Up and down the land, parents will this month go through the rollercoaster of emotions as they see their children leaving home to begin new chapters in their lives at university. But along with the normal mixture of pride in their children’s achievements and sorrow because they are leaving home, we can now add anxiety because of the Liberal Democrats’ broken promises.
For this is also the month when the shame of increased tuition fees of up to £9,000 becomes a reality.
And it is perhaps that decision more than any other which demonstrates the betrayal of the voters who placed their trust in the Lib Dems at 2010 General Election.
Let us not be mistaken – it may not be the most far reaching or damaging of their decisions. The Lib Dems have also played their part by supporting policies that are damaging our economy, increasing poverty, worsening the housing crisis and giving huge tax cuts to millionaires. But the Lib Dems’ support of hiking tuition fees was about more than impact – it was about disloyalty to the people who voted yellow and got blue.
It begs the question why Nick Clegg agreed to go into coalition with David Cameron. What have the Liberal Democrat voters and supporters got out of this deal?
To turn on students, and the hard-working parents who support them, was perhaps the Lib Dems’ ultimate treachery.
Of course, we’ve seen examples of this locally. Those among us who have witnessed the incompetence of Lib Dem politics at local level have been totally unsurprised by their lack of skill, guile and wit on the national stage too.
Here in Derby, we’ve already been through the rigmarole of seeing less than able Liberal Democrats being played for fools by their Tory puppeteers. We’ve also witnessed coalitions between the two in which the Lib Dems have been bullied into voting through Tory decisions with seemingly no incentive to support their own views.
But this comes back to a fundamental point I’ve made time and again: the reason the Lib Dems are not capable of standing up for their own policies is because, in reality, they don’t really have any. They say what they need to say to appeal to voters and, until the last couple of years, they have never had to deliver. It’s a great approach to winning votes but one which is bound to end in failure and betrayal when you finally find a way to take power.
But while the students and parents having to stump up the £9,000 tuition fees are the most visible victims of the Lib Dems’ broken promises, they are not the only ones. We also have to consider the many young people across the country who won’t be going to university – not because they didn’t make the grades because it is simply unaffordable.
One of Labour’s many achievements in Government was to make sure university entry was not based on financial clout, but in one fell swoop the Tories and Lib Dems have wiped that out.
It is a travesty. The Lib Dems promised to help students then did the opposite, but the people who voted for them aren’t stupid. As local election results around the country have indicated, people are showing the Lib Dems what they think of them in the best way possible: at the ballot box.
Chris Williamson is the Labour MP for Derby North