Film ID: YFA 4270 Video of YFA 4270 Bradford College Student Demonstrations BRADFORD COLLEGE COLLECTION-BRADFORD COLLEGE STUDENT DEMONSTRATIONS 1971 Visitor TabsDescription This film is part of the Bradford Technical College Collection and contains footage from a Bradford College student demonstration against Margaret Thatcher. The film begins with a shot of a street in the centre of Bradford which is crowded with students marching down it. Some traffic drives past them but most of it has to slow down and wait for them to walk on. The students hold banners, some which read `save our union', `no to deal', and `fight Thatcher, save our union'. They march across a main road and the traffic stops for them. A shot is taken from the busy shopping street looking onto a road where buses have to drive slowly along behind the demonstration. The camera follows the demonstration as it snakes through Bradford. The final shot is of a group of students going into the sports hall. Context This film is one of a large collection of films from Bradford College, adding to a previous collection donated by the University of Bradford. The collection mainly highlights various courses, such as hairdressing, and the construction of new College buildings. The film is best seen alongside Mrs Thatcher Visits Bradford College (1971), to which the demonstration is a response. The visit and demonstration coming the year after Margaret Thatcher was appointed by Edward Heath as the new Secretary of State for Education and Science. The film also makes a companion to a series of films made by the police of demonstrations in Bradford in the 1970s – see Sit Down Manningham Lane and Forster Square (1976) and Huddersfield and Bradford Demonstrations (1974-1975). The protest seen in this film was one of many as Thatcher toured various colleges. During 1971 she was met with similar demonstrations at Enfield College of Technology, Liverpool Polytechnic, the London School of Economics and the South Bank; and the focus of a national demonstration in December. In her memoirs, The Path to Power, Thatcher recalls that: “Student mobs hounded me wherever I went. In early November  in Leeds, where I was laying a stone to mark the construction of new buildings, about 500 students tried to shout me down.” In some universities her effigy was burnt. Much has been made of Thatcher’s later transformation into the ‘Iron lady’ (the intended insult that became a badge of honour), paradoxically adopting a less harsh style and presentation. Her reputation now as someone many take a severe dislike to (to put it mildly), goes back to her time as Prime Minister in the 1980s when she set out to break the power of the trade unions. But at the time of this film, with the withdrawing of school milk for those aged between 7 and 11, Thatcher had already got herself a bad reputation: none other than the Sun newspaper – at that time owned by Maxwell and supporting the Labour Party – declared her, on 25th November 1971, ‘The most unpopular woman in Britain’. They also demanded to know, “Is Mrs Thatcher Human?” However, John Campbell, in his biography of Thatcher, shows that it wasn’t so much her policies that were so disliked as her know-it-all manner and arrogance; something that made her often seem completely out of step with reality. The demonstrations, rather like the Occupy movement today, would have been opposed to any number of policies. Partly, they would have joined trade unionists in opposing the Industrial Relations Act –January 1972 saw the largest union demonstration in British history when 120,000 union members (a conservative estimate) marched through London against the Industrial Relations Act. Noticeable is one banner referring to the milk saga, but others are, as is customary on demonstrations and protests, rather vague – like ‘Mrs Thatcher we can match her’. But other banners and placards allude to the tentative policy that Thatcher adopted to make membership of the student’s union voluntary, rather than compulsory, as it then was. Thatcher proposed in July 1971, in her own words, “that union subscriptions should not be included in the fees payable to colleges and universities”. Instead there should be a small increase in the maintenance allowance to allow students to join student societies if they so wished; and with universities themselves responsible for providing student union facilities. At the time the President of the National Union of Students was Jack Straw, later the Foreign Secretary when Britain went to war in Iraq. He was at the time coming towards the end of his term, studying law at Leeds University, and he argued that NUS services – like insurance, travel and so on – depended on compulsory membership. Student demonstrations during the 1970s were as common as the constant changes in popular music the decade saw - although the absence of banners for political organisations is unusual. There were several large national demonstrations in London against cuts in student grants, as well as sizeable student contingents on demonstrations on other issues of that time. The demonstration in the film is certainly very impressive; it looks as if virtually all the students in the area turned out for it. The demonstrations must have had some effect, as in January 1972 Thatcher backed down on this proposal. Today membership of the NUS is voluntary; although it is automatic, with a choice to opt out. Thatcher was to return to this theme with a vengeance though when the 1982 Employment Act made the closed shop next to impossible. Margaret Thatcher’s own thoughts on these student demonstrations, presented in her memoirs, make for interesting reading in relation to this film. There she opines that: “the student protests at the time, far from being in the vanguard of progress, were phenomena of a world which was about to pass away.” Well, maybe – certainly Thatcher did her level best to make it so. Student unrest has significantly declined in the meantime, although recent demonstrations against fees show that this could easily change. We get a glimpse into how Thatcher felt about these experiences again from her memoirs: “these rootless young people lacked both the authority which had been imposed on their predecessors in the 1950s and the discipline which the need to qualify for a good job would place on students in the eighties.” (p. 186) There might be a feeling of some bitterness in these words – leaving aside the observation that such comments on the rootlessness of the young come with each generation; and a revealing allusion to the, obviously desired, effect of high unemployment in the 1980s. The 1960s is often cited as being responsible for this breakdown in regard for authority and discipline, but those on the demo might have felt that going their own way is just what a free market sanctions. References John Campbell, Margaret Thatcher: Vol. I, the Grocer’s Daughter, Vintage, London, 2007. Margaret Thatcher, The Path to Power, Harper Collins, 1995.