Liberal Democrats call off conference over fear of student protests

Demonstrators had planned to target the regional party conference, which was due to be held

in London today, in the latest protests against the Government’s proposal to more than

double university tuition fees.

Lib Dems have borne the brunt of the students’ anger after going back on a pledge signed by all the party’s MPs to scrap fees altogether.

The event had originally been due to be held in a north London school, but was moved after

the headmaster raised concerns over security, following the violent scenes which

accompanied earlier protests.

Party chiefs have now delayed the event until February. “It has been postponed because of

the venues’ fears for security,” a spokesman said.

Fiona Edwards, of the Free Education Campaign which had organised the protest, said: “This

reflects the fact that they are feeling the pressure from these student protests. They are

running scared but we will keep chasing them down.”

MPs are due to vote next Thursday on the move to raise tuition fees to up to £9,000, with

the party’s Cabinet ministers saying that they would be prepared to breach collective

ministerial responsibility and abstain.

Nick Clegg and the Lib Dem leadership say that the support the proposals, but may abstain

in a bid to avoid a rebellion by back bench Liberal Democrat MPs who are threatening to

stick to the pledge and vote against the measures.

Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, was heckled by the audience when he

appeared on the BBC’s Question Time programme on Thursday night when he said that he was

prepared to abstain even though he believed in tuition fees increase.

Greg Mulholland, a Lib Dem backbencher, yesterday tabled a Commons motion calling for the

vote to be delayed, as ministers had “failed to convince many people that its proposals

will be fair and sustainable”.

Meanwhile, a judge postponed a decision on whether to evict students staging a sit-in

protest at University College London over the proposed hikes in tuition fees – Telegraph