"Don't trust us if we ever get back into office"

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teddytaylor.jpgWhen New Labour was still new to power, I was down in London with the Ancients, the non-NUS student unions, arguing that the abolition of grants and the imposition of tuition fees would deter poorer students. We were right, of course.

Labour-run NUS Scotland was "bravely" arguing for their poorest members to lose their grants, incidentally. Labour most recently voted to impoverish students in December last year, but fortunately there were enough SNP, Liberal & Green votes to overturn the fees that Labour and the Liberals had brought in.

Anyway, we worked out of Andrew Welsh's office that week, and made good contacts with the Tories, in particular David Willetts and Teddy Taylor, both of whom were very hospitable solely because we were there to try and make Labour's life more difficult. Teddy was particularly impressed with a bit of research we'd done, and waved a copy of it at the Minister during the debate. 

That was the first and last Commons debate I ever went to, and I left thoroughly depressed by it, except for the passing satisfaction of our report being used in anger. I had had low expectations of Labour Ministers, but still thought they'd be an improvement on the Tories. 

However, when I closed my eyes, I heard Labour (I think in the form of Brian Wilson) making Tory arguments about competitiveness in higher education, indistinguishable from their predecessors in government.

Meanwhile, Willetts and other Tories were making the social inclusion case for poor students, arguing for equality of opportunity, just like their predecessors in opposition. 

It made me think of that 70s anarchist graffiti - no matter who you vote for, the government always gets in. And something Teddy said to us over tea has stuck with me.

"We'll do what we can for you now, but don't trust us if we ever get back into office."

Good advice, I always thought. And it came to my mind again this week when I read comments on air travel from their transport spokesperson, Teresa Villiers. She apparently told Today that the economic and environmental case for a third runway had yet to be proved. The BBC quote her saying:

"There's no serious research on the value of transfer passengers. Neither the government nor the studies on this have looked at the cost of the increase in pollution in the area around Heathrow."

They also report her view that "the government had not costed the carbon impact of international inbound flights", and apparently "one of the alternatives the Tories were looking at was high-speed rail".

Tories considering rail instead of air? Not expanding airports? Concerned about pollution? Actually carbon-costing things? I'm with Teddy on this, I'm afraid. I bet you a first class air fare to a day saver bus ticket this kind of greenery gets dropped the day they take office. 

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This page was published on August 16, 2008 5:10 PM.

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