Thursday, 11 November 2010

Broken windows, not broken bones

It’s a horrible windy, rainy day. The beautiful autumn leaves are flying off the trees and turning into slippery mulch on the pavements and roads. I'm in the laundrette wondering if there’s any way that I can get home without being drenched.

I’ve just had a chat with my Dad on the 'phone and both of us are agreed that there’s nothing wrong with a bit of student rioting! The government, for way too long in this country, has had a licence to dictate. One million people marched peacefully against the war in Iraq and they simply said; “there there” and got on with smashing the country to pieces. It’s all very well for television presenters to universally condemn the rioters out of hand, but my generation and those above us have all benefited from free tuition fees. In fact, with student grants we were effectively paid to study. It’s about time that the government understood the difference between a debt and an investment. Students earn more and therefore will end up paying more tax. It’s a simple formula.

“Broken windows” says my Dad, sagely, “not broken heads...” So a big slap on the wrist to the person who threw the fire extinguisher. But let’s not forget that the last riots in this country ended the poll tax and civil disobedience brought women the vote. If the Government refuses to listen to anything else, it might be time to hit them where it hurts...

...Or to play them at their own game. The Student Union is threatening to use the government’s proposed “rights to recall” act against them. This proposed act comes in the wake of the expenses scandal and says that if something like 10% of a constituency is dissatisfied with their MP, they can force a bi-election. Now, we all know that many cities with a high student population, like Cambridge, also have Liberal Democrat MPs, many of whom were elected on a platform of not raising tuition fees. It is therefore not difficult to imagine an entire student body rallying together and causing mayhem by forcing a bi-election. This is democracy. Power to the people!

It is Armistice Day and I stopped what I was doing at 11am and pottered about the living room in silence, which in fairness is what I was doing anyway. I looked out of the window in the vague hope of seeing a lone figure standing by the side of the A1 in silent contemplation, or perhaps a traffic jam caused by someone who'd stopped driving for two minutes, but it was raining, and sadly no-one seemed to be interested in the inconvenience.

November 11th 1660 was a date with little significance, other than that it was the day that Pepys first entered the galleried pew that the Navy Office had built for themselves at St Olave’s Church. Pepys sat there with the Sir Williams, and because none of their wives were present, the servants sat behind them, Pepys commenting; "I hope it will not always be so, it not being handsome for our servants to sit so equal with us." What a snob.

Pepys then walked to Westminster in “cold, foul and rainy weather”. Some things don’t change! He ate at his father’s house; his cousin Thomas telling his brother Thomas that he loved Elizabeth so much that if she bore Pepys the child that he was desperate for, he would never marry, but leave all that he had to the product of their combined loins. A strange promise. Perhaps he secretly knew that Pepys was infertile! They walked home, Pepys’ boy, Wayneman carrying a link torch, and Will Hewer leading Elizabeth through the pitch black streets.

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