The value of dissent

Today, despite the weeks of student protests, the government passed the bill to raise tuition fees. So were all our efforts in vain?

Today, on Thursday the 9th of December, the House of Commons voted on whether or not to raise tuition fees and, by only a small margin of 21, the bill passed its first vote. So, in spite of the Demolition, in spite of the nationwide sit-ins and walks-outs, in spite of all the protesting, it still seems the Government is going to have its way. In the light of this it seems only fair to ask the question that has been thrown at me a lot over the past month: why protest?

Now, to clarify, this question has not been put to me in an ideological context. A debate of ideas on whether or not the proposals are good for this country’s future is something that I would always welcome. Rather, what I was really being asked was why bother protesting at all? It’s not like you’re going to achieve anything.

And as we stand just shy of those first steps towards this proposal becoming law, the sceptics may feel that their cynicism has been vindicated. ‘You haven’t achieved anything,’ they’ll say, ‘we knew you wouldn’t and we told you so. It has been just a colossal waste of your time.’

But has it really? I would argue not.

For one thing, the level of public debate in this country has been raised and raised dramatically. This issue has raged not only in the opinion pages or amongst the politically engaged, but it has permeated classrooms and common rooms across the nation. It has put the youth – so often dismissed as ignorant and apathetic – onto the streets to fight for their corner. In short, political awareness has been heightened, and that can never be a bad thing.

What is more, Liberal Democrat and Conservative MPs have resigned over the tuition fees increase, and many more have voted against it. Naturally, they may have been planning to do this all along on grounds of principle, but the public pressure may have been the thing that tipped them over the edge, ensuring that they stuck to their liberal ideals.

The real kick in the teeth however, is that if everyone who asked ‘why bother protesting?’ – and I am in no doubt that I was not the only one on the receiving end of such scepticism – had protested, public pressure would have been infinitely larger. But fighting apathy is a battle for another day.

For now, to all those who got up, got out and voiced their opinion, you deserve applauding. Your time has not been wasted. The bill may still pass into law, but your efforts have not gone unnoticed. Whilst the victories may seem small, they are nonetheless significant, and should prove to all the value of bothering to protest.


  1. 9 Dec ’10 at 10:25 pm

    Lloyd Sparkes

    I believe you are incorrect when you say “the bill passed its first vote”

    Today a bill was not voted on, it is a motion, which passed, so higher tutition fees are done. There are not any more votes on that issue. There maybe more votes on other repayment issues though.

    I maybe incorrect, but looking at what the business of parliament was today, just showed a motion, which i think they used to modify the existing figures in the current bill, so only one vote.

    But i am a CS student so i could be wrong


  2. 9 Dec ’10 at 10:28 pm

    Lloyd Sparkes

    Also on your question about protesting.

    Protesting about about using force to change policy, but i think society has changed, and thats why its pointless these days. People should use their brains to provide logical and reasoned arguements to change a policy, not protesting.


  3. 10 Dec ’10 at 2:39 pm

    Pint of Guinness please Sir

    The protests have been damaging for the student population, but have in some ways heightened their reputation. Of course, students are now seen as a mob, and in many ways higher education is wasted on those who think that violence is a good way to make a point. Yet it shows that we will not die quietly, and that the apathy that so many assumed is rife in the student population is not as widespread as first thought. Mr Wheatley, you have made a good point here.


  4. Wheatley, i had no idea you were capable of over 100 words! A toast!


  5. 15 Dec ’10 at 12:08 am

    Leonard "Bones" McCoy

    If the student protestors really wanted to make a point, they should have done a Fathers4Justice style demonstration – wearing a graduation gown whilst climbing and hanging banners off of a restricted building or something. But this would have required a) some thought as to what kind of demonstration would make the best possible media impact, and b) strapping on a pair.