Lib Dem betrayal and police heavy-handedness is seeing the politicisation and radicalisation of a generation

It was a successful policing operation, according to the Metropolitan Police.  No students died! 

We are entering a fascinating period in the political life of the UK.  The Government have lost control of the streets.  Tens of thousands of students up and down the country are being politicised by the Lib Dems collusion with the Tories and radicalised by the heavy-handed policing tactics being deployed against them.

It is like the poll tax protests all over again and very different from the inner city riots of the early 1980s.  In the 1980s it was alienated youths, often black youths, who had no hope for the future and who were being treated heavy-handedly by the police. In 1990 it was working and middle classes uniting against the unjust Poll Tax.

As now, a popular cause was targeted by a political elite, fortified by their deluded self-belief and secure in their Westminster Palace, that made an enemy of the country as a whole.  The sight of police horses charging young people on the streets of London will have appalled many people, not least middle class parents whose children were the targets of the horses and the victims of police batons.  The students are being politicised, and so too are their parents.

The Met Police appear to have just one tactic – kettle to contain.  Not only is it not working, it has already undermined public confidence in th police.  There is anger at the increase in tuition fees, and it is right that it is aimed largely at the Lib Dems.  If the Coalition Government had hoped that that level of anger  would now receded, they are to be disappointed.  The betrayal of the pledge by Lib Dems, including Norman Baker, coupled with the treatment of student protesters (the majority of whom were non-violent and law abiding) will see this run and run.

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A day of shame for democracy

Shame on the Conservatives for piling debt on students and families, cutting funding for education and investment in our future.

Shame on those Liberal Democrats who voted with the Tories and betrayed their pledge to their electorate.

Shame on Simon Hughes and other Lib Dems for betraying their pledge to vote against any increase in tuition fees.

Shame on the Metropolitan Police for using police horses against children.

Truly a day of shame for democracy and a day that will damage Britain’s reputation throughout the world.

The right and wrong way to demonstrate

Today we saw the best and worst aspects of protest.  Students from around the country descended on Westminster to protest against the decision to raise tuition fees, with particular anger focused on the Lib Dems, all of whose MPs pledged to oppose such an increase. 

It is many years since students were mobilised in such numbers, and a great deal of credit should go to the National Union of Students.  They had a serious, important point to make, and they were making it well until …..

….. an ill-disciplined group including non-student anarchists, occupied Millbank towers, which includes the offices of the Conservative Party.  One idiot, who I hope is identified and prosecuted, threw a fire extinguisher off the roof, missing a police officer by a matter of feet.  Swept up in this group were many very young protesters, probably school children who had joined the demonstration to protest against the cut to Education Maintenance Allowance.

Sadly, the demonstration will be characterised and remembered for the violent episode at Millbank.  One reassuring aspect, though, was the restraint demonstrated by the Metropolitan Police.  Of course they, too, are facing cuts.  They have also been stung by criticism of their handling of previous climate change demonstrations.

I would propose a demonstrators charter that protesters are required by organisers of demonstration to abide by otherwise they should be excluded from the demonstrations.  The charter could include:

  • No taunting of the police (some people come to demonstrations to have a pop at the police; the police are not the target of most protests)
  • No break-away groups (it allows the police to justify kettling)
  • No alcohol and drugs (protests need to be focused and disciplined)
  • Normally have live music (it raises spirits and sets a certain tone)
  • Walk in ordered rows and columns (a protest should not resemble an amble in the park)
  • Everyone should wear a common colour (green, red, black, etc.)
  • Protests should be safe for children and older citizens, so language should be appropriate.

In response, the police should be required to respect a disciplined protest and ensure that its command and conduct does not provoke or exacerbate the situation.

I imagine many people will think I’m barking, but if you have ever been on, or witnessed, serious and disciplined demonstrations (for example, republican demonstrations in Belfast or protests under Apartheid in South Africa), you will appreciate the importance of discipline and the power of such a protest.

How you can protest this very day against Blair and his war crimes

Have you heard about the small, silent protest you can make against Tony Blair?   People are moving his autobiography A Journey from the biography shelves and putting them on the Crime shelves.  There is even a Facebook group that is advocating this.  Someone has suggested it should be filed under ‘Mass Murder’. 

A Journey has even been spotted on the shelves for the category ‘Tragic Life Stories’ and Peter Mandelson’s The Third Man has appeared in the Fiction section in some bookshops.  I just can’t understand why ….!

I like that sort of subtle protest.  Perhaps a less subtle form was during the Poll Tax when someone appeared on a late night chat show ‘representing’ a group styled “Scotland for the Poll Tax”.  He said it was outrageous that people were filling in the gaps of the bar chart on poll tax bills with black felt tip pens, “Black felt tip pens”, he repeated slowly and with emphasis, then telling the viewers that it caused chaos in poll tax offices.  So he told the viewers one more time that the “must not fill in the gaps on the bar charts with a BLACK ….. FELT TIP …. PEN”.

What are your favourite subtle, or not so subtle, protest stories.  I will publish the best of them.