Wednesday, 21st November 2012 is, to use Mr Roosevelt’s words, “a date that will live in infamy”. Indeed, it was a day that finally brought the government to its knees. The coalition had well and truly been smashed to pieces.
Well, that’s what you’d believe if you were a member of the Socialist Workers’ Party.
What really happened? A student protest that was never aimed at achieving anything (and indeed it didn’t). The protest of November 2010 aimed to lobby MPs in the run-up to the vote on raising tuition fees. For all the cost and effort put into organising it, this week’s protest had no such aim, and subsequently, no tangible outcome either.
I was amused to read a press quote from the National Union of Students (NUS):
Nick Clegg won the trust and votes of young people and their parents by signing the pledge, but has now lost them once and for all by breaking it.
Presumably the NUS would be just as ferocious towards Labour’s track record and current stance on fees? If anything, as an active student unionist over the last two years, noticeable from NUS’s leadership has been the complete absence of any criticism towards Labour. It is, of course, a completely irrelevant fact that many of NUS’s leadership are Labour Party members.
Having introduced fees in the first place and then trebled them to £3,000 (on both occasions, in a majority government), we now know Labour were planning to further double fees, had they continued in government (thanks to Julian Huppert for pointing this out!). As I recall it, that now-famous pledge to oppose higher fees was also signed by Labour MPs. As they now support fee levels higher than before, surely that’s a broken pledge from Labour too? But for all this, don’t expect an apology from Labour any time soon – and don’t expect the NUS leadership to be demanding one, either.
NUS also forget that even though seven million people voted Lib Dem in 2010 and hence to abolish fees, 19 million voted for parties who were certain to raise fees. This is akin to NUS President Liam Burns breaking one of his key election promises last year because the majority of students’ unions had voted the other way.
But for the NUS leadership, these facts are an inconvenient truth they would prefer to be ignored. The pointless protesting, without any aims or outcomes, shall go on.
* Mo Saqib, previously working for Simon Hughes and John Leech, is a former two-term officer from the University of Manchester Students' Union and also served on the National Union of Students' higher education committee.