Is this the winter of Lib Dem discontent?

Another week, another chameleon-like manouvre from the Liberal Democrats as the tuition fees crisis looks increasingly likely to be the party's poll tax moment. As Patrick Wintour writes in the Guardian, many Lib Dems have privately admitted their regret over signing the NUS pledge opposing tuition fees at the time of the election, arguing they did it under the encouragement of party HQ.

Another week, another chameleon-like manouvre from the Liberal Democrats as the tuition fees crisis looks increasingly likely to be the party’s poll tax moment. As Patrick Wintour writes in the Guardian, many Lib Dems have privately admitted their regret over signing the NUS pledge opposing tuition fees at the time of the election, arguing they did it under the encouragement of party HQ.

Vince Cable has gone so far as to reveal his regret publicly, telling Channel 4 News he would never have signed the pledge if he had known he would be in government.

Such remarks, however, risk making Mr Cable look disingenuous, deceitful even. As Left Foot Forward reported last week, the party were actively planning for a hung parliament.

So to say he signed the pledge under the belief he would not be involved in implementing tuition fees policy in a coalition government is scarcely credible.

Moreover, as pointed out in Liberator, the house journal of left wing Liberal Democrats:

“Some will argue that being in government requires a hard-headed ability to adapt to events, whatever one said at an election.

“But as the Lib Dems never tire of saying, their manifesto spending plans were ‘carefully costed’, so either the tuition fees policy was not properly costed, or those costings have become void.”

The Lib Dems went into the election with strong student support, courting the student vote with this very pledge, making the battle over fees one of the most important factors in deciding what kind of party will emerge in government.

On the other side of the battle, more than 100 Lib Dem parliamentary candidates have published a petition, on West Sussex County Council member Derek Deedman’s website, calling on Nick Clegg to oppose the tuition fees proposals. It remains to be seen how this will unfold next month, when a parliamentary vote on the measure is expected – with the Lib Dems permitted to abstain under the terms of the coalition agreement.

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