No hard Left ahead, declares departing Porter

The "hard Left" has little chance of gaining control of the National Union of Students and support for its "fetishism" with street protests and occupations is already dwindling, the outgoing president of the National Union of Students has said.

February 24, 2011

Aaron Porter, who this week announced that he would not seek re-election in April, expressed his certainty that he would be replaced by someone who would unite students and not follow "outdated, irrelevant and tired" tactics.

Mr Porter, who will become only the second NUS leader since 1969 not to serve a second term, said he was proud of having run a "responsible and relentless" campaign against higher tuition fees and was confident that he would be regarded by the majority of students as having done an "exceptional job in difficult circumstances".

He said he had been "deeply considering" stepping down for two to three weeks and insisted that his decision would not pave the way for political extremists to gain control.

"The hard Left and its fetishism with street protests and occupations is already dwindling," Mr Porter added, claiming that its representatives had performed badly in this year's student union elections and had never polled more than 10 per cent nationally.

"I've every confidence that the NUS will choose my successor to carry on in a similar vein to ensure that we're speaking for the majority of students and not being driven into outdated, irrelevant and tired tactics that will consign students to the sidelines."

In the battle for the NUS presidency, Mark Bergfeld, who is standing on behalf of Left groups that have driven many protests and occupations, is set to take on two more moderate candidates in the form of Liam Burns, NUS Scotland president, and Shane Chowen, currently vice-president (further education).

Mr Bergfeld said Mr Porter's decision had "robbed " NUS members of the opportunity to hold him democratically accountable.

"He is denying that right to students; but if he is willing to step down and is saying that a new leadership is required, we will step up our game," he said.

simon.baker@tsleducation.com.

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