19th November 2010 at 00:00

Battle of Millbank's ideological casualties

Irony was always likely to be in plentiful supply at the Battle of Millbank - last week's student demonstration over the HE fees hike and the loss of education maintenance allowance - to judge from previous campaigns over tuition fees. FErret once marched with well-bred Cambridge students, who struggled to make "education for the masses, not just for the ruling classes" rhyme. This time, masked anarchists joined the protest, waving their black-and-red flags from the roof of Conservative HQ at a demonstration demanding, er, more state intervention in education.

Woodhouse College in north London found itself branded "socialist" by Kevin Thurley, father of 18-year-old protestor Liv, who suggested that her college had led her astray. Indeed, the college is so socialist it produced Lord Young, first employment secretary, then trade and industry secretary under Margaret Thatcher. Lord Young is now reviewing health and safety law for the Coalition, presumably along Maoist lines.

Consider the case of Olivia Wedderburn, an 18-year-old from Esher College. As one of the rooftop protestors who, by all accounts, did nothing worse than walking up some stairs, she subsequently found herself lumped in with the Daily Mail's "hardcore leaders of the student mob". (Lewis Evans from Hackney Community College got himself on the list after throwing a chair at a window, while wearing a policeman's hat.)

On her return, Olivia was suspended by principal Dan Dean for three days for taking the day off without permission. FErret is aware that colleges don't have that many sanctions at their disposal, but all the same, it's rather like punishing a shoplifter with a supermarket sweep.

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