Neil Woollcott gives a very accurate summary of a letter he received from Simon Wright MP this week in his blog, but I really want to know how the party has come to put Simon Wright in this position.
I should declare that I consider Simon a friend. I went to his wedding, he came to mine. I've know him for 9 years and whilst I disagree with the coalition, I have always felt in the past that Simon shows good judgement. I feel though that at the moment, he is losing public sympathy over the student fees issue.
The policy on tuition fees has not changed or been overhauled in the last week, so the fact that Simon is yet to make a decision has allowed the opposition (and Labour in Norwich are already doing door to door campaigning it and using) to paint Simon as a ditherer. People like politicians who can pick up issues and make decisions. We don't want politicians to rush in to wrong decisions, but with this policy being clear to read and subject to virtually no amendment, students might be forgiven for feeling that lobbying hard to make Simon stick to his pledge is actually a worthwhile activity.
The quandary for Simon now is, if he sticks to his pledge, he looks like he has caved in to the student campaigns. but if he votes with Nick Clegg he looks like he has caved in to party pressure and can almost certainly kiss goodbye to any chances of holding his seat in 2015.
For me, the question is how party managers, both whips and those in Cowley Street have allowed this to happen. With 10,000 students in Norwich South, this issue will be a defining issue in Norwich South at the next election. The party and senior MPs should have found a way very early on to allow Simon to stick to his pledge. It is shocking mess that the party has become some under the thumb of the Conservative Party that they have failed to recognise the problems Simon faces.
Simon was my ward colleague in Fakenham North in 2003 to 2007. He is honest, decent and thoroughly like able. He will always try to do the right thing, and the fact that the party in the run up to the general election allowed, indeed encouraged people like Simon to sign a pledge that Nick Clegg himself says was unrealistic, is, I believe why Simon is still undecided. Does he stick to a pledge that was, in hindsight silly, or support a policy that is better than the previous Labour policy, but still a real slap in the fact for students.
If I were Simon, I'd say stick to your pledge. In the meantime, whilst he decides, his reputation amongst voters will sadly suffer, in my view unfairly. How has it comes to this ?