The police thought they were so clever. They warned protestors as they exited Charing Cross: “You could be here longer than you think.” They did not mention the word ‘kettle,’ they didn’t have to—everyone knew what they meant. Like last Wednesday they had prepared to hem student protestors into a neat cordon off Parliament Square. They lay in wait. Along the side streets off Whitehall, police vans were parked up; each packed with police officers—some 600 in all. And then there were the horse boxes, containing perhaps the same horses who had been involved in last week’s action, when protestors were charged at until they dispersed, until they ran.
Déjà vu in less than six days. But this time it would be different. Again 4,000 protestors marched down Whitehall. Again the police blocked their way. And then something different. The protestors turned. Like swallows catching the air current, in unison they wheeled. Four thousand people reversed back up to Trafalgar and then under Admiralty Arch and straight through St James Park. The police desperately tried to reform their neat, strong, unified lines. But they were just too slow. The students roamed freely, testing every entrance into Parliament Square, reforming and flowing outwards again at every blockade. Wherever they gallivanted they closed the streets and stopped the traffic. They would be heard. There were no leaders, no one pointed a way forward. They just carried on moving.
Why were they here? Who were these kids—some as young as ten—rallying through London’s streets? These are no revolutionaries, anarchists, or even socialists. It is worse than that. They want something more than just a reversal of higher education cuts and the scrapping of the Education Maintenance Allowance which allows poor 16 year olds to go to college. They don’t want stuff per se; they have long since tired of their iPods and the latest version of Medal of Honour. They want the most intangible accessory of all: aspiration.
At heart these really are Thatcher’s children. Most of them will say they hate her—a remarkable thing given that almost all of them were born after she left office. But in truth they believe in free markets, in individualism, in liberty and autonomy. They’d be the first to reel back…