The events of the past few days have shown how politically-aware sections of British youth have become.Seven months of Tory austerity measures, culminating in last Thursday's vote in Parliament to triple the cost of university tuition, have managed to galvanize thousands of youths into mass protest action.
It has been a long time since the centre of London has borne witness to such frenzied anti-government protest.
Last Thursday's demonstration, the latest in a series which is bound to continue well into the New Year, was attended by students from all over the country.Young people as young as 14 (some skiving - off school) turned out to lobby Members of Parliament belonging to the Conservative/Liberal Democrat Coalition which has been governing the country since the May Elections.
It comes as no surprise to me that much of the students' ire ( as well as that of their their teachers and lecturers) has been aimed at the treacherous Lib-Dems.
Prior to the Elections,they made a great show of their opposition to the raising of tuition fees. Their MPs were falling over themselves to portray the Tories as evil tax-hikers who were hell-bent on raising VAT, cutting social programmes--and raising tuition fees.
They signed, publicly and ostentatiously--in front of cheering students --a pledge not to raise tuition fees. This made for good TV, and helped to garner votes, as well as Ministerial seats, after the Tories failed to get them vertiginous majority for which they had been yearning.
Labour lost their majority---but the Tories did not win.They became the largest party, without the ability to rule, as they were short of a majority.Consequently, they had to compromise with their erstwhile leftist foes.
As predicted, this cobbled-together marriage -of-convenience is now showing signs of strain.LibDem Members of Parliament are finding it hard to back Tory policies which go against their political grain.Some senior members even went as far as to abstain in Thursday's vote on tuition fees!
Students have formed the vanguard of popular resistance to the enforced budget cuts which the Coalition has imposed on all areas of Government spending.
An astonishing 80% cut in Government's support for university teaching has been put in place, the deficit being imposed on individual students---after they graduate.In addition, the EMA (Education Maintenance Allowance), the subsidy to poorer students before they enter university, is to be cut.Hence the anger.
The privileged cabal of Old-Etonian-Oxbridge aristocrats who are disproportionally- represented in the present Cabinet, will not be personally affected . Their children will never have to worry about how to pay for college fees!
The overwhelmingly-Right-wing Press here have chosen to focus on the fighting and crowd trouble which took place during the demonstration.In doing so, they aimed to delegitimize the real grievances of the youths.Public opinion, it hopes, will thus turn against the students.It now becomes easier for the brightest and the best of the young generation to be labelled as "yobs" and "mindless hooligans". The ill-discipline of the few is thereby used to portray the majority.Little mention is made of the police-state tactics now being employed in quelling dissent.
In a week in which the whole of the Press and mass-media celegrated the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to an imprisoned Chinese citizen who wants to overthrow his government, the Metropolitan Police are allowed to impose imprisonment without trial of up to 10 hours on ordinary citizens who choose to avail themselves of their constitutional right to protest.
The majority of our Conservative-supporting Press have chosen to overlook the use of "kettling" as a means of dissuading people from coming out to protest.
This tactic involves cordoning off a small area of the demonstration, forcing everyone to stay in that area---( for up to 10 hours!). Any attempt to escape from the "kettled" area is met with beatings and charges by mounted police.There are no provisions for food or toilets.FOR TEN HOURS!
The Right-Wing then wonder why the thus-imprisoned demonstrators choose to resist! While they wag their finger at the Chinese authorities, they condone such tactics in the centre of London! Sadly, such commentators always lack a sense of history.
Not so long ago, groups of women engaged the authorities in similar clashes. Some chained themselves to the railings outside Parliament, they went on demonstrations, rallies, protests. Some succumbed to brutal beatings, some, indeed, died for their cause.
What were these terrible women so fired up about? Why were they disturbing the peace, rattling the status quo? What great cause mede them risk their freedom, their very lives?
They were the pioneers who were campaigning for votes for women.
The whole population now views this as an unalloyed good. Indeed , most modern people in Britain think this right is "natural", and very few people can imagine a Britain in which women do not have this right.
The lesson for today's students? Every "right" has to be fought for.