Why has Keir Starmer changed his position on university fees?

Why has Keir Starmer changed his position on university fees?
'We're looking at the options': Keir Starmer refuses to confirm if Labour …

Keir Starmer is back in the news, accused of making a u-turn on university tuition fees.

The Labour leader has abandoned a Labour pledge to scrap the fees, saying yesterday that the party was preparing to "move on" from the commitment.

This marks a stark change from statements he has previously made on the subject.

Starmer personally committed to scrapping tuition fees, which as a policy appeared in the 2017 and 2019 manifestoes under previous leader Jeremy Corbyn, when he stood for the Labour leadership in 2020, including the plan in his list of 10 pledges he used in his leadership campaign.

In his second commitment, titled “social justice”, he promised to “support the abolition of tuition fees and invest in lifelong learning”.

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In 2021, he repeated this pledge in an interview.

But the shifting sands of time changed his position. Asked about it in January, he said he had to “be honest” about the “damage that’s been done to our economy”.

Yesterday, all changed again and he was far more blunt.

“We are likely to move on from that commitment because we do find ourselves in a different financial situation," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

But he said the current system was unfair and that the party would in the coming weeks, “set out a fairer solution”.

"We are looking at options for how we fund these fees. The current system is unfair, it doesn’t really work for students, doesn’t work for universities," he said.

He added that he did not “want that to be read as us accepting for a moment that the current system is fair or that it is working”.

How much are tuition fees?

Tuition fees are currently capped at £9,250 under a system introduced by the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition in 2010.

University was free for full time students until 1998 when fees of £1,000 were introduced by Tony Blair's government.

In 2006 Labour then tripled fees to £3,000.

What other policies has Starmer heel turned on?

Starmer has also appeared to change his position on free movement with the EU, raising taxes on the top 5 per cent of earners, and taking utilities into public ownership since becoming Labour leader. He has also u-turned on his commitment to scrap universal credit.

In February the Labour leader defended moving on from the pledges made three years ago, but defended them as “important statements of value and principle”.

He said: “What I’ve had to do is obviously adapt some of them to the circumstances we find ourselves in. Since I ran for leader, we’ve had Covid.

“Since I ran for leader, we’ve had the conflict in Ukraine. Since I ran for leader, we’ve had a government that’s done huge damage to our economy.”

He has now replaced them with “five missions for a better Britain”, which are securing the highest growth in the G7, becoming a clean energy superpower, building an NHS fit for the future, making streets safe and breaking down barriers to opportunity.

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