Nadine Dorries, Conservative MP and notoriously less than fully truthful blogger has said (in said blog) of yesterday’s student demonstration against the proposed hike in tuition fees:
The NUS informed the Police that there would be 5000 students attending the demonstration yesterday. They upgraded that to 15,000 on Tuesday night. The final figure was possibly as much as twice that number.
The final figure was a lot higher than even that. It’s was demonstrable evidence that, far from being apathetic, students can get motivated to stand up for what they believe in.
The students arrived from all over the country, many in NUS organised coaches.
There are many eye witness accounts of NUS officials being right in the middle of the mêlée which ensued.
Are there? I’d be surprised if Ms Dorries can provide any evidence of this. I was there and saw no evidence of anything of the sort.
Many of the students who attended were visibly shaken at what was unfolding before their eyes.
The staff working in the offices at Milbank were terrified.
Someone threw an extinguisher off the roof which easily, so easily, could have killed someone.
Sir Paul Stephenson, has been incredibly professional in the way he has come out this morning and taken the hit on the chin.
Many of us MPs don’t believe that is right. Westminster was swarming last night with literally hundreds of Police officers. If Sir Paul had known the correct number of students attending, maybe he could have had enough Police in place quickly enough.
I think that’s an unbelievably naive position to take. So Aaron Porter underestimated the numbers he expected – that’s entirely beside the point. The point is the Met allowed a student protest to run past Tory Party HQ, and then chose to defend it with only a dozen beat cops. I’m not defending the violence in any way, but common sense should have told them that that sort of planning was downright incompetent. Well done to the Met – I agree – for not going in and busting heads the way I thought they were going to, and they should of course prosecute the rioter who threw the extinguisher down at the police, but to blame the NUS for the Met’s incompetent advance planning is just ridiculous.
It appears that the President of the NUS, Aaron Porter, did not brief him adequately. The NUS organised a demonstration which has resulted in people in hospital and students with criminal records, before they have even had time to fill in a job application form.
It was an NUS demonstration. It is not good enough that today they want to distance themselves from what happened with a ‘not me Gov’ statement. They cannot.
Sure they can, and they are right to. It’s preposterous to hold the NUS to account for the behaviour of every single person associated with the protest, be they student or not – there were far more than the 50,000 some reports have suggested attended. How on earth could the people responsible for organising a peaceful protest be expected to manage each and every participant on the ground? Porter himself strongly denounced the violence from an early stage, the Met were extremely slow to respond (I know – unlike Ms Dorries I was actually there) and the stewards were desperately trying to shepherd demonstrators away from Millbank Tower. Maybe they should have been better trained, or there should have been more of them, but I doubt that would have had any noticeable effect on what happened. I also doubt the numbers attacking the tower would have been that much fewer, if the total overall number of protesters had been lower.
It is not good enough that the police are expected to shoulder all of the blame.
Aaron Porter should resign. He was the architect of a dangerous demonstration which could have resulted in the loss of life.
An ignorant thing to say, based on at best questionable motives. He was the architect of a peaceful, legitimate demonstration and had nothing whatsoever to do with the violence which impinged on it. Ms Dorries should be ashamed of herself.
The Police should be congratulated for what they did manage to achieve in the face of adversity.
Everyone has a right to peaceful demonstration. No one has a right to terrify and endanger the lives of others. Aaron Porter was responsible for that. It was an NUS demonstration and therefore they are fully responsible.
Yes they should – those on the ground had to put up with a mob, some of whose members were throwing missiles at them for no discernible reason. But to blame Porter for that is contemptible and I believe Ms Dorries should be condemned by every right minded person associated with or aware of the protest. Same old Tories, eh?
I understand the anger felt by the students demonstrating yesterday against the proposed trebling (and beyond) of tuition fees and university budget cuts. I was also at Millbank as a small number of them took their anger out on the Tory Party’s current headquarters, and heard the constant refrain ‘Tory Scum’. Whilst I agreed with that particular epithet, it completely and utterly missed the point about the Browne Report – this was picked up on on Twitter:
Today, some students torched the Tory HQ, over a change of mind by the LibDems concerning a report commissioned by Labour.
Despite all the authoritarian nonsense and right wing policy drift at the heart of the New Labour project, a significant number of students thought it suitable to blame the Conservative Party for implementing a report which the Labour Party commissioned (and would almost certainly themselves have followed). Did mass amnesia take hold? Did students not notice as ID cards moved closer under Labour, as the Independent Safeguarding Authority said we all had to prove we weren’t paedophiles under Labour, how the maximum legal period of detention without charge shot up under Labour, how control orders came to be under Labour, how the gap between rich and poor increased out of all sense under Labour, and how tuition fees were themselves introduced under Labour? Why on earth was this necessary:
Don’t like these policies? Stop voting for any of the big three parties, when have all bound themselves into the neoliberal economic model which got us into this situation in the first place! They are all equally part of the problem; yesterday’s violence was an exercise in utter futility.