• Heather Paterson

Aaron Porter Does Not Represent Me

Updated: Mar 25, 2019

On 10th November 2010 over 50,000 students marched through the streets of London in protest of the proposed 300% increase in tuition fees. A large number of students engaged in a direct action occupying Tory party HQ at Millbank.

Aaron Porter, NUS "President" immediately appeared on national television stating he "absolutely condemned" the action describing the students involved as "an utter disgrace"

Aaron Porter, I am a student, I think YOU are an utter disgrace.

If you do not support students then don't lead the NUS.

The comments made by Porter where made in his caqpacity as "Student Leader" yet those he was speaking out against were students, NUS officials and education workers.

Porter described those involved in the action as a "tiny rogue minority". Can you spot them ?

Unfortunately rather than acting in his elected role as a voice for students, Porter (one of a long line of career politicians) was more concerned by concealing his embarrassment at what was hoped to be a positive pr stunt for his cv enhancing position.

A wiser course of action may have been simply to state "no comment" until an extraordinary meeting of the NUS could be arranged to give an agreed public statement. At the very least his comments were misguided and an embarrassment to those of us he supposedly represents.

A distinction needs to be made between acts of violence (ie assaults on people) ans the actions in this case of property damage. A few broken windows is nothing compared to the damage to the education of future generations.

Broken windows were a tactic often used by the suffragettes and few of us now looking back through history would decry their actions given the massive success of their movement. I believe in time, the student movements actions will be viewed in a similar way.

An online petition defending the Millbank protestors has received widespread support, so far being signed by Naomi Klein, Billy Bragg, hundreds of students, trade unionists and members of the public.

If nothing else the actions at Millbank have massively increased the media coverage of the issue which would otherwise have been forgotten the following day. Let us not forget that 1 million people marched though the streets of London (and hundreds of thousands of others in cities across the country) opposing the invasion of Iraq and were completely ignored. The chance of 50,000 students marching making any change to the governments proposed cuts were slim to none. The occupation at Millbank gave a clear public message that we will fight for our education system and is sparking further direct actions across the country including a national day of action and walkouts across the country on 24th November.

The government proposals are not limited to simply increasing tuitiion fees. (by 300% !) There are proposed 79% to the higher education budget (bearing in mind that the UK already invests less in higher education than any country in the developed world). Higher education generates massive econmic growth and such high cuts during a time of recession will only serve to damage the economic recovery. This is not simply a student issue, this is something which will affect public services across the board and the lives of everyone in the country for generations to come. If I need medical care I want it to be provided by the most skilled person available not the one who could afford it. While many people will be denied the opportunity to further education due to being unable to afford it, many others will be unable to attend simply due to the number of places and courses reducing due to the cuts, meaning that even those with the means to pay will be unable to secure places. The proposed cuts will also create a bias in the subjects of study which are taken up. Education will be chosen as a financial decision. £9,000 a year may be a good investement for a finance / business management degree where you can expect to enter a career with a high salary. However teaching, nursing etc which may not be so lucrative will struggle to attact quality candidates who know that such a subject choice will leave them in debt for many years to come. There are many reasons to object to the cuts and equally valid reasons why some students and education workers decided to target Tory HQ using a tactic which has been used in many successful direct actions across the globe throughout history. The despicable action of the 10th November was not the breaking of a few windows but students being abandoned by their suposed leader. In a similar uturn to Nick Clegg who previously pledged to camplaign to scrap tuition fees entirely and is now supporting the 300% increase, Aaron Porter who previously stated that he would support all occupations and attacks on education cuts is now publicly siding against the students who have done just that. It's time for Porter to go and for the NUS to lead by someone who supports students. You can join the online campaign to sack Aaron Porter on facebook here.

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