On Violent Demonstrations And Democracy


After the University Fees riot on the 9th Dec, Teresa May, David Willetts et al all claimed that “peaceful protest” is legitimate but violent demonstration is unacceptable and undemocratic. On Newsnight Willetts claimed that violent demonstrators are clearly not prepared to take part in the normal democratic process.

But the normal democratic process has clearly been seriously undermined by the ConDem coalition. A government who did not win a general election have launched such an attack on public services that they make Mrs Thatcher look like a Pinko  Keynsian.

The LibDems made specific and very public commitments not to raise tuition fees for university students. On Dec the 9th they conspired with the Conservatives to transfer 100% of the cost of a university education from the state to the student. Is it not “political” to commidify education and undermine the notion of a free education to all citizens? Logically why couldn’t the same arguments about funding of HE be applied to FE students and Sixth Formers? Why should the hard-working tax payer pay for the benefits accrued to other people’s children who stay on at school after 16 to take A-Levels or BTec? Why shouldn’t those students pay fees too?

The ConDems, who did not win an election, are undermining a principle that was established in the UK over 100 years ago after a 200 year struggle – often involving riots and violent demonstration. There is a real down n’dirty political battle going on here about the type of society we want to live in.

Vince Cable claims that once in government politicians cannot be expected to be held to promises made in the election campaign because once in government “tough decisions have to be made”. If this logic is applied generally the electorate can have no idea of what politicians will do if elected. Thus the electorate cannot make informed decisions about who to vote for. The election is literally a waste of time. We might as well draw lots.

To claim that pledges and promises made by politicians during elections become null and void if they get elected is clearly nonsense and fundamentally undermines even the very tenuous concept of democracy that exists in the UK.

I would go so far as to say that the ConDems represent an unelected government coup and frankly we, the electorate, “the people”, to use an old fashioned phrase, have every right, if not a duty, to make it clear to this coalition of election losers that they cannot simply do as they wish, that even an elected government, and this government did not win an election, only gets its legitimacy from the electorate.

The ruling elite in the UK are prepared to use £700 billion of tax payers money to bail out a collapsing banking system and £18 billion to mount wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, despite the biggest “peaceful demonstration” in UK history against the war, and then cut services to tax payers to pay for it all. In the light of this I think we are entitled to use any form of demonstration we can to regain democratic control of our own country.

I Am Not A Number

Political and Philosophical Dispatches From An Individual Living In A Society

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3 responses to “On Violent Demonstrations And Democracy

  1. A splendid argument, but please don’t forget that the Labour Party lost the last general election as well, and who was it who first introduced tuition fees in the first place? You may not agree with the policies being planned and implemented by the current coalition Government, but what else can we do at this moment in time? The Browne Report points the way forward. However, what this space….

  2. Hi Xanavi23

    Thanks so much for commenting. Good stuff. here are my thoughts in reply.

    I was certainly not a New Labour supporter and it was a fundamental error of the Left not to fight the introduction of fees by them. As to what else we could do the list is endless. The debt burden we face is almost entirely due to the financial crisis. In summer 2008 UK debt was 2.5% of GDP well within the post-war average. Besides which the student loan system will not save any money for at least 30 years. It is merely a short term accounting trick that turns the expenditure into an asset by turning it into student debt.

    After the Wall Street crash in 1929 there was a similar rush to cut government spending, this directly led to the world wide depression of the 1930’s and some would argue eventually to WWII. It was only after the start of the depression that Keynsian policies in the UK and USA relieved the depression. The answer to this crisis is absolutely not to cut – and the Conservatives know it. This is why many of us on the Left call the Coalition policies an “idealogical” programme, by which we mean that the Conservatives are using the cover of the financial crisis in order to marketise and commodify what is left of our Welfare State.

  3. Hi ‘I’m Not A Number’,

    You raise some further interesting points, but I suspect that we are only scratching the surface here. I should admit that it is many years since I studied economics, although I accept that there is much to be said for the past successes attributable to Keynesian macroeconomic theory. The use of fiscal and monetary measures to mitigate the adverse effects of a period of economic recession made sense in the 1970s and perhaps it would again today. However my son, who is currently studying to become a secondary school PE teacher finds it hard to see beyond the prospect of an ever-increasing level of post-graduate debt. Plus I’m old enough to remember the fiscal pain that we ordinary working people had to endure during the late 1970s and into the earlier 1980s. If there is a simple answer to the economic difficulties faced by the coalition Government, then I would like to know what it is!

    On a different but related issue, I’m shocked at the news released today of the planned Magistrates and County Court closures. So much for the idea of local justice! The Court Service in England and Wales has to absorb some the highest levels of budget cuts and it is starting to show. I have a professional interest here and it is very sad to witness the reduction in service available to ordinary people. And stop press: the Forensic Science Service is to be closed down….where will it all end?

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