Backlash over top-up fees may deliver 24 seats, says Kennedy

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Indy Politics

Charles Kennedy believes that the student backlash against university top-up fees could deliver up to 24 marginal seats to the Liberal Democrats.

He said yesterday that Labour's vote had "collapsed" on campus and said top-up fees, Iraq and the environment could swing student votes to win 18 to 24 seats for his party. Labour played down the student vote yesterday, while the Conservatives dismissed Mr Kennedy's claim as "unbelievable".

Labour and the Tories are also targeting students with local campaigns. Labour is emphasising plans for training and increased support for poorer students, while the Conservatives are promoting plans to scrap top-up fees and emphasising campus crime.

Speaking in the marginal Bristol West, Mr Kennedy urged students, including the Prime Minister's son Euan, a student in the city, to vote for his party. He said: "I would hope that he would see the sense in our policy, rather than the Prime Minister and the Government's policy, for abolishing their student fees and top-up fees.

"Tony Blair at the last election said he would not introduce in this parliament top-up fees - well, he broke his word, and I think people will remember that. We are finding a huge groundswell of support among students right across the country, partly because of the education policy." Mr Kennedy also visited Exeter and Cardiff, where 16,000 students could help swing the ultra-marginal Cardiff Central against Labour.

Mr Kennedy pointed to a poll last month in The Times Higher Education Supplement which indicated 39 per cent of students planned to vote for the Liberal Democrats against 28 per cent for Labour and 23 per cent for the Conservatives.