Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 13 December 2003

Tuition Fees Crisis Deepens

TONY BLAIR has had a bruising year. Millions have demonstrated against war in Iraq, public sector workers have taken strike action over pay and MPs have revolted over Iraq and foundation hospitals. He even now faces a more capable Tory leader. But it is on the issue of variable top-up fees that Blair faces his biggest challenge.

Blair's "back me or sack me" ultimatum has backfired and instead galvanised the opposition. At least 170 Labour MPs have signed a motion against the proposals. And it is not just the usual suspects, it includes 25 former ministers and even Blair loyalists. As The Observer commented: "This is no rag-bag of malcontents; this is the heart of the Labour Party." (7 December)

Blair has referred to variable top-up fees as his flagship; an unfortunate phrase as Thatcher found to her cost with the poll tax. But, unlike Thatcher's poll tax, top-up fees were ruled out in Labour's manifesto. If just half the rebel MPs finally vote against the proposals, along with Liberals and Tories, Blair's flagship will be sunk.

The revolt took Downing Street by surprise. The Bill was due to be published last week with Education Secretary Charles Clarke ruling out any concessions. The scale of the revolt provoked panic forcing the delay of the Bill until the end of January, to give the government more time to sell its proposals to restless backbenchers and a sceptical public.

The rebellion could of course dissipate by the New Year. Labour MPs may be currently piling on the pressure hoping Blair will back down or make substantial concessions. But Blair is intransigent on the core proposals, turning this issue into a question of principle and a test of his leadership - a position borne not from strength but from desperation.

Many Labour MPs in marginal seats are dependent on middle-class votes, first won to New Labour in 1997. Eroding support for Blair amongst this layer, already aggrieved over Iraq and foundation hospitals, threatens their parliamentary careers.

For many backbenchers the current revolt is not just about top-up fees, they are generally fed up with Blair and see a chance to defeat him. One Labour MP said: "I just hate him". The cabinet is reportedly split on the issue and the rebellion includes supporters of Chancellor Gordon Brown.

Brown himself has publicly supported top-up fees. Whatever his personal views he is not prepared at this stage to risk his leadership prospects by openly challenging Blair. Instead he is hovering in the wings watching Blair take a pounding.

A defeat for Blair on top-up fees could take place the week after the Hutton report into the death of the government scientist Dr David Kelly. Both have the potential to severely wound Blair politically. Together it's not ruled out that they could force his resignation. Blair's heart palpitations and stomach pains could provide a convenient exit at some stage.

The current rebellion reflects the pressure of growing anger amongst vast swathes of the population towards New Labour. Blair is seen as remote and, crucially, not trusted - something the farcical 'big conversation' will not reverse. Whether Blair or Brown is at the helm, workers face increasing misery under New Labour. We will continue to campaign for the alternative of a new mass workers' party.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.

In The Socialist 13 December 2003:

Sink Blair's 'Flagship' Fees

Tuition Fees Crisis Deepens

Exposed: Labour's plans to bring the 'market' into higher education

Socialist Party Election Victory

"Don't Worry, We Always Vote Socialist!"

Learning from Lewisham

"Going With The Grain Of History"

EU 'growth and stability' fiasco: Squabbling States Continue With Bosses' Agenda

Putin Consolidates His Power


Home   |   The Socialist 13 December 2003   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  

Related links:

Tuition Fees:

triangleYoung people being strangled by debts

triangleThe Tories must be driven out

triangleFreshers week campaigning reports

triangleFight for free education

triangleFight tuition fees


triangleWhat we saw

triangleNasty party out the Tories

triangleKick out the Tories, fight for free education!

triangleCaerphilly Socialist Party: How to abolish university tuition fees?


triangleSheffield Labour council threatens peaceful protesters with prison

triangleHundreds turn out for rally aimed at removing west Wales Tory MP

triangleTories torn - bin them now


triangleMagic money tree

Tony Blair:

triangleFrom Militant to the Socialist Party

Reports and campaigns

Reports and campaigns


North West

Arriva North West bus drivers strike over pay


Democratic rights

Conference on state spies: who's watching who?



Striking back against sackers' charter at Leeds Uni


Royal Mail

Royal Mail bosses block strike - back postal workers



Balloting members on the pay cap



'Dazzling' Bad Art show points to socialist future



Sheffield Labour council threatens peaceful protesters with prison


South West Wales

Hundreds turn out for rally aimed at removing west Wales Tory MP



Uprising to save the NHS!



Can you donate to the Socialism 2017 appeal?


East London

No cuts - hands off King George A&E!


North London

North London hospital workers fight cuts and job losses



Nationalise to save jobs at BAE Systems



Schools "can't go any further" - stop the cuts: set deficit budgets now



Socialist Students 'welcome' Hillary Clinton to Swansea

triangleMore Reports and campaigns articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party

triangle19 Oct Arriva North West bus drivers strike over pay

triangle18 Oct Russia, October 1917: When workers took power

triangle18 Oct Tories torn - bin them now

triangle18 Oct Royal Mail bosses block strike - back postal workers

triangle18 Oct Balloting members on the pay cap

triangle13 Oct The end of the Tories?

triangle11 Oct Nasty party out the Tories

More ...

triangle23 Oct Chesterfield Socialist Party: The continuing struggle for abortion rights

triangle24 Oct Liverpool Socialist Party: The October Russian Revolution 100 years ago to the day

triangle25 Oct Salford Socialist Party: The October 1917 Russian revolution

triangle25 Oct Swansea Socialist Party: Mother Jones - A US labour pioneer

More ...

Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



October 2017

September 2017

August 2017

July 2017

June 2017

May 2017

April 2017

March 2017

February 2017

January 2017





















Platform setting: = No platform choice