The protest in London this Wednesday (10/11/10) saw between 36,000 – 50,000 students take to the streets outside Westminster to show their disdain for the coalitions proposals to lift the cap on tuition fees, and I was one of them.
The area surrounding Whitehall was booming with such chants as ‘no ifs, no buts, no education cuts’, ‘build a bonfire, build a bonfire put the Tories at the top, put the Lib-Dems in the middle and we’ll burn the f***ing lot!’ and my personal favourite; ‘Nick Clegg, shame on you, shame on you for turning blue’. So as you can imagine the mood was far from neutral. As a Tori voter myself (yes I know boo hiss) I was somewhat stuck between my integrity and my cause, the cause that united the whole student body, trade unionists and teachers together. I marched shouting the slogans that didn’t slander my party of choice at the polling station, and underneath a placard reading; ‘this is not what i voted for’ (this could be read as though I voted Lib-Dem as to avoid the same fate as Tori HQ). I felt isolated in my presence, but I was there because this is not what I voted for. I believe that as a follower of a party you shouldn’t feel obliged to agree with every policy, and shouldn’t feel whipped into fighting your gut feelings and you should do just that, fight those decisions that aren’t just, and this transcends to Nick Clegg’s yellows in the Commons.
The Liberal Democrats made tuition fees and the dropping of them a staple of there campaign, which loured students in their thousands to vote yellow on a false promise. For many students this was probably the first time at the ballot box, in which case for many it is a choice that will colour your personal political allegiance for life. But Clegg has dropped his pledge to the youth of the nation, and with it has dropped further the already low level of belief in the political system.
The Tories didn’t fight the election campaign with a clear stance on this issue, there manifesto included phrases such as ‘social mobility’ which to me the voter meant that debts of students would not be increased. I voted Tori with the belief there had been a move away from the Thatcherite Conservatism, to a new party with greater respect for the new globalised world and a genuine intention to strive towards social equality (hence the ring fencing of international development funding). They may originate from Eaton and Oxbridge, but I want educated people running this country, and inspiring those from less privileged backgrounds to motivate themselves to fulfill there potential. I believe in individual activism and the self made man, as the first in my working class family line to attend University I believe anyone can make it if they try hard enough. But the new proposals will stifle this mentality and encourage defeatism and allow the self fulfilling prophesy of the less privileged to prevail, entrapping further generations in the benefit cycle of dependency.
So although the violence at the protest has to be condemned, it also has to be noted that the majority of the people causing damage at Millbank were anarchists that infiltrated the otherwise peaceful protest. It also must be taken into consideration that a large proportion of the staff from Tori HQ were evacuated and walked behind the 200 or so students who where watching the anarchists take hold of the building, none of whom were stopped or heckled let alone hurt, that wasn’t the intent. All the protest proved it that a spectrum of people are angry and disappointed, and don’t have a decent outlet for those emotions, this nation needs the right to recall.
Transparency and trust is what makes a democracy true, and this country keeps tumbling through leaked documents and broken promises so political parties can advance in the interest of themselves. Political activism is still very much alive and we need to keep fighting to hold the government to account, and make the honorable members realise that we put them there to do a job, and they have to carry out the will of the people.