Business Secretary Vince Cable has denied breaking promises on university tuition fees, insisting the Liberal Democrats' pre-election pledge to oppose any rise was not binding. …
Dr Cable said the Lib Dems "haven't betrayed anybody" and that the coalition agreement struck with the Tories was their only binding commitment.
"We didn't break a promise. We made a commitment in our manifesto, we didn't win the election. We then entered into a coalition agreement, and it's the coalition agreement that is binding upon us and which I'm trying to honour," he said.
First, the pledge that the Lib Dems proudly signed didn’t require them to “win the election”. It was: “I pledge to vote against any increase in fees in the next parliament and to pressure the government to introduce a fairer alternative.” Cable could have honoured this promise had he been the only Lib Dem MP in a parliament where the Tories had a majority of 200.
Second, the coalition agreement is no more “binding” than their manifesto. Neither is legally enforceable; both are political statements. What happens if either is broken? The Tories/voters respectively would/will have to decide, ad hoc, how they want to react. That’s all.
Third, given this, the statement that the coalition deal is more important than anything they had previously said to the public to win votes is not going to foster much trust in their reliability in the future.
Fourth, the coalition agreement doesn’t commit them to support raising fees. It says: “We will await Lord Browne’s final report into higher education funding, and will judge its proposals” based on several criteria, including “the impact on student debt”. Either they abandoned their anti-fees promise well after the coalition deal, or they contracted out this “judging its proposals” to the Tory part of the government, or they were just lying so they could back out of a promise they’d never really meant.