Daily catch-up: how come Ed Miliband’s tuition fee ‘cut’ is so popular, then?

‘Pony polling’, a lamontable Budget, imaginary places and a cute car. What more could you want?

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The Independent Online

1. Rosie Scammell has found the most stylish Fiat 500 in Italy.

2. Labour is about to be lamonted in the Budget, I wrote in The Independent on Sunday. Chris Giles has calculated that George Osborne might have £5bn a year to give away because of higher than expected tax receipts, the lower oil price and lower inflation since the Autumn Statement. It is reminiscent of Norman Lamont’s 1992 Budget, in which he cut the ground from under Labour’s feet.

3. In my article, I pointed out the folly of Ed Miliband in committing £2.7bn a year (the Institute for Fiscal Studies says it is £3.2bn) on a cut in tuition fees for future bankers. Emran Mian, director of the Social Market Foundation and chief civil servant who worked on tuition fees for Vince Cable, explains why it is a bad policy. Miliband knows this but thinks the voters are stupid. 

Initially, his policy seemed popular. On Friday YouGov found 64 per cent supported it and only 20 per cent opposed. It is hardly surprising that asking if tuition fees should be lower, with little information, should produce such an answer. It is what Hopi Sen calls pony polling: “Would you like a free pony?” By today, however, support had already fallen to 49 per cent, with 31 per cent opposed.

I think if you do the wrong thing because it is superficially popular, you will be found out. James O’Shaughnessy, who worked on education policy for the Conservatives in opposition and in government, said: “I was in Tory HQ when we cooked up an opportunist tuition fee policy in 2003. It was born of weakness and politically did us nothing but harm.”

4. The Top 10 this week was Fictional Countries. A popular list, I compiled a Top 50 for the website yesterday. A late, pedantic appeal from Adrian McMenamin got Muldavia dropped (the country of the wedding massacre in Dynasty, 1985, does appear to be a fictionalised Moldavia, then divided between Romania and the USSR). Averna was promoted in its place.

5. Quotation of the Weekend from the doorstep from Amy Gray, Conservative candidate for Hackney North and Stoke Newington:

Voter: “Politicians are only in it to fill their fat stomachs.”

Me: “Are you calling me fat?”

Voter: [Embarrassed pause.] “Not you.”

Via Stephen Bush.

6. And finally, thanks to Moose Allain for this:

Denis Waterman, Denis Waterman,

Does whatever a watering can.