John Walker's Electronic House

Letter To Don Foster

by on Dec.06, 2010, under The Rest

I sent this email to Don Foster today. If you want to write to your MP ahead of the vote on Thursday regarding the tripling of student tuition fees, and the horrendous cuts to university education, you can directly email them from here.

Dear Don Foster,

After attending the protests this morning, I am compelled to write to you regarding Thursday’s vote. I wish to appeal to you, to the man for whom I voted.

I voted for you because of your voting record, and your promises. Not only that, but I encouraged many others to vote for you, those who were apolitical or apathetic. I invested my time and energy into convincing them to vote for you, based on whom you had been. And now I feel humiliated.

I don’t want these people to have been lied to. I don’t want you to make me into a liar. I told them that you were different, that you voted so passionately for decency and humane values. I showed them the form response your office sent me that so eloquently and intelligently explained why you would be voting for libel reform, and against the attacks by corporations on people’s rights to internet access with the Digital Economy Bill. I explained that you represented the only party voting to abolish tuition fees.

You say you have yet to make up your mind about Thursday’s vote. I truly hope you were telling the truth, rather than avoiding giving an answer your voters neither voted for nor wanted to hear. If this is the case, I ask you to remember who you were before the Coalition was formed, and how appalled the Don Foster of April 2010 would feel if he were told what the Don Foster of December 2010 was considering doing.

It is so devastating to hear you giving the Conservative line about this matter, knowingly lying about how various clauses will make it fairer for students (while surrounded by the students who already know that it absolutely will not). To hear you saying “compromise”, as if that’s a reason to abandon your principles, to degrade your party’s former beliefs, and to so unashamedly back out of a promise you made only six months ago.

Lies about not knowing the state of the economy are embarrassing to tell, and insulting to hear. We all know that they are lies, and it’s so sad to hear you and your colleagues saying them without shame or remorse.

You are retiring this parliament, and as such this will be your legacy. You have an opportunity to vote for what you clearly believed in, and for what you solemnly swore you would do. Or you have the choice to become a part of the Conservatives, and deny all you have fought for, and all you continue to espouse outside of areas your whips have not instructed you to change your mind about.

I truly do not believe that you do not feel shame about this. To have signed a pledge, and to have been such a decent man for so long, you must know that abandoning all this would be too sad.

Thank you for taking the time to read this long email. I politely ask that if your response to this would be to send out a form reply stating all the lies and excuses and statements of how important it is to be compromised, then please don’t send it to me. It would make me too sad.

Yours sincerely,

John Walker


20 Comments for this entry

  • Drug Crazed Dropkick

    We had a long discussion about this over email via Rum Doings last week (Again, apologies for how I responded).

    I disagreed with you about whether Foster had made up his mind on the clip you posted, since he talked about being stuck between a rock and a hard place which they are. Granted, they could have easily avoided the hard place and just stuck with the rock and their principles which were both in the same place but I have a feeling that they won’t.

    I have to cut this short since I have a lecture I need to go to, but I’d like to see the response this garners. Hopefully it’ll be better than the usual crap I got from my local MP about the DEBill.

  • Mike McQuaid

    Great mail John, I really hope it makes a difference.

    As a former card-carrying Liberal Democrat I’m so, so disappointed to see that they are going to completely alienate their voting base for some tiny grasp at power.

    I assume you put your full address at the end of the email, otherwise it will likely be ignored.

  • John Walker

    My address details were included with the form.

  • Xercies

    Does Wales MPs sit in the general parliament?

  • Chris

    Certainly a well written and clearly passionate letter John. I’m on the fence about this issue but I can totally understand the particular frustration you feel with respect to your MP.

    To echo the report of the esteemed Drug Crazed Dropkick above, I also had an abominable response from my MP, Helen Grant (conservative), on the Digital Economy Bill.

    I have zero sympathy for an MP following the party line at the expense of their principles.

    I wonder on the tuition fees issue, (a) whether or not you recognise that there is a challenge for the government to reduce debt, and (b) whether you will ever be persuaded to regard the removal of the upper limit on tuition fees for university students as a valid means of cutting government spending in general.

    Sorry if you covered this in your monologue on the latest Rum Doings, which I have only just started listening to this morning.

  • mister k

    One thing that does surprise me about this is that I don’t think there was as much anger directed at Labour when they did exactly the same thing, but without even the excuse of a poor economy/coalition.

  • Nick Mailer

    I wonder on the tuition fees issue, (a) whether or not you recognise that there is a challenge for the government to reduce debt, and (b) whether you will ever be persuaded to regard the removal of the upper limit on tuition fees for university students as a valid means of cutting government spending in general.

    There is a challenge for the government to reduce debt. This is largely caused by allowing a huge number of people to avoid (and evade) taxation over the last three decades. This has been done with a nod and a wink, with the understanding that poor people will pay the bill in having their entitlements slashed.

    So, when the banks screwed over the economy, in reality, they got away with it. And note the first targets to pay for their profligacy: children and students.

    b) No. We can and should afford to pay for university education as a public good. There are many, many other places we can and should cut first. I actually went through various departmental budgets, looked at their projects and worked out how I could get rid of the deficit without touching one student.

    It’s perfectly possible to do. Indeed, the Liberal Democrats costed exactly how to do this themselves just before the election!

    Kicking students where it hurts is a political decision not an economic necessity. Do not buy the ridiculous propaganda!

  • Nick Mailer

    mister k: There was not the equivalence of this pledge. Even so, you’re wrong to say there was no anger. I was very angry, for one!

  • mister k

    “as much anger”- I don’t recall such extreme protests.

    I was extremely angry myself- I think a manifesto pledge claiming not to introduce tuition fees is pretty strong…

  • Coombs

    I recently wrote my own MP (David Jones a Tory) a similar letter regarding both University funding and EMA cuts. His response was suitably rubbish as you’d expect; it simply listed all the policies and gave a short line saying he supported them. I’ve pasted a copy of my letter below.

    Dear Mr Jones,
    I’m writing to ask you your opinion and your voting intentions on the government’s current plans for funding higher education and cutting Education Maintenance Allowance. I’m currently a final year A level student at a 6th form in your constituency and am applying for university this year (to study physics at Oxford, Imperial College London, Edinburgh, Warwick and York) and whilst the plans for higher fees and less support luckily won’t affect me I still feel compelled to protest against what I see as an unfair and also unproductive measure. Had the system been of the form currently being proposed when I was making choices about my education a year or two ago I’m not sure I would’ve been so enthusiastic about moving on to further study, which would in retrospect have been a real shame as I’ve really outstripped what I expected to achieve academically. So do you feel that it is the best course of action to put people in a similar position to myself off higher education? Can you explain how this is fair and how it will in any way benefit the economy to reduce the number of highly trained individuals available to work? Surely there are other ways to save this money beyond cuts which could in the end cost more than they save? (due to reduced revenues from income tax as people are forced to take lower waged jobs etc) In the end what I’m requesting is either an assurance that you are going to vote against what is a short sighted and unfair policy or a coherent argument as to why these cuts are necessary when for example the EMA cut will only save 0.5bn which could be easily raised by a small increase in say corporation tax, easily justified by the larger pool of skilled workers available to these companies.

  • Nick Mailer

    I have a very good idea: a graduate tax: but not the graduate tax you’re thinking of. My graduate tax is a tax paid by CORPORATIONS each time they hire a graduate. This will solve two things:

    1) It was stop degree inflation, where almost every job now requires a graduate degree for no other reason than fashion, and because it costs companies nothing to demand, but costs government and students a fortune.

    2) It’ll mean that corporations who actually do feel that graduate degrees are actually necessary will be paying to fund the educated workforce that so usefully contributes to their profitability.

  • James Campbell


    Currently it’s hard enough to get a graduate job. Under your system there would be even fewer graduate jobs and they would, effectively, be the only jobs graduates could get.

    For someone who (correct me if I’ve misunderstood you) believes in education for education’s sake implementing a tax that would make going to university less desirable seems an odd thing.

    I look forward to you proving me wrong.

    (Great letter John I hope you get a decent reply. I too emailed my MP about the DEBill and got an enormous reply which said “Thank you for inquiring about the DEBill: here is some information about it”)

  • innokenti

    Nick – not sure about your proposal, because it would penalise plenty of graduates. Having a degree would end up being a liability because of course plenty of firms would not be able to hire a graduate (to avoid the tax, or because they can’t afford it).

    That would turn things on their heads in silly ways. And what James said.

  • Drug Crazed Dropkick

    Hah, someone thinks I’m esteemed. Silly them.

    Nick, I disagree with your tax. I think that would cause less graduate jobs because it would cost them to do so, meaning there’d be no way to pay off the current debt we have to pay.

    Also, would your plan include people getting jobs when they’re graduates even without the job needing the degree? I look at things like shop assistants or fast food restaurants.

  • Xercies

    I also disagree with you nick on the graduate tax, that seems like a bad idea because i think we all know that when businesses are forced to pay for things they generally will try anyway to wriggle out of it so basically they will do there damnedest to not employ graduates.

  • Nick Mailer

    There have been far too many people who have gotten degrees not for a love of learning but because it’s become some sort of silly entry badge required by dull HR managers for dull jobs. We have bought into the ancient logic of the sophists. I want to break this, and my suggestion, with obvious safeguards for fields like medicine and so on, makes sense. We can discuss particulars, but in principle:
    1) Too many people are getting degrees for the wrong reason , when apprenticeships etc would be more appropriate.
    2) Too many jobs mindlessly specify graduate level degrees as an arbitrary entry barrier.
    3) Those corporates who do demand graduates are effectively receiving a massive subsidy. Why should students pay this subsidy?

    I would not be unhappy if this were changed.

  • Blissett

    I think if this whole disaster proves one thing it’s that people should forget about the idea of voting for a candidate. Or more precisely, forget about voting for a candidate who may end up in power. As soon as an MP enters Government they effectively lose free will. Expecting them to act as an individual first rather than a Lib Dem/Tory/Labour puppet is almost always pointless.

    Mister k’s point about the original introduction is certainly true. I twice turned up for protests against tuition fees at my large red brick Uni to find a pathetically poor turnout. The simple fact is that the late nineties were a pretty comfortable time in this country and therefore noone had enough residual anger to give a shit.

    Oh and Nick’s graduate tax would surely sound the death knell for non-vocational degrees. I did a thoroughly pointless degree that is of no practical use but I honestly believe the experience made me a better person. I think I’d have found it pretty tough to convince an employer to pay a premium for my services based purely on my irrelevant qualification and I know for damn sure that my parents would have insisted I take a more “sensible” course for that very reason.

  • Blackberries

    Thank you. Your response to Chris was very well put.

    mister k:
    One thing that does surprise me about this is that I don’t think there was as much anger directed at Labour when they did exactly the same thing, but without even the excuse of a poor economy/coalition.

    This is a good point, but there are some key differences here. First and most importantly, these protests aren’t only about the raising of the tuition fee cap. The government are also planning to implement massive cuts to higher education funding. Arts & humanities will be worst hit, but it is my understanding that science research funding will now be subject to absurd criteria. They’re taking a cleaver to higher education in the UK. This alone would be cause for protest, let alone the raise in fees.

    There’s also the removal of the Education Maintenance Allowance for 16-19 year olds. This is another awful cut which is going to hit those worse-off the most (if you aren’t already aware, the EMA is a scheme by which those from low-income families receive a smallish amount of money each week while they are in education. The idea being, of course, to allow people from less well-off backgrounds the option of further education where they might otherwise have felt compelled to take a job to help out their families). It’s ghastly.

    Furthermore, times are much tougher now than when tuition fees were first introduced. Many people will have suffered to some degree from the recession, not just students who’re looking at entering a slightly weaker job market than was the case 5-10 years past. People are unhappy and it’s not surprising we’re starting to see manifestations of this dissatisfaction, particularly in response to the painful actions of the current government. The wider context of these protests helps explain why there’s been a more intense reaction than back when Labour first introduced tuition fees.

    Sorry, I went on a bit there.

  • Blissett

    Is anyone able to make a compelling case for or provide evidence of the efficacy of the EMA? It’s the one part of this issue that I find it difficult to get too worked up about. It seems like a particularly inelegant solution to a genuine issue.

  • Blackberries

    From a quick poke it doesn’t seem like there’s been any comprehensive survey of the results of introducing the EMA, so I am not sure it’s currently possibly to ‘provide a compelling case’ as to its efficacy one way or the other. One reason for this might be that it’s only been fully-rolled out for a few years, so perhaps it’s too early to properly say.

    I have, however, found a paper from the CfBT Education Trust charity written in 2009 which poses the question ‘Should we end the EMA’, a powerpoint presentation which appears to be sumarising the findings of the initial pilot scheme(s) and a research paper from the Centre for Research on the Wider Benefits of Learning on the effect on youth crime of the EMA. It’s 2 in the morning so I’m not going to read them now, but a quick glance at the summaries reveals that they are all broadly positive about the EMA. Of course, even once I read them through fully, I’m of course not a trained sociologist so won’t really be able to make comment on their methodology – there’s absolutely no guarantee they are correct.

    Would you like me to post back here after I’ve had a go at dissecting them nevertheless? If you want to see for yourself, just google ‘efficacy of the Educational Maintenance Allowance’. They are the 2nd, 3rd and 4th results for me.

    I agree with you that it seems clumsy way of trying to encourage people from low-income families to consider further education and training. But it’s a fairly immediate incentive and appears to be having some positive effect. Though perhaps there are even more effective and efficient ways of making use of that money.