Tory council leader calls protesters “an ugly, badly-dressed student rabble”

The Tory leader of Oxfordshire council sparked anger by tweeting: "County Hall invaded by an ugly, badly-dressed student rabble. God help us if this is our future."

The Tory leader of Oxfordshire County Council has sparked anger by tweeting:

“County Hall invaded by an ugly, badly-dressed student rabble. God help us if this is our future.”

Keith Mitchell, pictured right with the prime minister, was condemned by student leaders for his outburst. David Barclay, president of Oxford University Student Union, told Left Foot Forward:

“For many of the students involved in the recent protests on scrapping the Education Maintenance Allowance and raising tuition fees, this may well be the first time in their lives they have been personally engaged in a political campaign.

“For them to be so utterly demeaned and insulted by someone who purports to represent them is an absolute disgrace.

“These young people should be applauded for taking a stand on an issue that will have a huge effect on all of their futures. If there is anything we need for the future of Oxfordshire it’s young people engaged in public life, not reactionary politicians telling them they don’t belong.”

In addition to being leader of the council, Mitchell is a governor of Oxford Cherwell Valley College, whose Mission Statement reads:

“Our ethos is to foster ‘A Love For Learning’. Many of our students gain a taste for achievement and continue to climb the educational ladder towards career success long after they have left us.

The College puts its students first and we have the highest expectations for each and every individual’s educational attainment. Our primary aim is to help you to achieve your desired results and qualifications in order to ensure that your future is filled with possibility.”

Quite how this tallies with Mitchell’s insults is anyone’s guess.

Elsewhere, the government confirmed last night that the vote on tuition fees will be held next Thursday, which, today’s Guardian reports:

“…will give the Liberal Democrats a week to sort out whether they will collectively abstain, or instead split three ways. Labour claimed the coalition was staging the vote on Thursday in the hope that Unionist MPs will not be present, thus reducing the slim chances of a government defeat.

“The National Union of Students and University and College Union have pledged to stage further protests in the run-up to the vote, including a mass lobby of parliament on the day.”

Later this afternoon, Left Foot Forward will have a special report looking at the student protest movement, how it is organised and the wider significance of the protests.

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