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Day: November 21, 2012

The NUS are undertaking #demo2012 today but why are the University of Manchester strong-arming societies and what good will it do?

Well folks today is the big day. I’m getting married… psyche! As if. No today is the today the 18-22 generation are going to change not only their own futures but change the world. Yes it is the National Union of Students 2012 Demo as thousands of NUS kids flock into the capital to tell the government of the day that they don’t care about the young generation and they feel they need to change everything in Westminster and bring back the Labour Party who never introduced tuition fees and never proposed a students tax that students would be paying back for the rest of their lives. No the Labour Party would save the students…

There are several issues that I’d like to talk about and the first is the fact a major metropolitan university seemingly tried to strong-arm their student faculty into buying tickets to go to the demo in London. This university was the university of Manchester whose SU sent out an e-mail saying, ‘In order to be sure of Silver or Gold Award, societies will need to send 10 members to buy tickets (£8.50 to London is an absolute steal!) and thus show support for the national student movement.‘. The person in question who sent out this e-mail was Tommy Fish who is Activities & Development Manager. Having done a spot of research his job doesn’t seem to include ‘heavily implying societies should be doing things to ensure their funding for political purposes’ but maybe I just missed it?

Look I’m no legal expert but I’m pretty sure saying that funding would be guaranteed by purchasing so many tickets for this demo is pretty stinky and kinda blackmail-y? Or maybe it is just greasing the wheels but either way it stinks. Flat out stinks.

There is an e-petition about this entitled University of Manchester Students’ Union: Society funding should not be contingent on endorsement of political causes and I’d fully implore you to sign. As the petitioner shows it isn’t about the demo itself but is about whether funding from the Student Union should be dependent on societies being able to buy tickets to the demo and sending a minimum amount of people to something that they may not have a big issue with.

I think that is a disgrace but lets be honest a lot of this is a disgrace. I’m fully down with free speech and if these people want to protest then I have zero issue with that but what I do care about is whether they are spreading lies or untruths with their reasoning for demonstrating. The official Demo 2012 website says that the protest is about Education, Employment and Empowerment. I can understand the first two but the third is a bit bizarre but still lets look at the three issues one by one.

Education is important. They say, ‘The government has placed this under attack from all fronts – by scrapping the EMA, slashing undergraduate teaching funding, increasing tuition fees, introducing draconian restrictions on international students, cutting funding for post-graduate students, hiking fees for adult learners looking to gain basic skills, causing funding chaos in the nations…‘ One issue I have with this…does education start at 16? By the sounds of it according to the NUS it does. Do they not care about the Pupil Premium and ensuring that more people get a better education throughout their first eleven years of compulsory education?

I have said it before and I’ll say it again. I’d prefer everyone to get a better education for the first eleven years for free and then have to pay beyond that if the alternative was free education for all after 16 and having an inadequate education system up to 16. If they are the only two options on the table I want to fund compulsory education to the fullest that we can and that is where I stand. Therefore I can’t stand alongside these demonstrators certainly when I look at how Americans have much worse student debt and how it was pretty much a straight choice (in the real world and not in idealistic la la land) of either dumbing down education for making people pay (in the long term – not in the short term) for good after 18 education. I mean seriously they were the options so what would you do?

Moving on to Employment and I can see what they are talking about here. I took two years after university to get a full-time job so I know what it is like. It is a genuinely soul-destroying experience so I do think the government need to find a better way to encourage young persons employment. So yes this is an issue and something that should be talked about more and if the protest just talked about this then I could see good, solid reasoning behind it but alas it isn’t.

Lastly Empowerment. Basically the NUS are saying that the Lib Dems lied and that they want the Lib Dems obliterated so that the Tories can screw them even more after 2015. Wait a minute they actually want Labour to win as Labour will save the day and make higher education free for all. Vive la revolution but of course if the Lib Dems were all kicked to the curb there are more Tory/LD marginals than Labour/LD marginals so if the Lib Dems withered and died in 2015 then Labour would lose. Woes. One line I love from their official website is thus:

Politicians have let education and employment slip off the agenda, but now we have an opportunity to create a movement that empowers us to take back our future.

Education and employment have slipped off of the agenda? Are you freaking kidding me NUS? Are you freaking kidding me? Are you sure this is true or is this pathetic propaganda to fit your narrative and try and justify your demonstration? As a politico I keep a pretty close eye on what is going on and do you know what? I’ve seen employment and the economy pretty high up in what is going on – in fact I think I’d go as far as to say it is the biggest issue out there that the government are tacking.

Also Education might not be top of the pile but it is certainly not being ignored. The Pupil Premium is out there and expect more Pupil Premium news in the next budget. Just because in our 24hour news cycle world you don’t hear about Education every single day it doesn’t mean it is being ignored. If you want people to take you seriously then don’t make stuff up. The NUS are fast becoming ‘the boy who cried wolf’ and they aren’t being listened to or trusted any more. People probably trust Newsnight and The X Factor more than they do the NUS – and that my friends is saying something.

Lastly and least importantly (but still deserving of a mention) is talk about what these people will be chanting tomorrow. Stace talks about it here and you can get a screenshot of the proposed chants here and whilst the fact they need cheat sheets might actually be the biggest issue the chants do nothing to further their cause and are just politically motivated (and in some cases are just flat out lies). They need to decide if they hate David Cameron, Nick Clegg, the Tories or the Lib Dems more. At the moment there is no cohesive argument apart from Labour seem great.

Look I know I was only a teenager at the time but I don’t recall mass NUS protests when The Teaching and Higher Education Act 1998 came into force. Yes I recall some dissatisfaction but I don’t recall mass protests. Are we saying that £3k is fine and a Student Tax would be fine as well but a £9k maximum is too far? Or are we saying that Labour’s proposals are more favourable because the NUS are essentially Labour Youth? I would love to know whether the people protesting today are protesting about the fact students should pay anything or about the fact the Tories and the Lib Dems are in power?

If the protests today were just about raising awareness of young persons unemployment then I’d back it but it isn’t. It is about politics. The fact that the university of Manchester’s Student Union are strong-arming their societies is extremely troubling but it doesn’t surprise me. Many large student unions are staffed by people who have never worked out in the real world and still believe in idealistic claptrap. Well I live in the real world and things aren’t perfect. Young unemployment is a real issue boys and girls but kicking out the Lib Dems for making the decisions they did on tuition fees and not being realistic with budgets, finances and even the increase in education spending for compulsory education for the most needy is not.

All this demo will do is give a few people criminal records for being idiots. Give the police a hard day. Make many people feel big and important and do very little (or indeed nothing) to further their cause. Demonstrations are great if something can come of it but are the government going to change course because of this? No. Are people going to change their 2015 General Election vote on the strength of this? No. So what good can it do? Please tell me folks what good can this do?

I await your responses *watches tumbleweed flow through*

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