Monday, December 13, 2010

Minority X-Factor Winner

Interesting voting results from the finals of the X-Factor:

Matt - 45%
Rebecca - 39%
One Direction - 13%
Cher - 4%

Shock! Horror! Matt wins with less than 50% of the vote and the country accepts it? Does this mean that the UK is happy that the person with the most votes wins..?

I suppose it's just another reason to say No2AV

Friday, December 10, 2010

Protesting for Dummies

Keep to the planned route

DO NOT follow other people like sheep - you are an intelligent student. If you start walking over broken-down barriers, it should give you an inkling that you're going in the wrong direction. Turn around and ask a policeman where you're supposed to be.

Parliament Square was not the planned route of #dayx3 and after continuous violence against the police and property, the Square became a crime scene.

Whenever this happens, you cease being a protester and become either a witness or perpetrator and are part of an official crime investigation. Think of it as CSI London.

From here on in, you will find you're not in Kansas anymore. Don't bother complaining as you should have been somewhere else.

Don't get involved

If you see a gang of people wearing hoodies and balaclavas starting to rush towards a police line or smashing their way into a building, DO NOT follow them to see what's up and then complain when you get hit by a police baton.

Getting cool photos to upload to your Facebook page is a really silly reason to be anywhere near trouble - even if you have got a new mobile you want to show off.

The police will have restricted vision because they're covered in paint; have had continuous verbal abuse thrown at them; along with sharpened posts (which are better known as spears), steel cages, concrete blocks and snooker balls. They will not be happy-chappies. Keep away from them.

Similarly, if you see a line of police horses, they are not out on a hack - they are there to scare the bejesus out of you. If a thin line of police are being attacked by thugs, they will charge only as a last resort to protect the line.

You may not see the reason for the charge, but there will be one - and they don't tend to give out warnings. So if you find yourself nose to nosebag with a police horse, you are in the wrong place - move to the edge of the crowd and find somewhere else to sit it out.

Bring your Common Sense

If someone is injured, accompany or carry them towards a police line (that isn't being attacked at the time) and ask for medical help. DO NOT ring 999 because you're missing your last train home (or someone nicked your snowman).

Follow @CO11MetPolice on Twitter so you don't miss any instructions. They will tell you where they will set up toilet and water facilities if the containment will be in force for some time.

There is no excuse for urinating against statues of figures that fought to protect your right to protest. Your face - or builder's bum - will be in all the next day's papers and you will be arrested because your ex-girlfriend/boyfriend will shop you in (if you've ever had a partner that is).

Be prepared for the long haul

Boredom, being chilly or becoming peckish are not excuses for leaving a containment. You're the one that didn't follow the planned route, so you're not going anywhere now. It was your choice. Stop whingeing.

The police are not information desks and are only doing what they're ordered to do. You'll probably know more about what's happening than them because they tend not to check their email while they're avoiding a barrage of missiles.

They won't think about letting you go until the children have stopped their tantrums, so keep warm but don't start burning national monuments or other people's property to do so - burn your own banners. Hopefully, you were sensible enough to bring warm clothing and gloves. I would advise against bringing a balaclava unless you want to be targeted by a police baton.

Containment is a way for the police to get all of you into a single, secure area. It is likely that if you are contained, it means that there is either trouble elsewhere that requires more immediate attention, or that a slow release is being planned. This is for your own benefit, to weed out the thugs, so they don't end up on your next protest. Be patient - it will takes hours and hours and hours... and you will miss your last train. Sorry about that.

While you're waiting, keep in mind that everyone who kept to the planned route is now watching you freeze your proverbials off from the comfort of their sofa with a steaming Pot Noodle, so it's probably best not to be there in the first place, eh?

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Do students know what they're protesting about?

I admire the student protesters. It's great to see young people having an interest in politics. This will hopefully spark an increase in voter turnout of 18-24 year olds, which has been pretty dismal to say the least.

The only problem I have (apart from the violence) is that many of the demonstrators seemed to be so misinformed. Even this morning - one day before the vote - I was contacted by someone calling himself a "students' union professional" who had no idea that £9,000 was only going to be charged in exceptional circumstances.

If I were a student, I would make sure I knew all the facts and was protesting for the right reasons. So here's a few fallacies the student union keep bleating about and the truth behind them:

Everyone's tuition fees are going up to £9,000 per year

No. Universities wanting to charge more than £6,000 will have to undertake measures, such as offering bursaries, summer schools and outreach programmes, to encourage students from poorer backgrounds to apply.

Universities Minister David Willetts says universities will only be allowed to charge fees of £9,000 in "exceptional circumstances", which he said might mean if they had high teaching costs, or if a university was offering an intensive two-year course.

Students will have a lifetime of debt

No. If the loan hasn't been paid off within 30 years, it's automatically written off.

If students are being charged more, they will pay back more each month

No. The total amount paid off will of course be higher, but the repayment per month will drop considerably.

The threshold at which graduates have to start paying their loans back would be raised from £15,000 to £21,000.

Graduates would pay back 9% of their income each month above that threshold. So at £21,000 this would equate to around £7 per month.

Students from poorer families will be priced out from going to university

No. Maintenance grants will rise from £2,906 to £3,250 for students from households earning less than £25,000 and pupils who have been eligible for school meals could get up to two years' worth of fees paid by the government under plans being considered.

In most cases, this means they would only have to take out tuition fee loans for their third and final year of study.

UPDATE: CCHQ have just released this website

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Students v Suffragettes

The 18th November 2010 was the centenary of Black Friday.

In the summer of 1910, an all-party group of MPs devised the Conciliation Bill, which would extend the right to vote to around one million wealthy, property-owning women, and it passed its second reading by 299 votes to 189 but on Friday 18th November 1910 the PM, Herbert Henry Asquith, refused it further parliamentary time.

In response, Mrs Pankhurst led a deputation of 300 to the Houses of Parliament. The police obstructed them and a violent skirmish ensued. Over 100 were arrested and many were injured. The event has ever since been referred to as Black Friday.

During the 3 days of violence, 285 arrests were made, 75 women imprisoned, many were injured and 3 later died from their injuries. As the Government continued to break promises, so women's fury and impatience increased, and the WSPU [Women's Social and Political Union] resorted to damaging property including window-smashing raids and arson. Altogether, over a thousand women went to prison.

Read more about the suffragettes on the CWO website

The events of Black Friday were a public relations disaster for the government, including the Home Secretary, Winston Churchill. The press took the side of the suffragettes, printing pictures of police assaulting unarmed female protesters and the actions of the police were greatly criticised.

Women were taking a stand against a male-dominated world, protesting the Victorian belief that men were more intelligent than women and that a woman couldn't possibly be trusted to sensibly choose a candidate in an election (or, even worse, stand for election herself).

Step forward 100 years.

School children and students rampage through the streets of London. Most are on a jolly so they can say that they were there; some are out to cause as much trouble and damage as possible; and the rest believe that they are being hard-done by and want to protect further education for the future.

The latter, I have no problem with. The first I encourage to stay at home and study instead. But it's the minority that are misunderstood.

They are not anarchists; they are not communists; nor are they revolutionaries. They are angry because they're teenagers and their hormones are overwhelming them. Bless.

As every parent of two different sexed children will tell you, girls go through the "I hate you!" phase a lot earlier than boys do. Boys tend to wait until they get a sniff of independence, then go overboard, getting wrapped up in anything that sparks an interest. Give these "anarchists" a couple of years and their first sexual experience and they'll wonder what all the fuss was about.

So, other than hormones, what's the difference between the violence on the streets 100 years ago and the violence on the streets today? The answer is support. The suffragettes had it - the students don't.

Had they sent a deputation to parliament, had Aaron Porter schmoozed the media (rather than just want to be interviewed), had Nelson's Column remained untouched, then more people would listen to them. But instead their support dropped faster than a fire extinguisher off 30 Millbank.

I'm also not entirely sure that they know what they're protesting about. All they hear is £9000 and it's off for a sit-in at the local council chambers.

Children, it's cold outside and burning a bus shelter isn't going to keep the fight warm. If you want to learn how to campaign and lobby properly then do some research and read a book or two...

Oops. Sorry. My mistake.