Saturday, July 22, 2017

Corbyn's empty promises come back to bite Labour

During the general election Labour made two rash and irresponsible promises to past,  present and future students.

They promised to scrap the tuition fees introduced by Tony Blair's Labour government and then increased by Labour after the party had clearly and explicitly promised in their 2001 manifesto not to do so.

Jeremy Corbyn also referred to the existing debt owned by former students who went to university since fees were introduced and clearly implied that he would write off that debt.

A good example of what Labour was saying during the election can be found in an interview he gave in the NME dated 1st June 2017 which can be found on their website under the title

Jeremy Corbyn: "I will deal with those already burdened with student debt."

Let me quote verbatim the relevant part of the interview:

“First of all, we want to get rid of student fees altogether,” Corbyn told NME. “We’ll do it as soon as we get in, and we’ll then introduce legislation to ensure that any student going from the 2017-18 academic year will not pay fees. They will pay them, but we’ll rebate them when we’ve got the legislation through – that’s fundamentally the principle behind it. Yes, there is a block of those that currently have a massive debt, and I’m looking at ways that we could reduce that, ameliorate that, lengthen the period of paying it off, or some other means of reducing that debt burden.”
"The Labour Party leader added that the specific details of his plan had not yet been worked out due to the rush of the snap election, but that the pledge was a priority and they were dedicated to seeing it through."
“I don’t have the simple answer for it at this stage – I don’t think anybody would expect me to, because this election was called unexpectedly; we had two weeks to prepare all of this – but I’m very well aware of that problem,” said Corbyn. “And I don’t see why those that had the historical misfortune to be at university during the £9,000 period should be burdened excessively compared to those that went before or those that come after. I will deal with it.”
You can check for yourself here
So although he admitted that he had not finished working through the "specific details" of his plans, they were more than just some vague "ambition" as Labour representatives are now trying to pretend, but a "pledge" which was "a priority"and Corbyn said "I will deal with it."

Labour still pretend that they intend to scrap tuition fees for future students but have now more or less admitted that the idea of writing off the debts of past graduates is just an "ambition" which they are not going to promise because they don't want to promise things they cannot actually do.

But as Henry Hill writes on Conservative Home here, just as Corbyn's comments about how he wanted to write off student debt cut through to many people, not all of whom would normally have considered voting Labour, a lot of those people have noticed that Labour has now rowed back from those election campaign comments.

Ask Nick Clegg or any of the other Lib/Dems who lost their seats as MPs or councillors between his student fees U-turn and this year what happens when your promises run too far above your ability to deliver.

One of my colleagues suggests that every time Corbyn or one of his team makes an unrealistic or undeliverable promise from now on we should all call out "free unicorns."

I suspect there may yet be plenty of opportunities to do so.

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