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26 November 2010

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.

By Duncan Robinson

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.

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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.

Follow @duncanrobinson on Twitter.