Leader of the Liberal Democrat Party, Nick Clegg, has recently denied the suggestion that undergraduate students will not vote in his Party’s favour at the polls. Instead, he affirmed that students were still open to hearing the Liberal Democrat policies, despite the failure of the Party to adhere to their previous promise not to raise university tuition fees in 2010.
A significant proportion of Liberal Democrat votes in the previous election came from students looking for a party which represented their best interests by promising not to raise tuition fees. However, many students were left disillusioned when the Coalition lifted the cap on fees to £9,000 once in power.
Clearly aware of this, Clegg publicly apologised back in 2012 for the party’s decision, stating that “it was a pledge made with the best intentions – but we should not have made a promise we were not absolutely sure we could deliver”.
With Labour leader Ed Miliband now reportedly hoping to announce next month that he will cut university fees for students by a third, the pressure is on for Clegg to appeal again to his original source of support; a source which he believes still exists. Clegg has argued that, when members of his Party are able to explain their side of the tuition fee story, “rather than constantly have it misrepresented and mangled by our opponents” the Party members actually “get quite a good hearing.”
The reformation of the Liberal Democrat society at UEA last year seems to support Clegg’s view that students are still willing to support and listen to his Party’s policies. President of the society, Yan Malinowski, stated: “students are in two minds about tuition fees, but realise not all Liberal Democrats voted for it.” It is possible that the students who were originally disappointed by the Party will soon have finished their studies, or have already completed them, and that younger students will be more willing to give the Liberal Democrats a second chance.