"Off your bike!" Nick Clegg warned not to cycle to Downing Street
Police advise Deputy PM to use ministerial car amid fears he'll be targeted by student protesters
At a time when one high-profile politician, Mayor of London Boris Johnson, is encouraging Londoners to take to their bikes, another, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, has reportedly been warned by police not to cycle from his Putney home to Downing Street.
According to the Daily Telegraph, officers from the Metropolitan Police are worried that Clegg, as well as other Liberal Democrat politicians, may be targeted by students converging on the capital for a protest today against increases in tuition fees.
The party has been singled out for criticism by student bodies after backtracking on pre-election pledges to scrap tuition fees after it came to power following May’s general election after forming a coalition government with the Conservative Party.
The Daily Telegraph reports that while Clegg does not cycle to the Cabinet Office in Downing Street every day, he does so on a regular basis, but his security staff are said to have informed him that it would be unsafe to do so in light of the student protests amid fears he may be knocked off his bike or have objects thrown at him. Instead, he has been advised that for the foreseeable future, he should travel to Westminster in his ministerial car.
It's not known whether, when he does cycle to Westminster, Clegg has a car following him carrying his papers, as Prime Minister David Cameron famously did while in opposition. However, given his status, it seems inconceivable that he wouldn't be followed by protection officers, which could presumably give rise to problems in London traffic.
Today’s demonstration, dubbed ‘Day X’ by protesters, will reportedly see students gather in a ‘Carnival of Resistance’ at Trafalgar Square before heading towards Parliament and ultimately Downing Street via the Liberal Democrat headquarters in Cowley Street, and police will be anxious to avoid the violent scenes that accompanied a similar protest at Millbank earlier this month.
The Telegraph reports that Clegg will be presented with a letter which will say: "In the general election hundreds of thousands of young people, many voting for the first time, chose your party.
"They identified in particular with your public pledge to oppose raising tuition fees.
"Throughout your election campaign your party claimed that a vote for the Lib Dems means a vote for hope and an end to broken promises.
"But since May all that has changed. We call on you to withdraw Lib Dem support for Conservative cuts to our education system, or face the disappointment and anger of a generation that has been betrayed."
Mark Bergfeld, a spokesman for the Education Activist Network, which is organising the Carnival of Resistance, told the newspaper: "We have the right to protest, we have the right to civil disobedience, we have the right to occupy our lecture halls, we have the right to walk out.
"We have the right to take strike action and I believe that people are not inspired just because of a few broken windows, people are inspired because they saw thousands of people - lecturers, students, university students - take it to the streets.”
He added: "And actually they are voicing an anger that is out there in the population."