MPs yesterday voted through a proposal to triple tuition fees to £9,000 despite violent protests by demonstrators.
The coalition government saw its majority cut by three-quarters to just 21, as 323 MPs, including Kingston and Surbiton MP Ed Davey, voted in favour of the rise.
Mr Davey, who just six months ago signed the NUS pledge to abolish tuition fees had previously told RiverOnline in an exclusive interview that he was “uncomfortable” with the idea of higher fees. However yesterday he was one of 28 Lib Dem MPs who voted in favour of the rise, while 21 voted against, and eight, including deputy leader Simon Hughes abstained from voting.
Aaron Porter, leader of the National Union of Students, said: “We have lost in the House of Commons today only because MPs have broken their promises. We are incredibly disappointed and angry with the politicians who have let us down so badly. They have voted for a policy they know is unfair, unnecessary and wrong.”
Three ministerial aides resigned over the issue, including Jenny Willott, the first ever Lib Dem MP for Cardiff Central.
The heated five hour debate inside the House of Commons was mirrored by increasingly angry scenes outside Parliament.
Student organisers had hoped that a large final demonstration before the vote might encourage more MPs to vote against removing the cap on fees.
But frustrated students and demonstrators grew more violent after riot police and mounted police attempted to contain the crowd in a “kettle”. The London Ambulance Service reported that 19 people had been treated for injuries and six taken to hospital. One policeman was said to be in a serious condition. By early evening at least nine people had been arrested.
The protest, which began in Trafalgar Square, remained peaceful as it moved along Horse Guards Parade towards Parliament. However, after just 15 minutes of rallying outside Parliament the crowd grew restless and began setting fire to their banners and throwing items at the police.
Several protestors then pushed over the fences surrounding Parliament Square, and the enormous crowd surged forward over the trampled barriers.
Police used batons and horse charges to beat off those who continued to throw signs, eggs and flares.
As speeches from student organisers and trade unionists rallied the crowds, numerous fires were started and benches and flags burned.
A number of protestors wore masks to disguise their faces and hardhats to protect themselves from objects flying overhead.
Police could be heard shouting at protestors who had climbed up onto railings to “get down” or else they would “get batoned”.
After news of the parliamentary vote came through demonstrators became yet more enraged. Some protestors attempted to smash the windows of the Treasury and police action became tougher.