Britain: Students protest fee rise as Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell backs campaign

Labour's shadow chancellor John McDonnell threw his weight behind students who took to the streets on November 4 over Tory plans to cut maintenance grants and raise tuition fees.

McDonnell kicked off the demonstration as about 7000 students from across England assembled for the march near London's largest universities. Speaking to a cheering crowd, he said: “Your generation has been betrayed by this government in increases to tuition fees, in scrapping the education maintenance allowance and cuts in education.

“Education is a gift from one generation to another, it is not a product, a commodity to be bought and sold. This government is betraying you and future generations, we need to oppose it and I'm here in solidarity with that opposition.

“Your voice needs to be heard.”

Wishing protesters a good march, the Hayes and Harlington MP added: “Stay safe, but make sure that politicians know that we are not going to stand for this anymore. Education is a basic human right.”

Dozens of students held makeshift shields made to look like famous political books. Smoke flares and firecrackers were released during the march down Whitehall and around Westminster, leading to the arrests of several people.

Student activists are demanding a return of free education to Britain, after the new Conservative majority government promised to do away with £3000 maintenance grants and start raising fees alongside inflation.

According to Chancellor George Osborne's new plans, the financial subsidy for children of households on incomes below £25,000 will be substituted by a loan to be paid off when students start earning over £21,000 a year.

University College London human rights student Alex McKenzie told the Morning Star she felt lucky she was able to afford university, but that it was not fair others would potentially no longer be able to.

“I think education is a right everyone should be able to access,” she added.

“Without things like grants, a lot of people that I've become friends with through university would not have been able to access education.”

[Abridged from the Morning Star.]

Like the article? Subscribe to Green Left now! You can also like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.