Last Wednesday 100,000 students marched in protest all over the country with absolutely no encouragement from the NUS or any of the usual “student leaders”. That’s AMAZING. I helped to organise the Manchester demo, and we printed out leaflets for 800 – 5000 people turned up to march from every university and college in Manchester to the town hall (via Castlefields, as it turned out). But get this: three hours later, despite the best efforts of the police, 3000 people were still marching back down from the town hall to occupy a university building. Five hours later, 800 were still blocking the road outside MRI when the police charged us with horses (that number by a police sergeant’s reckoning). 800 people were the *remnant* of the demo.
It took nearly 8 hours from the beginning of We Will March Manchester for the police to finally disperse everyone: in the meantime we had blocked Oxford Road for most of that time, held demonstrations outside Castlefields, the town hall, University Place, the John Owens building and MRI, and been attacked by the police three times. For at least six hours of it, everything that happened was largely spontaneous, unplanned, and fuelled by pure anger. No-one, not unions, exec officers, the NUS, the Education Action Network, the National Coalition Against Cuts and Fees, has control over the student movement now. The politicians must be bricking it.
And the NUS has realised it can be with us or against us as well. Here is a video of Aaron Porter, NUS President sitting in the UCL occupation saying that the NUS has been “spineless” about supporting students and apologising for his “dithering”, which is very responsive of him:
The day of the vote on tuition fees is coming closer, and by all accounts, Nick Clegg is starting to have massive, epic kittens about what he is going to do. And who made that happen? We did.
If Nick Clegg votes to raise tuition fees to £9000, he faces losing his seat in the university constituency of Sheffield Hallam. Already students at the university have occupied a lecture theatre and sworn that if he votes for the rise, they will recall him using the legislation that is allegedly coming before parliament next year (though given who it will be used against, I doubt that law will face death by committee, in all likelihood). The protests, demonstrations and occupations can only grow.
If Nick Clegg keep his promise to vote against the tuition fee rise, his constituents will ate him slightly less but David Cameron will be very, very put out. Such a rebellion from a serving minister, let alone the leader of the minor coalition party makes for shakey confidence and a potential breakdown of the government itself. And setting aside the implosion of the government, the urtling downwards trajectory of the markets in the likelihood of such an event, and the annihilation of the Liberal Democrats entirely at the subsequent election, given the amount of effort Clegg has put into trying to convince people that he wants to lift the cap, if he does a second u-turn, he’s also going to look like a total doily.
And finally, Nick Clegg can agree to do what was negotiated for in the Coalition Agreement – he could abstain. His constituents will still be angry, but the current line “we lost the election, we can’t do everything we promised” washes a bit better. The problem is, with the Liberal Democrats abstaining and some Tory MPs planning to vote against the proposals (133 voted against the rise to £3000, and some will again), David Cameron can’t guarantee a majority in the vote, which means loss of confidence, potential destruction of government, drop in markets, annihilation of Liberal Democrats etc. And again, second u-turn = total doily.
So Nick Clegg finds himself in something of an impossible position. I don’t know about you, but I’m quite happy about that. And I am also just a little bit proud that I have done what I can to put him there, along with you and what must now be hundreds of thousands of other people who have written to their MPs, confronted politicians wherever they go, marched, lobbied, broken windows, and made it clear that we are fucking angry. What else should we do with politicians who spent years courting our votes with promises they threw out the window as soon as they saw their ministerial car?
The next national day of action is tomorrow. Tomorrow, the significant thing that happens will be happening. Tomorrow, I will be at 12pm outside University Place in Manchester to march again for my friends’ futures, and I hope that every Manchester student and resident will join us.