Blair: We will win on university top-up fees

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Indy Politics

Tony Blair today insisted that he would win the argument over university top-up fees despite the threatened Labour backbench rebellion.

The Prime Minister, speaking at his monthly televised press conference, defended his proposals as both "necessary" and "fair"

Mr Blair is going on the offensive to win over some 159 Labour MPs who have signed a protest motion against the proposals to charge university students £3,000 a year for tuition, repayable when they reach a salary of £15,000.

He said today: "Whatever the difficulties in the coming weeks, I believe we will win this argument.

"And I believe that as each day passes it is more obvious how important it is that we do win this argument for the future of this country."

Mr Blair was pressed on whether he could carry on in his job if he lost the vote on tuition fees.

The Prime Minister told journalists: "You have got to take a decision as Prime Minister about what the purpose of being in government is. And the purpose of being in government is to take difficult decisions which you believe to be right in the interests of the country and to see them through.

"The reason why I have put so much effort into university reform is that I genuinely believe that in the future the only economic course for this country is to get a better and better educated workforce and we have to pay for that in a fair way."

Mr Blair continued: "I think the more the argument has gone on, the more people have seen that this is a bold reform, yes, but also an important one and a right one.

"And there is no point in doing the job unless you carry these things through, and that's why we will do it."

He added: "It's not intelligent for me to speculate on what might happen, but I believe we will win the vote. There is a lot still to do, mind you, but I believe we will win it."

Mr Blair would not be drawn on whether he believed some opponents of the Bill were using it as a pretext for an attack upon his leadership.

"It is not wise for me to get into speculating about people's motives," said Mr Blair.