MAGGIE, Maggie, Maggie! Out! Out! Out! How I miss the good old days. Thatcher was the perfect foil for any self-respecting student of a socialist slant. The deranged eyes, the condescending robotic voice, the handbag, the uptight hairdo. Or was that her Spitting Image puppet? It was hard to tell.

Still, it seemed easier back then. You knew who the enemy was. The Poll Tax, Section 28, grant cuts, mass unemployment, the Belgrano

. . . The grievances were endless – and so were the reserves of contempt felt on the campuses.

The NME was more agitprop than pop, while leftie alternative comedians were unapologetic in their loathing of Mrs T and the loadsamoney culture. Universities were chock-full of Ricks from the Young Ones. Doc Martin-wearing, snakebite-swilling goth types handing out the latest copy of the Socialist Worker – many with plummy accents that belonged more to the shires than Shettleston. If it wasn’t revolution in the air, it was certainly a sense of, well, much annoyance.

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Indeed, I can recall my own, rather tepid, attempt at student activism when I found myself on a bus heading to London in the wee small hours after imbibing a few too many of the aforementioned lager and cider concoctions.

Drunk as a skunk, basically, our £1 return trip to the Big Smoke was too good an opportunity to pass up as my pal and I stumbled out of the Student Union and chanced upon the departing coach. Completely unprepared for a day of protest in London, it wasn’t until we hit Birmingham, that sobriety set in and with a bladder ready to explode I realised where I was and what I’d done.

Hungover, hungry and without sleep we marched with thousands of other bleary-eyed under-graduates somewhere near Hyde Park. I can’t even remember what we were protesting against, but I was so miserable I didn’t care.

At one stage, everyone sat down in the middle of the road and burly coppers started physically picking up those around me. Fearing a night in an East End police cell, my “principles” crumbled like a Rich Tea in a hot cuppa, and I fled.

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So when Willie Rennie challenged student leaders over the lack of radicalism on campuses I couldn’t help but raise a wry smile. But he has a point – surely lifelong debt, cuts to places and lecturer strikes are cause enough to take to the streets?

The reasons will undoubtedly be as multitudinous as they are complicated. As consumers in an education system who are about to embark on a competitive jobs market, today’s learners see more sense in co-operation than conflict.

Climate strikes brought out the young in droves, but politics today is far more fragmented and altogether confusing. Controversy dogs every aspect of student life, only serving to silence opinions. Radicals who once wanted to change the world, now complain about speakers who upset them.

Meanwhile, the party in power, the SNP, is still the favoured choice of young indy supporters, despite their lamentable record on education. You won’t be hearing cries of “Nicola, Nicola, Nicola! Out! Out! Out!” any time soon.

And then there’s the Covid effect, which may well have deadened the spirit of the working-from-home student.

University is a transitory stage in life. In the end our sojourn to London achieved diddly squat – funds were cut, student loans went ahead and I was left with a very sore head. But it was all part of the adventure of being young. I just hope today’s students aren’t too beaten to enjoy theirs.

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