Universities minister David Willetts clashes with East End protesters
CABINET member David Willets clashed with an angry mob of protesters today as his visit to an East End science centre turned fiery.
The universities and science minister was heckled and branded a “hypocrite” as he arrived at educational charity Centre of the Cell, inside Queen Mary, University of London’s Blizzard building in Whitechapel.
Students and East Enders held up placards against tuition fee hikes and the scrapping of college allowances.
As the Tory cabinet member walked through the horde, he stopped to speak to protester Sarah Creagh.
She told the Advertiser: “It was a disgrace he was invited to the uni while forcing through cuts.
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“His excuse against the trebling of tuition fees was that young people don’t have to pay �9,000 up front, so it isn’t an issue. When I asked him about the EMA he walked off.
“He went to a public school, has thousands in the bank and he doesn’t care what people in east London think.”
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Protesters believe Tower Hamlets will be particularly hard hit by the massive changes to higher education because it is a deprived borough.
Around two thirds of students receive the Education Maintenance Allowance to help them through college and sixth form but it is being axed as of September.
Another protester, Naomi Byron, of Bethnal Green, said: “There’s going to be a whole generation that are locked out of education and decent jobs.
“The ConDem coalition is totally out of touch with the situation with young people.
“Tower Hamlets has a lot of the City in it and it’s the richest bankers who caused this crisis but vulnerable people here are paying for it.”
Professor Simon Gaskell, Principal of Queen Mary, University of London said: “We welcomed the visit by the Universities and Science Minister earlier today to our Blizard Institute and Centre of the Cell.
“It was an opportunity for us to tell him about our cutting edge medical research and to show him how we are aiming to engage young people in science.”
Despite both the tuition fees hikes and the scrapping of the EMA being passed through parliament, the protesters said they will continue demonstrating.
Ms Byron added: “Many unjustifiable bills have been passed before and ended up being scrapped, The protests are only going to increase.”
Another mass rally into central London is being planned for March 26.