Editorial: Did Nick Clegg sell out in vain?

 

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Pity Nick Clegg. Just when he might have thought the ire over university tuition fees is finally fading, his most convincing defence of the controversial Liberal Democrat U-turn is revealed to be built on sand.

Despite the rumpus, the theory behind university tuition fees is a good one. If the state can no longer afford to bankroll tertiary education, asking students to contribute, once they have a decent job, makes sense. Except the equation only works if the Government's sums are right. And according to a respected think-tank, they are not. The result is a £1bn-a-year hole in the public finances – barely less than the annual £1.3bn that tuition fees were to save.

The mismatch is troublesome enough for the Treasury. For Mr Clegg, who excused his politically suicidal volte-face on the grounds of inescapable financial necessity, it is the final, most painful, irony of all.

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