Students want revenge at the ballot box - and Labour knows it

The pledge to reduce fees is risky, nonetheless

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The Independent Online


The first cut is the deepest. So sang Cat Stevens, and whenever the subject of tuition fees comes up I can’t help but hear those famous bars. 

My generation was familiar with the pains of love from a young age. What we weren’t so accustomed to was political betrayal. That’s why, when the Liberal Democrats back-tracked on their pledge not to raise tuition fees in 2010, people got so terrifically angry.

That 'cut' – one of the first of the new era of austerity – not only piled extraordinary levels of personal debt on to students, it struck a blow to the foundation of young people’s faith in the political process. Even now, I don’t think we have recovered.

Labour hopes to pick up the pieces. Miliband’s promise to reduce tuition fees from £9,000 to £6,000 seeks to capitalise on reports that, such is the number of students currently failing to pay back their loans, the higher fees system will be no cheaper to the public purse than the old.

Labour’s move is risky, nonetheless. University vice-chancellors want to raise fees, and the Conservatives point to more Labour profligacy.

But, although 18- to  24-year-olds exercise their right to vote in depressingly low numbers, they can vote. And by 2015, they’ll be on the rebound. In ballot boxes as  in young hearts, hope springs eternal.