Tuition fees are not the crime of century

GraduationMany years ago, before self-imploding, I studied Land Management at University. It was more like Beer Management as I drank several pints of weak ale a night, using my luxuriant 100% grant.

This week I found myself back at University. I was there as a parent learning about student finance. How times have changed. Now, of course, graduates have to cough up 9% of what they earn above £21,000 after university. (Maria Pretzler, mind you, has pointed out that the taxpayer will pay more under the new system than originally predicted).

It seems a fair and reasonable system to me. The Sutton Trust part-funded a recent report by the Institute of Fiscal Studies. There is nothing in that report to frighten the horses. It’s worth reading the details in full here, but one of the IFS’ s conclusions is:

Higher-earning graduates, meanwhile, pay back substantially more under the new system than under the old one, making the new system more progressive (on the basis of graduates’ lifetime earnings) than the old one.

The UCAS website states that there were 495,595 accepted University applicants under the new system in 2013, the highest figure in the years shown since 2008. There were 34,241 accepted applications in 2013 from the most disadvantaged areas (Polar 2 quintile 1), the highest figure for the years shown since 2007.

All of that makes it rather baffling that tuition fees are still venomously chanted as part of the indictment against Nick Clegg.

It suggests a rather blinkered approach, especially when you also consider that, in the same area of youth education/training, this government has created 1.8 million apprenticeships.

But all that gets swept aside in the headlong rush to beat up Nick Clegg.

He broke a promise but he did so because he had to compromise in a coalition government. He produced a reasonable alternative instead.

It is not the Crime of the Century which some make it out to be. If he had broken up the coalition because he’d signed a pledge about tuition fees, then it would have confirmed suspicions that the LibDems were not ready for government.

Anti-Clegg move not picking up significant support

110416-A-FG822-136Tin hat and flak jacket donned…

Mark Pack has an excellent running record on his blog of the known party activities concerning the leadership.

Here is his summary as I write:

9 local parties have voted on a leadership contest: 6 against and 3 in favour a leadership contest

3 local parties have consulted members through meetings: 3 against a leadership contest

29 local party executives have discussed the party’s leadership and not gone ahead with a motion on having a leadership contest (i.e in effect against a leadership contest)

Full details are here.

I greatly respect those who have been arguing against Clegg.

But they’ve basically lost on this occasion. I think it is best that they follow the example of Martin Tod and focus on constructively moving forward rather than going around and around in circles making the same arguments again and again like a dog chasing its tail.

I’m still pinching myself at finding myself Cleggside on this one. I opposed him in the leadership contest, staged my own little protest against him two years ago, and I tend to be on the beard and sandals wing of the party.

But I was hugely impressed by Clegg clearly stating that we are the party of “In” Europe. He is an excellent Deputy Prime Minister. Instinctively I feel inclined to support him.

We can have the leadership discussion after May 2015. It’s going nowhere fast at the moment.

Millennium Dome, Elephant has put all this much better than I can here. In summary, MD,E says:

1. Clegg is a Liberal
2. He is saying Liberal things
3. He’s by far the best we have at communicating Liberal things
4. The Coalition’s policies look like they are just beginning to work
5. He does listen

And, by the way, nostalgia for Charles Kennedy’s leadership is excellent. But it is a rather rose-tinted view of things. Charles is an excellent man. But it would be rather indecorous to disinter the old arguments about him.

Eight trees felled in Stroud Green, Newbury

imageA few weeks ago I noticed tree surgeons testing the trees on Stroud Green using advanced equipment.

This week certain of the trees have been felled. Above is my photo of one of the trees being carted off.

The rationale behind this operation is found in the minutes of Greenham Parish Council’s meeting on14th May:

During recent high winds a poplar tree fell across Racecourse Road. On inspection, the core of the tree was found to be rotten although there was no external sign of this. WBC has commissioned a survey of the rest of the trees which looks at their internal structure. Unfortunately 8 of the trees will have to come down as they are substantially decayed inside. The works will be carried out over the next few weeks and mature specimens used to infill the gaps.

That elusive Personal Best

imageFor those who don’t know what a Park Run is, they are held all over the country at 9am on Saturdays. They are a 5k fun run for all the family. Great fun!

I don’t know how I did it, but on 5th May 2012 I did the Newbury Park Run in 28’14”. My Personal Best (PB).

Since then I have tried to beat that time without success. I did 28:17 last year and 28:16 this year. But 28’14” eludes me.

I know I have to start at the front to have a chance of a PB. Yes, that means 180 speedy girls and boys pass me in the first 200 metres, but it does mean that I don’t get stuck in the queue behind the front starters.

And it helps if it isn’t hot, which it was yesterday.

And it helps if I have recently been training up for a long run.

And it probably helps if I don’t drink alchofrol the night before, which I did on Friday night.

But other than that the PB remains elusive.

What on earth was doing so right on May 5th 2012?

Robust Liberal Democrat immigration policy

Alice, me and the Speaker of Hackney Council, Citizenship Ceremony, Hackney Town Hall, Hackney, London, UK.tifWe haven’t really got an immigration policy, have we? – said a hard working party member to me this evening, as she sorted through survey responses listing immigration as a priority issue.

Well actually, we have just agreed a very robust and thorough new immigration policy, in full knowledge and acceptance that this is a big issue for people, said I.

Dear old Sir Andrew Stunnell and his team beavered away for a couple of years and came up with a robust and excellent policy.

Notes on immigration from the Liberal Democrat website are here.

Sir Andrew Stunnell’s summary of the new policy is here.

The full policy document passed at March’s Spring conference is here.

Completion of emotional detachment from the England football team

"Bobby Moore was the best defender in the history of the game" ~ Franz BeckenbauerFirstly, a geographic note. I am Cornish. Cornwall isn’t part of England but our sportspeople play for England. For example, Phil Vickery (and before anyone says it I know he was born in Barnstaple hospital) is from Kilkhampton in Cornwall and captained England. At rugby.

Which brings me to football. I have followed every World Cup England campaign since 1970. If you want expectation go back to 1970. We were expected to win the World Cup again. We were the champions after all. Bloody fools. In Mexico? It was a debacle and there was some strange business in Columbia which was none of Bobby Moore’s fault. But Gordon Banks made The Greatest Save Ever Bar None – click below. No one will ever make a better save than that.

And since then I have had a nervous breakdown every four years (12 times in all) as I have allowed myself to go through the exquisite torture which is England trying to win the World Cup but failing in the most painful way possible.

So last night, by accident, I sat in the Plough-on-the-Green in Greenham with some olds boys who shared my cynicism and some young boys who were going through the full works of the England World Cup Torture.

I left after ten minutes.

I knew Italy would beat us. I knew Uruguay would beat us. I knew Costa Rica would beat Italy.

So what?

I am as patriotic as the next person. But I am not bloody stupid. I am not gojng to put myself through an emptional wringer when it is obvious that we haven’t got a hope in hell.

Enjoy the Premier league folks. It’s on our patch most weeks and it’s the best football in the world.

Sod the World Cup.