Tuition fees test for Clegg and country

A crunch week awaits Nick Clegg's Liberal Democrats as they prepare for the vote on tuition fees.

The situation is mired in controversy with many members of the party deeply uncomfortable with a policy that seems to run contrary to their political ideology.

Greg Mulholland, the MP for Leeds North West, is attempting to persuade as many of his Lib Dem colleagues as possible to back his campaign to postpone Thursday's vote.

Meanwhile, rumours in Westminster are that one Lib Dem government minister and another parliamentary aide are on the brink of resignation in protest at the plans to allow universities to charge as much as 9,000 a year in tuition fees.

It's hard not to wonder if the Coalition, and in particular Nick Clegg, realised just how significant this legislation was when they framed it.

This reform will have an impact on families across the country, not just for the next few years but for decades to come.

Generations will be left with mountains of debt to pay back over the course of their working lives, while parents will need to start saving from the day their children are born to enable them to pay their way through a degree.

This is a vote that will bring fundamental change to the country, and it could do the same to the Liberal Democrats.

Still flawed

WHERE there is complexity in a system, problems invariably tend to follow.

There is no doubt that huge strides have been made over the last 18 months in cleaning up the system by which our MPs claim expenses.

But that is not to say the process has been made perfect.

We therefore echo Leeds Central MP Hilary Benn's demand that it be made more straightforward.

His complaint is that some MPs are still owed money by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority and have even become overdrawn.

Other criticism is directed at moves that make it more difficult to claim travel expenses.

Reform was necessary to clear up a mess mostly of the MPs' own making, but it must not come at the cost of enabling honest politicians to do their jobs.

A simpler system that is based on logic and common sense would not just benefit them, it would also help us to judge whether or not our MPs are claiming money they're entitled to.

A brave shave

SPONSORED head shaves have long been used as a means of raising money for good causes.

But we applaud Laura Philipson for shedding her locks at a time when temperatures are well below freezing.

We just hope she invested in a warm hat before firing up the razor.

Sarah Champion MP

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