Friday, 10 December 2010

The impact of student violence

I’m deeply troubled by yesterday’s vote on tuition fees. I had the benefit of a free university education, bar £300 in my final term - the year that Thatcher introduced student loans. And so, I understand and support the students who want to protest against the vote and do so peacefully.

I absolutely do not condone violence in the protests. But it's no great surprise that what starts as a peaceful protest turns nasty. A toxic combination of various groups with an eye for trouble, high tension and emotions, and a student body that has been sold out by the Lib Dems they supported, makes it inevitable. This is a generation of young voters who are - at an age where they should be full of hope and political expectation - disillusioned with and already betrayed by our political system.

But today’s headlines make me incredibly sad. Ministers who voted for the bill are able to take the moral high ground by focusing not on the appalling implications for studentsand for a fair education, but on the violence from yesterday’s protests.

The effect of the violence has been to undermine the student’s message: that this coalition government has saddled them with a lifetime of debt, in an era when we’re told what matters above all else is to be rid of debt. 

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