A day off, and I go for a haircut – ho hum, another dull day. In the barbers the radio is tuned to that bastion of fair-minded journalism, LBC which is really a kind of Daily Mail on the radio…
As we all know, today is the day that the Coalition pushes tuition fees to intolerable levels, and that the National Union of Students has organised a mass rally and protest in the centre of London.
What I was hearing made me increasingly agitated – not good when someone has a razor to the back of your neck.
Now I really do not expect much from LBC and its various phone in shows, but what I heard made my blood boil – a highly organised group of men and women were occupying the centre of our Capital, well armed and protected. The Metropolitan Police Force (sorry, Service).
Caller after caller, jock after jock repeated more or less the same stuff – rabble, we need water cannons, education is a privilege, not a right, we can’t afford it etc.etc ad infinitum…
The only two voices of sanity were Will Straw from Left Foot Forward, and the Chief of Police – who had to explain why water cannon were not really a good idea (since The Met can already kill newspaper sellers and Brazilians without them, and with relative impunity), and would lead to an arms race with protesters.
An LBC journalist at the scene reported from behind Police lines, describing one policeman injured, and claiming various missiles had been thrown; fireworks, stones, paper, snooker balls, all unsubstantiated by the radio listener ( I don’t deny their existence, I just want evidence).
Then an amazing thing, he told his audience that protesters had come armed, and mentioned a Meat Cleaver. Hurriedly we were then told that the reporter had not seen the cleaver, but had overheard a police officer, who also not witnessed the weapon warning his colleagues of this mythical weapon. This was simply repeating rumour, and any reporter worth their salt would have either wanted confirmation, or said nothing. Not good old LBC, say what you like, they know how to scare their listeners.
Now I think we can all agree that the vast majority of Students and others protesting were non-violent in expressing their anger, and have an important case to be angry about. The Lib Dems made such a fuss of their proposal to scrap fees during the election campaign that it was obvious how much they wanted the Student vote. One could reasonably assume that whoever they went into Coalition with, this one policy would be the one thing they would not sell out. Not only did they sell out, but they have been loudly trumpeting the virtues of £9,000 per year tuition fees, as if this would never put anyone off entering Higher Education.
As Will Straw has said elsewhere, these particular cuts are avoidable and egregious. What is more, they do long term damage to our economy, as David Davis has stated (hardly a cabal of Trots and Anarchists there).
With a reasonable case, well argued and with support from not only Labour members, but also some of the more honourable Lib Dems, and even a few Tories, one would think that Nick and Daves “New Politics” would be flexible enough to look again. Not a bit of it, Govey and the Boys from the Bullingdon, in cahoots with Little Nicky, his pet Scot, and that bloke from the Werthers Origionals adds set their faces as hard as stone against compromise. Maybe they were all negotiated – out after those few days in May.
No wonder Students, Teachers, Parents and Grandparents are just a little miffed. Its a fair bet to say even a few of the boys and girls in blue were at least anxious as to how they would finance their kid through Uni.
So as the new stories unfold over the next few days, may I inject a little common sense?
1. Yes, the usual suspects will have been at the demo – The SWP, Anarchists, etc. Looking for a confrontation with the Police.
2.No, the majority were not led or members of the above.
3.The heaviest armed and disciplined and indeed protected group in London today have been wearing blue, and should have been displaying their numbers on their shoulders.
4.People on both sides will have been injured. Those injured by the Police have very little chance of redress.
5. Press and other media reports will very probably be one-sided and innaccurate, often scapegoating the wrong individuals.
I have just heard that the Tuition fees have been raised – they measure just scraped through. Shame on the Liberal Democrat Party. Shame on The Conservative and Unionist Party.
A Cabinet of the wealthy have just made the rest of us pay yet again for a crisis created by their City backers. They have put short term solutions before our nations’ long term interests. Let them never talk of patriotism without a resounding chorus of our laughter in the future.