Broken pledges: Labour’s U-turn on tuition fees a sign of pragmatic politics or a betrayal of young voters?
Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer is set to break yet another pledge as the party looks to abandon its commitment to abolish university tuition fees. Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Tuesday morning, Starmer confirmed that the party would “move on” from the promise, which was also included in the party’s 2017 and 2019 manifestoes under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.
Starmer personally committed to scrapping tuition fees during his leadership campaign in 2020, including the policy in his list of pledges. Universities in England can currently charge students up to £9,250 a year.
The decision to abandon the pledge has drawn criticism, with some likening it to “fantasy politics” and questioning how a leader of a Party can be trusted if every pledge they make is broken, forgotten or abandoned.
Among policies dropped by the Labour leader since he took over include raising taxes on the top 5 per cent of earners, taking utilities into public ownership and nationalising Energy and water.
Labour’s 2019 manifest pledged to “end the failed free-market experiment in higher education, abolish tuition fees and bring back maintenance grants”.
Earlier this year the party’s elected student committee voted to back free education as a policy and said abandoning the policy would be a “massive betrayal”.
Fabiha Askari, vice-chair of Labour Students, said: “Just two months ago Labour’s democratically-elected student wing voted for the abolition of tuition fees and the restoration of free education.
“With our higher education system in crisis, young people saddled with high rent and massive debts, this policy is more urgent than ever before. We urge Keir Starmer to listen to the voice of students, keep his word and recommit to the abolition of tuition fees.
“Anything less will be seen by young people as a massive betrayal of our futures, and risks alienating Labour from our party’s own core vote.”
In response to the criticism, Starmer said the party would, in the coming weeks, “set out a fairer solution” than the current situation. He added that the current system is unfair, doesn’t work for students, and doesn’t work for universities.
In March 2020, during the Labour leadership contest, Starmer was asked if university tuition fees being scrapped would be included in a Starmer manifesto, to which he replied, “Yes. That’s why it’s a pledge.”
The truth is Starmer has abandoned all his pledges and even the manifesto he was elected on, how can we trust another word that falls out of his mouth?
The move to abandon the pledge comes after Starmer first hinted during an interview with the BBC in January that he could scrap his leadership promise. He cited the damage that had been done to the economy and said that the party would only make commitments that they could afford in the next general election.
Labour’s decision to abandon the pledge is likely to face further scrutiny and criticism, particularly from young voters who were a key demographic in Corbyn’s Labour Party.
The key policy was featured in the party’s manifestoes in the 2017 and 2019 general elections under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn. It was also a key pledge made by Starmer during his 2020 Labour leadership campaign. Universities in England can currently charge students up to £9,250 per year.
Starmer said on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the party would “move on” from the commitment due to the current financial situation. However, he added that the party would “set out a fairer solution” to the issue in the coming weeks.
Labour’s position change has been criticised by some quarters, with many pointing out that the policy was a key pledge that Starmer made during his leadership campaign. Critics have also argued that the policy is particularly important at a time when the country should be investing in young people and developing talent.
The lie is we can’t afford free education, not only can we afford free education probably the most mutually beneficial system a country can have. The relationship between education and wages and productivity is widely recognised.
In Germany, among the adult population, individuals with three years more of full-time education earn almost 20% higher wages. This finding indicates that education significantly impacts an individual’s earning potential. Education is an investment not only in oneself, it provides knowledge and skills that can lead to better employment opportunities and better health. As for the market and the constant arguments for privatisation, several studies have shown a positive correlation between education and productivity.
How can a leader be trusted if every pledge is abandoned?
“If a politician cannot be trusted to keep their word, then they cannot be trusted to govern. The abandonment of pledges is not just a sign of weak leadership, but a betrayal of the very people who placed their faith in them. We need leaders who are true to their convictions, and who stand by their promises, even in the face of adversity.” – the decision to abandon a pledge is a grave matter, and one that speaks to the character and integrity of our political leaders. It is the duty of those in power to honour their commitments to the people they serve, and to be accountable for their actions. Anything less is a betrayal of the trust that the public has placed in them.
Again we have found ourselves betrayed by Starmer and the Red Tories, politicians constantly promising jam only for your vote.