Miliband – student saviour or the next Nick Clegg?

What will the appointment of Ed Miliband as new Labour leader bring for students?

I was brought up with a strong interest in politics in a firmly Labour family. I followed coverage of the election this spring avidly – and, more often than not, very loudly and argumentatively, too.

But by the time the Labour leadership race really got started, and everyone realised that it was a two-horse race being fought by two horses no one could tell apart (one Tory friend of mine scathingly called them ‘Milidee and Milidumb’), even I lost interest.

Things started to get interesting again a little while ago… but only because the Milibrother no one expected to win, well, won.

So, Ed Miliband now has the impossible task of reforming the Labour Party and making them a viable political option again. Whilst also making sure everyone can actually remember which one he is, and preventing a major family feud of some description. Or, maybe that bit is all media hype.

But, who is he? The MP for Doncaster North, Leader of the Opposition. The son of a Marxist, he recently claimed in The Guardian that his father would have considered him a “right-wing sell-out” for being Labour.

Despite this, the right-wing press have labelled him “Red Ed”. They claim that his majority-Union vote and slightly-more-left-wing-than-other-candidates leaning made him more of a bona-fide socialist than the Labour Party has seen perhaps since before Tony Blair became their leader in 1994. But he himself has vehemently denied this.

In reality, though, what’s changing? How is Miliband different from the “ConDem” coalition leaders? And, most importantly, what does that mean for us students?

The biggest student issue on the agenda at the moment is obviously that of tuition fees – whether they’re going to rise, and how the government are going to deal with that.

Having been let down by the Liberal Democrats, it looks like everything, for us, is likely only to get worse.

Business Secretary Vince Cable, of the Lib Dems, fleetingly suggested a “Graduate Tax” only to have it rubbished by the rest of the coalition.

But this is an idea which Miliband appears to stand by; in a blog on his campaign website in July, he claimed that “studies have shown that such a Graduate Tax … would prevent the burden being put unfairly on students and their families, and [would] link to their ability to pay”.

It would also raise more money to fund the university places which have been promised for so long but appear not to have materialised yet. What that means for current students, already in debt, though, is anyone’s guess.

On the same issue, the coalition government are stalling. They are unwilling to make a decision until the results of Lord Browne’s report on university funding. Although the Graduate Tax has been snubbed, and there appears to be no suggestion that fees could ever remain this ‘low’ again.

For students, it’s a rock and a hard place, politically. For Miliband, it’s a chance to prove his credentials to a vast number of people. Fingers crossed.


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