Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Aaron Porter

Aaron Porter strikes me as being rather impressive, not to say brave. Elected to his post as President of the NUS with a 65% share of the vote, he certainly has more right to speak on behalf of students than anyone else. Unfortunately he also strikes one as perhaps a Kerensky like figure, altogether too reasonable a man for the job. Here is an extract from his piece in The Times the other day, describing the way in which he was prevented from speaking in Manchester by those who dislike peaceful demonstration, democracy and, it would appear, Jews.

In Manchester on Saturday the National Union of Students organised what was the latest in a series of protests against government plans that are allowing the burden of the deficit reduction to fall on young people. We were there to expose the contradiction of David Cameron saying that we cannot build a future on debt and then tripling tuition fees, asking young people to build their futures on debt; and the contradiction of him saying that he would rebuild the economy and create jobs while abolishing the Future Jobs Fund.

However, before I was able to speak to the rally of thousands, a small group of people started to chant abuse to try to intimidate me, and there were audible anti-Semitic comments. Racism is something that student activists have been fighting to eliminate for decades and this was a sobering reminder that there is still work to do.

I wouldn’t associate the racist comments with everyone in this breakaway group, who are largely drawn from hard Left factions and who disagree with the tactics and some of the policies of the NUS. For them it is not enough for the NUS to mobilise 50,000 students and lecturers to protest against the rise in tuition fees; instead they say we should be standing alongside those who kick in windows and burn effigies of Nick Clegg.

Those tactics are wrong and do not work. I represent the vast majority of students who believe that peaceful protest should be one part of a campaign.

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