Heroes and Villains in the Tuition Fees Vote


In case anyone would like to send congratulations to MPs who bucked the party line in yesterday’s vote on raising tuition fees from £3,290 a year to £9,000 a year and withdrawing all funding from arts, humanities and social sciences — or something less complimentary to the Liberal Democrats responsible for securing the government’s victory — the following list may be useful. The vote was won by 323-302, so just 11 more dissenters were needed for the vote to have been lost.

The 21 Liberal Democrat MPs who voted against the rise in tuition fees

Annette Brooke (Dorset Mid & Poole North)
Sir Menzies Campbell (Fife North East), former Lib Dem leader
Michael Crockart (Edinburgh West)
Tim Farron (Westmorland & Lonsdale), Lib Dem party president
Andrew George (St Ives)
Mike Hancock (Portsmouth South)
Julian Huppert (Cambridge)
Charles Kennedy (Ross, Skye & Lochaber), former Lib Dem leader
John Leech (Manchester Withington)
Stephen Lloyd (Eastbourne)
Greg Mulholland (Leeds North West)
John Pugh (Southport)
Alan Reid (Argyll & Bute)
Dan Rogerson (Cornwall North)
Bob Russell (Colchester)
Adrian Sanders (Torbay)
Ian Swales (Redcar)
Mark Williams (Ceredigion)
Roger Williams (Brecon and Radnorshire)
Jenny Willott (Cardiff Central)
Simon Wright (Norwich South)

Particularly noteworthy are Michael Crockart and Jenny Willott, who both lost their jobs in the government as a result of putting principles above whatever it is that Nick Clegg and Vince Cable, in particular, regard as the acceptable realities of coalition politics.

Jenny Willott, who was Parliamentary Private Secretary to energy secretary Chris Huhne, wrote to the Lib Dem chief whip, Alistair Carmichael, explaining why she was resigning and voting against the government. “Whilst I support many aspects of the higher education proposals, including abolishing upfront fees for part-time students and the generous support for young people from less-privileged backgrounds,” she wrote, “I feel I can’t support the significant increase in the fee charged per year. As a result, I cannot support the overall package.” She continued, “It is with great sadness that I resign, as I fully support the coalition government and believe that the Liberal Democrats, with Nick in charge, are playing a crucial role in steering Britain towards a better future” (the last bit doesn’t ring true, somehow).

Earlier, Michael Crockart, the Parliamentary Private Secretary to Scotland Secretary Michael Moore, stated in his resignation letter, “I believe that access to higher education is a key enabler of social mobility and the best way to narrow the gap between the richest and poorest in society. I cannot therefore vote for a system which I believe puts barriers in the path of able students.”

The 27 Liberal Democrat MPs who voted for the rise in tuition fees

Ministers (15)

Danny Alexander (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey), Chief Secretary to the Treasury
Norman Baker (Lewes), Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Department of Transport
Jeremy Browne (Taunton Deane), Minister of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Paul Burstow (Sutton & Cheam), Minister of State for the Department of Health
Vincent Cable (Twickenham), Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills
Alistair Carmichael (Orkney & Shetland), Deputy Chief Whip to the House of Commons
Nick Clegg (Sheffield Hallam), Deputy Prime Minister
Edward Davey (Kingston & Surbiton), Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
Lynne Featherstone (Hornsey & Wood Green), Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for Equalities) for the Home Office
Nick Harvey (Devon North), Minister of State (Minister for the Armed Forces) for the Ministry of Defence
David Heath (Somerton & Frome), Parliamentary Secretary (Deputy Leader) to the Office of the Leader of the Commons
Michael Moore (Berwickshire, Roxburgh & Selkirk), Secretary of State for Scotland
Andrew Stunell (Hazel Grove), Parliamentary Under Secretary of State to the Department for Communities and Local Government
Sarah Teather (Brent Central), Minister of State for the Department for Education
Steve Webb (Thornbury and Yate), Minister of State to the Department for Work and Pensions

MPs (12)

Sir Alan Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)
Gordon Birtwistle (Burnley)
Tom Brake (Carshalton & Wallington)
Malcolm Bruce (Gordon)
Don Foster (Bath)
Stephen Gilbert (St Austell and Newquay)
Duncan Hames (Chippenham)
John Hemming (Birmingham Yardley)
Norman Lamb (Norfolk North)
David Laws (Yeovil)
Jo Swinson (Dunbartonshire East)
David Ward (Bradford East)

The 5 Liberal Democrat MPs who abstained

Lorely Burt (Solihull)
Simon Hughes (Bermondsey & Old Southwark), Lib Dem deputy leader
Tessa Munt (Wells)
John Thurso (Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross)
Stephen Williams (Bristol West)

And the 3 who were out of the country

Martin Horwood (Cheltenham)
Chris Huhne (Eastleigh), Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change
Sir Robert Smith (Aberdeenshire West and Kincardine)

The Lib Dem teller, Mark Hunter (Cheadle) did not vote.

Of further interest:

The 6 Conservative MPs who voted against

David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden)
Philip Davies (Shipley)
Julian Lewis (New Forest East)
Jason McCartney (Colne Valley)
Andrew Percy (Brigg and Goole)
Mark Reckless (Rochester and Strood)

And the 2 Conservative MPs who abstained

Tracey Crouch (Chatham and Aylesford)
Lee Scott (Ilford North)

Of particular interest here is Lee Scott, the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Transport Secretary, Philip Hammond, who resigned. He had initially signed a petition, circulated among MPs, promsing to vote against any increase in tuition fees, but he defended his decision on Tuesday, saying, “I think it is keeping to the pledge. I said I would not vote for higher fees and I’m not voting for higher fees.”

And finally, some comments from MPs:

Labour leader Ed Miliband: “I feel this is a bad day for families and young people up and down the country. I think it’s a bad day for democracy as well, because it doesn’t just damage trust in the Liberal Democrats that they broke their promises, frankly it damages trust in politics as a whole.”

Lib Dem deputy leader Simon Hughes: The “level of fee increase … may have a significant disincentive effect on youngsters going to university.”

Tory MP Julian Lewis: He said that if the government could not persuade the public about the increase, “it will be rejected. Even if you have a policy that you genuinely think is fair, if you cannot convince people that it is a fair policy, then it will fail. I would be deterred [by the fees rise]. I don’t want others to be.”

Lib Dem MP Greg Mulholland (who had tabled an amendment calling for the vote to be delayed): “Sometimes governments are wrong and sometimes you need the courage to say so and I am doing that today. I am voting against the government today because I simply cannot accept that fees of up to £9,000 are the fairest and most sustainable way of funding higher education.”

Shadow business secretary John Denham: “Even if they had just cut universities the way they are cutting other public services, students would be facing fees of no more than £4,000.”

Contact details for Liberal Democrat Ministers are here, and for MPs are here. Conservatives are here.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in July 2010, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, currently on tour in the UK, and available on DVD here), and my definitive Guantánamo habeas list, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

7 Responses

  1. veganpanda says...

    Thanks for publishing this list, it just shows which MPs don’t care at all about the students… I’m talking about those who abstained (as well as those who voted for), because those abstainers are basically saying that the student fee issue is not important enough to vote for or against!!

    I am in regular contact with my local Conservative MP Lee Scott & I’ve sent him a complaint about him abstaining, rather than voting against.

    Now the vote has got through, this doesn’t mean the end of the protests… I think this means people will get more & more angry anout not being listened to (again!!).

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Good points! Thanks — and yes, the important thing is for people not to feel disheartened. When a government without a mandate presumes it can proceed with such a fundamental reworking of the State, to the benefit of no one except the rich and the super-rich, direct action is the only option.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    On Facebook, Emanuela Brahamsha wrote:

    I think it’s pathetic that people abstained. They should declare what they think and not hide behind an abstention. Disgraceful!

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Too right, Emanuela! Thanks.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Mui J. Steph wrote:

    This is really starting to get attention in the U.S. I mean from people who usually don’t pay attention.

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    That’s very good to hear, Mui. Young people in the US — and we really are talking schoolkids here in the UK — need to rise up. What’s happened — almost spontaneously, it seems — is that a generation of young people have suddenly realized the extent to which they’re being ripped off. The problem for American youth will be to find an awareness that society might actually be for all of us, that they have the right to ask for that, and that anti-socialist, anti-communist rhetoric has been a smokescreen to allow the rich to exploit people with impunity.

  7. Why We Need Regular Protests Against Uk Coalition Government’s Brutal Ideological Cuts - OpEd says...

    […] of government funding from all arts, humanities  and social science degrees, but that battle was lost in Parliament in December because Lib Dem MPs refused to abstain. However, I believe that it needs to be overturned, as was […]

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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