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Saturday 11 December 2010
Letters: Tuition fee protests
Day of confrontation over student fees
Without condoning violence, we need to try and understand why it is happening. One does not need to be an existing or potential student, or even a concerned parent, to feel that the root cause of the present anger is not just the burden of increased fees, but the massive and increasing inequality in wealth.
Students not only have to pay for their education, but are losing out on potential incomes for the duration of their courses, only to find that on graduation, the types of work available are often no better rewarded than if they had gone to work straight from school.
At the same time, they see a minority basking in untold wealth and using every possible loophole to avoid paying tax. Unless the Lib Dems can be seen to start reducing such inequality soon, they may be wiped from the political map in the next election.
What sort of message are we sending the next generation, those that have the guts to protest that their future is under threat, when we send charging horses and police in riot gear at schoolchildren and young students.
Many of these young people will become our leaders, and providers in the not-distant future . Let's hope they don't remember this, and vote for euthanasia for our senile generation, a generation who obviously care so little for them (unless their parents are wealthy) that we are happy to deny them an education that many of us (myself included) took for granted as a right when we were their age. I despair.
It is not students who will be paying back large sums of money; it will be adults earning a substantial salary. It is therefore not the Lib Dems who are responsible for the rioting: it is Labour Party members for incessant misrepresentation of the Lib Dem position with the intention of destroying the Liberal Democrat party – which may very well succeed.
On the day of the vote for a 200 per cent increase in university tuition fees more than one Liberal Democrat MP has given the excuse of "Well, we didn't win the election", suggesting that having failed to secure a majority they have necessarily compromised their position.
This is, of course, complete nonsense. In the real world their promise to vote against a rise in tuition fees was a promise to vote against a rise regardless of which party they would be in a coalition with. Their decision to turn their backs on the thousands of voters who supported them in the last election marks the end of the Liberal Democrat party as a serious contender.
Canvey Island, Essex
Thousands of floating voters decided who to vote for based on the promise not to increase university fees. Nick Clegg and Vince Cable now claim this was unrealistic and have broken that promise. If they want to be taken seriously as a major political party in future they should call an immediate election and let the public decide again. It is not fair that we are stuck with liars for the next five years.
I fully support the right of students to protest peacefully. However we can no longer believe the assurances of the organisers. Students must now accept the decision of a democratic government to raise the fees. If they do not like it, then they must work to change their MPs at the next general election.
Police who use unnecessary or unreasonable force should be and are disciplined. But equally we need to recognise the extreme pressures on police officers in these circumstances, quite apart from the considerable costs to the public purse.
From the point of view of the security forces, Thursday's collision between the students' demonstration and the Prince of Wales's procession showed at best a lack of information and at worst stupidity.
From the point of view of those protesting about the Government's expectation that they should suffer to buoy up an economic system previously plundered by fat cats, to have thrust into their midst the very embodiment of pointless, outdated and unaccountable privilege could be seen as nothing less than crass provocation.
Cameron described the students' reaction as "regrettable", which may be appropriate, but to call it also "shocking" merely demonstrates how unaware he is of the anger felt by a huge number of betrayed voters.
With annual fees at Eton and Westminster in excess of £29,000, David Cameron and Nick Clegg probably think a postgraduate debt of £27,000 is cheap at twice the price.
Everyone understands that cuts have to be made to recover our financial position, but the expectation is that this will be retrieved within a parliamentary term. The heavy fees proposed for student courses would continue in the very long term.
The vice-chancellors, in the form of Universities UK, should be ashamed to have passed their problem on to the students, when they should have resisted these regressive proposals, which are biased towards the wealthy and the most prestigious institutions.
The planned consequence of this hike in fees and the abolition of subsidies for the arts is to reduce the expectations and aspirations of vast numbers of teenagers who will not be able to afford them – or think they can't – so that they are not educated beyond their station.
This was the purpose of Education Commissioners in the 19th century who believed that children needed to know only as much as was useful to the job market. Anything more would make them discontented and unfit for this market. Dickens described one of them in Hard Times.
St Albans, Hertfordshire
In the course of a single afternoon, we have returned to the social mobility of 1910. I am the first in my line to attend university, as is my wife. Now, I must look at my two sons, and know that I am the last. One day they will ask me why. What do I tell them?
Dr Ian East
Stand up for football fans
It was pleasing to see the level of coverage The Independent gave to Don Foster's Bill on safe standing at football stadiums (9 December). It is a debate which is often ignored, despite the fact that large numbers of fans stand in seating areas week in, week out.
I found Stan Hey's opinion piece alongside rather disappointing. Mr Hey seems to miss the point that the new Bill does not advocate a return to the terraces of the past. The Bill, and most football fans I speak to, clearly understand the safety issues of old-fashioned terraces. Safe standing, however, allocates each individual a place to stand, so numbers can be safely limited, and people have room around them.
This not only benefits standers, but also those who wish to sit. When a clearly defined area is provided for fans who wish to stand, those who wish to sit and enjoy the game can do so without the worry of fans standing in front of them.
Although this Bill itself may be unlikely to become law, this is a fantastic opportunity for football fans to write to their MPs and get them to support Don Foster's efforts.
Aircraft built of carbon fibre
That was a very interesting article in Tuesday's Ideas pages (7 December), particularly the descriptions of the design and testing of modern jet engines. However, the comment that the Boeing Dreamliner "would be the first aircraft to be built from composite materials" is not strictly correct. It is the first airliner to so be built but not the first aircraft.
During the 1990s, I was part of the design team for the fuselage of the McDonnell Helicopters Explorer, which had a few metal parts but was largely built from carbon fibre reinforced resin. The Dreamliner would also incorporate a small proportion of metal parts in the structure.
In the private, home-built scene there are many small aircraft built using glass or carbon fibre reinforced resin. Some of these designs have been around for decades.
Your money or your life
I foresee another problem with the aspirin-a-day idea to guard against cancer and heart disease (letter, 8 December).
On a routine visit to the doctor recently I was given a blood test which indicated a slightly high level of cholesterol. As a consequence I now take statins every day. When I informed my insurance company, they more than doubled the cost of my travel insurance on the grounds that I had a "pre-existing medical condition"'.
If everyone over a certain age has to start taking aspirin regularly, then the insurance companies can put up their prices on the basis that we all have a "pre-existing medical condition" – that condition presumably being getting old.
Greedy for tax?
It is encouraging to see that Gordon Brown (Opinion, 10 December) recognises the link between over-greedy bankers and the waste of 69 million lives in Africa. However it is notable that the over-greedy bankers were allowed to speculate while he was Chancellor. Could it be that the need for corporation tax to fund UK needs was too pressing?
Perspectives on the BBC
This arrogant, lazy giant
Your correspondents David Head and Grahame Smith (7 December) are right to protest at the BBC's bizarre decision to put out wall-to-wall Mozart for 12 days on BBC Radio 3. But one can be sure that their protests will not be acknowledged by this lazy, arrogant, overfed broadcasting giant, whose motto has now become "They will take whatever we give them."
The situation is even worse on terrestrial TV, where so much of the output is given over to celebrity worship, so-called "reality" shows, cooking programmes, re-runs of old comedies which weren't even funny 40 years ago, house makeover pornography, ancient James Bond movies, extended coverage of minority sports like golf and tennis and inane chat shows dressed up as news.
But millions of people have no choice but to pay their licence fee to watch this rubbish. And because there is little else to watch when most people are awake, then, the thinking seems that it must be what people really want. I am sure that not every BBC Radio3 fan will switch off when listening to Don Giovanni for the 12th time that week. So there will still be a big enough audience to "justify" the original decision.
A cheerful voice for classical music
Lord, what stuffy old poops some of your correspondents are. "The one with the rucksack" on Radio 3, not fit to be named, is Rob Cowan.
The morning this intolerable letter appeared (10 December), Cowan was urging people to listen to one of Brahms's delectable and under-performed Serenades. The Serenades, like Rob Cowan, are cheerful. They will bring people intimidated by the mere idea of Brahms to his symphonies and concerti.
Classical music does not have here the audience it has in Germany. You must sell it, and sell it to people whose first reaction is "Not for the likes of us."
Rob Cowan, Suzy Klein and Sarah Walker (two of them speaking regional accents!) are there to make such potential listeners feel comfortable. For the same reason we get regular bits of American musicals and jazz, excellent but unofficial music. They chat in a friendly, unbuttoned way. What do your correspondents want – a fifth marquess in half-mourning announcing Bach like a term of imprisonment?
Thormanby, North Yorkshire
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