Riot! Smash! Destroy! No Compromise! Down With The Rotters!
Yes, the streets of London have become a battlefield. We’re talking full on destruction, the end of times, Revelations, and all that. OK, perhaps not. Perhaps it was just a small bunch of tits who got carried away, but there is a larger bunch of tits who can’t be dismissed: the NUS.
First of all, I’m not wholly against violent protest. I think there is a place for it, though that place is rare and only in cases of extreme immorality on behalf of the state. After protesting the Iraq War time and time again, perhaps a little violence might have tipped the scales in our favour? After all, the government sure showed us that no amount of peaceful protest was going to change their minds. Not one bit, m’laddio. But even in that case, with all the ethical urgency and life or death outcomes available, violent protest would probably have proven counter productive, turning opinion against us, rather than against Blair and The Sun.
How tragic then, that instead of getting violent over bombing innocents, our students chose to get ‘so passionate that they couldn’t control themselves’ over having to pay a bit more in fees for their education. Now, forgive me for siding with a Conservative administration, but doesn’t that strike you as a tad selfish? It doesn’t come across as a principled stand, but more as an attempt to be a bit richer in the future. It’s not even as if they have to pay the fees up front, they pay them back once they are earning above 21k. If your degree proves worthless when it comes to getting a job, then – hurrah! – the state isn’t going to come knocking.
Now, I’m saying this with full sympathy for their cause. I believe that education should be free, but I also am a pragmatist who understands that things provided by the state need to be paid for, and there currently is no money. It’s a huge shame, but students need to foot-the-bill. It’s better that than, say, shutting down the NHS, or ending primary school education and leaving it up to parents.
So should students feel pissed off? Certainly. Should they be getting violent? Certainly not. It makes them look like toddlers throwing a strop.
But I began the article pointing the finger of judgement at the NUS, rather than the violent few. What are they doing wrong?
It seems the NUS, furious at the rise in tuition fees, have decided to punish the Lib Dems for abandoning their pledge to oppose tuition fees. They have threatened a decapitation strategy of every Liberal MP who votes for the bill. With such harsh opposition, MP’s such as Nick Clegg, might lose their seats come the next election.
Surely, I hear you say, that is the correct thing for a pressure group to do? The Lib Dems did, after all, break their promise and need to be held to account. Shouldn’t the NUS flex their muscles?
No, and here is the reason why. If the NUS punish the Lib Dems harshly, it could cripple our democracy.
The British public no longer want to vote for just two parties. The choice between Labour and Conservative is one that is no longer palatable in the modern era. Some will want to vote Liberal, some Green, some UKIP, SNP, etc. This shift is only going to continue, eating away at the old system where one party would control parliament over the other.
In this multi-party future, the only way of getting a government that can pass legislation is for coalitions to be formed (something very common in Europe). It could be Liberal-Conservative, Labour-Green, Conservative-UKIP, anything, as long as it controls a majority in the house of commons. These coalitions will need to negotiate a platform for governance, somewhere between the two parties ideologies, depending upon how many seats that party has. For instance, imagine a coalition is formed between the Green party and UKIP. In this imagined outcome the Green party has 320 seats and UKIP has 50. Obviously the Greens have the greatest sway in this case, and their policies would be close to the Green Manifesto with some anti-Europe concessions. If the seats were reversed it would be a mostly Euro-Sceptic government, with a few policies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
In elections, all parties would still campaign of what they would do if they got a majority by themselves, but if they formed a coalition, then obviously what they do would be somewhere between them and their new partner, depending upon how many chips the electorate dealt each of them.
So why are the NUS threatening our democracy? If they punish the Lib Dems for compromising, then it will scare political parties out of either promising anything vaguely ideological that couldn’t be negotiated in a coalition, or they will cease forming coalitions at all. In either eventuality groups such as the NUS can kiss their goals goodbye as British politics is either brought into a fearful state of stalemate, or turned into an awful homogeneous gloop, with no politician willing to propose something difficult to deliver.
What should the NUS be doing instead? They should be out campaigning for the Lib Dems, trying to give them a majority next time, instead of forcing them to compromise with the Tories. Sadly it looks like they want to destroy the one real political ally they have.
Stupid bloody students.