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Anorak | The Howard League

The Howard League

by | 23rd, January 2004

‘IF, and it is not a very big if, Tony Blair loses next week’s vote on top-up tuition fees, the following scenarios become more likely.

Be afraid, be very afraid

The first is that up to a dozen universities may have to close or merge because of the ensuing cash crisis, while others will look to attract more students from overseas.

A survey by the Independent also found that courses such as science and engineering could be cut because they are expensive to run but don’t attract many students.

And one vice-chancellor warned that members of the Russell Group (which represents the top 19 research institutions) would pull out of the state university system altogether and go private.

Not quite the result that the 100 or so rebel Labour MPs are after, one suspects – but at least they can parade their spotless consciences in front of their constituents at the next General Election.

However, it may not be the perfect result for Michael Howard and his Tory party.

Sure, defeating top-up fees would hasten the privatisation of universities, which is the Tories’ preferred option anyway.

But another scenario that could result from a Government defeat is the demise of Prime Minister Tony Blair and the accession to the throne of Chancellor Gordon Brown.

At the moment, Blair is hated by half of his party and his approval ratings in the country at large are rooted in negative territory – minus 14% at last count.

Brown, by contrast, is much more popular both within the Labour Party and in the country at large, although it remains to be seen whether this would translate into votes at an election.

However, Howard would surely prefer the devil he knows in Blair, especially as a YouGov poll in today’s Telegraph shows the Tories with a five-point lead over Labour.

The party has hit the magic 40% barrier for the first time since Black Wednesday in 1992, the day Britain was forcibly ejected from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism.

As the paper admits, two other polls this week have shown Labour still in the lead, but it claims its internet poll is the more accurate.

But even this morning’s figures might not be enough for the Tories – to be certain of winning power, the paper says, they need to secure at least 42% of the popular vote.

Alternatively, they could just follow the example of George Bush and declare themselves the winner, whatever the outcome of the vote.’



Posted: 23rd, January 2004 | In: Broadsheets Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink