The week that was: The London Demo

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What happened?

You know that thing you totally meant to go to? Well, 30,000 people did. Incensed by the tripling of tuition fees and Higher Education cuts proposed by the government, hordes of angry students descended on the capital. The placards were seriously impressive. ‘We’re not the only ones willing to take it up the arse Nick Clegg’ from the LGBT socs; the immortal ‘Down with this sort of thing’ and ‘We’re not Sam Cameron, you can’t fuck us’ added wit and bravura to the march. Irreverent as this might sound, it got rather serious later on when over a hundred anarchists and students starting smashing up the Tory HQ – burning, looting and generally making it all the more difficult for the rest of us to make our voices heard. The rowdy ‘children of the revolution’ eventually made it onto the building’s roof, brandishing the red flag. The police finally brought the whole afternoon to a close as a van loads of riot officers took back the Tory stronghold.

What the papers say

The Mail’s take was actually fairly accurate. Not even it would deny that the smashin’ was ‘the actions of a disgraceful minority of balaclava wearing Left-wing agitators.’ Liberal papers were more sympathetic, largely because their esteemed editors wish they were doing this sort of thing while actually sitting behind their desks with only the Wire to look forwards to. Guardian: ‘the protests may be a lightning rod for wider public unease with the government’s public spending strategy.’ In other words, the Tories should be ousted. How nice that our press is so objective.

What now?

It won’t make a blind bit of difference. Nick Clegg is not going to change his U-turn merely because he is told to by a unruly mob of fire-extinguisher throwing activists. Defections are not made lightly. And unless every single Lib Dem MP rebels (and, even less likely, every single Labour member votes against) the fees will go through the House of Commons. Students walking about outside the Palace of Westminster will not change the hard realities of politics. Vandalism and battery don’t get you far either: the po-po have already arrested over 60 for the Tory headquarters cock-up. What has happened, though, is to give some tabloid publicity to what was otherwise a dull and largely middle-class bitch-slap of the ruling powers. It’s not often student issues get on the front of the Sun (apart from the occasional Lacrosse initiations), and arguably any publicity is good publicity, so even the violence had an advantage. But lets not pretend it was a good idea.

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