Wednesday, December 08, 2010

The Government Can't Lose The Fees Vote ... Can They?

As the media scramble from one MPs declaration of voting intention to another, it is worth putting the whole issue the fees voting into the context of the whole House of 650 members. The winning post - assuming no abstentions would be 326, so the whips on both sides will no doubt be working out how to get to that figure.

Presumably the Speaker and his team will not vote; knocking out John Bercow (Buckingham), Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley), Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley) and Dawn Primarolo (Bristol) from the vote. In addition, the 5 Sinn Fein MPs will no vote either. In addition there is one vacancy in Oldham East & Saddleworth. Which leaves us dealing with Coalition strength of 362 and a total opposition strength of 278; so the anti-fees MPs would have to solidify all of their own MPs and overcome an 84 vote lead (which is, essentially, switching 43 MPs).

Are the opposition united on this? It is difficult to imagine many or any of them not voting against the government; Labour sense an opportunity here and have even drafted in Gordon Brown (Kirkcaldy) to vote. If any Labour MPs did agree with the policy I suspect they were lept on froma great height a long time ago. It also looks very likely that the DUP, SNP, Plaid and SDLP will all fall into line too. Alliance MP Naomi Long (Belfast N), Green MP Caroline Lucas (Brighton Pavillion) and the three Independents (Lady Hermon, North Down; Dennis McShane, Rotherham & Eric Illsley, Barnsley Central) all look solid too. So short of illness or some other disaster (snow?) it should be a united front from the opposition; 278 in the bag.

Despite his own claims, it looks like David Davis (Haltemprice) will not be a rebellion of one; so far Illford's Lee Scott, New Forest's Julian Lewis and Shipley's Phillip Davies have said they will vote no too. In addition, Bob Blackman (Harrow E) and former teacher Andrew Percy (Brigg & Goole) may yet vote no too. Six Tories in total; bringing the vote numbers to 356 to 284.

And then the question is which LibDems will break ranks and vote no and which might abstain (even an abstention impacts the total votes). Today Tim Farron (Wesmoreland & Lonsdale), LibDem President, has come out against. In addition to Tim, we have on record former Leaders Ming Campbell and Charles Kennedy. Plus Mike Hancock (Portsmouth), Julian Huppert (Cambridge), John Leech (Manchester), Ian Swales (Redcar), John Pugh (Southport), Bob Russell (Colchester), Mark Williams (Bristol), Simon Wright (Norwich S), Roger Williams (Brecon), Martin Horwood (Cheltenham) & Greg Mulholland (Leeds). Total, so far, of 13. Before abstentions that leaves the vote 343 to 297; a government majority of 46.

So it is going to take one massive earthquake; even if all the non-government LibDem MPs vote against, and even the PPSs, it would still take a mass Tory rebellion to bring this down.

I admire anybody who is willing to take to the streets for what they believe in (as long as it is non-violence), but for all the excitement that student leaders and the media are trying to whip up about the vote I cannot see a way, at this moment, that the government can lose. That may all change but with 24 hours to go, the fees vote looks a lot less exiting than we are lead to believe.


Norwich Taxpayer said...

If you were MP for Norwich South, would you vote against the fee increase?

Norwich Taxpayer said...

What are your own personal opinions on Norfolk County Council's proposed cuts to post 16 transport funding?

Do you think this is all to do with the economic situation we are in - or do you think this has been on the table for a long time?

Antony said...

If didn't sign the NUS Pledge and I didn't do so because it was fantasy politics and I told them so at the time. However there are many big aspects of this policy that I disagree with - not that graduates make a contribution butt hat this system still fundamentally hits the middle and working classes over the poorest. The scale of the rise is also what shocks me. There is no secret in the party that I would have been a rebel if I had of been elected.

Norwich Taxpayer said...

Thank you for the comments Antony.

However I would like know how you feel about the proposed cuts to Post 16 funding in subsidized bus travel. Would you personally state in the 'Big Conversation' that this is a bad idea and will hit the poorest in Norfolk?

I feel that this has been a long time coming - and I can remember back in 2005 the City College Student's Union campaigning against the increase and there was no recession then.

I am seriously considering whether to say to people who are thinking about further education in Norfolk, not to bother and go somewhere else, because the help may not be there.
I love this county, and I feel so sad that we are going against the very grain that kept this county cohesive which is social mobility.

I understand savings have to be made, I know the economic arguments but feel that we also need to take into account the social cost. It is not going to be easy, but we have to look at what can we cut which will have the least social impact.

Paul said...

interesting Antony - pleasantly surprised to see your tweet voicing support for the fee rebels.

Also you're supporting the Norwich Free School...

Paul said...

i was at a party recently and had an enjoyable chat with someone in the very top echelon of management at a higher education establishment. Their advice to me was to not bother considering suggesting a UK establishment to my daughters when they are able to go to university but to push them towards a European university where it'll be cheaper.

Additionally (not sure if this is has actually happened - the music was too loud to hear, but), universities can get non-state funding subject to a certain academic taking up a position in said establishment. However, the academic in question is not British and can't get a visa so bye-bye funding! Academic & funding goes to an establishment outside of the UK and the UK is the laughing stock of the academic world :(

So, on the one hand, Government is cutting funding - universities have to be more proactive in securing non-state funding, but the Home Office, pandering to Daily Mail readers, is saying no to foreigners.

Anonymous said...

I suggest that students should seriously consider taking French lessons and going to France as they charge approximately €500 per academic year for a course.

Plus proposals to cut EMA, not to mention cuts in funding to Post 16 transport here in Norfolk, I do wonder if we really care anymore about our children's education.