“Duchess of Cornwall poked with a stick”
Surely the most bizarre story that I have ever seen…
And whilst not in any way condoning a physical attack on the Royals, I just couldn’t suppress a giggle – thought every paper had become Private Eye for a moment. Or edited by Chris Morris.
Behind the headlines, the aftermath of last weeks’ disorder raised much more interesting long-term issues however:
The NUS leadership has been all but sidelined by the London Assembly of Students. For decades now, NUS politics has been dominated by young ambitious hacks carving out a career for themselves – in some ways it is the Oxford Union for the less posh. Students however have changed – with a massive increase in their numbers, traditional political methods seem remote .
Those protesting are from an age group least likely to vote. and since 2009, a group outnumbered by those reaching pensionable age by 2 to 1.
In the first six months of this administration, this group have seen their pensionable age rise, unemployment increase and fees to Education treble.
The protests were organised in a very loose way, using new social media – interesting to note that our press support this in Iran, but over here are starting to call for online censorship to rival China. Aaron Porter needs to get with the programme.
The Police are using tactics honed over the last 15 years on Anti Globalisation/Climate Change protesters. Reminds me of how they Policed the Miners Strike, using methods copied from Northern Ireland.
Compare these to the methods used against, say, The Countryside Alliance, or the big Anti War Demos, where huge numbers and people from all ages/classes came out to play.
The only effective leadership on the ground was leading The Met. NUS stewards had no authority to stop large groups of protesters doing what they liked.
The unofficial Student Leaders, unlike previous Student Protests, posed no alternative to the Fees rise and cuts, simply a big “NO!”.
This is a heady mix, and no doubt the Trots and Anarchists (a very loose term) will be competing to provide leadership as I write, but much more importantly, the NUS and Labour need to pose a viable, reasonable alternative. Fair enough, Ed is wary of being caught with a policy he cannot deliver come 2015, but Labour Students at least need to have a plan and a policy that can attract all those so pissed off that duking it out with the coppers seems a good idea.
At the Further and Higher Levels, our Education system is a mess – reforms during John Majors government have left us with no real Polytechnical ( or indeed vocational) system for the over 18s. The youngest Universities are often no more than self-serving factories, churning out meaningless qualifications of doubtful value, and serve the students very ill indeed.
The fees rise was an arbitrary measure, and need not have happened. Alternative methods of funding, such as more targeted higher tax bands (up to, say 50% for the very highest earners) would be more equitable, as would closing the loopholes that allow Sir Philip Green and his ilk to trouser huge amounts of cash for no tax.
University and College accounts should be publicly published and open to all – the pay that some Chancellors and Chief Execs receive would shame Croesus. the Russell Group is in this respect an adjunct to the IOD.
Altogether, there is much more to these protests than meets the eye…