'Too busy' Nick Clegg refused to meet with student constituents

By staff writers
10 Dec 2010

Student constituents from Nick Clegg’s Sheffield Hallam parliamentary seat are furious that the Deputy Prime Minister was unwilling to meet to discuss the huge fee hike and cuts he helped push through the House of Commons on 9 December 2010.

The students had called Mr Clegg’s office in the days leading up to the crucial parliamentary debate, only to be rebuffed. This despite repeated media claims from the Deputy PM and his colleagues that they are keen to explain their policies and the way they are being "misunderstood" and "mis-reported" by opponents.

Mr Clegg's office told one Sheffield University student that he was “too busy” to meet with them, and despite a series of pleas from students they were not able to arrange an appointment to lobby the Liberal Democrat leader on fees and the future of tertiary education.

Many other Members of Paliament also told students they were unable or unwilling to spend time talking to them about the proposals too, while still more were put through to MPs’ answerphones.

MPs who refused to meet their constituents included Alan Duncan MP and Bernard Jenkin MP while the offices of Hillary Benn MP and Julian Sturdy MP, among others, were not picking up the phone to students attempting to arrange a meeting, claims the National Union of Students.

Students were further outraged when Nick Clegg and Prime Minister David Cameron left the House of Commons after Business Secretary Vince Cable’s opening speech, and failed to listen to much of the opposition’s view on fees.

Mr Cable told the House that he was "proud" of his Motion to approve a resolution on increasing the higher amount which is to be applied under the Higher Education Act 2004, and a motion relating to the draft Higher Education (Basic Amount) (England) Regulations.

Thousands of students and their supporters descended on London to lobby MPs before the vote on whether to treble tuition fees to £9,000 a year. A mass rally was also held which was followed by a candlelight vigil.

Media reporting of the day's events and huge demonstrations was overshadowed by violence involving some protesters and police, plus an incident involving a smashed window and eggs thrown at a car carrying Charles Windsor and his wife Camilla - described by news agencies as "an attack on the Royals".

However, the great majority of the tens of thousands of young people who turned out to make their voices heard near Westminster were peaceful in their protest, reported Channel 4 television's Alex Thompson and other on-the-spot journalists.

Aaron Porter, president of the National Union of Students (NUS), said of the day's events: "We've taken to the streets in our thousands, won the arguments and the battle for public opinion. We have lost in the House of Commons only because MPs have broken their promises. We are incredibly disappointed and angry with the politicians who have let us down so badly. They have voted for a policy they know is unfair, unnecessary and wrong."

"But this is not the end, and our protests and our work have sparked a new wave of activism which will grow stronger by the day. As they come for the education maintenance allowance, as they seek to raise interest rates on our loans and as they peddle lies about fairness, we will expose their betrayal. I am incredibly proud of the student movement today and we stand ready to fight the next stage of this campaign together. Our future is at stake."

An earlier version of this article wrongly included the name of Ben Gummer MP as someone who had not met with students. The information we had been given was incorrect, and we have now been informed that he met with two sets of students. It is our policy to immediately correct any errors in reporting and apologise.

[Ekk/3]

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