Minister throws £1m lifeline for struggling pubs – over a pint

By DAVID WOODING

HUNDREDS of pubs facing closure will be thrown a cash lifeline under Tory plans to support struggling communities.

A special £1 million fund will be set up to help local people launch takeover bids to keep their boozers open.

Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss told me of the plan over a glass at one of Westminster’s favourite watering holes.

The move is part of a package of measures to boost rural areas to be unveiled in the Conservatives’ election manifesto.

It would help protect up to 600 pubs which act as community hubs from being knocked down for developers or turned into housing or takeaways.

Tories will set up a “Last Pub in the Village” fund to help locals step in to save their favourite watering hole.

They will be able to apply for loans to pay for legal fees needed to stage a takeover or win a protection order.

Ms Truss said pubs in rural areas also act as job centres, information hubs and the backbone of sports teams.

She said: “Pubs can be a cornerstone of a community, especially in rural areas where they become an important focal point.

“People form lifelong friendships in village pubs, which bring people from all social backgrounds together.

“It’s important for country pubs to stay and that’s why we’re putting up the money to protect the last pub in the village.”

Ms Truss said a future Tory government would also impose a five-year freeze on licence fees for small community pubs – helping to cut their overheads.

She has by a community rescue of the King’s Arms, at Shouldham, Norfolk,  where villagers bought shares in the pub and volunteers carried out a refurb.

It is now a thriving community hub which provides school meals for local kids and serves pub grub in the evening.

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Sipping a glass of cider in the famous Red Lion on Whitehall, she added: “We’ve already done a lot for the great British pub by cutting beer duty three years in a row.

“This has protected an estimated 16,000 jobs and we want to build on that in the next parliament.

“Pubs are great places to drink responsibly in a social setting. They’re also good for tourism and can provide other services for the areas they serve.”

Last night the plans were welcomed by the pub and beer industry.

Keith Bott, managing director of Titanic Brewery, in Stoke-on-Trent, said: “This would be a massive boost for the pubs which are part and parcel of the British way of life.

“Hundreds of them are struggling so it is vital to do what we can to protect those which are an asset to their local community.

“Freezing licence fees would be a big help, too, as there are fears that some councils are using them as a cash cow at the expense of hard-hit pubs.”

When political prejudice is all in the mind.

By DAVID WOODING

SOMEBODY tweeted me the other day asking why I only posted poll results which showed the Tories in front. 

I then dug out a tweet of mine from a few weeks earlier which began: “Labour surge into a six-point lead…”  Another time I wrote how  Ed Miliband has trounced David Cameron at PMQs. Within seconds, I received a reply from a top Tory asking if I was watching the same debate. On a single day I received tweets from a Leftie calling me a “Tory c*** sucker” and a Ukip supporter branding me a “first class Left-wing p****” who should be working for the Guardian or the Mirror. You see, it is all in the mind, depending on whether you wear blue, red or yellow tinted spectacles. In fact it is YOU the complainant who is biased because you only see it your way and don’t like your side being criticised.

Lots of fellow journalists get the same unwarranted criticism. I stumbled across this short piece by Michael Deacon of the Daily Telegraph which sums up why most of us are NOT biased while many of those who read us and get irate are.

By the way, there’s nothing wrong with a journalist being biased if he or she wants to. My good pal Kevin Maguire of the Daily Mirror is shamelessly Labour and does a great job of it. Call me simple, but I just like to get political stories, whoever it hurts or boosts – which is why I object to being called biased. Here’s Michael’s piece which you should read before you call foul at us again.

Every football journalist in this country is routinely accused of two things. 1) Being biased towards Manchester United. 2) Being biased against Manchester United.

It’s like that with politics. A lot of people on the Right think the BBC is biased to the Left. And a lot of people on the Left think the BBC is biased to the Right. I’ve been told that I’m biased for and against the Tories, Labour, Lib Dems and Ukip (Ukip opponent: “You treat Farage with kid gloves.” Ukip voter: “You’re racist against Ukip!)

This is why I’ve got no time for the claims by some viewers that Jeremy Paxman and Kay Burley were biased in their treatment of David Cameron and Ed Miliband. Some thought the presenters were nakedly Cameron. And others took them for blatant Lefties.

The truth about claims of media bias is that the claims themselves tend to be biased. People only ever detect bias against their own side.

To go back to football: fans always accuse the referee of being biased, but only in their opponents’ favour. You can start to take claims of bias seriously the day you hear them shout, “Oi, ref! That’s never a penalty! Our striker blatantly dived! Are you taking backhanders from our chairman or what!”

Well said, Michael.So next time you rush to Twitter to hurl abuse, just take a long look in the mirror (the one on your wall not the one that lands on your doormat) and ask who is really the biased one here. And don’t forget to re-tweet me when I land a blow on the other side.

New Sneers Honours

By DAVID WOODING
IT’S been a year when the people of Britain have stuck a collective two fingers up to MPs.
Voters have used the ballot box to take their revenge on politicians of all varieties, whom many see as out of touch.
But some MPs and peers  haven’t learned a thing as they hurl insults, throw tantrums and sneer at ordinary people.
So in an irreverent, but light-hearted, look back at the past year in Parliament, here are my New Sneer’s Honours.
Sneer of the Realm: Labour’s Emily Thornberry who scoffed at a house with three England flags and a white van outside. She resigned as shadow attorney general hours after tweeting a picture of them hours before the Rochester by-election result.
Life sneerage: Fouled-mouthed Tory Andrew Mitchell fought a £3 million, two-year legal after denying he called cops “plebs” when they refused to let him ride his bike through the Downing Street main gates. A High Court judge sided with the cops and told the snobbish ex-Chief Whip: “On yer bike.”
Cabbie-net Minister of the Year: David Mellor berated a taxi driver who suggested a quicker route, calling him a “a smart-arsed little b*****d” and telling him: “Shut up you sweaty little git.” The Tory ex-minister added: “I’ve been in the Cabinet, I’m an award-winning broadcaster, I’m a Queen’s counsel.” He was forced to apologise after cabbies threatened to ban him. I’d like to see how long he waits next time he wants to hail a taxi.
Sneer of the Year: Tory MP Mark Garnier for telling his party not to bother with “dog-end voters” who live in “outlying regions”. Suspect he’ll soon be at the dog-end of his political career.
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Emily Thornberry and the twitpic that cost her her job.

Yes, Yes, Yes Minister: Deputy PM’s wife Miriam Clegg wins the honesty award for saying “women have been faking it for years”. But has she told husband Nick?
Snooze-Night TV Award: David Cameron, who admitted he often dozes off on the sofa when he has a night in front of the telly with wife Sam. The PM said: “Half an hour of Silent witness and we’re both asleep.” At least Sam doesn’t have to fake it.
The “Three minutes is a long time in politics” Award: Tory chief whip Michael Gove was nominated by his gossipy wife Sarah Vine. When told that men burn 4.2 calories a minute during sex, she quipped: “Wow! That’s 12.6 calories a session.”
Big Benn Clanger of the Year: Diane Abbott for live tweeting from inside church at Tony Benn’s funeral. An angry admirer of the Labour legend (that’s Benn, not Abbott) raged: “Why not go the whole hog and do a selfie with the coffin?”
The Prat that got the Queen: The royal claws were out for David Cameron after he claimed Her Majesty “purred” with pleasure when he phoned her the No vote in the Scottish independence referendum.
OBE – ‘Orrible Butty Eater: Ed Miliband, who bit off more than he could chew when he tried to battle his way through a bacon sandwich. The sarnie won.
The Gillette Award for Sharpest Political Putdown: Louise Mensch after MP’s wife Karen Danczuk posted saucy cleavage selfies on Twitter: “Put them away, love. Frankly, I’d rather see Ed Miliband eating a bacon sandwich.”
Karen Danczuk gives yours truly a lesson in how to take a selfie.

Karen Danczuk gives yours truly a lesson in how to take a selfie.

Gold Medal for Selfie-Exposure: Charities Minister Brooks Newmark resigned after sending explicit photographs of himself to an undercover reporter. The nation was appalled at his bad taste. Surely, no self-respecting MP would be seen dead hanging out of paisley pyjamas.
Class Warrior of the Year: Singer Myleene Klass for ripping Ed Miliband to shreds on TV over his planned mansion tax. “You can’t just point at something and say let’s tax it,” she stormed. “You might as well tax this glass of water.”
Worst political U-turn: Ed Balls, who was investigated by cops after hitting a parked car while doing a seven-point turn in a narrow street then driving off. It’s not the first time the shadow chancellor has found himself in a tight spot.
The Jack Horner Award for Women’s Rights: Nigel Farage, who infuriated mums by telling them to breastfeed in the corner of cafes and restaurants where nobody could see them.
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Exposed: My story about Brooks Newmark.

Feminist of the Year: Sports Minister Helen Grant for her efforts to get more women involved in physical activity with these fine words of advice: “There are some wonderful sports you can do and look absolutely radiant and very feminine. Ballet, gymnastics, cheerleading and even roller-skating.”
Overseas Aid Champion: Harriet Harman who wore a T-shirt with the slogan “This is what a feminist looks like”. Her selfless act helped to boost employment in Mauritius, where women were paid 62p an hour to work in a sweatshop making the garments.
House of Lards Pin-up of the Year: Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, who has been bombarded with demands for signed photographs from young girls in Russia. A puzzled aide admitted: “I’ve no idea why Eric is so big over there.”
Cockup of the Year: Communities Minister Penny Mordaunt for using the word “cock” six times and “lay” or “laid” five times during a Commons speech on poultry welfare. But she later let slip it was part of a smutty dare from Royal Navy officer friends.
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Penny Mordaunt: Putting cock welfare first.

Twerking twerp of the year: David Cameron for twerking at an Ibiza-style rave he hosted at Chequers to celebrate his wife Samantha’s 40th birthday – after branding top twerker Miley Cyrus a bad role model for kids.

Pint of Order: George “We’re all in this together” Osborne, for keeping a padlock on his office fridge to stop staff raiding his milk. Well, at least he’s miserly with the rest of us, too.
Rocky Belt for Parliamentary Punch-ups: SNP chief Alex Salmond and Labour’s Alistair Darling who squared up in live TV debates over Scots independence. Two Scottish men shouting at each other and they didn’t have the decency to do it in a Glasgow pub.
Resignation of the Year: Home Office minister Norman Baker quits, saying that working there was like “walking through mud”. Think how your boss, Theresa May copes, Norman. She does it wearing kitten heels.

 

William Hague’s off to Joliewood

By DAVID WOODING

CABINET quitter William Hague is set for a mega pay day – thanks to his friendship with Angelina Jolie.

The former Foreign Secretary has showbiz agents clamouring to sign him.

They are offering fees of at least £25,000 an hour to make after-dinner speeches.

And he is expected to land a series of six-figure book deals when he stands down as an MP in May.

In an exclusive interview, Mr Hague, 53, told me he plans to see much more of Hollywood star Angelina when his 26 years in politics end at the next election.

He also revealls how he gave his wife Ffion power of VETO to end his political career, FORGED a “most unusual” friendship with David Cameron and George Osborne and admits his chances of becoming PM were WRECKED because he won the Tory leadership when he was too young.

Big league

He admits that the world is his oyster when he exits the political stage. He said: “The responsibilities have been there day and night. I am quite looking forward to the change.”

His decision to go was made public when he quit as Foreign Secretary in July’s reshuffle. But he has kept his role fighting rape as a weapon of war alongside fellow campaigner Angelina.

William Hague

He said: “Our campaign will continue. I will do more work with Angelina.

“We are always in touch and the summit we held last month was no way the end of that.”

Asked about the involvement of her husband Brad Pitt in the campaign, he bristled: “Well, he came to show his support. But it’s HER campaign with ME. WE lead the campaign.

“Although some may think we are an unusual combination or alliance, it is an effective one.”

Mr Hague will start his lucrative life outside politics by writing a history book. He has already published two moneyspinners about William Wilberforce and Pitt — that’s William Pitt the Younger, not Brad.

In his last break from front-line politics he earned £820,000 for writing, speaking and TV appearances.

Now he is ready to enter the big league. Leading speakers’ agent JLE said: “He’d be on our top AA rate, where fees start at £25,000. His friendship with Angelina Jolie will only add to his attraction.”

Mr Hague said: “I will write mainly about history. It’s unlikely I’ll write my memoirs but not impossible.

I might write about some of my experiences but I am not one for writing nasty things about colleagues, nor have I noted down every ten minutes.

“But I don’t rule out writing something about my experiences about politics.”

The Yorkshireman is secretly hankering after a move to America. He said: “After Yorkshire, Montana is the next place in the world my spirit is at home … I dream of living on a ranch there.”

He’s also looking forward to spending more time with Ffion.

He said: “Ffion agrees it is time to go but she would have been supportive if I had said I want to be an MP for longer. I have been busy the whole 17 years we’ve been married but she hasn’t been asking me to step down.

“When I went back into front-line politics, I told her, ‘Whenever you want me to stop, I will stop.’ The decision was always in her hands.

“Spending more time with Ffion will be a very good side-effect of this decision.” Mr Hague burst on to the political stage as a 16-year-old, making a speech at a Tory conference. He was an MP before he was 28, in the Cabinet at 34 and party leader at 36. He had to take on Tony Blair when the Labour PM was at the peak of his popularity.

No regrets He reflected: “I was almost certainly too young to do it but I have never regretted taking it.”

William Hague

Despite the 2001 election defeat, he insists he has been proven right on three key issues — Labour DID raise taxes, immigration DID become a problem and joining the euro WOULD have been a disaster.

Mr Hague’s high point was passing the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act in his time as Minister for Disabled People. He said: “I did it all on the back of an envelope. I was on my way from America and I put it together on the plane, took it through Parliament and produced a landmark piece of legislation.”

He added: “From now to next May I am going to lead the House of Commons and help David Cameron win the next election.

“Between David, George Osborne and myself, we have had a most unusual connection and friendship … We are fortunate in the Conservative Party to have a lot of talented new people … which gives me confidence in saying it is time to move on.

“It is always better to step down when people wonder why you’ve done so, than a couple of years later when they wonder why you haven’t.” Continue reading

Teacher has gone…but the music still lingers.

By DAVID WOODING

WE often talk about the need for inspirational teachers to help drive up standards in our schools.

Sadly, there aren’t nearly enough. But I was lucky to have come across one who made a big impact on me.

Ken Marshall was the man who introduced me to one of the enduring loves of my life – music.

He was a dedicated professional who would make that extra effort for any pupil in whom he spotted potential.

And I was among a group of 11-year-olds who seemed to show an interest after hearing a piece from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite.

So along with others, I was invited to Mr Marshall’s home on the first Saturday of every month to squat on the floor of his front room and listen to the works of great composers boom out of his two-foot high stereo speakers.

If we were honest, some were just curious about having a peek inside “Sir’s” home. Or perhaps it was the orange squash and biscuits served by his lovely wife, Joyce.

But we were all swept along by Mr Marshall’s infectious personality – and the music.

In between snatches of masterpieces – he only played enough to entice us – we listened enraptured as our wiry-haired, gravel-voiced tutor told us stories about the lives of Beethoven, Dvorak and Brahms.

He was knowledgeable, funny and enthusiastic and we learned so much more than just music. We learned about manners, use of language and how to sit still.

Mr Marshall wasn’t even my teacher. I was invited along by a former pupil of his I met when we started at the same senior school.

I had to take a typed note to be signed by my parents which outlined the Music Club rules. I still obey rule one to this day and chastise others who don’t. No talking when the music is playing.

So it came that through rain, wind and snow I would make the 40-minute Saturday morning trek to feast my ears on Mr Marshall’s music collection.

Before long, I had passed the fidget test and was allowed to go to a live concert. Mr Marshall had worked a bit of a scam with a friend who worked in the cafeteria of the Queen’s Hall in Widnes.

Whenever the BBC Northern Symphony Orchestra came to play, he would smuggle a few of us in to hear the concert for free, kneeling on seats in the coffee bar to peer through a giant, decorative hatch in the wall to see the musicians playing below.

It was in this somewhat awkward position that I listened, usually in awe, for the first time such great works as Stravinsky’s Petrushka, Sibelius’s fifth symphony, Hindemith’s Nobilissima Visione,  Britten’s Les Illuminations and the Prelude and Liebestod from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde.

I was hooked, and saved up my pocket money until I had 99p to buy my first LP – a Classics for Pleasure recording of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto. I’d only heard the first 10 minutes of the work in Mr Marshall’s front room – but it was the first time I felt my spine tingle.

Thus began a lifelong friendship…and an odyssey, exploring the work of dozens of composers who have provided an endless source of pleasure and fulfillment.

Later, I began to attend concerts myself and now realise life would be empty had Mr Marshall not opened the door to the joy of music.

So I was deeply saddened to learn that the kind, encouraging man who put me on this wonderful path has died.

There will be many other former pupils whose lives were influenced by Mr Marshall who, like me, will want to say farewell and thanks for enriching our lives.

You may be gone but the gift you gave will stay with us always.

How 2 Jags bought 20,000 “ego” pens at our expense

By DAVID WOODING
JOHN Prescott has inked his high-spending show-off ways into political history – with a stash of “vanity” pens.
The former Deputy PM ordered 20,000 branded ballpoints costing taxpayers £3,450.
But there are so many that ministers are still stumbling over boxes of them SEVEN YEARS after he stood down.
Now civil servants have been ordered to STOP ordering fresh supplies until the Prezza pens are used up.
A source said: “What sort of an ego must you have to go out and order a job lot of pens with your own logo on them?
The horde was discovered when Communities Secretary Eric Pickles took over the Whitehall building once occupied by MrPrescott’s empire.
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The ballpoints are emblazoned with the legend “The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister” – and a picture of the department’s crest.
Brandon Lewis, a junior minister in the new Communities Department, said: “It is quite some legacy he has left.
“Even now, these pens serve to remind us of the sheer vanity, waste of John Prescott and his colleagues.
“It is sickening to think they were ordered at a time the last government was plunging the country into debt.”
A government spokesman said: “The new administration is encouraging staff to use up these pens to help reduce the need to buy stationery.”

New Jeers Honours

By DAVID WOODING

THERE has been plenty of gloom in the corridors of power during 2013.

It’s been a year of squeezes and freezes as politicians tell us all to tighten our belts.

But through all the austerity, they still managed to make us laugh – if only at their own tantrums, cock-ups.

So let’s loosen those belts a notch or two as Sun on Sunday Political Editor David Wooding honours those MPs in his NewJeers Political Awards.

Prat of the Year

MEP Godfrey Bloom for a string of outbursts too brazen even for the “fruitcakes and loonies” of UKIP. He dubbed African countries “bongo bong land”, branding women who don’t clean behind the fridge “sluts”. UKIP boss Nigel Farage stripped him of the party whip – probably using even more fruity language in the process.

Gold medal for selfie-exposure

David Cameron was caught snoozing barefoot on a bed in the background of a picture, posted on Instagram, of his sister-in-law getting ready for her wedding. Clearly, the red ministerial box beside him was full of dreary reading.

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The Gillette Award for sharpest put-down

The striker whose one-liner floored Tory heavyweight Eric Pickles after he scoffed at the small number of union activists on a Whitehall picket line.The roly poly Cabinet bruiser laughed: “I’ve walked past longer chip shop queues.” Quick as a flash, the un-named striker retorted: “But Eric, you’ve NEVER walked past a chip shop queue in your life.”

Shafter BAFTA

London Mayor Boris Johnson with this put down for Labour leader Ed Miliband: “Only a socialist could consider family ties as being so trivial as to shaft his own brother.”

Gaffe of the year 1

David Cameron for declaring he was on “team Nigella” and almost halting the trial of the TV chef’s former servants. The judge told the jury to ignore what he said. Labour would, no doubt, agree.

Gaffe of the year 2

The PM again for being unable to quote the price of a loaf – then admitting he baked his own using a posh, trendy bread-maker and organic flour.

A League of Their Own medal for sport

Sports minister Helen Grant who failed to get a single question right in a TV sports quiz.  She couldn’t name the Wimbledon women’s champ (Marion Bartoli), the FA cup holders (Wigan Athletic) or the England rugby captain (Chris Robshaw). Back in training for you, Ms Grant.

Twit of the Year

Labour MP Jack Dromey favourited gay porn websites on Twitter. The dad-of-three accidentally clicked on posts about well-endowed gay black men while researching a holiday. His wife, equalities zealot Harriet Harman, will clearly be pleased with his efforts to achieve diversity.

Jingle Balls Medal

Ed Balls, under pressure over his red-faced blustering performance at the autumn statement, mis-timed his grade three piano exam for the same day and had to postpone it. But he did better in his first public recital when he played a piece for children with only a few bum notes.

Pants on Fire Diploma

This is always a tough one in politics, with so many liars to choose from. But Chris Huhne wins this year’s award on points…the three he had put on his wife’s driving licence. The former Energy Secretary was jailed for eight months for perverting justice, but freed after serving 62 days, describing it as a “humbling and sobering experience”. True to form, it wasn’t long before he shamelessly took to the airwaves pontificating on the behaviour of others. Huhne wasn’t the only politician to run into trouble behind the wheel, though…

Strop Gear Award for Motoring

Commons Speaker John Bercow was called an “arrogant toff” and a “little weasel” in a five-minute dressing down by a mum who claimed he pranged her car while parking.

The Red “Ed” Light Award for Road discipline

Ed Balls, famed for blowing his top during Commons debates, didn’t see red for once – at a set of traffic lights. The shadow chancellor was fined after police cameras caught him jumping a red signal in his car. He confessed only weeks earlier he had also been caught speeding.

We’re all in this (parking space) together medal

George Osborne, after his car was caught on camera using a disabled parking bay in the same week the Chancellor cut disability benefits. And while we’re on motoring…

U-turn of the Year

David Cameron promised to be the greenest PM ever but with a screech of tyres he then promised to “cut the green crap” to bring down energy costs. Foot on the gas, Dave.

Margaret Thatcher memorial medal for tributes

Respect – but not respected – MP George Galloway produced the most churlish response to Lady Thatcher’s death with “tramp the dirt down”. He shares the award with ex-Spice Girl Geri Halliwell who provided the most cringe-making tribute: “A grocer’s daughter who taught me anything is possible…x.”

Nelson Mandela Award for Name-dropping

Nearly all top politicians were quick to boast how they once shook hands with Nelson Mandela…apart from Nick Clegg. But that didn’t stop him making a personal tribute on his death. The Deputy PM was greeted with howls of laughter as he told the Commons he never met the South African leader – but knew somebody who had.

Snouts in the Trough Award

Millionaire health secretary Jeremy Hunt, who blew £3,700 of taxpayers’ money learning his Chinese wife’s language, was front runner. But he was pipped at the post by most of the 650 other MPs who demanded an 11 per cent pay rise while the rest of us have our wages squeezed.

Fashionista of the Year

Labour’s Stella Creasy left kitten-heeled Home Secretary Theresa May in the shade by donning a chic blue PVC pencil skirt to question the PM in the Commons. Perhaps she’ll land a shadow Cabinet job – but her leader will make the vinyl decision.

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Rocky Belt for Parliamentary punch-ups

Hellraiser Eric Joyce spent a night in police cells after a brawl in a Commons bar – just a year after being charged with another Westminster fracas. But it was his decision to stand down as Falkirk MP which started the mother of all punch-ups as Ed Miliband squared up to union militants over who should be Labour’s new candidate.

Snooze-night award for political broadcasting

Newsnight editor Ian Katz wins hands down for taking to Twitter to brand Labour’s rising star Rachel Reeves “boring snoring” moments after she went on his BBC2 show. Ms Reeves replied simply: “Thanks”. But red-faced Katz, only two weeks in his job after leaving the Guardian, apologized in writing.

Plain speaking award

John Prescott, who on hearing his successor as deputy PM, Nick Clegg, has 15 advisers, quipped: “Even Jesus Christ capped it at 12.”

Political wisdom award

TV’s Jeremy Paxman for summing up the three choices facing voters at the next election – barely 500 days away – thus: “The people who gave us five years of austerity, the people who left us in this mess and  the people who pledged they would not raise student fees – the most blatant lie in recent political history.”