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A Canadian on the Coalition

3 February 11 words: Rob Cutforth
illustrations: Rob White

Our resident CanAlien is not happy about the Cameron and Clegg coalition government...

I hate Nick Clegg. I hate his stupid side parting and his beady eyes. I hate his over-elaborate hand gestures and that horrible voice – you know, the one that sounds like a geography teacher talking through a trumpet mute. I hate his guts.

I hate Nick Clegg more than I hate David Cameron. Turning the Tory logo into a happy little tree and spouting that buildingstrong-communities BS didn’t fool anyone; we knew before the election that he’d send thousands of people to the breadline and leave grannies out in the cold, because that’s what his sort do.

No-one was surprised when David Cameron proved to be an out-of-touch, banker-loving, public schoolboy dickhead. The man wears his out-of-touch banker-loving, public schoolboy dickheadedness on his sleeve. Nick Clegg, on the other hand, was supposed to be different. He was new and exciting; he was saying new and exciting things! He’ll vote against tuition rises! He’ll make taxes fair! He’ll break up the banks and make sure that they pay for the damages they caused! He’ll keep his promises!

Since he’s become Deputy Prime Minister, he’s tripled the tuition cap, he’s let Vodafone and a number of other corporations get away with avoiding paying billions in tax, and he’s allowed the banks (including the ones now part-owned by us) to pay their executives millions of pounds in bonuses. Most politicians are liars and all are guilty of straying from
election promises, but it takes a special kind of prick to do the exact opposite of what you said you’d do. I’d almost be impressed if it wasn’t so tragic. OK, I suppose I’m being a bit
unfair, there is one promise he did keep, the promise that he’d make ‘Real Changes’. We just didn’t realise he was talking about his own policies. In a few short months, the coalition has managed to turn the nation into a giant human centipede with the bankers and CEOs at the front, then Cameron, then Clegg, then the rest of us, only somehow our mouths are stitched to everyone’s backsides.

There are many reasons to hate Nick Clegg, but I suppose the raising of the tuition cap winds me up the most. If there is one thing I’ve always loved about Britain, it’s the way people are educated in this country. Indulge me for a moment, while I tell you why I don’t have a university degree, because this is a little peek into the future for many kids in this country.

University in Canada is expensive and has been for ages – although not as expensive as it is in the UK now, mind – and most Canadian students need to get loans to pay for it. When I was accepted into uni, the government had pawned off their student loan services to the banks and they doled out money based on ‘financial need’. Despite the fact that my family didn’t have much money, the bank decided that they would only provide about half the money it would take to cover my tuition and books.

This meant my father had to pay for a large chunk (more than he could afford) and I had to work while I took classes. Not to mention the fact that I was now on my way to acquiring a
massive amount of debt; debt that I would have to start paying back the minute I graduated.

What this does is change the question “What do I want to do with my life?” to “Which degree is going to give me the best chance of getting a job after I graduate?” The two things I was remotely good at (Fine Art and English) don’t pay very well, so I chose Commerce. Of course I’ll make money with a Commerce degree, it’s got money right in the name.

Unfortunately for me, I have the maths skills of a laboratory chimp and promptly started failing all my courses. Did you know that they sneak maths into every course in the first year of a Commerce degree? I knew Math 210 was going to have some maths in it, and I thought maybe Micro Economics 101 would have a touch, but even a course called Policy and Environment was crammed to the gills with maths. That’s false advertising, that is.

But it was too late to change - we’d already started paying all this money. I worked my night job, sat in lectures that might as well have been in Chinese, and took courses without the books I needed, because I was waiting for payday to get the money for them. I watched my savings disappear and my debt skyrocket. I maxed out a credit card so I didn’t have to ask my parents for more money. I hid my grades from them. I spent most of my time feeling guilty and ashamed that they were wasting all of their money on their idiot son. It was the most depressing time of my life. When I finally did flunk out, it came as a relief for me and for them.

After that, I worked for a number of years on an assembly line, went to night school and ended up with a couple of college diplomas, but it’s not the same. No matter what Clegg tells you, there is nothing like a university degree. Not having one has been a hindrance to me my whole life; I will always wonder what it would’ve been like to have a degree and to do something that I truly loved rather than simply working to pay the bills.

Would I have a degree now had money not been a part of the equation at the start like it used to be in this country? Who knows? One thing’s for sure, I would have had a much better shot at it if I’d enrolled in something I enjoyed and wasn’t always worried about money. Post-secondary education is one of the few things left that the UK does better than anywhere else on the planet. Why would anyone want to mess with that?

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