Only six months ago, in May 2010, just before the General Election, Brookes University in Headington, Oxford, laid on a triumphalist reception for Nick Clegg, the handsome, well-dressed leader of the GlibDem party. He was invited to speak because he was promising students an end to university tuition fees. Vote for me, he proclaimed, and I will set you free. No more loans, no more debt, no more stress and worry.
Actually, that invitation was of dubious legality because there are laws about pre-election hustings meetings. Any publicly funded institution such as Brookes is supposed to be non-partisan and invite representatives of all competing parties, or none at all. Brookes took no notice of objections like that but went ahead with its big event. The local press sent photographers and reported that tall, smarted-suited Nick was received like a celebrity. He and he alone could save them from the terrible Tory threat, or Labour threat, and lead them to the promised land.
Virgin voters, who had never seen the inside of a ballot-box before, crowded in thousands to offer their support to the Glibdems.
It was not the first time Clegg had come to Oxford to make the same promise and woo student votes with the tuition fees issue. He had done the same thing in November 2009
Six months later, my word, how things have changed. The Cleggerons are now in power and the Browne Review has suggested raising student fees to hitherto unheard-of levels. On Wednesday this week, Vince Cable, Cleggeron Business Secretary, was billed to appear in Oxford talking at the Exam Schools in the High Street. At least this was legal as there is no General Election in the offing now for four and a half years. Once again, a mass of students congregated, but this time they were there in protest. They had heard in advance of his visit and 1200 of them agreed on Facebook to turn up and make things a bit hot for Vince. They wanted to tell him exactly what they thought about the coalition, the Browne Review and the upping of those tuition fees he promised to abolish.
They had lost their political virginity all right.
The police and the university authorities started to get worried. They thought it might turn into an outright riot.
So what did Vince do? Hearing about the protest, he called off his visit. He decided that discretion was the better part of valour, and stayed away.
Is it maybe time to declare Oxford a Cleggeron-free zone?
At the End of the Day
9 hours ago