Government lost public on tuition fees with over-logical arguments, experts claim

The Government has failed to communicate its tuition fees plans successfully because it stuck to using a logical argument to deal with an emotionally charged issue, it has been claimed.

Protests: students angered by fee increase
Protests: students angered by fee increase
As MPs narrowly passed the controversial bill that will see tuition fees trebled to £9,000 a year, thousands of outraged student protesters brought London to a standstill last night.

Activists even smashed a window of the car carrying Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall to the Royal Variety Performance, among other outbreaks of violence.

Portland Communications partner Mark Flanagan said that the Government’s rational argument was ‘overwhelmed by the emotional issue of the Liberal Democrats' pre-election pledge’.

‘The problem for the coalition is that nobody got to hear the case about the policy being progressive - all they heard was the figure of £9,000. The Lib Dem handling has been all over the place – trying to face each way – and I'm afraid this is a "Black Wednesday" moment for Clegg and his party,’ said Flanagan.

Bespoke Speechwriting founder Simon Lancaster added that Vince Cable’s speech to open the debate in Parliament yesterday was also over-logical.

‘This kind of rational appeal usually works well in Parliament, and is Cable’s signature style in any case, but it was never going to cut through this highly emotionally charged debate. Using a logical argument in the face of an emotional outburst is like responding to a nuclear attack with a pea-shooter,’ said Lancaster.

Porter Novelli corporate practice director Neil Bayley said: ‘The thing that struck me about the coverage this evening was the way ministers and MPs were talking about how there's a great deal of misunderstanding in the public arena and the decision on tuition fees is a sound policy move for the long term.

‘Against the reaction we saw yesterday, this seems like a pretty clear admission that they haven't got the communication right throughout the debate.’

However, Bayley added that it was unlikely that better communication by the Government at this late stage could have calmed the protests, especially after the Millbank clashes had already turned violent last month.

But Media House International executive chairman Jack Irvine added that ‘the outrageous, violent behaviour of the protestors has played into the Government's hands’.

‘A conspiracy theorist might suspect that the apparent lack of preparation by the police allowed, and encouraged, the demonstrators to get completely carried away in an orgy of violence. Subsequently, public support for the students has dramatically dissipated,’ said Irvine.

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