Thursday. The High Street. Quietly bustling with tourists. Brasenose and Univites work solidly beneath the towering spires of All Soul’s. Suddenly (it was remarkably sudden) a great horde of a couple of hundred students, staff and random anarchists comes streaming down the street. They’re waving placards and making lots of shouty sounds. ‘Vince Cable shame on you, shame on you for turning blue’ was one. Alighting next to the Schools, the mobocrats mill around for about ten minutes. Some people were protesting against the Browne review which, as you surely know by now, proposes huge increases in tuition fees and cuts in university funding. Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, cancelled his talk in the Schools at the last minute. The protest was designed to coincide with this visit. The organisers decided to go ahead with it anyway.
What the papers say
It got on the BBC news. ‘Cable cancels Oxford visit’ drooled the press. Yet again, the Oxford angle is what makes the story.
What the dear old Cherwell had to say was more focussed on the protests themselves, or rather the reaction to them. Police were allegedly heavy-handed, perhaps excessively so. One St Hildan remarked, ‘I saw two cops trying to beat up a guy, I asked them to stop and a policeman grabbed me by the neck and threw me to the floor’. Sizzling stuff, especially when there were originally no scheduled plans for protests.
Unless Cable had actually been bludgeoned to death on arrival – not completely inconceivable given the violent SWP-themed protestors – it is hard to see what difference this will make to government policy. The sad thing is that if the protests hadn’t happened and Vince hadn’t cancelled, he would have been able to answer questions from an all-welcome student audience. This might have given him a better idea of what their views are. Instead he just sits in an office being told what the civil service wants him to be told. It’s a sad day for democracy: voices aren’t heard and there’s bugger all change. It was, however, a grand day out, and what’s also brilliant is that politicians were clearly too terrified to face the very people who use the services they want to cut. But by all accounts the a watered-down Browne review will pass the House of Commons and give future students an awful lot of debt. So for all the waving and shouting and being thrown to the floor, nothing will change.