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Three important news stories were sneaked out under the Mooreist Royal Wedding smokescreen.
The first concerned continuing disturbances in the Stokes Croft region of Bristol. There have been squat clearances over the past couple of weeks, coincidentally round about the time a shiny new Tesco opened in the area to the disgust of local residences. The campaign against the Tesco has been – in the Stokes Croft manner – creative, idiosyncratic and popularly supported across the city, based around a network of small shops, communities, artists and activists. And on the other side, a multinational supermarket known for railroading planning laws and with two other shops within 10 minutes walk.
Guess who the police and government are behind. Clue – it’s not the community.
So a longstanding, peaceful squat in an otherwise unused building is raided using “anti-terror” laws with the pretext that Molotov Cocktails were being made to attack Tesco (so basically they had fuel, clothes and bottles in the building – watch your doors people!). Today they came back for the remainder of the “activists” in the same large squat, Telepathic Heights. In a police helicopter. Ending in a 2hr rooftop stand-off. This localised incident can be seen in the light of many other squat clearances and activist arrests today and armed police with shoot-to-kill orders, all to safeguard the Royal Wedding.
Yeah, today the UK saw arrests without evidence or charge, mass evictions (squatting is, of course, legal) all supported by helicopters and police with orders to kill. ‘Scuse me while I don’t put the flags out and street party like it’s 1859.
Another blink-and-you’ll miss it story came from our increasingly beleaguered University sector, where it emerged that the Office For Fair Access (OFFA) will not be requiring any of the universities that have recently been trebling their student fees to moderate their charges, even if their “access agreements” turn out to be (as with Cambridge) the same or similar to those which are currently in place. For all the “exceptional circumstance” talk, for all the “predicted £7,500 average”, for all the “tough new access requirements”, what we have here is market red in tooth and claw, and institutions out for what they can get away with. There are no safeguards, there is no moderation, this skewed and phony market in the intangible and often immeasurable personal opportunity good of education is all we have.
The students that pointed this out were kettled, beaten, and patronised by the police and government. A failure in communication by the state apparently – not a total disconnect between what the coalition are trying to sell and what young people are trying to buy…
Also trickled out today was the news that the expected 4% cuts to NHS primary care budgets will in fact be 7%, these cuts (never before achieved in any health service in the world) to be made during another unnecessary governance reorganisation (itself a direct contradiction of a manifesto promise, that will cost billions to implement) and, somehow, without cutting frontline services. The NHS reforms are currently “on hold” for a listening exercise which seems, like about student fees, to be merely another chance for us to be told what is happening (and if we don’t buy it, to be told “calm down, dear“.)
For a government that has drastically cut public sector communications budgets, this is a beautifully ironic string of communication failures. And the sting comes, like in Stokes Croft, when the state conception of reality differs so profoundly from your own that you become a terrorist yourself.
In the UK we have a government that cannot communicate, cannot consult and cannot deal with anything other than total agreement – carrying out wave after wave of the most destructive and poorly though out policy we have ever seen. And backing this up with an increasingly visible and violent police presence. This is not hyperbole. This is happening.
[note: the sections on Stoke Croft have been updated on 30th April, following clarifications from "StokesCrofter", below)