The National Union of Students (NUS) has launched a Payback Time campaign aimed at unseating MPs who pledged to vote against any rise in tuition fees.
Billboards bearing the slogan “Liar liar” will be unveiled in Sheffield, Manchester and London, and advertising vans displaying similar messages will be targeting the 38 seats, mainly held by Liberal Democrats, where the MPs broke the pledge they made before the last election to oppose fee rises.
All 57 of the party’s MPs signed up to the NUS pledge in 2010, but 28 of them voted to treble tuition fees to £9,000 after entering into a coalition with the Conservatives. Eight were absent or abstained, and are being considered as having broken their pledge by NUS. As well as the 36 Lib Dem MPs that the NUS say broke their promise, two Conservative MPs are also being targeted in the campaign. The remaining 21 Lib Dem MPs voted against the rise, including Norwich South MP Simon Wright, whom Concrete has contacted for comment.
“We won’t let them trade lies for power again,” said NUS president Toni Pearce. “I’d like to say directly to Nick Clegg that your apology won’t cover any of the £40,000 debt that students will graduate with for the first time this summer. They pledged to scrap tuition fees – they lied. We represent seven million students and are urging every single one across the country to vote against broken pledges”.
Speaking to the Huffington Post, a Lib Dem spokesperson said: “We didn’t win the election, so we couldn’t deliver every policy that we wanted to,” before going on to say that “The system now is fairer than Labour’s fees system. No one pays up front, no one pays a penny until they earn £21,000, and graduates who go on to earn less in their careers will pay less than those who earn more”.
An NUS poll shows that 54% of students believe the tuition fee policy has failed.
Its polling also suggests that Labour look to make the biggest gains from their vote, on 25%. The Conservatives were on 17%, the Green Party 15%, Ukip on 6% and the Lib Dems on just 4%.
Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said “I’m not prime minister, I lead a party of 8% of MPs in the House of Commons, there was no money left… But I actually think what we did was incredibly impressive for the smaller party in the coalition, all our front page priorities we stuck to – and we will do so again”.
Clegg is expected to be heavily targeted in the campaign, after famously apologising for having made the pledge in 2012. Polls currently imply that he will hold on to his seat in Sheffield Hallam after winning a narrow number of the votes.