The ITV Debate

When I turned over to ITV for the 7-way debate I thought I’d stumbled across an old episode of the Weakest Link. The set-up was the same, the “contestants” were stabbing each other in the back in an attempt to win, and even the presenter was in on the joke, trying her best to look like Anne Robinson.

It didn’t seem to achieve much. The debate was very tame and watered down. It was exactly what David Cameron wanted – he just hid in the corner and avoided any sort of direct debate with the other political leaders. Damage limitation.

The most exciting thing about the debate was the lady in the audience who heckled the PM. David Cameron was in the middle of thanking the country’s servicemen for their work when the lady spoke out. She pointed out that many of our service men and women end up on the streets after leaving the armed forces, and have very little support. David Cameron said they she brought up a good point, and proceeded to speak over her until she was dragged out of the studio.

This was the most genuine moment in the debate, and it was hardly mentioned in the debate analyses. Maybe it was a bit too real. People don’t like facing up to un-glamorous every day issues. It’s easier to turn the other way and go on and on about the “long-term economic plan” – something a bit more faceless and general that might garner a few more votes.

I’d like to congratulate the heckler, Victoria Prosser, for standing up and speaking her mind. It was the only part of the debate worth viewing.

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Tuition Fees: The Lower The Better

Today Ed Milliband promised that he would cut university tuition fees by a third if elected and, crucially (as we learnt from Mr Clegg last time), this would be non-negotiable in any post-election coalition deals. There has already been a lot of cynicism in the media about this, and I am preparing myself for more of the same, but I think this cut in tuition fees would be a great thing.

A lot of the naysayers are saying that the promise is tokenistic, and that it wouldn’t make much of a difference to students. If a student takes a 4-year university course today, it will cost them £36,000. If they take the same course after the tuition cut it will cost them £24,000. They would save £12,000 (this isn’t taking into account other expenses such as accommodation). That’s simple mathematics. £12,000 is a lot of money. If a person doesn’t think £12,000 is a lot of money then they’re out of touch with the real world.

The universities are also saying that this is a bad idea (surprise, surprise). They seem to be concerned that they might not be able to function properly if the tuition fees are capped at £6000 a year instead of £9000. This is all talk. A few short years ago (as recent as 2010) fees were capped at £3000 a year, and they were coping just fine. Now, suddenly they’re horrified at the prospect of having to cope with 6k.

Lowering tuition fees is good for the country but, personally, I think the cap should be even lower. Ideally, I believe higher education should be free.

Up until the late 90s it was, essentially, free to go to uni. But for much of this time university was something that was only accessible to the more privileged, and it wasn’t generally considered an option for the working class. During this time it was acceptable for the taxpayer to foot the bill for higher education. When university became an option for most young people, even the working class, that’s about the time they decided that people should have to pay for university. If you see something wrong with that, then you and I are on the same page.

Why should the wealthy have more of a right to a good education than the poor?

The Nordic philosophy to higher education is what we should aspire to. They have always been strongly opposed to tuition fees. The same goes for Scotland. The difference with Scotland is that they are actually a part of the UK. I also live in the UK, but I wouldn’t get free tuition fees because I happen not to have been born in the right part of the UK. If Scotland gets free higher education I think we should all get the same privilege.

I feel privileged to have been able to go to university. I’m the first person in my family to have done so (in fact, when I got my first GCSE I became the most qualified member of my family, which comprises of coal miners and steel-workers). University is a great opportunity to develop, meet people, and broaden your horizons while in the pursuit of knowledge. I believe it has made me a better person, and I believe our country would benefit from it greatly…IF people didn’t come out of the other side of it with crippling debt.

Cuts to tuition fees would be a big step in the right direction.