Why Ed Miliband is vulnerable on tuition fees

The failure to offer a better deal for students leaves Labour little room to attack the coalition.

Ed Miliband admitted today that he was "tempted" to attend Wednesday's student protests and "go out and talk to" protestors.

When asked why he did not, he came up with a rather lame excuse: "I think I was doing something else at the time, actually."

Well, obviously.

Miliband "doing something else" is indicative of Labour's policy on tuition fees. They have tended to ignore the issue. Labour have made it clear that they are against the coalition proposals, but have not attempted to tap in to the intense reaction to them.

The reason for this is because Labour are vulnerable on tuition fees. They introduced top-up fees (then as now an attempt to triple the price of higher education) and they commissioned the Browne review, which helped shape the coalition's current policy. Labour can hardly contend to be the party of students when they set the ball rolling on the current proposals.

The biggest problem for Labour, however, is that the party has not put together an alternative that is any better for students. Labour's proposal of a graduate tax would leave students little better off, paying off a similar amount of money over a similar amount of time. Students might be protesting against the coalition's policy, but they are certainly not protesting for Labour's.

If Ed Miliband had addressed the protesting masses, it would have been opportunistic and more than a little hypocritical.

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The Brexit elite want to make trade great again – but there’s a catch

The most likely trade partners will want something in return. And it could be awkward. 

Make trade great again! That's an often overlooked priority of Britain's Brexit elite, who believe that by freeing the United Kingdom from the desiccated hand of the European bureaucracy they can strike trade deals with the rest of the world.

That's why Liam Fox, the Trade Secretary, is feeling particularly proud of himself this morning, and has written an article for the Telegraph about all the deals that he is doing the preparatory work for. "Britain embarks on trade crusade" is that paper's splash.

The informal talks involve Norway, New Zealand, and the Gulf Cooperation Council, a political and economic alliance of Middle Eastern countries, including Kuwait, the UAE and our friends the Saudis.

Elsewhere, much symbolic importance has been added to a quick deal with the United States, with Theresa May saying that we were "front of the queue" with President-Elect Donald Trump in her speech this week. 

As far as Trump is concerned, the incoming administration seems to see it differently: Wilbur Ross, his Commerce Secretary, yesterday told Congress that the first priority is to re-negotiate the Nafta deal with their nearest neighbours, Canada and Mexico.

In terms of judging whether or not Brexit is a success or not, let's be clear: if the metric for success is striking a trade deal with a Trump administration that believes that every trade deal the United States has struck has been too good on the other party to the deal, Brexit will be a failure.

There is much more potential for a genuine post-Brexit deal with the other nations of the English-speaking world. But there's something to watch here, too: there is plenty of scope for trade deals with the emerging powers in the Brics - Brazil, India, etc. etc.

But what there isn't is scope for a deal that won't involve the handing out of many more visas to those countries, particularly India, than we do currently.

Downing Street sees the success of Brexit on hinging on trade and immigration. But political success on the latter may hobble any hope of making a decent go of the former. 

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