Scenes of 18 year olds smashing the windows of the Tory Party HQ were not what I expected today. I expected it to be big – possibly the biggest demonstration since the Iraq war protests of March 2003. But I didn’t count for the anger of a doomed youth.
The NUS were quick to criticise. But the truth is that this is what you get. This is what you get if you condemn people to a lifetime of debt. This is what you get if you force millions out of university and into the dole queue. This is what you get when you decide that a whole generation doesn’t care, and you refuse to care for the future of that generation.
The Tory HQ may have had a few windows wrecked today. But that’s nothing to the hammer that’s been taken to the lives of the people who were doing the wrecking – and to the hopes of their brothers and sisters, and the prospects of their school-mates and their friends.
I was there. And while we are told that this was a minority of radicals, what I saw was not just the usual suspects. I know many of the usual suspects. What I saw was 18 year olds who had never been to a demonstration before. Ordinary students who are fighting for their younger siblings, for the people a few years below them at school, for the kid next door – fighting to ensure that the next generation can afford an education.
So whether or not we condemn violence, whatever the NUS says, this will just be the start. Because a generation which has had our own apathy drilled into us is waking up. And politicians are beginning to learn that if you shut people out of education, and out of society, then they will break their way in.
What I saw today was not hardened activists hijacking a demonstration. It was hundreds of angry students doing what people do when they are angry: the anger of a youth who refuse to be doomed – a generation of students making it clear that today’s demonstration was not the last stand for publicly funded Higher Education; it was just the beginning.
UPDATE: you can hear me discuss this on Radio Scotland at 48 mins in here.