21 November 2010

“It’s time for promises to be kept” – Nick Clegg, video before the election (below)

“Say goodbye to broken promises” – Nick Clegg, video before the election (below)

“I pledge to vote against any increase in fees in the next parliament” – every current Libdem MP, April 2010

In this post I asked whether promises should be kept, referring to the Libdem parliamentary candidates individually signing a pledge not to raise tuition fees.

I took the view that if you promised to do something, signed that promise, had your picture taken with the promise and your signature on it, made a video about the importance of keeping promises, and used your promise as an election campaign, it was binding. If you broke that promise, you probably shouldn’t be trusted in any promises you make again.

If politicians make a promise, they should do their damnedest to keep it and if they fail to keep it or break it they should apologise fully and even, what’s the phrase, consider their position. Cue Libdems and their pledge not to raise tuition fees.

Vince Cable, Libdem business secretary in the Tory Libdem government, has now said (Politics Show, BBC, 21 November 2010) of the Libdems and tuition fees, “We didn’t break a promise”.

As I understand it, the Libdem argument is that it isn’t their well-publicised pledge that counts. It isn’t even the manifesto in which they made a “commitment” (not a pledge or a promise, this is the politics of the thesaurus); since they didn’t win the election the manifesto doesn’t count either. What counts, the only thing that counts apparently, is the agreement made with the Tories after the election, the agreement none of us voted for; that’s binding. The pledge, pooof; the manifesto, pooof; what we said we stood for, pooof. Meet coalition politics. Meet the Liberal Democrats.

Oh, and we are told again that a reason for not keeping the fees promise is the financial situation. This is vastly unconvincing. Before the election the Libdem manifesto said their plans for tuition fees had been costed and were affordable (page 107 of their manifesto); and that further deficit-reduction “will not reverse or undermine any of the spending commitments we make in our manifesto” (page 97). See too this post: Perplexed of the Western Isles for a succinct point about the deficit.

So, next time the Libdems pledge/promise/commit to do anything, laugh and walk away. Even if they put it in writing and have their photo taken with it. Yes, even if they make a video of it. Laugh and walk away.

You can watch the video – it’s time for promises to be kept – here. And here’s the video with Libdem comments devastatingly added.