Who’s winning in the latest match between Vince Cable and the Conservatives? The
Business Secretary did take an early lead, with the news
that No.10 had grudgingly yielded to his demand to appoint Professor Les Ebdon to the role of ‘university admissions tsar’ — a man who has hardly been kind about the coalition’s
universities policy in the past, and whose appointment had been blocked by the
business select committee. But, according to the Telegraph this
morning, the Tory leadership appear to have scored a goal of their own: Cable’s proposal for imposing penalties on graduates who pay off their student loans early is to be dropped.
We can, and should, cheer the wheezing demise of that policy. The idea behind it was to penalise richer students, or their parents, who could buy their way out of ever-increasing interest payments.
But it sent out an odd message, made even odder by the fact that it was coming from a party that opposes tuition fees in theory: ‘we want you to stay in debt even longer’. And it would
also have punished graduates who aren’t soaking in money but who nevertheless want to pay off their debts early. Even the liberal think-tank Centre Forum described it as "http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-14836202">‘crazy’.
That aside, though, the appointment of Professor Ebdon will irritate many Tory MPs — who’ll see it as an affront to parliamentary power, as well as a major danger in itself. Perhaps that’s
why coalitionary Tories are unusually eager to bare the process behind today’s news in public. One tells the Telegraph that:
‘The Lib Dems were very keen to appoint Ebdon and we felt very strongly about penalties for early repayment of loans. This is hopefully good news for tens of thousands of families, as
well as many Conservative MPs who had raised concerns about the penalties.’
Seems it’s not just the Lib Dems who can highlight what they’re fighting for, and achieving, within