Lib Dems axe summit over fees demo

Lib Dems axe summit over fees demo

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Business Secretary Vince Cable has suggested he may abstain on a vote by MPs to raise tuition fees for university students

Fears over student protests have forced the Liberal Democrats to abandon a regional party conference in London.

Demonstrators had pledged to target Saturday’s event to voice anger over the party’s failure to meet a general election pledge to oppose tuition fee rises.

It had been scheduled to take place at a north London school but party bosses were forced to seek an alternative venue when the headmaster raised concerns over security.

When the same fears were raised by a second venue, it was decided to postpone the entire event until February. “It has been postponed because of the venues’ fears for security,” a party spokesman said.

Previous student protests in London have ended in violence in recent weeks.

Fiona Edwards, spokeswoman for the Free Education Campaign which had organised the protest, claimed the Lib Dems are “running scared”.

“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,” she said.

Ms Edwards said they had been expecting up to 1,000 people but are not sure whether any protest would go ahead now the party event had been axed. “It is a shame that they won’t engage with students on this issue,” she added.

MPs will vote on the fees hike next Thursday as Liberal Democrats continue to agonise over whether to support the measure in the division lobbies. The party is deeply divided, with some Lib Dem MPs determined to vote against the measure in line with election promises.

Business Secretary Vince Cable has suggested he could abstain – even though he has direct Cabinet responsibility for the measure – if it would help keep the party together. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, the target of much of the fury of student protesters opposed to the plan, has refused to say what he will do.

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