Lib Dems 'plotted tuition fees U-turn' before general election

Higher education pressure on Lib Dems continues to mount
Higher education pressure on Lib Dems continues to mount

By staff

The Liberal Democrats planned to abandon their tuition fees pledge before the general election, it has emerged.

A book written by Conservative MP Rob Wilson being serialised by the Guardian newspaper has revealed the party planned to ditch its higher education "headache" in secret preparations for coalition negotiations.

The news is deeply embarrassing for party leader Nick Clegg, who has defended his party's abandonment of a pre-election pledge promising to oppose raising tuition fees by insisting the party's spending plans before the poll did not take account of the financial problems his party discovered on taking office.

Business secretary Vince Cable has outlined plans to raise the cap on tuition fees from £3,290 to £9,000, in a move that has shocked the party.

In the same month that party leader Nick Clegg publicly insisted he was not the "kingmaker" in the general election his aides were secretly planning how to deal with the hung parliament scenario which eventually emerged.

A March 16th document by a team led by the current chief secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, who served as Mr Clegg's chief of staff before the general election, stated: "On tuition fees, we should seek agreement on part-time students and leave the rest. We will have clear yellow water with the other [parties] on raising the tuition fee cap, so let us not cause ourselves more headaches."

Labour's shadow business secretary John Denham jumped on the news, claiming that Mr Clegg had "no credibility" on tuition fees.

This week he said he should have been more careful before promising he would vote against fee increases but now we know he was planning to drop his policy long before he made this promise," Mr Denham added.

The Lib Dems issued a statement saying that the document published by the Guardian only represented "selective extracts" of the work which assessed "a range of options".

"As the Liberal Democrats made clear throughout the election and in negotiations, they had four key priorities which were set out on the front page of the manifesto," the statement added. "All of these priorities were agreed in the coalition document."


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