>"A difficult decision made for all the right reasons" – inside Westminster on Tuition Fees day

>Yesterday was certainly a landmark day in British politics. Not particularly because of what got passed, the way universities are funded will doubtless change many more times, but because of what it signified.

VN Editor Charlotte Henry was in the Westminster cauldron as it all reached boiling point.

Yesterday was utterly surreal. Central Lobby was swarming with jean and hoody clad students, all seeking one last chance to make their MP vote ‘no’ in the impending vote on raising the cap on tuition fees. Democracy in action.

I had the pleasure of meeting Annette Brooke (no), Lorely Burt (abstain), Stephen Gilbert (yes), Jeremy Browne (yes), Simon Hughes (abstain),  and Jo Swinson (yes). All had sincere and genuine reasons for voting whichever way they did. Lovely Lorely also wins an extra prize for providing myself and VN contributor Thomas Hemsley with one of the best cups of tea ever, in Parliament’s ‘Pugin Room’!

Seeing MPs engaging with their constituents was fantastic, and as it should be. The Lib Dems MPs I met rightly pointed out what vast improvements have been made due to their engagement in the process. I don’t like that the government is asking young people to start their working life having to pay off £40,000 worth of debt, but this pay back system should not put people of going to university, and is far better than anything Labour or the Conservatives would have brought in on their own.

The most surreal part of the day came when I was going to comment on the BBC on behalf of Liberal Youth. I was outside Saint Stevens Entrance, so was going to be interview via an ear piece. In the ear piece is a live feed of what is going out live. Moments before I was about to go on air violence erupted in Parliament Square, (I had had to move out the way of the line of police horses who were going towards Parliament Square on my way to the interview.) I stood waiting to go on air for about 40 minutes, listening as police officers were thrown from their horse, protestors were stretchered out, and smoke rose from firecrackers. Hope you understand now if I looked a bit distracted by the time the finally got to my brief cameo!

As the division bell rang I was sitting in Central Lobby. The vote passed and, despite some saddening resignations, the coalition still stands. Don’t believe the hype, no Lib Dem did this with glee. They did it to make the overall package for funding universities work both for the institutions and those that attend them. In typical Lib Dem fashion, many agonised about it almost until the moment they walked through a lobby.

Hopefully the Christmas break will clear the air, and Clegg and company can go on with the good work they are doing in government. Yesterday though will live long in my memory as a day the Lib Dems stood up and made a difficult, unpalatable decision, but did it for the all the right reasons.


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