Former candidate attacks retreat over rise in tuition fees

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THE decision of 35 Liberal Democrat MPs to turn their back on their tuition fees pledge was “very disappointing” for grassroots activists, according to a former Parliamentary candidate.

Denis Healy, who narrowly lost out in the fight for Hull North at the General Election, did, however, back the decision to go into the coalition and said his party were a “restraining influence” on the Tories.

But he warned that in the wake of the expenses scandal, public distrust of MPs was very strong and the Liberal Democrats should have stuck to their guns and voted against the policy, as he would have done.

After much debate, 27 voted to increase fees, including leader Nick Clegg, 21 voted against – including former leaders Sir Menzies Campbell and Charles Kennedy – and eight abstained.

“I made a pledge and I made it very clear I would stick to it,” Mr Healy said.

“During the campaign last year we were on the doorstep and people were disillusioned with politics and politicians after the expenses scandal, they didn’t trust MPs.

“I do find it very disappointing that we have a situation where young people are going to be saddled with debt.”

Mr Healy said he would happily fight again for the seat at the next election if selected, and said he supported much the party had done in Government. He was confident the party’s vote would hold up and said the Barnsley Central by-election – where the Liberal Democrats came a humiliating sixth place – was an unfair indicator of political feeling nationally.

“I do see the Liberal Democrats as a restraining influence on the Tories.,” he said.

“It would have been a completely different looking Government and a different country if it had not been for the Coalition.”