Peter Black doesn't like criticism ... tough

A day after I posted this article on the subject of the majority of Labour MPs reneging on their party's manifesto commitment for a Yes vote in a referendum on the Alternative Vote, Peter Black followed it up with his copy of it.

But he didn't like it when I said that most LibDem MPs were equally untrustworthy for reneging on their pledge over tuition fees. He claimed that Plaid Cymru were just as bad because we "introduced tuition fees" in Wales.

When I reminded him that we actually didn't introduce them, he claimed I was just being pedantic, and that what he said was our "broken promise" was just as bad as the what the LibDems had done. Though of course, he couldn't bring himself to say that the LibDems had broken their word on the issue ... it was, as he put it, merely a "claim". Bless.

But after that he put his fingers in his ears and went into a sulk. He's refused, twice now, to publish what I said in reply. So, for the record, this is it:

Isn't it odd that you criticise me for what you get wrong, Peter?

But I'm happy to look at what happened in detail. The situation in Wales changed because of the increase in top up fees imposed by the Westminster government. It became pretty obvious that Labour in Westminster were going to do it, and in anticipation of that the One Wales Agreement pledged that the overall level of support by the Welsh government would not be reduced ... which is what happened.

I wasn't particularly pleased with the way Plaid handled it when the time came. Plaid AMs gave the impression of simply "going along with" Labour on the matter. I think we should have debated the matter more openly in Plaid and come to a decision as a party rather than just let ministers in government make it. Who knows, the process might have resulted in us finding a better solution.

But that hardly compares with the magnitude of what the LibDems have done over tuition fees. Firstly, Westminster is sovereign and can do what it likes, but we in Wales had no control over what the government in Westminster did.

Secondly, we maintained the level of support we had been giving to students from Wales. But what you have done is increase the level of tuition fees up to threefold. Moreover, this has not been done (as might have been the original intention of "top-up" fees, although I suspect that it was only the thin end of an inevitable wedge) to supplement HEI income from government, but instead is going to all but replace HEI income for all except a few subjects of study. You are accomplices to a wholesale marketization of higher education, taking it out of being a public service predominantly funded from the public purse and turning it into something private instead.

So I'm more than happy for voters to compare Plaid and the LibDems on this matter. And I have no doubt, as evidenced by the opinion polls, which of our parties will do better in next year's Assembly election because of it.

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Unknown said...

Peter Black's blog has sadly declined into one of the least interesting of the Welsh Blogs.

His refusal to post your reply to him has, I'm afraid, diminished him further in my eyes - and I thought he was one of the good guys!

Macsen said...

I've transfered this comment by Macsen, which he posted on the Blwyddyn Newydd Dda thread, because it obviously belongs here. MH

Agree with you MH ... but there's a little voice in the back of my head telling me not to gloat so much and not to be so against the fees.

I'm old enough to remember the student protests of the late 1980s and early 1990s when people said similar thinks about the phasing out of grants and the introductions of student loans. That poor kids wouldn't go to uni etc etc. And yet, more people go to uni now than ever before. Maybe the idea that you have a loan to pay off will make potential students think twice about going to uni - not necessarily a bad thing. It may make them demand more and better education - having a week with only 5 or 6 lectures is hardly value for their money. It may mean some non-vocational subjects (and I don't think that'll mean History, Welsh, English) dropping off - again, maybe not a bad thing.

What I'm saying is, I'm wary believe the doom-sayers in Labour nor Plaid.

We could be in a situation in 5 or 10 years time, where people are used to this, students numbers remain high, standards have improved ... and then it'll be another nail in the credibility of Plaid and Labour's left wing.

There's an interesting comment on the Estonia Today blog comparing Estonian with British young people. The young Estonians seem relaxed about paying for education after all 'nothing's for free in this world'.

There are many things to be concerned about with the fees. Along with other high finance problems - affording to buy a house especially, it could postpone the birth-rate which would have been social (and linguistic) consequences, but I'm loath to see people gloat too much nor mount their class jingoism horse.


Anonymous said...

It is quite funny that people accept that house prices are such that you are a debt slave for a minimum of 25 years whereas the raising of tuition fees to something which is a fraction causes 'violent' protests. In fact, both are a nice little earner for the banks.

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