The only things that have had more column inches over the last month are snow and the royal wedding.
Students have managed to force themselves onto the front of newspapers and into the centre of a national debate. And a week today, this whole process will culminate with a vote in Parliament, the result of which will change University education forever.
December 9th has been set as the day the issue of student fees will go before the House of Commons. As it stands, a handful of Lib Dem MPs will vote against the proposals, a handful will abstain, and most will vote in favour. With the Conservative party generally united behind the plans, this will mean that despite the largest student uprising in a generation, we will lose.
SUSU have so far done some amazing things to campaign against cuts and fee increases. The demo on November 10th was smoothly organised, well publicised and well attended. Rob Stanning, in particular, has been apparently tireless in lobbying local MPs, and both of these things must have had an impact. But if we are serious about this campaign, we need to be in London on December 9th.
I know what happened at Millbank on November 10th put a lot of people off. Equally, the well publicised aggression of the police on the two subsequent demonstrations will stop a lot of people from wanting to attend. This is understandable. But there are those who still care enough about the issue not to be deterred.
The policing of the demonstration will be aggressive. I was in London on November 24th, and I saw it first hand. The second day of action last Tuesday did nothing to suggest this will change. But if we allow the threat of police aggression to stop us from protesting about something we care about, how can we claim to live in a democracy?
Those who go to the demonstration on December 9th, like me, will go knowing the policing could get violent. But as politically conscious adults, they will feel it is important enough to go anyway. SUSU would do better to help and support them than attempt to protect them. At any rate, 50,000 students are harder to kettle and baton charge than 5,000.
There will be some elements of the crowd out to cause trouble. There will also be some elements out to carry out acts of direct action which SUSU may or may not condone. But we should not let that stop us from going along and protesting in the way we see fit. Just because you are part of a crowd does not make you accountable for the actions of everyone in it.
On December 9th all the debate that has gone on over the last few months, all the protests, occupations, lobbying and letter writing will come to a head. By December 10th, it will be too late to do anything. But as the MPs go into Parliament to vote, they need to see the strength of the opposition to the proposals. They need to be reminded that we aren’t going to forget about this at the next election. They need to see that students are no longer the soft target they took us for.
And then, just maybe, some of those who are already in two minds about it, and who remember their pre-election pledge, might finally be persuaded to vote against a fee raise.
If nothing else, we owe it to future generations of university students to try.
Six coaches of students went to London from Southampton last time. I am not convinced that none of these students want to go again. If SUSU cares about stopping the raise in fees, if they haven’t given up the fight and if they want to carry on the fantastic work they have so far done, they need to support the protest in London on December 9th.