It’s just like that 2003 film about 1968!

Guest columnist Zizi Petit-Fraser reports LIVE from the student protests against the Lib-Con cuts, taking place in London today.

Zizi Petit-Fraser

Topics Politics

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Guest columnist Zizi Petit-Fraser reports LIVE from the student protests against the Lib-Con cuts, taking place in London today.

Wow! WOW! The atmosphere here in Trafalgar Square is amazing. Or SICK as the youth of today likes to put it. There are schoolkids in the fountains – right there in the water, splashing about, not caring one iota for the fact that it’s so nippy I’ve had to wear my Antoni & Alison home-stitched mittens. College students are draped over the lions waving super-sad banners that sum up how ALL of us feel these days: ‘You let us down Nick.’ Everyone is taking part in a Westminster-rattling chorus of ‘Fuck you, David Cameron’. Swearing, sadness, singing, splashing… it’s like the French Revolution (pre-Terror, of course) meets family picnic at the Lido, and boy is it ever exciting.

And people say the spirit of resistance is dead. They’re SO wrong. I can see it, right here in front of me, every time I look up from my iPhone twitter feed. It’s like 1968 all over again. Not that I remember 1968, having been born in 1972, but I’ve seen Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Dreamers (available on DVD from the Curzon Soho) and this is just like that. These youngsters have pushed aside their frappucinos, said ‘Who cares about I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here?’ (or maybe they’re Sky-plussing it, like I am), and have taken to the streets to express their implacable, unimpeachable, epoch-reorganising rage against the Lib Dems for being such a ginormous letdown. ‘BOLLOCKS TO THE CUTS’, says one boy, not yet 20, a rosy flush to his milky, bumfluffed cheeks, and it causes a single tear to roll down my own cheek.

The risks these youngsters have taken! It defies logic, it defies rationalism, but then this isn’t logical or rational, it is the guttural yelp of a generation finally opening its eyes to its extraordinary power to get Nick Clegg to change his mind. Some of the schoolkids WALKED OUT OF SCHOOL to be here. ‘I was in geography’, says one girl, not yet 15, a scarlet flush to her smooth, baby-like cheeks, ‘when the clock struck 11 and we said to each other “let’s go mofos!”’. Their teachers didn’t stop them; their headmasters didn’t stop them; the Community Support Officers who are supposed to spot and reprimand school-bunkers didn’t stop them either. But how could they, those crusty, grey-haired adults who wouldn’t know a political principle if one raped them in an alleyway? They could never hold back this tsunami of 68ish angst amongst a yoof that has felt jilted and deprived for way too long.

Oh, how it reminds me of my own, long-gone, pre-childbirth, pre-career desire to turn the world utterly on its head! I was once like these kidz, fresh-faced, angry, raging, allergic to caution, annoyed with the Lib Dems. I, too, wanted to smash the windows of a police van and/or convince the leader of the Liberal Democrats to change his party’s policy on some burning issue (I think it was road-building back in the Nineties). Reflected in the bottomless pit of fury that sparkles from the eyes of every young adult, boy and girl on this fiery demo, I see my own political longing, my own radicalism, my own revolutionary soul which I thought had died the moment that Henrietta was born (26 November 1999 – happy b-day pumpkin!). Talking to one impossibly beautiful Cambridge student, not yet 21, her porcelain cheeks half-covered by a Palestinian keffiyeh, I am sure I can see ME reflected in her glitteringly hazel eyes. Yes, there I am, the 20-year-old me, staring back, asking: ‘What have you become? WHO ARE YOU?’

And that’s when I decide to take action. To allow myself to be swallowed up and spat out – reborn, energised – by this orgy of youthful abandon. I pick up a placard – ‘Fuck the fees’ – and join in the glorious chant that is threatening to blow the very sky off of London: ‘What do we want? / Official recognition of the fact that students go on to make significant contributions to the economic wellbeing of Britain once they graduate and thus they should not have to pay tuition fees! / When do we want it? / Now.’ And then things really heat up. ‘2, 4, 6, 8 / We thought Cable was our mate / 1, 2, 3, 4 / We ain’t voting Lib Dem anymore.’ Wow. WOW. I feel the foundations of Westminster shifting beneath my feet. Before I know it I have an irresistible urge to throw something – ANYTHING – at the pigs, the oinking, stinking, dirty pigs. But all I have to hand is my iPhone and a tube of L’Oreal Professionnel hand cream. The choice is easy, of course, and before I know it the cream has hit a rozzer right between the eyes and he’s coming after me, truncheon erect.

I feel alive. I feel new. I feel pure. I feel I should text Henri’s school and tell them I’ll be at least half an hour late. A young man in a beanie hat, not yet 21, a day’s worth of stubble on his perfectly sculpted cheeks, says: ‘Oi love, are you gonna help us or just fucking stand there twittering?’ I tuck my iPhone away and lay in to the police van with fists and feet and whatever else protrudes from my body, just like they did in The Dreamers (DVD available from the Curzon Soho).

Zizi Petit-Fraser is a journalist, editor, mummy blogger and, now, reborn revolutionary.

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Topics Politics


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