Those of us who were part of the 104 have been having a lively debate over the last couple of weeks. An email we received this morning from Martin Pierce really sums the situation up brilliantly - with his permission I reproduce it -
On the day of the vote some things seem clear to me:
* Nick and Vince and co will win the vote but have lost the argument
* I - and I think voters - understand that manifestos are statements of intent and particularly in a coalition, cannot be enacted in full. However, it's the breaking of the personal pledge that is the more serious - it was unambiguous and was freely and voluntarily entered into. To break it makes you either a knave or a fool
* The argument about the deficit doesn't hold up for anyone who thinks about it for a minute because this system (in fact one of the few good things about it) moves payment from upfront to after graduation. It is a choice that our leaders in government have made
* The repercussions for trust in our party - and its distinctiveness vis a vis the other parties - will i believe be serious and long lasting. We have abandoned the moral high ground we had - and in a street fight with the other two we'll never win. If the Norwich South activists on C4 News last night are representative, Lib Dems on the ground are bewildered and deflated
* What Craig did was brilliant - and brilliantly simple! That 1 out of 6 candidates should feel strongly enough to sign the petition showed how strongly held our position is, but it took someone to bring us together. This group HAS influenced the debate, and crucially, the backbenchers voting today know we're out here in numbers
* Where next? Some of us are old enough to remember the poll tax 20 years ago - it was enacted but had lost so much credibility that it was dead in the water as soon as Thatcher was gone. So the lesson is, keep up the arguments, stick to party policy, don't let them think it's over.