Tuesday, 22 February 2011
I like this but is anyone listening?
This video appeared on Channel 4's political slot last night and I rather like it. It shows us to be human, warm, caring and it talks about both our values and how we are applying those values to the real world.
And some of the things we are doing are extraordinary. Like taking a million people out of income tax altogether, restoring the earnings link to the state pension and introducing the Pupil Premium.
In fact, it's rather as I hoped being in government would be.
Its also exactly the tactic I hoped would be adopted - wrapping ourselves and owning Lib Dem inspired policies, getting people to recognise our influence in the coalition. For too long in power we have been seen as just a silent partner, a conduit to a Conservative government, rather than a set of independent free thinkers. Now we seem to be asserting our own positioning. Hooray.
But, but, but...
There is a still a big giant elephant in the room. It's called Tuition Fees. Every media reference I hear about the Lib Dems seems to highlight this, and question whether we can be trusted on anything. Indeed, I'd now go further - our need to recapture trust in people's minds is imperative if we are to move forward electorally. I fear most non partisan viewers of the film may have sat in front of the TV with their fingers in the air yelling 'I don't believe you'.
Reasserting our own position on issues is half the battle; winning back trust is the other half.
I'd start by reminding people what Lib Dem policy on tuition fees actually is - it's to phase them out. No one wants to charge students triple their current fees - even the most ardent supporters of the policy accepts that it is driven by economic circumstance, not ideology. We need to continue to plan how we will eventually remove them and communicate this to people.
Secondly we need to make much more of the Simon Hughes role on making university intake fairer. This seems to me the best way in which we can show we are genuine when we say we are dedicated to sorting out this issue.
Thirdly, we need to grasp the fundamentals of this issue. While I don't entirely go along with Julian Astle's view that economic factors make up just 1% of the reason why pupils from disadvanteged homes don't go to University (he rather thinks the Simon Hughes role is poking the wrong end of the issue), his excellent blog makes clear the importance of other factors in preventing people getting into University - and what needs to be done to correct this. Communicating this and getting policy in place to correct this are vital. Partly for the Lib Dems own sake. But more importantly, for the country as a whole.
Posted by Richard Morris at 09:55