But her tweet did remind me that I was mentioned in the House of Commons three times in June 2003.
The first mention was by Angela Browning on 5 June. She asked John Reid, as Leader of the House:
Can we have a debate next week on the middle classes? I am sure that the Leader of the House will have noted that in Liberal Democrat News of 30 May, Jonathan Calder, who is a member of the party's federal policy committee, wrote an article about the Conservative policy of scrapping tuition fees. He says that it "has a lot to be said for it", but goes on to say:And then on 23 June it was Tim Boswell in a debate on student finance said:
"If the Conservatives do not speak for the stupid middle classes, who do they speak for?"We should like to debate that rather old-fashioned concept with them.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford said, Liberal Democrat News provided a ringing endorsement of our policies in the shape of Jonathan Calder's article, which explained that my hon. Friend's idea of
"getting rid of tuition fees, and financing the move by scrapping plans to extend the number of students even further, has a lot to be said for it."
I agree. It is useful to have allies on occasion.The member for Ashford was Damian Green, who had already intervened on Phil Willis, then our shadow education secretary, to say:
I feel that I should draw his attention to Liberal Democrat News of 30 May 2003. It is a publication that I read sporadically. This edition is particularly interesting because it makes the following thoughtful point:
"Damian Green's idea of getting rid of tuition fees, and financing the move by scrapping plans to extend the number of students even further, has a lot to be said for it."
I always welcome support from Liberal Democrat News, and I hope to get it from the Liberal Democrat Front-Bench spokesmen, as well.Phil, characteristically, was unfazed by this.
How long ago it all seems! In those days the Labour government's policy was to have 50 per cent of young people going to university. That always seemed unrealistic to me, and I even heard someone at the last Lib Dem Conference applauded with reasonable enthusiasm for saying so.
Today, of course, we have less than half of young people going to university and tuition fees, but that is austerity for you.
I imagine that my column appeared in a briefing for Conservative MPs and that Angela Browning seized on the wrong phrase. I doubt the bright young things at Tory head office included it because of my joke about the stupid middle classes, but it obviously enraged her.
June 2003, towards the end of Iain Duncan Smith's leadership, was about the nadir of Conservative fortunes. The fact that three of their MPs thought they could help their party by quoting me, confirms that judgement.