By Sally Murdock
As the first House of Commons vote on the Higher Education Bill, scheduled for 27 January, draws near, it is becoming increasing clear that the Government's arguments for top-up fees are unbeatable in their own terms.
For a government committed to low taxes for the rich, higher fees redistributed into maintenance grants for the poorest students isn't a totally unreasonable way to organise student support - in the same way that PFI isn't a totally unreasonable way to fund the Health Service. Variable fees for different universities aren't so good; but in the Blairite scheme of things, that's a detail.
The real point is that a government which puts corporate profits and millionaires' fortunes above people's need for public services like healthcare and education -including higher education - doesn't deserve to survive.
This is the where the Blairites are vulnerable. On a special edition of Newsnight broadcast on 19 January, Blair repeatedly used the argument that funding student maintenance out of general taxation would mean "the dustman supporting the doctor". On TV as more generally, he was able to get away with this outrageous sophistry because of the official student movement's silence; NUS President Mandy Telford, who was part of the Newsnight audience, spoke only once and completely failed to mention progressive taxation.
The only point when Blair looked unnerved was when a member of the audience finally suggested that the government increase taxes on business and those earning over £100,000; he simply didn't know how to respond.
The use of the catch-all "taxpayer" to hide fundamental class differences among the electorate - the idea that someone on benefits or the minimum wage, or even a well-paid worker on £25,000 a year, has the same interests as a company director raking in hundreds of thousands or even millions - is an essential part of new Labour's rhetoric.
What is required is a student and labour movement which demolishes this nonsense by demanding that the Government funds free education and a living student grant (and indeed all public services) by taxing the rich. That's the slogan we need to raise when we demonstrate outside Parliament on 27 January.