Postcards From The Barricades (Part 5): Before and after in the Tory press


Before yesterday’s national day of occupations and walkouts, London’s students were told by Nick Clegg to “look and make up your minds” about the coalition’s proposals. I’m sure I heard someone on BBC London News tell us that Clegg advised protesters not to go on the demonstration. I remember thinking “Who the hell does he think he’s talking to”?

Then the Telegraph published this story,

Mr Clegg’s security personnel are understood to have told him that it was no longer safe for him to bicycle from his home in Putney, south west London, to his office in the Cabinet Office, beside 10 Downing Street.

There were fears that the Deputy Prime Minister could be knocked from his bicycle or pelted with objects.

If I were Clegg I’d be more worried about holding onto my Commons seat than being knocked off my bike. It’s the least of his worries.

During the protests, Clegg appeared on BBC Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine Show. He said that he “massively regretted finding himself in this situation”.  He can’t complain. He brought all of this upon himself.

The Tory press has been full of the usual stories of “violence” and so on. The Daily Mail goes for a more misogynistic/patriarchal approach and says,

Rioting girls became the disturbing new face of violent protest yesterday.

They threatened to overturn a police riot squad van as they smashed windows, looted riot shields, uniforms and helmets and daubed the sides with graffiti.

That’s strange. I was about 20 metres from the van in question and there was a mix of male and female students rocking the van. Painting this as some sort of riot that was led by a bunch of Riot Girls is a bit, well, stupid and typical of the Mail’s reportage.

The Telegraph has a habit of employing recent Oxbridge graduates and the occasional Tory student who is still studying at university. The Torygraph tells us that,

India Lenon is at Oxford University, combining her studies of Classics with all the other joys of student life

Lenon is their eyes and ears within the dreaming spires. She asks “can the rage-filled girl rioters get out of my library now”? She starts by saying,

So we’re told that after yesterday’s student protests the “Girls are leading the charge”. This may be true, but it may also have something to do with the fact that pictures of attractive schoolgirls smashing up police vans are, well, a bit more eye-catching than ones of balaclava-wearing men.

And adds,

And here in Oxford, that’s exactly what’s happened – even among the student body, a lot of people are now thoroughly sick of the way the protests have been handled. First, the march on London on November 10 was advertised as some sort of free day out, then yesterday a group of students “occupied” the Radcliffe Camera, one of Oxford’s oldest and most beautiful libraries. They’re still in there, demanding things and (apparently) dancing, and they even have a website. The only problem is that the Rad Cam is where the history and English books are housed, and there are several hundred students who have history and English Finals coursework due in next week.

Aw, what a pity and they’re dancing. Surely that isn’t allowed at a protest? Lenon is quite possibly one of those students who gets an allowance from mater and pater, drives a Porsche and drinks Pimms. She doesn’t need to protest. She’s all right, thank you very much. She makes what is possibly the worst analogy ever,

“Occupying” our own library to protest about government cuts and the rise in tuition fees is a bit like occupying your own house to protest about council tax and stopping the rest of your family getting in.

Er, no it isn’t. This is quite different. Besides, she has no sense of history. Would it be pointless to say to her, “1968”?

The Sun produced a pretty typical headline “Student mob in cop van rampage”. Oh, the drama!

One student was even seen urinating against the van as crowds swelled during the angry protest against rising university tuition costs.

There are no public toilets on Whitehall save for Portcullis House. I guess that escaped the staff reporter’s attention. Oddly enough, The Sun repeats the story it ran the previous day with a few alterations. What a load of cheapskates.

Terrified schoolchildren who had come along for a peaceful protest – some as young as 13 and wearing their school uniforms – became hysterical as balaclava-clad demonstrators threw flaming aerosol missiles and shouted: “F*** the cops.”

It must have been the two journos who were behind me who wrote this tripe.

Students last night claimed an anarchist group called Black Book were responsible for smashing up the police van.

What? No names?  I’ve just done a search for this “anarchist” group and guess what? Nothing has come up. I found this. It’s for a photography company. Not the same thing.

The Daily Express attempts to spin the Whitehall protest as a case of the poor plucky police  (who are also facing cuts) versus the ugly, angry mob. Its article starts with,

POLICE were injured as thousands of students took to the streets yesterday to vent their fury over tuition fee rises.

London again bore the brunt of the protests, with two police officers badly hurt in the clashes that went on into the night.

One had his arm broken and another was knocked unconscious as violence erupted in Whitehall.

Forget the reason why the protests happened and concentrate on what happened to a few cops. Well done. The Express repeats the same line about the police van,

As a police van parked in the middle of Whitehall was abandoned to the crowd, youths leapt on the roof, smashed the windscreen, and sprayed the vehicle with graffiti.

And like all the other papers, it refuses to ask the question of why the van was there in the first place when the police knew they were going to be blocking access to Parliament Square. This is either a case of police stupidity or deliberate provocation.

Last night I heard that there had been a horse charge in Manchester and London.  The Met denies that it horse-charged protesters. The site Demotix has images. Indymedia has photos from Manchester here.

There was no mention of the horse charges in any of the papers.


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Filed under London, Student protests

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