The phrase LOL was invented for pictures like this...
Keir got a response to his email to the lovely Jenny Willott, MP for Cardiff Central, her of the new baby possibly conceived on the expensive bed that the taxpayer paid for. (It was so expensive, she claimed, to much derision at pre-election hustings, so it could be disassembled and got up the stairs of her terraced house. Anyone fancy getting onto Ikea and finding one cheaper for her?)
Keir was surprised actually, as until a frenetic few days of activity in the last week or so of October, she hadn't updated her website on any issues affecting her constituents; especially issues, such as the publication of the Browne Report affecting the ones that put her in place in 2005 and kept her their in 2010: students. (Something she still is yet to do)
2nd November 2010
Dear Mr. Hardie,
Thank you for your email about the Browne Review into tuition fees.
I absolutely understand your concern, I’ve campaigned against tuition fees throughout my time as an MP and long before I entered Parliament. I believe that university education should be available to everyone, regardless of their financial circumstances and I was therefore very happy to sign the NUS pledge in the election.
Towards the end of the last Parliament, Labour’s Secretary of State for Business, Lord Mandelson, commissioned Lord Browne to look into increasing fees. It is clear that Labour, who introduced Top-Up Fees in 2004 despite their manifesto promise not to, were seriously considering raising or even abolishing the cap on fees.
As you know, Lord Browne has now published his report and recommended abolishing the cap all together to allow universities to create a ‘market for education’. His review assumes that those who go to the best universities will earn more when they graduate and therefore these universities should be able to charge higher fees.
I do not support this approach. For a start many highly educated and intelligent people choose to become teachers, nurses or other public sector workers, or work in the charitable sector and will not make more money from going to a top university. I want to encourage the best people to study at the best universities and take up these types of jobs, not force them to choose between being able to pay off their debts or accepting a job which is of great benefit to society.
As a result I disagree with much of the Browne Review and, if it were to be implemented in full would absolutely vote against it. However, the Browne Review is an independent report and the Government has not yet announced what it plans to do. I, along with my Lib Dem colleagues, am currently lobbying Ministers to try to ensure that the final proposals do not burden students with further debt or prevent people from less affluent backgrounds from attending university.
I will not support an increase in tuition fees, but would like to see what the Government proposes first before deciding exactly what I will do.
I hope that this helps to explain my position. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if I can help further on this or any other issue.
Jenny Willott MP, Cardiff CentralKeir has emboldened and underlined the most salient issues in her response. She starts off with a nice bit of blame Labour. Yes there is evidence that Labour wanted a review of HE funding. They launched the report process. This is where her attempts at equivalence fall down, because so what if Labour were considering it? (Whether they were or were not is immaterial really) Does that make it OK for the Coalition to do it? Anyway, she is part of a government that IS raising the cap on tuition fees, not considering it.
She goes on to build a nice little get out clause, of course she would vote against the Browne report if implemented in full (which it almost certainly won't be). Leaves her a nice little grey area, and she ends on a cop out too, she 'will not support tuition fee increase, but...'. That isn't a flat out refusal to support it, that is deft footwork that Gareth Bale would be proud of.
If she does vote in support of raising tuition fees, then not only will the outgoing Lib Dem Jenny Randerson be replaced by the excellent Labour campaigner Jenny Rathbone in the Senedd elections next May, but come the first Thursday in May 2014/15 then Jenny Willott will be looking for another (well, her first *real*) job.
And in closing, this from a seasoned campaigner in Cardiff Central, where a mixture of faux outrage about student fees, Iraq, and their silly little focus campaigns helped them win in 2005 and just about hold on last time:
In[sic] student fees I love this quote from a Lib Dem in the local newspaper in 2004: "Cardiff's residents should see the recent rebellion by Labour MP Jon Owen Jones for what it is - a cynical attempt to win votes at the next general election" - forgive me for interpreting Jenny Willott's declared intention to vote against fees in exactly the same way.