The National Union of Students has launched a national campaign aimed at unseating the 38 MPs, nearly all Lib Dems, who broke the pledge they made before the last election to oppose fee rises, branding them “liars”.
All of the Lib Dems’ 57 MPs signed up to the NUS pledge before the 2010 election to “vote against any rise in fees in the next Parliament”.
However, after the Lib Dems entered a coalition with the Conservatives, 28 Lib Dem MPs voted to treble fees to £9,000 and 8 were absent or abstained. Those who abstained or were absent are seen by the NUS as having broken their pledge.
The remaining 21 Lib Dem MPs kept the pledge and voted against £9,000 fees. As well the 36 Lib Dems that the NUS says broke the pledge, two Conservatives will also be targeted by the campaign.
Nick Clegg, the Lib Dem leader, famously apologised for having made the pledge. Mr Clegg, facing a battle to hang on to his Sheffield Hallam seat, is likely to be a major focal point in the NUS campaign.
The NUS said that “over the next three weeks billboards in London, Sheffield and Manchester, huge ad vans targeting pledge breaker seats across the country, and national newspaper advertising” will “shine an unrelenting national spotlight” on the pledge breakers.
The NUS said that its polling showed 54 per cent of students believe the tuition fee policy has failed, and that “over half” have “had their trust in government affected by the increase in tuition fees”.
Toni Pearce, NUS president, said: “It’s payback time. I’d like to say directly to Nick Clegg that your apology won’t cover any of the £40,000 debt that students will graduate with for the first time this summer.
“They pledged to scrap tuition fees – they lied. We won’t let them trade lies for power again. We represent seven million students and are urging every single one across the country to vote against broken pledges.”
The NUS also said that its polling of over 2,000 students showed that Labour stand to make the biggest gains from their vote, on 25 per cent. The Conservatives were on 17 per cent, the Greens 15 per cent, the UK Independence Party 6 per cent, and Lib Dems 4 per cent.