It’s Day 15 of the occupation at Newcastle University. For the past fortnight, a lecture theatre and rooms in the fine arts building have played host to a colony of student activists.The lecture theatre resembles something akin to the headquarters of a military operation. Laptops, smartphones and other devices compete for power sockets.
Jon Clark, 22, is a final-year music student from Somerset. “This isn’t a holiday,” he says. There are meetings to attend, blog entries to write, journalists to contact and other occupations to liaise with. Then there are photographs to take, videos to film, as well as general housekeeping.
“The important thing is our message is getting out. So whether someone chooses to label that as a publicity stunt or students having fun is immaterial,” he says.
Emily Elliott, 20, a feminist society member, was brought up in the Netherlands by British parents and is in the final year of a politics degree. She voted for the Liberal Democrats in May. “It was a tactical vote. I didn’t want the Tories getting in. I don’t believe any of the parties represent me.” She says that she is disappointed but not surprised.
Just after 8am the first meeting of the day begins. Students begin brainstorming ideas for a new rally to coincide with today’s Commons vote. The absence of any raised voices makes the session straightforward to chair.
“This is only the beginning,” says Mr Clark. “It’s about saying we’re not OK with this and that politicians are answerable to the people. The Bill may go through, but with a lot less public support than it could have done. It’s about making that clear. I think we’ve done that. And it isn’t over yet.”