Britain may face another winter of discontent
The howling mob, initially startled at seeing the royals, shouted "off with their heads", shook the vehicle, threw paint over it and prodded Camilla with a stick.
THE center of London was beset by student protesters last week incensed at the government's tripling of university fees. A hooded minority, their faces partially covered with scarves, smashed Treasury windows and doors, battered the Supreme Court building, defaced a statue of Sir Winston Churchill, set a giant Christmas tree alight, dragged mounted police off their horses and attacked a classic Rolls Royce limousine carrying the heir to the British throne Prince Charles and his wife Camilla Duchess of Cornwall on their way to a Royal Variety Performance in Leicester Square.
The howling mob, initially startled at seeing the royals, shouted "off with their heads", shook the vehicle, threw paint over it and prodded Camilla with a stick. Such attack on top-ranking members of the royal family is unprecedented and contemptible and will, no doubt, turn many Britons, who were previously sympathetic to the students' cause, against it.
In fairness, many students were shocked by the violence shown by their fellows and blamed nonstudent anarchist elements for infiltrating what was meant to be a peaceful protest. Others remained defiant telling reporters that Britons must brace themselves for worse to come. As a comeback, the home secretary has warned that next time riot police may be empowered to use water cannon to quell civil disturbance, which has never been used before in England's history.
Government officials have all congratulated the police on a job well done but others argue the way police corralled students for many hours in freezing temperatures without food or water contributed to student anger. The police have also been blamed for allowing Prince Charles and his wife to drive through the troubled area with minimal security protection in a car with open windows that was neither bulletproofed nor reinforced.
While I consider the violent attacks to be utterly reprehensible - and detrimental to the cause - the students' complaint is justified. In my day, British students were not asked to pay a penny in tuition fees and they were also at liberty to apply for generous governmental living allowances.
Today's young people are faced with a double-whammy. When I started out jobs were twoa-penny in London. Employees could walk out of one in the morning and into another that same afternoon. I recall that a boss complained about the smell of my lunchtime minestrone soup whereupon I marched out with my nose in the air, headed off in the direction of an employment agency, was sent on an interview and was at another company's desk at 5 pm.
Nowadays, even students with first class degrees may wait up to a year to get their careers going. The last thing they need is to begin working saddled with massive student loans in the region of 29,000 pounds or more. Young doctors, for instance, who study up to five years, could find themselves owing 45,000 pounds, which is almost a third of the cost of an average house in England.
It seems to me to be totally unfair to burden young people at the outset and, worse, bright youngsters from the poorer sectors of the community will be deterred from further education, which in a modern democracy, should be the right of all. During the leadership of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, the gap between rich and poor was greatly widened and the chasm is now set to increase even further.
Wealthy teenagers will be able to rely on mummy and daddy to pick up the tab; those from bluecollar families will be destined to remain on the wrong side of the tracks. Whatever Britain's economic plight may be, cutting educational opportunities represents a false economy. An educated population is the backbone of any forward-thinking modern nation. There are some things that are sacrosanct; education is one of them - or should be.
The UK's Cameron-led coalition government can't succeed, said pundits at the outset. The basic philosophies of the centerright Conservative and the leftleaning Liberal Democrats are too disparate, they said. I could understand those concerns but didn't endorse them at the outset.
Although stereotypically, Conservatives are seen as old school tie-wearing guardians of the establishment while the typical Liberal Democrat is a slightly ruffled, pipe puffing, sandal-clad, anti-war rebel, I thought that they would find ways to compromise. The problem is they have - or to be more precise the Liberal Democratic leader Nick Clegg has abandoned his firm pre-election promises and rolled-over.