Web Analytics Trust People (once an Englishman in Philly): Democracy?

Saturday, January 17, 2004


Having heard that Anne Campbell, the Labour MP for Cambridge was going to consult students at the University as to how she should vote in the debate on the bill including deferred fees, you can imagine the excitement with which I went to view the online survey.

When I got there I felt just one thing: underwhelming disappointment.

Despite my initial surprise that Ms Campbell was going to fetter her discretion as to how she would vote (which I thought was in breach of Parliamentary rules) the scales soon fell from my eyes when I heard on the radio that she had 'pledged' that the results of the survey would 'inform' the way she votes. My what daring for a modern politician to use the opinions of those she represents to 'inform' her thinking. Presumably, that means, which ever way she votes she can say at the next election that she 'consulted us' and that our points of view 'informed' her opinion: so don't you students dare moan.

Nevertheless, if the results of the survey had been overwhelmingly against the bill then I am sure she would have struggled to do anything but oppose it. Here comes the second catch. As you can no doubt see the survey is structured so as to render any results all but unintelligible. Almost every question is do you prefer the status quo or the government's proposal?

Now, for a supposedly intelligent government and a member in a constituency with one of the best universities in the world this seems remarkably intellectually lazy. Where was the option to outline our own different alternative? Why couldn't we just conclude 'Are you in favour of this aspect of the government's bill? Yes or no'?

Of course the answer is in the Guardian (where else!) when they describe yesterday's meeting in Cambridge:
  • 'Musing on the meeting afterwards, Ms Campbell said she was not surprised by the students' views, but was now considering backing the first vote on January 27 in the hope of pushing the case for a flat fee later in the parliamentary process.'

  • Since being one of the first MPs to oppose the proposals, having suffered for her behaviour around the 1997 General Election when she, allegedly, flyered the whole university with 'No Tuition Fees Here' leaflets, it seems she wouldn't mind developing cold feet...

    Watch this space for the survey's ambiguous results!


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