Why Cable is right to fight back against university cuts

The UK already invests less in higher education than every other OECD member state except Japan.

One of the cabinet ministers yet to settle with the Treasury over cuts in next week's Spending Review is Vince Cable, with Rachel Sylvester reporting in her Times column this morning that the Business Secretary is "refusing to agree cuts in higher education", which accounts for by far the largest share of his budget. 

Cable recently argued that "in a rational world" we would be increasing funding on universities, - and he was right to do so. Even before the recent cuts to higher education, which will total 40 per cent by 2015, the UK was one of the lowest spenders in the OECD (see graph). As a proportion of GDP, we spent less in 2009 (the most recently available figures) than every OECD country except Japan (just 0.6%). 

Canada (1.5%), France (1.3%), Poland (1.1%), Finland (1.8%) and Sweden (1.6%) all spend more than twice as much as we do. Even the US, where private tuition fees average $28,946, spends 1% of its GDP on universities - 0.4% more than the UK. 

The situation is little better when we take into account private investment, which amounts to 0.7%. In total, the UK spends 1.3% on higher education, less than every other OECD member state except Slovakia (0.9%) and Italy (1%). 

Yet unless the government adopts the politically unpalatable course of raising the tuition fee cap, university funding is set to be cut by as much as 8 per cent (and potentially even more if the science budget remains ring-fenced). The situation is not aided by the government's economically disastrous immigration cap, which will cost the sector hundreds of millions by shutting out new foreign students. Let us hope, then, that what Cable described as the "rational argument for government investment" in research and teaching prevails. 

Vince Cable addresses delegates at the annual CBI conference in London on November 19, 2012. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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This is no time for a coup against a successful Labour leader

Don't blame Jeremy Corbyn for the Labour Party's crisis.

"The people who are sovereign in our party are the members," said John McDonnell this morning. As the coup against Jeremy Corbyn gains pace, the Shadow Chancellor has been talking a lot of sense. "It is time for people to come together to work in the interest of the country," he told Peston on Sunday, while emphasising that people will quickly lose trust in politics altogether if this internal squabbling continues. 

The Tory party is in complete disarray. Just days ago, the first Tory leader in 23 years to win a majority for his party was forced to resign from Government after just over a year in charge. We have some form of caretaker Government. Those who led the Brexit campaign now have no idea what to do. 

It is disappointing that a handful of Labour parliamentarians have decided to join in with the disintegration of British politics.

The Labour Party had the opportunity to keep its head while all about it lost theirs. It could have positioned itself as a credible alternative to a broken Government and a Tory party in chaos. Instead we have been left with a pathetic attempt to overturn the democratic will of the membership. 

But this has been coming for some time. In my opinion it has very little to do with the ramifications of the referendum result. Jeremy Corbyn was asked to do two things throughout the campaign: first, get Labour voters to side with Remain, and second, get young people to do the same.

Nearly seven in ten Labour supporters backed Remain. Young voters supported Remain by a 4:1 margin. This is about much more than an allegedly half-hearted referendum performance.

The Parliamentary Labour Party has failed to come to terms with Jeremy Corbyn’s emphatic victory. In September of last year he was elected with 59.5 per cent of the vote, some 170,000 ahead of his closest rival. It is a fact worth repeating. If another Labour leadership election were to be called I would expect Jeremy Corbyn to win by a similar margin.

In the recent local elections Jeremy managed to increase Labour’s share of the national vote on the 2015 general election. They said he would lose every by-election. He has won them emphatically. Time and time again Jeremy has exceeded expectation while also having to deal with an embittered wing within his own party.

This is no time for a leadership coup. I am dumbfounded by the attempt to remove Jeremy. The only thing that will come out of this attempted coup is another leadership election that Jeremy will win. Those opposed to him will then find themselves back at square one. Such moves only hurt Labour’s electoral chances. Labour could be offering an ambitious plan to the country concerning our current relationship with Europe, if opponents of Jeremy Corbyn hadn't decided to drop a nuke on the party.

This is a crisis Jeremy should take no responsibility for. The "bitterites" will try and they will fail. Corbyn may face a crisis of confidence. But it's the handful of rebel Labour MPs that have forced the party into a crisis of existence.

Liam Young is a commentator for the IndependentNew Statesman, Mirror and others.