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Nick Clegg grilled in tuition fees debate in Colchester
Updated 5:10pm Thursday 24th April 2014 in News
DEPUTY Prime Minister Nick Clegg was labelled a “liar” by students during a heated tuition fees debate in Colchester.
The Liberal Democrats leader was in Colchester to launch the party’s European manifesto and faced about an audience of about 40 people.
Most were angry about his party’s u-turn on plans not to increase university tuition fees.
Ruiri Daniel, a first year politics students at Essex University asked: “How can you justify being in Government and lying to the electorate on tuition fees?
“Students are now coming out of university with a massive debt that they are just not going to be able to pay back, which is not at all fair.”
The reforms were put in place in 2012, when tuition fees were trebled to a maximum of £9,000 a year and paid through up front subsidised loans.
It means students do not initially have to pay for their tuition, and must instead pay for it when they begin earning more than £21,000.
But Mr Clegg responded: “The system is more fair now than people think.
“I am not Prime Minister, I did not win the General Election. We came third.
“What you are saying to me is that I am somehow expected to implement every single policing in the Liberal Democrat manifesto when I am in coalition?
“I do not have the right to say that every single policy is going to be delivered.
“Our problem is that when it came to it, the Labour and the Conservative parties agreed more with each other than they did with me, so regardless of our position, changes were going to be made.
“The idea, then, was to devise the fairest system we possibly could.”
'The party of in'
NICK Clegg said Colchester was an apt place to launch his party’s “forward-thinking” European manifesto because it is Britain’s oldest recorded town.
The Deputy Prime Minister also said Colchester has become an important area for the Liberal Democrats in the lead up to the 2015 election.
He said: “There is a particular resonance with launching a forward-thinking manifesto for Britain in the most ancient town in Britain.
“A lot of jobs in Colchester, like elsewhere in Essex, depend on Britain’s place in the European Union.
“People here will have to decide next month [in the European Parliament election] whether they want to reach out into Europe or withdraw into a corner.”
He added: “This is about being part of the world’s largest economy and I believe the people of Colchester will want to have their say.”
Mr Clegg also said Prime Minister David Cameron and Labour leader Ed Milliband are "missing in action" in the fight against European “xenophobes”.
And yesterday, he declared the Liberal Democrats as the "party of in" during European debates.
Speaking at rally at Colchester Town Hall, he said: “Ukip and others have been allowed to peddle their myths unchallenged for decades, claiming that all of our problems would magically disappear if the UK just left the EU.
"But it's a dangerous fantasy. It's the surest way to jeopardise jobs, risk our fragile economic recovery, and it will leave Britain alone and diminished in the world."
Later, he added: “The European Union is not perfect, of course it’s not, it took 15 years to decide what chocolate was and any organisation which does that needs reform.
“But you cannot bring forward reforms if you’re not in it.
“You cannot influence if you’ve got one foot in the door and one foot at the exit.”
He added: "Ed Miliband and David Cameron are now officially Missing in Action - saying the bare minimum in this debate because they are too scared of losing votes to Nigel Farage, because they're so desperate to cover up the deep divisions in their own camps."
Elections for the British members of the European Parliament take place on Thursday, May 22, with results from across the European Union due to be announced on Sunday, May 25.
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