Nick Clegg is using exactly the same rhetoric to justify the rise in tuition fees as he used to oppose it, writes National Union of Students president Aaron Proter.
Aaron Porter is the president of the National Union of Students (NUS)
The following are quotes from Nick Clegg during the election campaign last year:
“If we have learnt one thing from the economic crisis, it is that you can’t build a future on debt.” (The Daily Telegraph)
“[Students are] leaving university with this weight of debt around their necks.” (YouTube)
Nothing revelatory there – Nick Clegg’s u-turn on tuition fees and subsequent betrayal of his own party’s policy and of the students he courted so shamelessly is well recorded and was one of the biggest political themes of last year.
Here’s a couple more Clegg quotes:
“We are determined to foster a new model of economic growth, and a new economy – one built on enterprise and investment, not unsustainable debt.”
“This strikes me as little short of intergenerational theft. It is the equivalent of loading up our credit card with debt and then expecting our kids to pay it off.”
“The Labour Government presided over stagnating social mobility, increasing inequality, and passed on to Britain’s young people a monumental economic crisis and a deadweight of debt hung around their necks.”
The difference here is that second group of quotes come from a speech Clegg gave today whilst justifying the very deficit reducing cuts that led to the slashing of university teaching budgets and the subsequent tripling of tuition fees.
What astounds me is the temerity of using exactly the same rhetoric to justify the rise in tuition fees as he used to oppose it.
Let’s be clear – the government’s aggressive deficit reduction strategy led to 80 per cent cuts in the teaching budget for universities which led directly to the tripling of tuition fees which will lead directly to the £40,000 plus graduate debts that Nick Clegg said we could not build our future on before the election. The ‘loading up of the credit card’ was the bailing out of the banks and the ‘expecting our kids to pay it off’ is removing up to £4.2 billion from university funding.
Where Nick Clegg was adding two and two together and getting four in April last year he appears to be getting five now. He’s been saying for months that the situation has changed – apparently his speechwriters haven’t.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.