The prospect of all Lib Dem MPs — including Clegg and Cable — abstaining on the tuition fee rise never did seem likely.
Well, Vince Cable has consigned the idea to the dustbin, saying he’ll vote for a rise in fees. He broke the news to the Twickenham Times:
“Obviously I have a duty as a minister to vote for my own policy – and that is what will happen.”
He goes on:
“There is a dilemma. I’m very clear I regard the policy as right and as a member of the cabinet I am collectively responsible for the policy.
There is no doubt that is what I should do.”
Cable says that the abstention option was an “olive branch” to those opposed to the rise. Privately other Lib Dem MPs always saw it as a Clegg tactic to win over some wavering MPs. The remainder of the Lib Dem party could still abstain, Cable says. But he clearly has come to the view that it would look ridiculous for him to propose the policy and then refuse to vote for it.
Why the sudden about turn? He may have seen Danny Alexander’s mauling on Question Time, which is certainly a wake-up call for all Lib Dems who thought the negative reaction to abstaining would only resonate in the Westminster village.