Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Plaid Cymru - the party of "poodles"

So Plaid have done it. They've voted strongly in favour of Labour's plans to introduce top-up fees in Wales for Welsh students.

Today in the Senedd Peter Black called on the Assembly to reverse its decision to scrap the tuition fees grant.



Only two Plaid AMs voted in favour of Mr. Black's proposal. (No prizes for guessing who they were!)

This goes against what the party's membership had hoped for and asks more questions of Plaid's role in government.

"Compromise" and "pragmatism" - those are the two words Plaid's Chairman, John Dixon has consistently used in debates on this issue. "Propping up a Labour government" is the counter-argument.

Here's Kirsty Williams' response to today's vote:

"We proposed this motion today because we believe access to education is a principle worth fighting for. We know that many Plaid Cymru Assembly Members feel the same and that their supporters voted for them because they promised and end to top-up fees.

"Today was a chance for redemption, for Plaid to say sorry and back Welsh students. Instead they chose to play the poodle, to climb so far into bed with Labour that you wouldn't know there's two different parties playing under the sheets."

Here's what one of the Plaid rebels*, Bethan Jenkins, has to say on the matter:

"I recognise that being in government means making difficult decisions. Although I can see where the Government is coming from in this decision to an extent, I can’t support the ending of the tuition fee grant.

"While I understand that the majority of my fellow Plaid members will accept the constraints, and the need to compromise that comes with being a party in government, I am grateful that the group understands my position and have accepted that two of us will be voting differently on this occasion."

*Is it fair to call a politician who sticks to the party's manifesto and election commitments a rebel? Just a thought.


Dewi Dau

Picture used courtesy of Contadini @ http://www.flickr.com/photos/92305862@N00/422417777/

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1 comment:

Dylan Jones-Evans said...

Not surprising but disappointing. As you were in the Pawb a'i Farn audience when I spoke on this matter, you know exactly where I stand on this issue.

To reiterate what I said at the time.

This should never have happened and rather than focusing specifically on how to cut support to students to make up the funding gap in Wales, the Jones review should have examined the wider benefits of free tuition fees to the economy of Wales.

When we keep hearing that we need to create a knowledge-based economy that is based on higher level skills, is this the way forward?

We know there is a £61 million gap in university spending between England and Wales, a gap that the Assembly Government has chosen not to make good.

Instead, they will be taking money away from students to try and make up this difference. It is easy to try and defend the situation and I am surprised how many Plaid politicians were ready to say that this was necessary.

Surely this is a matter of priorities for the Governemnt. If it believes that education is critical to the future of this nation and that we want to create a small clever country, is this the way forward?

In Scandinavia, which has some of the most competitive small nations in the World, there are no tuition fees paid by students because policymakers in Sweden and Finland have realised that without a highly educated workforce, you cannot create a strong knowledge-based economy.

The Assembly Government currently spends well over a quarter of a billion pounds annually on business support in Wales. Yet, despite having over 1200 civil servants in the Department of Economy administering this money, we remain firmly rooted to the bottom of the UK prosperity league table.

A more radical Assembly Government would have examined whether this money would have been better spent on addressing the higher education finance gap between England and Wales. Instead, it set up a review that, because of its myopic terms of reference, could only come up with one conclusion.

Unfortunately, it is a conclusion that will do little to help the long term economic prospects of this nation and by aping the actions of English educationalists, has diminished devolution within this country.