Tuition fees: what Lib Dem members think now (1 of 3)

by Stephen Tall on January 11, 2011

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Over 660 party members have responded, and we’re publishing the full results over the next few days.

It’s almost three months since Lib Dem Voice last asked party members what they thought about tuition fees. So we asked three questions to gauge members’ views now the dust has settled … a little.

Part I: Demonstrations against the fee rises

Lib Dem Voice asked our sample of party members: In the last few weeks, there have been violent demonstrations against the proposed rise in tuition fees, with damage caused to public and private property. How much sympathy do you have with the demonstrations?

  • 8% – I sympathise both with the demonstration and the direct action even where damage is caused
  • 62% – I sympathise with the demonstration, but not the damage caused by direct action
  • 30% – I do not sympathise with the demonstration, nor the direct action
  • (Excluding Other, Don’t know / No opinion 5%)

Here are a couple of the comments from the minority of Lib Dem members who backed the direct action even when it resulted in damage:

I would rather damage was caused to property than lives. This was an easily predictable outcome, and the government bears a great deal of responsibility. It is clear that doing something that greatly angers people, whilst they are enclosed in small spaces and unable to go anywhere will result in violence. Levels of violence are directly proportional to levels of anger. The best way to pacify people is to make them less angry – and the police operation failed greatly in that respect.

The UK is running a widening democratic deficit. When MPs no longer represent the interest of the public then I believe the public are duty bound to take measures to address.

Dont support damage but accept it is often consequence of peaceful direct action, which i support

The majority of Lib Dem members sympathised with the demonstrations but not the damage which resulted — here’s a sample of what they said:

The direct action has made it harder for our own MPs, PPCs, conf reps and members to stand up for the students, against those in our party who agreed with the fee increase.

more student voted for parties that supported tuition fees and Trident than voted for us.

If students were concerned about rises in tuition fees they should have discussed their concerns with the Coalition, not blindly followed the NUS whose proposals would have left many worse off.

I sympathise with the peaceful majority of the demonstrators in the sense that I feel it was right for people to protest against such a major step away from public-funded higher education. But ultimately I am pleased that the tuition fees policy was passed, as I believe that it represents the fairest means of achieving stable funding for higher education in the future.

What other option do they have? Like writing a letter to Nick Clegg will have any effect! However, clearly nothing will change. Governments frequently respect the right to protest, but rarely acknowledge the protest.

And almost one-third of Lib Dem members said they had no sympathy with the demonstrations, let alone the direct action which resulted in damage:

The students offer no coherent alternative and the violent minority are petty criminals who belong in jail

The NUS is an unrepresentative youth wing of the Labour party that has displayed breathtaking opportunism and hypocrisy. As for so called ‘normal’ students on these demonstrations, the vast majority of them seemed totally uninformed as to the true nature of the government’s plans and unaware that their student ‘leadership’ in the NUS favour a very similar graduate tax and not free education.

It’s a progressive policy. If you are going to riot, don’t weep for the well-off students now paying fees on the ability to pay, but the victims of cuts to housing benefit, local services etc

  • Over 1,300 Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with LibDemVoice.org. 662 responded to the latest survey, which was conducted between 3rd and 9th January.
  • Please note: we make no claims that the survey is fully representative of the Lib Dem membership as a whole. However, LibDemVoice.org’s surveys are the largest independent samples of the views of Lib Dem members across the country, and have in the past accurately predicted the winners of the contest for Party President, and the result of the conference decision to approve the Coalition agreement.
  • The full archive of our members’ surveys can be viewed at www.libdemvoice.org/category/ldv-members-poll