NUS president blocks national demonstration bid

The National Union of Students will not hold a national demonstration against austerity and student poverty this autumn after outgoing president Toni Pearce used her casting vote to block the action

June 2, 2015

In her final meeting of the NUS’ National Executive Committee on 2 June, Ms Pearce used her deciding vote to scupper the proposed demo in November.

The call for the gathering in London was remitted to the committee from the NUS’ national conference in Liverpool in April, with activists backing a “national demonstration to end austerity and for free education; and for serious action to tackle student poverty”.

It would have taken place on a Wednesday in mid-November “marching on Parliament” in an effort to say “no to cuts, tuition fees, student debt and the cost of living crisis”, the motion says.

Seventeen executive members voted in favour of the march, but the same number voted against – meaning that Ms Pearce’s vote was decisive.

Ms Pearce is due to complete her two-year office as NUS president this month when she will be replaced by Megan Dunn, the current vice-president (higher education), who won the presidency vote in April.

It later emerged that the motion would have passed if Sorana Vieru, the newly-elected vice-president (higher education), had not been late for the vote.

Ms Vieru, a postgraduate education officer at the University of Bristol, tweeted that she was late to the NUS meeting because she had lost her phone.

She told Times Higher Education that she would have backed the motion for the demonstration.

“So I guess the Left hates me today,” said Ms Vieru.

The issue of a national demonstration has divided student union branches, with many fearing that a repeat of the violence seen in a 50,000-strong demonstration in 2010 may harm the student cause.

Other student union leaders, such as past president Liam Burns, have previously voiced concerns over safety and the cost of organising the demonstration, as well as whether they can muster enough protesters, with a 2012 march attracting little over 5,000 people.

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