The title isn’t intended to diminish the efforts of elected politicians who may question the agenda now being revealed by the Coalition, but is intended to ask where the more visible opposition to the cuts might come. Were the student protests merely a one-off? Will the incidence of violence last week put others off? What reaction may come from the right?
From personal experience, the short answer to those three questions is No, No, and effectively None. I will explain.
The student protest had an easily identifiable target: rising tuition fees. That rise could be easily quantified. That made the task of getting students to attend the march easier, and with the NUS organising and co-ordinating the attendees, the protest could then be focused on that march.
Other groups may not as yet know what the Government has in store for them, with the effects not yet felt. They may not have the organisational nous of the NUS to hand, but if there is a sufficient swell of opinion, they will get organised, and their dissent will be heard.
The ruckus at Tory HQ last week may have involved serious or even fatal injury if that fire extinguisher had hit someone. Fortunately it did not. Otherwise, there were some incidents of vandalism and any injuries were minor: all could have been prevented had the police protected the building as they did the Lib Dem HQ in Cowley Street.
The latter point needs making: I’m not going to suggest that wilful damage to property is acceptable, but that the police did not move to cordon off 30 Millbank is a major factor in the subsequent disturbance. In any case, that there was some incidence of violence will not stand in the way of future protests: the Poll Tax riots didn’t stop the opposition to that tax.
What of any backlash from the right? Counter demonstrations featuring the comfortably off can be ruled out, and the usual nutters on the fringe such as the BNP and EDL will have enough of their own supporters suffering the effects of spending cuts. They won’t be going in to bat for the Coalition.
And the right wing press and blogosphere? Consider this: how many scalps have they taken from last week’s protest? Precisely none. And as long as the wider public are broadly sympathetic, or at least not hostile, that state of affairs will endure, whatever the rhetoric of the usual suspects.
A warm and dry summer – we haven’t had one of those since 2006, so maybe one is due – could result in the Government having a seriously difficult time.