Labour group deserts student interests

April 12, 1996

National Union of Students president Jim Murphy has done his utmost to undermine the NUS policy of free education policy over the past year. And at the annual conference in Blackpool last week, he added insult to injury by vilifying anybody who believes in free education as a Trotskyist, claiming they "wouldn't be able to look a homeless person in the eye".

Since when does funding for one type of social provision preclude funding for another? Is Mr Murphy under the impression that a successful graduate tax system (which many of us doubt can exist anyway) will suddenly result in homeless people leaving the streets in droves? It is a question of the Government needing to prioritise funding for many areas of social provision above privatisation, arms deals and cuts in corporation tax, not a question of prioritising one group in society above another. Mr Murphy exhibits the divide and rule mentality the Government has made its trademark, which is worrying considering he is a Labour Student and prospective parliamentary candidate for Eastwood, Glasgow.

There are also many other disturbing trends exhibited by Labour Students as a group, not least their attitude to the conference.

Their members have tirelessly pressured student union officers in the run-up to the conference to break their union's free education policy: some being told they will not get the necessary votes to the NEC unless they "deliver" institutions to the pro-graduate tax camp.

For those of us who have worked ceaselessly to build democratic unions with policy created by mass meetings rather than cliquey executives, this is an insult and a cause of disillusionment and despair in our national union. I have never before witnessed such an undemocratic and unaccountable organisation in operation. NUS has become a launch pad for would-be Labour MPs, its leadership representing politicans to students, rather than students to politicians.

If the attitude and behaviour of Labour Students is any reflection of a future Labour government, I , for one , will not be voting for them.

CAROLYNE CULVER Vice President (Education) University of Sussex Students' Union

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