends of students”.

As the sight of the NUS-led protests against “Tony B. Liar” prove, sometimes all the students unions need are reasons to be angry with no solutions to back up the slogans.

I am against tuition fees, now as ever. I am against the NUS setting the HE funding argument as a LibDem witchhunt. It is not accurate, it is baseless in fact and shallow in detail.