Being a politically aware person all round, and a great fan (at least in theory) of telling off people who have done something wrong, not to mention feeling terribly betrayed by the LibDems despite my lack of voting power in Britain (they seemed like the sensible people, dammit; and now they are all skulking around doing dodgy things with dodgy people -- it is not right) I naturally joined the local protest against cuts in education funding in Britain. It helped that I am very much opposed to the idea that education should be something you have to pay for in principle.
We quickly headed off, however, armed with copies of Nick Clegg's pledge to vote against cuts. Here is a picture of him holding it (I don't know who has taken it, and no websites hosting it seem to feel that that is relevant information):
TO VOTE AGAINST
ANY INCREASE IN FEES
in the next parliament
and to pressure the
government to introduce
A FAIRER ALTERNATIVE
And it is signed by Nick Clegg, the deceptively friendly-looking man holding it.
Now, you may say (as Rebekah repeatedly has) that all politicians lie and that anyone naïve enough to believe them deserve what is coming to them. But that is not quite true. Politicians fudge their replies, dodge questions, prevaricate and generally behave in a thoroughly unsatisfactory way, yes. But they rarely provide u-turns like this one. Here is Clegg before the election. Here is an excerpt from a satirical article I found:
“I guess what I meant to sign was an agreement to get rid of students over a six year period. I think all those students misunderstood my real message. You cannot blame me or my party for saying anything to try and get in to power.”
Looking rather worried he also added, ” We quite honestly would have sold Vince Cable’s arse on Clapham Common if it meant I could get my foot across the Downing Street threshold.” Mr Clegg confirmed whilst taking a quick drag on his cigarette before setting alight to other election pledges in his office dustbin.
But back to the demonstration. I think the idea was that we would post the copies of the pledge through the letterbox of the LibDem offices in Edinburgh. This meant walking from Bristo Square to Haymarket, which we did quite cheerfully. We were cold, but at this point not dreadfully so. There were a couple of nifty chants, the most popular being
I seem to remember there being one about him having turned Tory, but it never caught on and now I cannot remember. Having reached Haymarket, this is what faced us:
And so the study-in began. It was like a sit-in, but with books. And outside. They kept interrupting it with appeals that we couldn't hear because lecturers insisted on confirming their notorious ineptitude in all things technical by speaking softly into megaphones while holding them like michrophones. But what mattered was the principle of the thing.
I was a little surprised, because there had been talk about sitting there "all day" and we had hardly had time to even open our books without some interruption or other. But I assumed everyone was feeling the cold. At the very first intersection, however, everyone sat down again.
Now, at this point I started thinking thoughts.
I do that sometimes.
The proportion of students to generally scary-looking people with masks around their necks (ready to be put on at any moment, and sometimes already worn) seemed to change. And the cries also changed towards something along the lines of
students, workers, unite and fight.
It annoyed me a little that instead of making a point outside the LibDem offices, we were suddenly (as one of my co-students put it) reclaiming the streets. By sitting down at every intersection. And with the increasing aggression around me joining up with my slight annoyance, I decided that sitting down at every intersection between Haymarket and Bristo Square was not worth the potential of getting caught up in a hijacked demonstration like the one in London.
If we were going to be sitting down in the street, the sensible thing to do would seem to be to do that where we could make a clear point. I don't know why we didn't. Whether it was because someone felt a bunch of people studying in the streets was not aggressive enough, or whether the organisers simply got cold and felt they had to walk a little in between. At any rate, I went home after Tollcross.