Today, Government has announced that the cap on University tuition fees will be set at a maximum of £9,000 per year. Michael Gove has done his tour of the various radio and television studios trying hard to ignore the fact that 79% of potential university entrants will be put off applying for a university place with fees so high.
Gove is also turning a blind eye to the fact that those graduates who choose to go into high paid jobs such as banking or city work will end up paying less for a degree than those deciding to go into teaching or nursing. This change will drive top graduates away from public sector careers and inevitably create a shortage of recruits in such professions.
But Gove is far from the most interesting politician today. The one I’m most interested in watching is Nick Clegg. I know, Dear Reader, that you’re amazed to hear that Clegg is remotely interesting but hear me out. His job today is to wrangle the votes of the Lib Dem MPs as almost half consider rebelling against the university tuition fees. He only has 57 MPs in parliament and 27 are said to be considering opposing the rise to meet their pledge given in the run up to the election.
The whipping of MPs to vote one way or another is not all that interesting in itself. However this will be one of the first
major tests of the coalition, so seeing how many of his backbenchers Clegg can persuade to support him could be indicative of future cracks. Where it gets more interesting is how Clegg manages the aftermath of any rebellion. How many MPs will actually oppose the coalition bill and will Clegg risk alienating his MPs further by punishing those who rebel? Will he decide to use this as an opportunity for a mini reshuffle?
Could this, in fact, be a gift-wrapped opportunity for Nick? Word in New Palace Yard is that Clegg is looking for a way to lever David Laws back into a Frontbench post….