A PR disaster for the student protests

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Following the events in London last night, it looks as though we’ve reached a real turning point in the plans to increase tuition fees for university students.

Not only did the House of Commons approve the measures to raise the maximum level of annual fees to £9,000, but the subsequent protests in London now mean that the students have lost significant public support for their cause.

If demonstrators start throwing missiles, smashing windows and defacing statues, any mainstream support they may have starts to decline dramatically. Last night was a PR disaster for the students, as the actions of some of their number will have turned previously neutral – or even supportive – members of the public against their cause.

Their actions also meant that the news today doesn’t focus on significant issues surrounding yesterday’s vote, such as the rights and wrongs of the hike in tuition fees or the fact that cracks are starting to appear in the Coalition. The news has focused squarely on the violence of some of the protests, with sections of the media branding the demonstrators “anarchists” and “an insult to the country.”

The students needed to win public support if their fight against the fees was to be successful. Last night, they lost the battle for hearts and minds – and they may have lost the war as well.