Leading article: Fury about more than tuition fees

Share
Related Topics

The scenes outside Conservative Party headquarters in central London yesterday looked in many respects like history revisited. The placards, the chanting, the burnings, the smashed windows, the attempted invasion came as vivid reminders of a time when student protests regularly immobilised city centres and demonstrating was part of the student experience. The question must be, however, whether yesterday's furious response to the planned rise in university tuition fees was a one-off excursion into the past, or the prelude to future unrest.

Until now, the public mood has seemed remarkably quiescent. Where discontent has broken out on the streets or given rise to strikes, this has generally been the result of disputes that pre-dated, or were not directly related to, the Coalition's cuts. The firefighters are contesting roster changes that alter outdated and expensive working practices. They rightly gauged that their threatened strike on Bonfire Night would lose them support, and called it off. London Underground workers have staged day-long strikes. But this remains a dispute over staffing, not a protest against central government cuts.

Yesterday's demonstration by students and lecturers can be read in two ways. Its genesis is the Government's acceptance of most of the recommendations of Lord Browne's report on university funding, and the likelihood that tuition fees will rise to £9,000 a year. The prospect of such a swingeing increase was bound to draw ire, even if it is – as this newspaper has long argued – the only way in which decent financial support for higher education can be secured, and there are safeguards for graduates who remain low-paid.

Whether or not the violence yesterday was, as the National Union of Students insisted, fomented by a tiny minority, the fury on display also seemed to contain other strands, such as a sense of "them and us", and the conviction that direct action was the only way to convey the desired message to those in power. If such sentiments come to be shared more widely, this may turn out to be no unseasonal squall, but the first storm in a new winter of discontent.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Continuous Improvement Manager

£41500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is going through a period o...

Recruitment Genius: Data Entry Administrator

£10670 - £16640 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: Regional Gas Installation Manager - South East England

£36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Regional Gas Installation Manager is r...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Service and Breakdown Engineer - South East

£29000 - £31000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Domestic Gas Service and Brea...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letters: NHS data-sharing is good for patients

Independent Voices
 

Daily catch-up: the old Palace of Westminster; Batman vs Superman; and more Greenery

John Rentoul
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee