The Lib Dem fees split widens

Lib Dem MPs threaten to resign from the government over the tuition fees rise.

Update: It now appears that Mike Crockart is not resigning after all. The word from the Lib Dems is that the mistake occurred because the wrong phone number is beside his name in a media directory. A spokesman for Crockart said: "The quotes were from a random man, not Mike. They had somebody else's number against his name. Mike is still waiting to see what the final offer will be before he votes and that has always been our line."

The fake Mike Crockart also appeared on the World At One and was quickly cut off after the show realised their mistake. All of which begs the question: is he the only Lib Dem imposter? It would explain an awful lot ...

Update: Lib Dem MP Mike Crockart has said that he will resign from his post (PPS to Michael Moore) in order to vote against tuition fees. He told the Evening Standard: "I will be voting against 100 per cent. I'm not going to be pushed out. Resigning probably will be the only option." Norman Baker and at least one other Lib Dem MP are also thought to be on the verge of resigning.

The dizzying attempt to chart the Lib Dem split on tuition fees continues. It's some measure of Nick Clegg's lack of authority that party unity has decreased, not increased, in the past 24 hours.

What looked like a three-way split has become a four-way split. After failing to reach agreement on a mass abstention, senior Lib Dem ministers including Clegg and Vince Cable will vote in favour of their own policy. They will be joined by pro-fees MPs such as David Laws and John Hemming.

A second group of ministers and backbenchers will abstain from the vote (as is their right under the coalition agreement). A third group of left-leaning MPs including the party president, Tim Farron, and the former leaders Charles Kennedy and Ming Campbell ("my credibility would be shot") will stick to their election pledge to vote against any increase in fees. A final group of backbenchers is pushing a fourth option of calling off the vote in order to allow a full public consultation to take place.

One of them, Greg Mullholland, told the Guardian: "Sometimes the most courageous thing to do is to admit you need a rethink. The best thing for higher education is not to force this vote through on Thursday." All of which looks like a feeble attempt to postpone the inevitable. There is no prospect of a substantially different package being put forward by the coalition.

Meanwhile, it's worth keeping an eye on the three Tory MPs who also signed the NUS pledge to vote against any increase in fees. After all, as recently as Michael Howard's leadership, the Conservative Party itself was opposed to the principle of tuition fees.

The Fees Three are: Ben Wallace (Wyre and Preston North), Lee Scott (Ilford North), Bob Blackman (Harrow East). Wallace has since claimed that the NUS "misinformed" people of his intentions but Scott (who is Philip Hammond's PPS) is still on record as opposing any rise in fees.

Here's a list of those Lib Dem MPs likely or certain to vote against the bill on Thursday:

1. Charles Kennedy ("I shall be voting against the coalition's proposals on university tuition fees.")

2. Ming Campbell ("My credibility would be shot to pieces if I did anything other than to stick to the promise I made.")

3. Mike Hancock ('It's a big step in the right direction but the government hasn't done enough to make me vote for it and I won't.")

4. Julian Huppert ("I made a promise to the students that I would never support a rise in tuition fees and I have reaffirmed that promise today.")

5. John Leech ("I again publicly state that I will vote against an increase in tuition fees.")

6. Ian Swales ("I can't support raising the fee cap up to £9,000 per year.")

7. John Pugh ("I will vote against any rise in tuition fees, unless a rabbit is pulled out of the hat – and there is no sign of that.")

8. Tim Farron

9. Bob Russell

10. Mark Williams

11. Simon Wright

12. Roger Williams

13. Martin Horwood

14. Greg Mullholland

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Richmond is a victory for hope - now let's bring change across the country

The regressives are building their armies. 

Last night a regressive alliance was toppled. Despite being backed by both Ukip and the Conservative Party, Zac Goldsmith was rejected by the voters of Richmond Park.

Make no mistake, this result will rock the Conservative party – and in particularly dent their plans for a hard and painful Brexit. They may shrug off this vote in public, but their majority is thin and their management of the post-referendum process is becoming more chaotic by the day. This is a real moment, and those of us opposing their post-truth plans must seize it.

I’m really proud of the role that the Green party played in this election. Our local parties decided to show leadership by not standing this time and urging supporters to vote instead for the candidate that stood the best chance of winning for those of us that oppose Brexit. Greens’ votes could very well be "what made the difference" in this election (we received just over 3,500 votes in 2015 and Sarah Olney’s majority is 1,872) - though we’ll never know exactly where they went. Just as importantly though, I believe that the brave decision by the local Green party fundamentally changed the tone of the election.

When I went to Richmond last weekend, I met scores of people motivated to campaign for a "progressive alliance" because they recognised that something bigger than just one by election is at stake. We made a decision to demonstrate you can do politics differently, and I think we can fairly say that was vindicated. 

There are some already attacking me for helping get one more Liberal Democrat into Parliament. Let me be very clear: the Lib Dems' role in the Coalition was appalling – propping up a Conservative government hell bent on attacking our public services and overseeing a hike in child poverty. But Labour’s record of their last time in office isn't immune from criticism either – not just because of the illegal war in Iraq but also their introduction of tuition fees, privatisation of our health service and slavish worship of the City of London. They, like the Liberal Democrats, stood at the last election on an austerity manifesto. There is a reason that we remain different parties, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn't also seize opportunities like this to unite behind what we have in common. Olney is no perfect candidate but she has pledged to fight a hard Brexit, campaign against airport expansion and push for a fair voting system – surely progressives can agree that her win takes us forward rather than backwards?

Ultimately, last night was not just defeat of a regressive alliance but a victory for hope - a victory that's sorely needed on the back of of the division, loss and insecurity that seems to have marked much of the rest of this year. The truth is that getting to this point hasn’t been an easy process – and some people, including local Green party members have had criticisms which, as a democrat, I certainly take seriously. The old politics dies hard, and a new politics is not easy to forge in the short time we have. But standing still is not an option, nor is repeating the same mistakes of the past. The regressives are building their armies and we either make our alternative work or risk the left being out of power for a generation. 

With our NHS under sustained attack, our climate change laws threatened and the increasing risk of us becoming a tax haven floating on the edge of the Atlantic, the urgent need to think differently about how we win has never been greater. 

An anti-establishment wave is washing over Britain. History teaches us that can go one of two ways. For the many people who are utterly sick of politics as usual, perhaps the idea of politicians occasionally putting aside their differences for the good of the country is likely to appeal, and might help us rebuild trust among those who feel abandoned. So it's vital that we use this moment not just to talk among ourselves about how to work together but also as another spark to start doing things differently, in every community in Britain. That means listening to people, especially those who voted for Britain to leave the EU, hearing what they’re saying and working with them to affect change. Giving people real power, not just the illusion of it.

It means looking at ways to redistribute power and money in this country like never before, and knowing that a by-election in a leafy London suburb changes nothing for the vast majority of our country.

Today let us celebrate that the government's majority is smaller, and that people have voted for a candidate who used her victory speech to say that she would "stand up for an open, tolerant, united Britain".  But tomorrow let’s get started on something far bigger - because the new politics is not just about moments it's about movements, and it will only work if nobody is left behind.

 

Caroline Lucas is the MP for Brighton Pavilion.