Students protest outside Liberal Democrat MP offices

Vince Cable literally walks over protesters to reach door

In the early afternoon of Friday, 18 October, a small group of protesters gathered outside the University of London Union as part of a nationwide objection against the proposed privatisation of student loans as announced by the government recently.

Mostly made up of current students at the University of London and supporters of the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, the group carried placards bearing the message ‘Free education - tax the rich’ and hauled red cardboard boxes painted with ‘£’ signs to represent student debt.

The protesters divided to target the constituency offices of Liberal Democrat MPs Simon Hughes in Southwark, and Vince Cable, who is also Business Secretary, in Twickenham, to voice their displeasure.

The protests came as a result of broader government plans to sell public assets to make money. As part of these plans, the student loan book could be sold off to private companies, affecting any UK home students who took out a loan between 1998 and 2012.

Student debt is generally unappealing since much of it is never repaid, thus the government would have to offer "sweeteners" in order to attract investors. One option guarantees profit for private buyers through the promise of future government subsidies, but the more controversial alternative is to allow said buyers to lift the cap on interest rates – meaning anyone who originally took out a student loan with the promise of low interest rates during repayment could suddenly be faced with a dramatic increase in debt.

One student protester said, “We are already lumbered with so much debt. It would be totally hypocritical for the government to backtrack on a contract-based system. We didn’t sign up for this.”

After entering Vince Cable’s office and being informed that he was not present, the group of protesters in Twickenham waited outside for him to arrive for his weekly MP's surgery at 17:00.

While waiting, they stuck leaflets to the wall, piled up boxes in front of the door and along the street and handed out leaflets to passers-by. Local police arrived to oversee events.

Vince Cable’s arrival by bicycle was obstructed by the boxes, and by protesters "crushed by debt" lying down in front of him. He fought his way to the door of his office without responding to any questions, and was then heckled through a megaphone with calls of “Vince Cable, come out, we know what you’re all about. Cuts, job losses, money for the bosses.”

Vince Cable is forced to climb over protesters to get into his office  

The government’s proposal comes not only as an aftershock of the introduction of £9,000 per year tuition fees last year, but also as a blow to graduates who started courses a decade or more ago - under the most extreme proposals, rates on the student loans of people now in their 30s would go up.

The news coincides with recent remarks from Oxford University’s vice-chancellor that top universities should be allowed to charge up to £16,000 per year in tuition fees.

Stephen King, a volunteer for the Liberal Democrat Party who lives in Twickenham, stopped by to help the protesters hand out leaflets.

“I went to university myself,” he said. “Young people shouldn’t be leaving with debt. Life is hard enough, especially in times of economic downturn.”

Mr King said members within the Liberal Democrat Party were divided on the issue, but that most had been “very disappointed” when the rise in tuition fees was introduced shortly following the coalition’s formation, despite the promise of Party leader Nick Clegg not to do so. “Education is very important, but students seem to be a consistently soft target,” Mr. King added.

The protesters at MP Simon Hughes’ office in Southwark chanted outside and stuck leaflets to his car.

Earlier on in the day, another larger group of protesters in Birmingham took over the office of MP John Hemming before police arrived to remove them.

Police remove boxes representing student debt  

Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Developer - HTML, CSS, Javascript

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Application Developer - ...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Software Developer - Norfolk - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Software Developer - Norf...

Guru Careers: Graduate Resourcer / Recruitment Account Executive

£18k + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a bright, enthusiastic and internet...

Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine