Lib Dems facing fight for political future in 2018

That’s the headline in the piece about the future for Vince Cable and the Liberal Democrats in The Guardian today.

It includes, ahem, this:

Mark Pack, the former party strategist who co-founded the influential Lib Dem Voice, said Cable may have been aided if there had been a leadership race. “A contested leadership has the benefit of pushing you to come up with your message quickly, Vince did not have to do that,” he said…

Pack said the party still had several key strengths, a large membership as well as a unique selling point as a pro-remain national party. Cable, he said, needed to be well prepared for the pitfalls of leadership to avoid the problems that sunk Farron, who was dogged by questions about his attitude to homosexuality and abortion as a practising Christian.

“He is doing serious preparatory work now to be ahead of any potential pitfalls that might come up, such as what our policy should be on tuition fees. That’s an obvious question that will be asked,” Pack said.

“And there’s a lesson here from Tim Farron’s leadership. Thinking ahead, what are the things that are likely to be a problem come the next election?”

Once again, the data shows everyone was wrong about tuition fees

Buried by the news of a mother giving birth, the latest data from UCAS about applications in the UK for full time undergraduate higher education shows a remarkable sequence of good news. more

The point about tuition fees is particularly important, in my view. It’s a near dead-certainty that Labour will spend large amounts of money on targeted Facebook ads at the next election attacking Vince Cable over the issue at the next election.

It’s not an issue from the past; it’s a danger sitting there in the future waiting for the party (even thought much of what is written about its political and policy impact is mythical).

The question is, do we find a way to address the issue that recognises the way it is seem to symbolise a breach of trust and also find a way to move on from it which isn’t the self-defeating defensiveness of getting into the details of what the policy did (good though it was, it turned out, at reducing inequality in university applications)? Defensive detailed arguments about facts not only have limited persuasive power, they also mean time taken up at the expense of talking about other things.

That’s where the work Vince Cable has got rolling on detailed policy in this area is so important. If the learning accounts policy and graduate tax imitation can both be fleshed out in a way that’s workable, it’ll be a way to address the tuition fees obstacle by giving the party something positive to say not only about students but also about the majority of the population who don’t go to university.

After all, shouldn’t an education policy for the many be about all teenagers and not only the minority who go to university?

19 responses to “Lib Dems facing fight for political future in 2018”

  1. So who are these mysterious “senior figures” in the Party promoting Layla Moran as leader? Are they the same ones who defenestrated Charles Kennedy and, more recently, Tim Farron?

  2. We LibDems have a clear answer to the tuition fee question if we flesh out the learning account idea. We can portray free tuition fees as a sort of 18+. The Labour policy would divide 18 year olds into two groups at 18 with about 50% in each group. To the more privileged group, who are going to be more likely to succeed in life anyway, they give a free gift of £27,000 worth of University education which would increase their already privileged position. To the less privileged we give nothing. It would also take money away from more worthwhile policies e.g. NHS & social care.Surely not a policy for the many..

  3. On the doorstep when the subject of education comes to the for the concrete facts about the good results of the tuition fees should be mentioned as well as our new policies.The negative effects (propoganda as set forward previously by other parties will have to be countered ). However ,as you say, our other policies should be soldstrongly and also that the Coalition was far more stable than the mess we have had since2015.

  4. With Daniel Finkelstein and Aaron Banks focusing their fire on THAT 2008 in/out Referendum leaflet we’d better have a decent line worked out for that flip flop accusation.

  5. The Red Book as part of the budget process assigned £800 million to HE to sort out the spat between Labour and the Tories over tuition fees. We need that money for FE, early years and schools: probably in that order.

    We need to offer a rethink on fees. Either a justified tariff regime: why does a history course cost the same as a Physics course? Or, cut fees to the price of a classroom based course and offer government top-up cash for STEM subjects at a level that makes it worth universities putting on such courses and attracting good students but with less good A level grades. With a few years where the nmuber of 18 year olds will be reducing it won’t be as expensive as the present government policy.

    We also need an eye catching campaign for present sixth formers and their parents.

    • The average cost to the University of Cambridge of an undergraduate course is actually twice the course fee charged students, so even history undergraduates are probably receiving a subsidised education.

  6. Something I’ve noticed coming up a lot is “Calls himself an economist but sold the Post Office on the cheap” or “tell that to Post Office workers now out of a job”.

  7. The impression I get from the way we’re received at universities and from our success in recruiting young members with degrees is that for students, the fees flip-flop is well in the past. The ones who go on about it are the ones who are hostile to us anyway. However, it has a much more long-lasting impact in that it destroyed our credibility in the general population. We’re rebuilding that at local level, but it’s at local level that voters can be most influenced by what they actually experience of our activism. There is no good easy answer as to why we so heavily promoted a pledge – not just a manifesto policy – for an election and then lightly ditched it. So I think the best answer is to admit we made a mistake, not getting into long excuses, and that leaves the interviewer with not much to go on. Then persistently make points about the future such as you’ve made about education for all.

    As for shadowy figures promoting Layla Moran – Vince said when he was just a candidate that he would only do three years or so in the job. This would cover a snap election, but not an election in 2022. That invites speculation about the next leader; and as the heir apparent, it seemed, was Jo Swinson and many active members would be unhappy about two “coronations” in a row, what’s wrong with raising the possibility?

  8. when the question arises about tuition fees it should be dismissed as another ‘bent banana story, good for the panel games, but we haven’t got time to go into the detail of that now’ – ‘we believe in investing in our young people and their education, all of them, not just the 50% who go on to further education’..

  9. As a rule, I don’t ever comment on anything I read through this blog. However, having just read a piece in The Guardian by Jessica Elgot about purported plans by the party “to broaden its message more widely in the new year” with Sir Vince Cable “keen to talk more on poverty, the economy and BAME rights”, I’m particularly incensed. Pray tell, how welcome are critical views in this space? Yes, it’s necessary to ask since my experience of the party thus far has been everything other than “open, tolerant and united.”

    • Hi Michelle – this is the moderation policy on this site, in case that helps: “Comments are very welcome. I moderate comments based on whether they are polite, whether they are really from who they say they are, whether they are on topic (so please take care to post your comment on the right post) and whether they add something to the discussion rather than, for example, being a repetition of what has already been said or the repetition of a tired old insult. You don’t have to agree with me, and indeed comments that point out errors are particularly welcome.”

      • Approximately three weeks ago, you reported in this blog that the local Liberal Democrats (Hackney) had chosen Pauline Pearce aka the ‘Heroine of Hackney’ as their mayoral candidate for Hackney ahead of next year’s election. At that juncture, I couldn’t help but recall her upsetting experience with the party prior. Back in 2014, Pearce announced that she was stepping down from the race to be Liberal Democrat president over the party’s ‘neanderthal views on diversity.’ In other words, underhand racism.

        In light of the piece published in yesterday’s edition of The Guardian claiming the party plans ‘to broaden its message more widely in the new year’ with Sir Vince Cable ‘keen to talk more on …’BAME rights’, I would like to know what has changed since 2014 on matters of race? It’s one thing to capitalise on the popularity of a seasoned community campaigner, but what measures have been put in place to ensure Pearce and any other under-represented party member now feel included in the party? Will she, for example, have her campaign fully funded? Or, be reduced to the indignity of self-funding?

        Token measures like ‘all-BAME shortlists’ won’t fix the decades-old problem of inclusion. Even the acronym ‘BAME’ is, in itself, inflammatory. The audacity of someone somewhere creating a term (the origin of which is widely disputed) in which to lump members of non-white communities in the UK into a homogenous mess is beyond insulting. As ever, it is never the under-represented groups that lead the conversation on how they feel about being labelled. If all I have to look forward to in 2018 is another, ‘let’s talk’ session on race, I’m already exhausted.

  10. Coronations are a bad idea – and much has been said about developing and sharing policies with the voters during a leadership election period. That said, there was no one better than Vince for re-directing us at his election. I know that Vince has been consulting widely in parliament and beyond and will be ready for any election, local or national. Those of us who are online activists are up-to-speed via Vince and others but need more feed-back from every local party and group – including from those who are finding progress challenging.

  11. The media will not drop the student fees line until we can rebut the criticism with a positive policy for the whole spectrum of education. What do we believe the nature and purpose of education in the first place? Who are the stakeholders? Must funding be state or personal only, or should we look to a wider participation in bearing the cost? Why do we differentiate on status grounds between one type of qualification and another?
    To me the big question though is this; why is it agreed by most that primary and secondary education should be wholly funded, but tertiary education should come with a charge? A more imaginative approach is needed, and also exists to a degree in our thinking. Let the state fund the tertiary education of those most likely to be employed in the public sector – health, emergency and security services, education among them. Let the professions (law, architecture, accountancy, etc) fund its recruits. Let industry, commerce and the like fund the tertiary education of its people. And let the students be required to commit to a minimum period of time when they will remain in the employment of their founder as a form of payment in kind.

    • The reason vocational education is so poor in the UK is precisely because it is broadly financed on the basis you are now suggesting for higher education. It creates a vicious circle in which it is cheaper to poach experienced employees from other employers than to invest in in-house training. Despite some problems, an extension of the current training levy on all employers, both public sector and private sector, is a better approach.

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