On Saturday the 25th of September, Ed Miliband was voted the leader of the Labour Party by Alternative Vote, following Gordon Brown’s resignation in May, with just a 1.2% victory.
David Miliband, Ed’s older brother, was widely tipped to be Brown’s successor, and in fact lead the vote through 4 of the 5 rounds, but in the final round, following Ed Balls’ elimination, “the other Miliband” came out on top.
It was always rumored to be between the two brothers, but what difference does choosing Ed over David, and the new leadership over the old one, have for us, the students of the UK?
The first point to make, before any differences are highlighted, is to acknowledge that Labour are not in power, and Ed’s views may not directly influence the policies put forward by the Coalition, but his ability to decide the party line could have an impact on what policies are passed through.
The biggest difference for students is Ed’s stance on a graduate tax, a new system that would replace tuition fees, whereby instead of everyone paying a flat rate, graduates pay at a higher level of tax, dependent on their income levels post-graduation. This would lead to the more profitable course, such as Accountancy and Medicine, being charged more in the long run than an Arts or Humanities Degree.
However, the idea of a graduate tax has caused strong opposition from Coalition backbenchers and University Vice-Chancellors, because of the problem of moving abroad; students who leave the country after graduating would not be able to fall under the new tax law, which could create a surge of graduates leaving the country.
Research by the University and College Union last month found that a graduate tax could lead to a dramatic increase in fees paid back. Assuming a student earned the average graduate income (£31,916), a 3% tax on all earnings for 25 years would more than double the actual figure repaid on the tuition fee loan.
However, the cost only increased £1506 from current levels, if a minimum income level of £15,000 per year was included in the policy, a figure much handier on the bank balance than the predicted hike to £7000 per year.
Ed Miliband is due to present a plan to Lord Browne shortly, before he publishes his review on higher education. He believes this is better for students because it does not leave them with large debts when they leave university, better for Universities because it puts them on a far more sustainable long-term footing and fairer, because it asks people to make a contribution to their education based on what they earn.
Something else that Ed wants to see happen that will affect students, particularly in the short run, is the introduction of the ‘Living Wage’ – allowing those on the lowest incomes to earn at least £7.15 an hour – which will have great implications for those students in part time work. He also wants VAT capped at 17.5%, meaning prices would not rise in the near future.
Ed also wants to see a greater pursuit of the ‘trinity’ of energy: renewables, nuclear and clean coal; as former Energy and Climate Minister, this was to be expected.
Moreover, he did not go so far as to say he would cut the Trident, but that it “should be part of the Strategic Defence Review and made after considering the costs and effectiveness of alternative delivery systems”.
Speaking on Ed Miliband’s victory, Dan Jeffery, the University of Southampton Labour Party’s President, said he was “really pleased that Ed won the contest, believing that, of the two final candidates, Ed offers more for people like [him], and to students as a whole”. He went on to strongly support Miliband’s ideas, by saying “Ed has the ability, the dynamism and the policies to expose this discredited Coalition Government, and win Labour back to power in 2015″.
You can find out for yourself which Labour candidate you were most like by visiting Vote Match here.