A sad day for democracy

Parliament Square

Parliament Square

National Gallery under guard

National Gallery under guard

Shameful massive vandalism in Westminster today: the Tories and Lib Dems voted to smash up our universities and chance of poor kids getting on. – Johann Hari

When Parliament is surrounded by barricades to keep the people out. When Parliament is guarded by riot police to keep the people out. When this happens we know that those inside no longer represent the people.

And so it proved to be on Wednesday 9 December 2010 when Parliament voted to triple student fees.

We knew there was going to be trouble when the police tried to stop people reaching Parliament, when they tried to kettle people.

But people were posting locations of police on twitter and google, the protesters slipped around the police blockades by slipping down side streets and playing cat and mouse with the police.

Parliament Square was reached, but not before police had charged protesters with horses, beaten and attacked protesters. One report from @pennyred had a man in a wheelchair attacked by the police

Early afternoon Mark Thomas commented on twitter:

There are a small minority causing trouble in Parliament Square but they are dressed with blue helmets and visors so easy to spot.

What was it all about?

There was a vote to triple students fees. The Universities were not gaining anything from this as their teaching grants were to be slashed by a massive 80%. The hike in student fees was merely to make up the shortfall. Humanities, social sciences, the arts, were to receive no teaching grant at all. What we were seeing was the privatisation of the universities and students to be saddled with massive debts to pay for it.

At the moment, middle class students get through university because their obliging parents help them to pay their bills. Many for example get their accommodation paid for by parents. This is unlikely to happen for the next generation of student as their middle class parents will still be paying off their student debts.

The increase in student fees to £9,000 a year is neither fair nor affordable. It is not even likely the taxpayer will get their money back as the underlying assumption is that these future graduates will be earning in real terms the equivalent of £100,000 a year today.

The media and the political elite all went to the same universities. In England, the politicians all went to the same elite universities, all studied the same subjects – politics, philosophy and economics. Subjects which future students will have to be rich to study as there will be no teaching grants to the universities for these subjects and the politicians today voted to triple student fees.

When the final House of Commons vote was taken to hike student fees it was Yes 323, No 302, with a majority of 21.

Shame on those LibDem MPs who failed to vote against. For those LibDems in government it was all about clinging on to power.

Nick Clegg even called the students ‘dreamers’ Well if young people cannot have dreams, who can. Maybe he should read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.

It was then that the trouble started. First the Treasury was attacked, and contrary to the false report by chief political reporter Nick Robinson (a Tory) protesters did not get into the Treasury. The Treasury was attacked to chants of ‘we want our money back’.

Next it was the turn of the Supreme Court.

A fringe broke away and trashed Topshop in Oxford Street. Why Topshop? Because billionaire owner of Topshop Sir Philip Green is a tax dodger. If the government forced all tax dodgers to pay their unpaid taxes, there would be no budget deficit. Tweets from the streets said shoppers and public joining in. All pushing forward to take pictures.

£7 billion was cut from welfare. Vodafone owe £6 billion in tax. And yet, we can find £7 billion to bail out Ireland. Why because Ireland owes money to our banks. Were the British people asked? No! Why are we bailing out ailing economies?

The money is there for these bailouts. It is held by the rich. The same people who avoid their taxes.

Sup Julia Pendry speaking outside Scotland Yard in the evening criticised violence, but only violence against police officers. No mention of police violence. No mention of police charge with horses.

Sup Julia Pendry speaking outside Scotland Yard said police expected peaceful protest outside Parliament. Police blocked from getting near Parliament.

Sup Julia Pendry speaking outside Scotland Yard said police are tired and want to go home, will protesters please calm down and go home. Protesters tried to go home home, the police would not let them.

Sup Julia Pendry speaking outside Scotland Yard said containment did not happen until violence broke out. And that was why they used containment. Kettling was taking place early afternoon to stop student approaching Parliament.

This was in the evening. Speaking earlier she complained protesters did not follow agreed route. Protesters went down side streets to avoid police blockades.

A former police public order intelligence officer speaking live on Sky News at 2020 GMT said he had never seen this level of violence

Students on Sky news did not say what was expected. This is what happens in Europe, it was bound to happen here. What did they expect, us to just lie down? What do you expect? The police are badly organised and do not know what is going on. If the students could have got into Parliament they would have as politicians not listening

A bit unfair to attack Prince Charles on his way to a Royal Variety Performance at the London Palladium (that in itself punishment enough). After all he did not vote for student fees hikes.

In Oxford Street a member of the public talking on Sky News said people were joining in on their way home from work. It was all ages. People joined in to support the students.

Will Met Police Commissioner Paul Stephenson admit charge with horses? He did not at the last protest.

Paul Stephenson said he wanted peaceful demo not violence. Why then the police tactics at the beginning of the day? Police tactics that served to raise tension.

Strong basis for university funding – Vince Cable Nick Clegg and David Cameron then walked out. They may have won the vote, they did not win the debate

By late night, been very cold since sun went down, people without food or water, still being held in Westminster Bridge kettle, people collapsing and falling ill. Police refusing to send in medics.

Winston Churchill tonight overlooked a scene of desolation. It was a very sad day for democracy.

Michael Portillo on BBC One This Week said for the Coalition what happened on the streets was a bad day. He knows from when he was in government in the 1980s and the Poll Tax.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4 News The World Tonight the LibDem chief whip showed the utter contempt the LibDems have for the electoral when he said by the next election all will be forgotten. The discussion that followed also showed the same contempt, the focus being on were the LibDems in disarray, had they been harmed? Not a word on the harm to students who will be forced to pay the higher fees.

A college lecturer speaking on BBC One Question Time said students were returning speaking of being roughed up by the police. And whilst the focus has been on student fees, we should not forget college students from poorer backgrounds who get an Education Maintenance Grant to encourage them to stay on is education. This will be scrapped.

I do not blame the police or the protesters for the violence. I blame Nick Clegg and Vince Cable, they have blood on their hands. They may have won the vote but they have totally lost public support. The LibDems are finished. The last Tory government won the Poll Tax vote. Look what then happened.

Think if the vote went the other way. Instead of anger and violence on the streets there would have been partying and rejoicing.

Best student banner on the day: Why did Nick Clegg cross the road? Because he promised not to.

Also see

Protest over tuition fees

Police on horseback charge at protesters

Government wins student tuition fees vote

Tuition fees: all the votes all the MPs

Sir Philip Green and his Topshop billions get the UK Uncut treatment

Student protests: today is our 1968 moment

We must get off the learn-to-earn treadmill

Student fees protest – ‘This fight is not over’

London Tuition Fees Demonstration (09/12/2010) – Part 1

Kettled During 9th of December Protest

Westminster Bridge kettle

Student protesters: ‘We will continue to fight’

Protesters mount their last stand as fees vote nears

Student protests: The morning after the night before

9.12.2010: Dubstep rebellion – the British banlieue comes to Millbank

Inside the Parliament Square kettle

London Tuition Fees Demonstration (09/12/2010) – Part 2

‘Scenes of police officers being dragged off police horses and beaten’

Alfie Meadows Seriously Injured

What we’re arguing against and what we’re fighting for

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4 Responses to “A sad day for democracy”

  1. Elaine Says:

    Thank you for this article / commentary.

  2. Pandora Says:

    LibDems or FibDems have “power”, no glory…. and certainly not the backing of the people of this Kingdom, which will unite and vote them out at the earliest opportunity. No, we will not forget. Thank you.

  3. o5men6 Says:

    Thanks Keith.for these articles
    I have translated some of the article written in Le Monde called “Education is one of the best investments a state can do”.

    L’education est un des meilleurs investissements qu’un etat puisse faire.”Le Monde.fr

    “In Central St Martin London
    England – I have friends who are already 100,000 pounds in debts at 22 years of age.
    In Scandinavia, Universities are free and of high quality.
    In France the cost is feeble. “We are lucky” 400 euros. It is a lot in a country that proud itself on free education. However, the premises are sometimes dilapidated.
    Norway, Denmark,, Sweden, The politicians have not even considered to introduce enrolment fees.
    In Norway, students do not pay for anything – except photocopying
    Norwegian Student – Experience in England and in France Kjaertan P.
    “I did a degree in Economy in a University in England from 2002 to 2006. During that period I benefited from the Eradmus program in Angers.
    I came back in 2007 to do a Master 2 in a Parisian University. At the time, in England, we paid 1150 pounds per year regardless of which University It was worth it, even 3,000 pounds, the price justified the facilities and infrastructures of our Establishment.
    In France, I was shocked by the lack of means, the absence of technologies or infrastructures, the scandalous state of the libraries, the medieval procedures to obtain whatever you want, the absence of e-mail address for students, the dilapidated teaching classes, teaching classes that were only dictations. Honestly, I prefer to pay for my studies, to be in debt, than spending all my schooling in mediocre locals that are not subject to any investments.”
    In Denmark it is free – same in Sweden –
    Spain, each student pays for each subject (1,500 Euros appr)
    In Ireland about 1,500 Euros per year
    Belgium – 880 Euros – not excessive –
    Netherlands – 1,695 Euros per year plus cost of books 800 Euros per year.”
    I have to say that I have seen one University and like Kjaertan of Norway I was shocked to see the conditions of the buildings. I do not know how the students or the teaching staff can study or teach under such conditions.

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