As good as arrest;Diary

26th February 1999 at 00:00
High drama as a fax arrives, its headline screaming: "WE HAVE OCCUPIED DAVID BLUNKETT'S OFFICE IN THE NAME OF FREE EDUCATION".

The days of protest are back again with a strike force from Sheffield Hallam students' union taking over Blunkett's constituency office to protest at tuition fees, the end of grants, and Government hypocrisy on lifelong learning ("If you're over 55 you don't get a grant, you'll probably have to pay fees and they won't lend you any money either," the defiant press release sneers). It's an unfolding drama, too: nine minutes after the announcement of the coup d'etat, a second fax arrives, identical but for a scrawled addition: "Have been arrested and are at Bridge St police station." We ring union president Charlotte Matthews on her mobile. She sounds gloomy.

"Yes, we've all been arrested. We're at the police station. Sorry, I'm going to have to go now."

At HQ, communications officer Anna Wallis is more upbeat. "It's quite exciting," she says cheerily (she's not the one facing charges). "They got into the office and sat down but the police arrived pretty quickly."

Occupation lasted just over half an hour. Our admiration is tinged with only slight disappointment that having occupied Blunkett's office our guerillas didn't then occupy his fax machine. The releases came from the students' union.

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