The royal attack has distracted attention away from fees

The public sympathy the students deserved will now go to Charles and Camilla.

As I feared, the attack on the royal car has distracted much attention away from the fact that we now have the highest public university fees in the world. The assault dominates this morning's front pages, with only the Independent and the Financial Times relegating it to the inside.

The return of student protest is one of the most inspiring developments in recent years, but yesterday's Robespierre wannabes have ensured that the public sympathy the students deserved will now go to Charles and Camilla. Had it not been for the attack, the story would have been one of Lib Dem betrayal and extortionate fees.

Meanwhile, in a chilling interview with the Today programme, the Metropolitan police commissioner, Paul Stephenson, declared that the "officers who were protecting the Royal Highnesses showed very real restraint. Some of those officers were armed."

The revelation that the police considered shooting students gives us an indication of just how high tensions are running.





George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Getty Images.
Show Hide image

PMQs review: Theresa May shows again that Brexit means hard Brexit

The Prime Minister's promise of "an end to free movement" is incompatible with single market membership. 

Theresa May, it is commonly said, has told us nothing about Brexit. At today's PMQs, Jeremy Corbyn ran with this line, demanding that May offer "some clarity". In response, as she has before, May stated what has become her defining aim: "an end to free movement". This vow makes a "hard Brexit" (or "chaotic Brexit" as Corbyn called it) all but inevitable. The EU regards the "four freedoms" (goods, capital, services and people) as indivisible and will not grant the UK an exemption. The risk of empowering eurosceptics elsewhere is too great. Only at the cost of leaving the single market will the UK regain control of immigration.

May sought to open up a dividing line by declaring that "the Labour Party wants to continue with free movement" (it has refused to rule out its continuation). "I want to deliver on the will of the British people, he is trying to frustrate the British people," she said. The problem is determining what the people's will is. Though polls show voters want control of free movement, they also show they want to maintain single market membership. It is not only Boris Johnson who is pro-having cake and pro-eating it. 

Corbyn later revealed that he had been "consulting the great philosophers" as to the meaning of Brexit (a possible explanation for the non-mention of Heathrow, Zac Goldsmith's resignation and May's Goldman Sachs speech). "All I can come up with is Baldrick, who says our cunning plan is to have no plan," he quipped. Without missing a beat, May replied: "I'm interested that [he] chose Baldrick, of course the actor playing Baldrick was a member of the Labour Party, as I recall." (Tony Robinson, a Corbyn critic ("crap leader"), later tweeted that he still is one). "We're going to deliver the best possible deal in goods and services and we're going to deliver an end to free movement," May continued. The problem for her is that the latter aim means that the "best possible deal" may be a long way from the best. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.