Parts of London have been turned into a mini-Kabul with all law and order dissolving amid scenes of riots and rampage. With anti-student fee’s protesters clashing with police, fighting amongst themselves and even attacking the private car of Prince Charles. London at one point really was burning.
The proposals to increase University fee’s has been deeply unpopular since they were first announced and as the date got closer for the bill to be passed through parliament the protests by students have got louder and bigger. The fact that the Liberal Democrats vowed to never let this happen and now in government (albeit a coalition) they seem to be going back on their word, has just added to the anger. It has to be remembered that the Liberal Democrats gained a large portion of the student vote on the policy of not increasing University fee’s, so Nick Clegg being labeled a liar amongst other things seem on the surface fully justified.
It has been clear from day one of the Con-Lib coalition that the Conservatives are the ones pulling the strings with the Liberal Democrats simply there for the ride. The University fees issue has just added more weight to this.
Many would say that the scenes of tens of thousands of students marching up and down the country, setting fire to buildings and attacking police are all part of a healthy democracy. The right to protest and have your voice heard are things that Western democracies have gone to war to ensure other regimes implement. So seeing in on their own streets must be gripping.
However a closer look at the reasons and why’s of the protests show not a healthy political system but a dysfunctional one. The University fees issue lays bare the myth of an elected democratic political system, where a man knocks on your door, promises you the earth to gain your vote and then betrays you once in power.
The fact of the matter is no matter what anyone thinks they are stuck with the Con-Lib coalition until the next election (barring a collapse). The bill for the University fees was passed with a majority of 21, and it will soon be law. What this means is that putting a little X in a box every four or five years holds no value when it comes to actual accountability of the ruling party. The students who did or didn’t vote for the Liberal Democrats are all in the same boat, they can do nothing to stop being sold out. Promises mean noting to politicians in Western democracies as it is more about getting into power, than keeping your voters happy.
Spontaneous mass protests are usually seen against totalitarian regimes and not against elected governments in the West. So the fact that many thousands would rather protest than wait to vote the coalition government out speaks volumes. No one really believes in the hype of voting making a difference, because it clearly doesn’t. Even when the mass populace protest the law makers still see it fit to follow the path that is financially more palatable. Strength of opinion is secondary to the bottom line, if the government no longer wishes to provide free University education, it won’t. The students can kick and scream all they want the decisions are made not by the people but about the people. As Margaret Thatcher famously said “…You turn if you want to. The lady’s not for turning!”.
When you have a system that renders the politicians immune from any type of real scrutiny or questioning by the mass public you see the scenes being played out in London today.