Thursday, December 9, 2010

God Save the Queen, and the Prince, and Camilla, and British Democracy.

I've never met a protest I don't like (obviously I don't actually mean this), but whoa there Brits, hold your horses. What am I talking about? The English have broken a long streak about getting involved in politics only as regards animal rights to attack a car holding Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla Parker-Bowles (nb, the NYT just called her Camilla, probably because they don't know what her new last name is since she married the Prince of England) because the government just voted to raise the maximum university tuition from something like £3300 to £9000, or about $16,000. So substantively, I agree with the protesters - almost tripling tuition is a bad move, even when making more generous loan repayment packages (Brits only have to pay back their loans when they make more than a certain income, and only up to a certain percentage of that income). Strategywise, though, I am less than impressed. Your democratically elected government chose to raise fees for higher education - this is a change of degree, not of ideology. I am not sure exactly which policy decisions in a democratic (or whatever they have in Great Britain) government calls for violent protest, but surely raising fees does not qualify? They should reread the Magna Carta or something.

Over even greater concern is the choice of targets. The New York Times article doesn't mention it, but it is possible that the protesters didn't know who was in the car. This view is supported by the fact that the protesters yelled "Tory scum!' while throwing rocks and paint at the car, and apparently ripping the door off the Jag (!) following behind with security. It seems to be terribly bizarre that a mob would attack a car which coincidentally holds the second in line to the throne. The other, and perhaps more likely seeming option is that of course they knew who was in the car. Why then, anyone would accuse Prince Charles of being Tory scum is beyond me. The Tory party is tied to 'old money,' and what is left of the aristocracy in the British mind, and also in reality. The royal family, though, takes care to stay out of politics and policy. The monarchy itself is a controversial subject in Great Britain, but that doesn't seem to have been the subject of the protests, unless it was and I just don't get it.

The problem boils down to: it is probably best to target policy makers in protesters like this. Either the protesters targeted the Prince, who doesn't vote, never mind about make policy, or they were targeting a random person in a nice car. I can't believe how reactionary I sound.