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As Gove changes school funding, stand by for another Clegg ‘I agonised’ interview

Posted on 13 November 2010 | 8:11am

Take a look at Nick Clegg’s face and hands in the picture in this Guardian report of how the Lib Dems planned to abandon the tuition fees pledge before the last election.

The report makes pretty clear that even as the party was hoovering up student votes, the man making contingency plans for coalition discussions in the event of the hung Parliament knew that the pledge might be sacrificed. And given that he was none other than Danny Alexander, Clegg’s right hand man, we can safely assume Clegg knew too.

Look closely at Clegg. Nervous smile. Hands barely holding the ‘I pledge’ poster. Compare and contrast with the beaming joy on the face of his ginger (used purely for identification purposes, the word rat did come near my mind) colleague alongside. Oh how happy is he to feel the votes coming his way from students at his local university … and there they are, three such students happy to be giving their support.

As my daughter says when it turns out she was right and I was wrong on some minor factaul point we have been arguing about … HOW DO YOU FEEL?

All this on the day we now hear that Michael Gove is planning to erode further the role of local authorities in the running of state schools – something else the Lib Dems used to campaign against. Stand by for another Clegg interview in which he says he really wrestled with his conscience on this one, but ultimately it was the right thing to do to sort out the economic mess we inherited blahdiblahdiblah.

On which point, Labour really need to challenge better the notion put forward in every single coalition interview that somehow they are sorting out an economic mess of Labour’s making. They are not. They are making ideological cuts to shrink the state because they always wanted to, and using the Lib Dems as cover. They are trying to erase the memory of a Labour decade of relative growth and prosperity which saw living standards rise and saw enormous and successful investment in the public services they are now cutting. And they are overlooking any international factors in the economic crisis, and the fact that it was largely a combination of the banks and their bankrollers who caused it.

  • Sarah Dodds

    Alexander is a rat, but Gove is just and out and out bastard. He must be so annoyed that most headteachers want to stay within LA control. So what does he do? He makes it impossible for schools to run the schemes to help thier kids without the financial advantage of being an Academy, and then he removes funding from LA authority control.
    Wakey wakey people. This is not giving local people power. It is removing it from our locally elected politicians and giving it to Gove himself, and his private sector education pals.

    • Lynda1943

      I agree totally – this evil lot of selfish yobs should be on trial for crimes against the people. We MUST stop them before it is too late

  • Sarah Davis

    We have to remember this stuff. We have to be out there saying it at every opportunity, thanks for helping articulate.

  • I’ve been really disappointed that Labour has allowed the ‘we are sorting out the financial mess caused by the previous government’ to become as accepted as it has been. Time, as you say, for it to be challenged.

  • You’re right about Labour needing to seize on this. Not only that but I hope it galvanises the LibDem backbench rebellion. Despite its conference making it clear to Clegg that tinkering with the commitment to abolish fees was unacceptable, it seems the LibDem team of Orange Bookers continued to frame policy that flew in the face of party sentiment. People like me – 25 years a Liberal/LibDem member – will feel very bitter towards the duplicity of the leadership; it means we were instrumental in the deceit.

    Of course Clegg will bang on about pragmatism and the need to x, y and z but the grassroots of the party are beginning to see that principles in which they invest a lot of foot-slogging, canvassing and commitment are being ripped out of the heart of the party in the pursuit of a sustaining this coalition.

    Ed Miliband has a big opportunity here to woo disaffected LibDems like me because we need to feel that there is a centre-left worth investing our energy in. The problem is that Ed seems notably absent from this debate and needs to step up because, you’re right, this is turning into an ideological crusade by the Tories and I need to know what Labour stands for in order to buy into it.

  • Peter

    Just to emphasise the point, I worked in Further Education when the last Tory government ‘freed us from local authority control’. Unfortunately what we got was centralisation and a bureaucracy which made us accountable to 28 quangos,and which soaked up hundreds of millions pounds every year in administrative costs. On top of this it was estimated that each college had to spend about 10% of their education budgets on providing data for these quangos and paying for the interminable audit and inspection. Central bodies like standardisation and will no doubt come up with ‘one size fits all’ solutions. Each child will be funded equally regardless of need, there will be winners and losers and elaborate ‘transition’ processes. Ultimately the only way for local people to influence local services will be to vote out this centralising, destructive coalition.

  • MacDuff

    Gove is the worst kind of 80’s Thatcherite example there is, and he is in charge of Education. One thing Labour can claim credit for was improving schools and education, Gove is about to hark back to the 80’s with run down schools and no text books etc.

    Agree totally, Labour need to attack back on this ‘It’s all your fault’ they need a better riposte than the current shrug of the shoulders….

  • Olli Issakainen

    The Lib Dems are entitled to their current views. They have been holding them for a couple of years – at least the market liberal wing of the party. The problem is that they somehow “forgot” to inform the electorate before the general election.
    New Labour was elected to repair the public services after years of Tory neglect. This the party in large part managed to do. Jeff Randall has complained that between 2000-10 government expenditure grew from £343bn to £669bn.
    But during the boom years tax receipts also grew from £382.3bn (2000-01) to £549.1bn (2007-08). 09-10 they were £519.8bn, 37% of GDP.
    In his recent RSA speech Alan Johnson admitted that the economy was unbalanced before the financial crisis. But why? Because the Tories demolished much of British manufacturing in the 1980s for ever.
    Alan Johnson also said that “the government has chosen to distort and misrepresent our record in a way that goes beyond the normal cut and thrust of British politics”.
    It should also be understood that the high structural deficit was caused by the financial crisis and recession caused by greedy banks and individuals. In the end the financial crisis was caused by the human nature.
    In Europe governments are re-examining their postwar philosophies. The social democratic state was becoming unaffordable even before the economic crisis and sovereign debt problem. The costs of health and social security are rising much faster than national incomes, and people in Britain are not willing to pay more taxes.
    But how to replace the welfare state? All David Cameron has to offer is his utopian vision of “Big Society”.
    According to the latest estimates 1.6 million jobs will go because of cuts.
    George Osborne has claimed that Britain had run out of money, was close to bankruptcy and cuts are fair. All this is spin, David Blanchflower has stated.
    Nobel winner Chris Pissarides has said that the chancellor is taking risks with the economy. There is no reason to do so at this point.
    Premature fiscal austerity will lead to a renewed economic slump.
    The funding gap is a big threat to financial system.
    SLS facility by the Bank of England is the largest element in the UK funding shortfall. SLS is due to close by January 2012. Government has also underwritten billions in the Credit Guarantee Scheme.
    The problem is that banks are not lending enough. High capital and liquidity requirements make banks safer, but are at odds with macro-economic purpose of restoring normality to credit markets.

  • Richard

    How can you?

    Pre 97 election YOU pledged no introduction of tuition fees: Remember what happened thereafter? Pots and kettles! Or just plain hypocrisy?

  • Marcus Cotswell

    Hmm … yes living standards rose, but not in a sustainable way: it was prosperity built on credit, encouraged by loose monetary policy (not just in this country, it’s true). And the investment in public services – some of which was succesful, as you claim, but some of which consisted largely of throwing money at various problems and watching them not go away – was funded by taxing the bubble, and in particular the financial services sector which was at the centre of it. So if the bubble was bound to burst, so the deficit – and please let’s not forget that much of the deficit (as opposed to the debt) is structural – was bound to explode.

  • Teresa

    I was at senior school from 1979 to 84, I can remember books and equipment becoming scarce and the free school meals line getting longer, but the thing I remember the most is the sense of hopelessness in the classroom, with a lot of kids constantly telling the teachers there was no point in doing any work as there were no jobs anyway. I really do hope it’s not going to be the same for our children over the next few years, as it was 25 years ago.

  • Robert Jackson

    Coming to an art gallery near you – the very best in contemporary conceptual art.

    Locked front doors.

  • Quite. I’m not sure how much more I can stand of Clegg’s hand-wringing when clearly he had no intention of standing by the promise he made to students. I’m a university prof, and well remember how excited my students were by Clegg’s pitch to them at a meeting held at my university. It’s unforgivable that he could make that promise to them with no intention of keeping it. Clearly he didn’t care that he would leave these young people with the idea that politicians will always lie to get your vote. That is the real betrayal.

  • Steve Brundish

    Betrayal is the only truth that sticks- Arthur Miller

  • ZintW4

    I also think that if Labour had’ve carried out the same systematic attack on those at the top that the coalition is launching against the weakest, then Labour would have been accused of engaging in ‘class war’. Yet now none of this seems to matter, close a few libraries, force a few people off benefit, all in the economic interest isn’t it? Well I for one will not be shocked if there is a give away budget before the next general election where, just as the Tories used to do, the electorate are bribed with a cash back deal.

  • James Walker

    While he is at it, Clegg should also explain how he wrestled with his conscience over how this policy effectively did away with the pupil premium. Because at the moment, cash for schools is initially allocated between local authority areas based on relative need, before being passed on to schools. What Gove intends to replace it with is a relatively flat rate national per pupil allocation direct to schools. So local authorities containing lots of pupils from poorer backgrounds will lose funding. The Lib Dems pupil premium won’t be enough to compensate for what Gove is doing. Once again, the net effect of coalition policies will be the opposite of a key policy in the Lib Dem manifesto.

  • Gilliebc

    I wouldn’t disagree AC with any of the comments you made about Clegg or that horrible Gove man. As for Labour, disappointing doesn’t really cover it. If they can’t even get across the point that the predicament that the country is in was not entirely Labour’s fault then what hope have any of us got that they will oppose even the most draconian cuts proposed by the ConDems.
    As I said in response to your blog yesterday, I really don’t think they are going to seriously oppose any of the cuts.
    So if you Mr. Campbell, or anyone else, have any suggestions as to how we get back on track, as a country, I think now would be as good a time as any to speak up. Because carping from the sidelines, although quite enjoyable, doesn’t really help much, does it?

  • Richard Brittain

    This was an excellent blog post.

  • Nicky

    Look closely at Clegg. Nervous smile. Hands barely holding the ‘I pledge’ poster.
    AC, I wonder if your usual perceptiveness isn’t a bit wide of the mark there. Personally, I think he’s holding the poster like that merely to ensure his hands aren’t in front of any of the wording, rather than having any pangs of conscience that make him hardly able to touch the solid embodiment of his own lying hypocrisy. I think you’re crediting him having an honesty with himself that he doesn’t have. I suspect there’s a part of his mind that he’s shut off completely, which makes him able to lie so effectively. His smile doesn’t look that nervous to me, it just conveys that sort of faux-innocent, trust-me-I’ve-got-integrity look that he perfected in the run-up to the election.

    During Clegg’s own time at university (free of charge) he both acted (with Helena Bonham-Carter, no less, at one point) and joined the Conservative Students’ society. (Tory MP Greg Hands still has the members’ list, with Clegg’s name on it from his university days. However, Clegg denied it, despite evidently being the only person called Nicholas Clegg at his College in that year.) Hmmm – so he was interested in acting, and Tory politics, at university. Obviously no connection between those two things, then.

  • s chapman

    I was in school between 1978 and 1985 and had none of your troubles there were no long dinner queues,no shortage of books so stop lying ! – its another case of propaganda from you Teresa and your sad dimwits on this blog.I very much hope the next 25yrs were exactly like it was 25yrs ago in fact – I went to a local comprehensive and did very well,mainly because my parents were good parents…and I wanted to learn.
    No kids said to teachers that they were no jobs so I won’t – dont be so damn ridiculous and lie

  • Chris lancashire

    Trouble is, it’s true.

  • Teresa

    Just because someone has had a different experience to you doesn’t mean it must be propaganda or lies,and I don’t understand why it would make you so angry.

  • Andrew Williams

    Oh the pure Labour hypocrisy of it! The Lib Dems didn’t win the election, so they can’t be expected to implement any of their manifesto pledges; this is what you get with Coalitions. Secondly, please remember who introduced Student fees in the first place (and some broken Labour promises) when you attack the Lib Dems.

  • Anna

    S. Chapman:

    I am glad you have good memories of your particular school experience, but do not accuse others, whose experience was different from yours, of lying. I was a teacher in a state comprehensive school in the 1980s and 90s and I can assure you that Teresa’s experiences chimed very much with mine. I spent hours making my own worksheets because text books were thin on the ground; I painted my own classroom in the school holidays and provided the paint out of my own pocket. The constant denigration of teachers who were doing their best in negative circumstances was nothing short of wicked. I had consistently good exam results (100% A to C grade three years running in a non-selective comprehensive school) but finally left the profession as I could not cope with the constant undermining by the Conservative government of the dedication of my colleagues’ and my own commitment. The contrast with the investment that Labour made in schools should shame every Tory in the land. I have contact with local schools and am very impressed at the facilities and the commitment of the staff.

    As a digression, (though my point is relevant) we might also consider the vast improvement to the NHS under Labour. My husband was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in the immediate aftermath of the Tory wreckage of the NHS. The waiting list to see a consultant was 18 months. We managed to scrape together £4000 for private MRI scans, consultations etc. Once Labour funding came onstream, he had superb NHS treatment, seeing top consultants, was prescribed excellent medication and, after a serious fall necessitating surgery and rehab, superb care in hospital and support at home. I was so grateful that, having been a floating voter all my life, I joined the Labour Party.

    Sorry for this long post; but people like S Chapman, who call other people liars simply because their experience is different, need to be answered.

  • Teresa

    Thank you Anna, S Chapman calling me a liar I found really aggressive. The teachers at my school were really dedicated and caring and wanted the best for their students, it wasn’t the teachers who changed it was the way teachers were being treated by the Conservative Government, and unemployment had a big effect on family life, which I think created a lot of negativity with students at that time, and it was hard to see a bright future, and a lot of kids did just seem to give up trying at school altogether. I agree with you so much on the NHS, my Mother-in law had a heart bypass last year at 79 years old, she was seen and had the surgery really quickly, if she would have been in the same position 20 years ago I don’t think she would have got the treatment she did, they were fantastic.

  • Danny

    It’s not true, the Tories try to make out that the deficit is the result of over spending on public services, when in reality it came from falling tax recipes and the collapse of the banking sector.

    Which would you prefer an even longer Irish type recession (where cutting has made the deficit worse) or a thriving economy and just a large deficit which can easily be paid off from the proceeds of growth.

    And the economic situation should have no bearing on the 80% cut in university funding because when the repayments kick in the public debt should be all paid off. So all this talk of financial mess is just an excuse isn’t it…

    We all ready spend less on higher education than Poland (as a proportion of GDP) and with these cuts we’ll be one of the worst country’s in the developed world for university funding.