Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
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.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A weekly dig into the New Statesman’s archive of over 100 years of stellar and influential journalism, sent each Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

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.

Content from our partners
How automation can help telecoms companies unlock their growth potential
The pandemic has had a scarring effect on loneliness, but we can do better
Feel confident gifting tech to your children this Christmas

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.