I used to really admire Baroness Williams [aka Shirley Williams] I remember when I was really young going to the House of Commons and hearing her address a meeting of 'Labour women'. What an icon she was for a young woman then - a single mother [she was at that time separated from her husband but unable to divorce him due to her religous views] who was a successful female politician in a male dominated world, with principles that she would maintain against any ridicule.
Then my idol proved to have feet of clay when she left the Labour Party in 1981 to form the Social Democrat Party due to disagreements within the Labour Party. Many times I have had disagreements within the Labour Party but have stayed on the basis of 'If I ain't in it, I can't change it'. Its been tough - especially over the past 13 years but I am still a member and still trying for change.
I suppose that - like Winston Churchill - once she had 'turned' once it became easy to turn again so when the SDP and the Liberal Party joined ranks in 1988 she went with the flow...
And now we hear that she is quite happily agreeing that it is OK to renege on the Liberal Democratic Party's pre-election pledge regarding Student Tuition Fees. She was interviewed on the World at One this lunchtime - it is available on the BBC website to be listened to again for 7 days http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00wdgr3#synopsis about 18min 30 seconds in.
She said she supports Nick Clegg and Vince Cable in their new proposals because she thinks that free tuition for students is now impossible although she does not condemn* those Liberal MPs who do not support it. She also thinks it was mistaken of those Liberal Democrat prospective MPs who signed the pledge not to raise tuition fess before the General Election. When questioned whether this included Nick Clegg she said she felt he had 'made a mistake' and was being 'brave' now. So that's OK then. She also said how this new scheme was really very fair for those at the lower end of the income scale and actually used the words 'at the bottom on the heap'. Possibly not a wise choice. And apparently the State Scholarship Scheme is really going to help the poor access universities. Oh I remember that argument for the 11+ and grammar schools. That worked so well - not.
This is really odd because in 2003 Shirley Williams withdrew from the possibility of becoming Chancellor of Oxford University in a protest against the Labour Government's imposition of Tuition Fees [no I didn't agree either. A subject for another blog perhaps] She said:
As a firm believer of students being chosen on merit, not means, she could not head up a university which would want to levy higher feesgoing on to say
that American top universities like Harvard chose students regardless of their means.http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/2690349.stm
[Shirley Williams was a graduate of Oxford University and taught at Harvard]
Am I drawing a conclusion? Well possibly it is that making someone an idol or role model may be OK for five minutes but not to rely on them for a 'life pattern'. Sorry Baroness Williams, I will make my own patterns for now on. And continue to campaign again tuition fees.
*I am refraining with great difficulty from making any pun using any variation of 'Con', 'Dem' etc.
The photograph? Elizannie at her state school. Wonder when school fees will become mandatory?