Sorry, but it is right for students to pay to go to university

The progressive case for recouping fees.

The higher education package being put together by the Business Secretary, Vince Cable, which is reported to include a possible graduate tax to meet fewer places and the demands for higher caps from universities, has brought to the fore once again the question of whether or not it is fair for students to pay for university.

My firm view is that it is, and as it happens the current system may well be fairer and less intimidating than a graduate tax paid indefinitely, as my colleague Samira Shackle has outlined in a substantial post here.

Aside from the question of whether Cable is right to seek a reduction in numbers of those going to university -- and I am far from sure he is -- it has to be acknowledged that any fees which are paid on the basis of earnings later are certainly infinitely fairer than upfront fees, which my year of students was among the last in paying.

But, as I wrote in January, to the annoyance of some:

More importantly, there is a very strong moral case for tuition fees and top-up fees: after all, there is nothing social democratic about making those people who would never consider sending their offspring to university pay through the tax system for those who do.

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James Macintyre is political correspondent for the New Statesman.
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What Jeremy Corbyn gets right about the single market

Technically, you can be outside the EU but inside the single market. Philosophically, you're still in the EU. 

I’ve been trying to work out what bothers me about the response to Jeremy Corbyn’s interview on the Andrew Marr programme.

What bothers me about Corbyn’s interview is obvious: the use of the phrase “wholesale importation” to describe people coming from Eastern Europe to the United Kingdom makes them sound like boxes of sugar rather than people. Adding to that, by suggesting that this “importation” had “destroy[ed] conditions”, rather than laying the blame on Britain’s under-enforced and under-regulated labour market, his words were more appropriate to a politician who believes that immigrants are objects to be scapegoated, not people to be served. (Though perhaps that is appropriate for the leader of the Labour Party if recent history is any guide.)

But I’m bothered, too, by the reaction to another part of his interview, in which the Labour leader said that Britain must leave the single market as it leaves the European Union. The response to this, which is technically correct, has been to attack Corbyn as Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland are members of the single market but not the European Union.

In my view, leaving the single market will make Britain poorer in the short and long term, will immediately render much of Labour’s 2017 manifesto moot and will, in the long run, be a far bigger victory for right-wing politics than any mere election. Corbyn’s view, that the benefits of freeing a British government from the rules of the single market will outweigh the costs, doesn’t seem very likely to me. So why do I feel so uneasy about the claim that you can be a member of the single market and not the European Union?

I think it’s because the difficult truth is that these countries are, de facto, in the European Union in any meaningful sense. By any estimation, the three pillars of Britain’s “Out” vote were, firstly, control over Britain’s borders, aka the end of the free movement of people, secondly, more money for the public realm aka £350m a week for the NHS, and thirdly control over Britain’s own laws. It’s hard to see how, if the United Kingdom continues to be subject to the free movement of people, continues to pay large sums towards the European Union, and continues to have its laws set elsewhere, we have “honoured the referendum result”.

None of which changes my view that leaving the single market would be a catastrophe for the United Kingdom. But retaining Britain’s single market membership starts with making the argument for single market membership, not hiding behind rhetorical tricks about whether or not single market membership was on the ballot last June, when it quite clearly was. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.