Who won the battle of Millbank Tower?


Who won the battle of Millbank Tower? To some it was the triumphal unprising of a new, radicalised generation. To others a political score draw. The violence was an unwelcome distraction, but a message had been sent. Then there were those who saw only a missed opportunity. The largest student protest in decades, undermined by the hotheads and the vandals.

To judge success, it helps to look at objectives. The organisers wanted to draw the eyes of the nation to their cause. In that they were indisputably successful. Every bulletin and front page ran with images of the day. Some saw criminals. Others freedom fighters. But we all bore witness. They also wanted to put the issue at the centre of the public discourse. Again, they were successful. Prime ministers questions, though nominally subcontracted to the deputies, was handed over to the students. Members of parliament shared common cause with the protestors. Members of parliament shunned them. But all felt their presence.

Finally, somewhat lost amid the filth and the fury, there was a policy objective. The reversal of the misleadingly innocuous Browne report. Here, there is less evidence of progress. Clegg has been exposed and humiliated. But Cameron and the Tories, their headquarters excepted, remain relatively unscathed. They will watch carefully to see whether Wednesday’s events represent a flash of youthful disobedience, or the spark that ignites a dangerous conflagration of protest.

But they do not expect people oppressed by their mortgages, jobs and credit card repayments to rise up in defence of the cherished right to study social anthropology with a year in Denmark.

There will be implications, however, for all of us. On Wednesday, at precisely the same time that the doors of Millbank Tower were being smashed down, a wall was being constructed.

On one side of that wall sit the good. Hard-working people. Fair-minded people. Conscientious, thoughtful, law-abiding people.

On the other side sit the bad. Destructive people. Arrogant people. Selfish, lazy, lawless people.

On Wednesday, we on the left found ourselves the wrong side of that wall. And, by default, David Cameron, Nick Clegg and their government escaped to the other.

We can dismantle that wall. We can scale it. But we must do so. And we must so quickly.

These were the best read pieces on Uncut last week:

Peter Watt sympathises with Phil Woolas

Kevin Meagher says three cheers for Nigel Farage

Inside breaks the story of Ken’s pushing for Rahman’s readmission

Tom Watson on Cameron’s vulgar obsession with image

Luke Akehurst on the student riot

Simone Webb defends Sally Bercow

Dan Hodges on Ed Miliband’s gurus

Jessica Asato goes back to Tower Hamlets

2 Responses to “Who won the battle of Millbank Tower?”

  1. Somehow many other EU countries manage with really low student fees. A couple of hundred euros in France for example. Let’s get back to grants not fees as well as getting rid of some stupid courses and reintroducing, for instance, Chemistry, which has gone from many universities in favour of airhead subjects.

  2. AnneJGP says:

    The oddest thing I read about the protest was written by Nina Power, a lecturer in Philosophy at Roehampton University, in an article for the Guardian (link below, I hope).

    Given Ms Power’s academic discipline, I think we can assume she says what she means. “At last the country is beginning to fight back” … “unafraid for the first time in a long time”.

    It is not a long time since the GE. These words can only mean that the present government has freed a country which was lying cowed beneath the heel of the previous government, since it is now no longer afraid.

    I do not know how the Labour government was provoking all this unrest and suppressing the resulting protests so ruthlessly, but one can only conclude: freedom for the people, thanks to the coalition!

    I’d be really interested to know where Ms Power was coming from on this one.

    (The phrases I enclosed in quotation marks are from (a) the sub-heading and (b) the final paragraph.)

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