Wednesday, 10 November 2010

The Autumn of their Discontent...

Today's events at Millbank have got the political blogsphere into a right frenzy. The various halfwits, nitwits and knuckleheads that now form the majority of those posting on sites like politicalbetting and politicsforum have been exchanging insults in the manner of two sad old pugilists at the circus.

In the annals of civil unrest, today was small potatoes. Yes, the building housing the Conservative Party HQ got slightly damaged and a few windows were broken but compared to the Poll Tax riot of 1990, it was nothing yet it has got the activist hotheads foaming at the mouth.

I don't condone rioting and criminal damage though I do support the right to protest. IF today's march was hijacked by a group of anarchists and others, the Police should have enough evidence on a plethors of mobile and CCTV cameras to catch the wrongdoers and prosecute.

On the substantive issue of fees, I have little sympathy for the student line. Kingston University has no less than 18,000 students on its roll and those I see don't look on the cusp of poverty compared with my days as a stuident thirty years ago. Indeed, I've had plenty of anecdotal evidence that the Halls of Residence are crammed with fast cars and designer clothes.

Ok, no one wants anyone to starve or to go without but there's clearly capacity for students who can to make a contribution toward an education from which they will benefit in the longer term. Fees of £9,000 are expesnive though not compared to private education fees at any number of schools. In any case, not all Universities will want or be able to charge the maximum fees and nor is anyone suggesting that those who genuinely cannot pay the fees will have to until they are able.

No grievance condones the kind of violence (reminiscent of the anti-globalist protests) we've seen today. Those who are implacably opposed to the Liberal Democrats (and especially those who continue to fail to understand why the party is in coalition with the Conservatives) have claimed the Lib Dems have betrayed students and it was probably bad politics to sign up to the NUS tuition fees before the election.

However, that was then - now, those opposed to the Government have to explain away the violence. In a democracy. the right to protest within the law is sacrosanct but there is also the right of property and no one who condones today's antics must believe they have advanced their argument.

It remains to be seen if today is a foretaste of problems to come next year as public spending cuts begin to bite. It's already evident there will be an uneven approach across the country. Tonight's Evening Standard reports that some London Boroughs will be closing up to half their libraries yet Hillingdon won't be closing any. It may well be that the financial mismanagement or otherwise of local authorities (which generally transcends political stripe) will become more transparent in the months ahead.

Poll Tax wasn't killed by the riots in London but by the dignified protesters of suburban and rural England. That is where the Coalition's greatest challenge lies.

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