The Problem with Protests

The Problem with Protests

Freddie Michell on leaving out personal political agendas

Last Wednesday I went to the March for Free Education. The conversations with enthusiastic volunteers and activists about the possibilities for free higher education were thought-provoking and compelling. However, despite the common cause of free higher education, many people in the crowd had brought along party political material.

Supporters handed out Communist UK flags and Green party materials before the march, whilst stressing that their respective parties supported free education. Members of other political identities were likewise out in force, reminding students that free education could only come through membership to their political group.

Jumping on the free education bandwagon to boost membership and support for political groups’ moves us ever further from any serious debate or progress. Instead, the message is diluted and confused; different political agendas and attitudes take control, offering their version of free education, irrespective of conflicting ideas or narratives.

Westminster decisions do affect tuition fees and funding, there is an intrinsic political aspect to the free education debate. However, adding free education into party political narratives- us versus them – only detracts from its own merits. Instead of genuinely debating free education, the idea is lost in an overarching political narrative that lambasts the Tories.

The organisers of the march were, unfortunately, too political. By exclusively offering campaigns in association with party politics, they quell meaningful debate, alienate students and reduce turnout. The spare placards lying forlornly in the UCL quad suggest that yet another potential campaign has become a symptom of over-politicisation.

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