It may simply be a sign of the political times, but I for one cannot fathom how the Liberal Democrats have managed to make such an about turn on so many key issues, so central to their perceived self-identity. Vince Cable may well have remarked in the Commons on Tuesday that “The roads to Westminster are littered with the skid marks of political parties changing direction.” But to my mind the only party changing direction has been the Lib Dems. Granted, the Tories are executing cuts of a magnitude far greater than their own rhetoric before May’s general election, but the key difference between them and the Lib Dems is that they are moving to a more comfortable ideological place, whereas the Lib Dems are betraying so many of their core values.
On tuition fees, one of the Lib Dems’ flagship policies for many years, not only will they not abolish tuition fees but it looks like they will be the ones doubling, tripling, even quadrupling this figure, and hiking up the interest rates on the loans taken out to pay for the fees, in what will be a double whammy for any potential students from middle or working class backgrounds.
The possibility of some universities such as Oxford or Cambridge being allowed to charge whatever they like will clearly lead to extremely able, but less well-of students, from poorer backgrounds being effectively denied access to this country’s most prestigious and well-respected universities, opting instead for a less-expensive university, thus creating an elitist, classist system of higher education, doing away with equal opportunity of chances between the haves and have nots. Will this be the primary legacy of the Liberal Democrats?