The National Union of Students (NUS) recently unveiled their latest campaign to oust MPs who have broken their promises. More specifically, it is a targeted campaign to attack those who broke their promises when they voted for the trebling of tuition fees in the run up to the 2010 election. Although they claim to be targeting every MP who broke this pledge, the NUS adverts seem to be targeting the Liberal Democrats exclusively.
The adverts are appearing in numerous places, including taking up full pages in national newspapers. One advert features two fists with the the words 'LIAR LIAR' written on them and the Lib Dem party logo, the Bird of Liberty, printed on one of the knuckles. Not only is this a very party political stance for the NUS to take, but it is one that they should be utterly ashamed of taking.
Okay, the Lib Dems broke their promise on tuition fees. This is a fair point to make, and it will certainly teach everyone to be sceptical of trusting promises which sound a bit too good to be true. But to put five years of government down to that one promise is absurd. It would be like characterising Tony Blair's time in power by only remembering his introduction of the tuition fees: another broken promise.
It is true, politicians break promises. We all know this and should probably have worked it out a long time ago. But before starting a student campaign to ruin the Lib Dems, surely it is worth taking a step back and looking at the promises they did deliver on?
The Liberal Democrats priority for government, as much as they played up to it in front of students, wasn't to abolish tuition fees. It was policies such as raising the lower tax limit, which they did. Or putting more money into early years educations, such as free school meals for primary school children. Or even sticking up for their founding principles of liberty, which they did when they blocked the Conservatives' invasive Communications Bill.
The policy, which perhaps they should be remembered for more than any other, is finally legalising gay marriage to this country. Yes they needed support from the other parties to get the legislation through, but a Conservative majority would never have allowed it, and Labour had sat around for thirteen years without bringing it in. This is a policy which has done wonders for equality in Britain, as well as bringing many people untold happiness.
The point I am making is that, yes, the Lib Dems did fail to keep to their word on tuition fees. Politically it was wrong of them to do so. But the new system does mean that the poorest pay will back the least and the richest will pay back the most. It has not caused any harm other than to those who earn huge salaries after university. On top of this, the option they faced for voting against the rise was likely to be a reduction in the money invested in universities. This would have resulted in an underfunded education system. So overall, whilst it is wrong what they did on some moral levels, it is not the travesty the NUS wants everyone to perceive it as.
The campaign the NUS has launched ignores everything that has happened over the last five years except for this one policy. Not only does this make them a selfish organisation which are obsessed with one policy, but it begs a further question: who are they really standing up for? Most students would far rather see an increased maintenance loan than a tuition fee cut. Especially with rents going through the roof. However, they make no mention of this in their adverts.
I am not saying that everyone should vote for the Lib Dems; though I do believe that their track record is the most impressive of the three main parties. I am sure that most students are already set to vote against them though. The real issue I wanted to highlight is that there are more policies at stake than tuition fees, and it worries me that an organisation as large as the NUS thinks it is a good use of their money to try and over simplify politics and make it into a one policy election. In future, I hope that they will be more careful with their campaigns and leave the propaganda for the politicians.