NUS president may contest Clarke seat

November 19, 2004

Students' leader Kat Fletcher may stand as an anti-tuition fees candidate against Charles Clarke, the Education Secretary, at the next general election, it emerged this week.

Ms Fletcher, president of the National Union of Students, said that no formal decision had been taken about general election tactics in the union's campaign against tuition fees.

But she added: "Would you blame me if I stood against Charles Clarke, for example?

"I don't think the student movement would blame me if the current NUS president decided to stand against a former NUS president, who, as a minister, brought in top-up fees, and say: 'I want my voice heard on this issue.'" Mr Clarke's Norwich South constituency has been held by the Labour Party for the past 40 years, with the exception of the Tories' single-term success in 1983.

The Education Secretary - who was NUS president from 1975 to 1977 - sits on a 8,816 majority.

The second-placed Conservatives need a 10.4 per cent swing to take the seat, although the Liberal Democrats and Green Party will put forward local councillors as candidates, both of whom have links to education.

Ironically, Ms Fletcher said she would nonetheless like to see Labour elected for a third term, but with a reduced majority.

Her endorsement of Labour comes despite recent attempts by the Tories and Liberal Democrats to woo the student vote with no-fees policies.

Ms Fletcher told The Times Higher that she could not endorse either of the opposition parties.

"I would like to see Labour re-elected at the next election, but with a working majority that wouldn't allow them to push through policies that aren't representative of what the country or voters think and that certainly can't break manifesto promises," she said.

Ms Fletcher won the presidency in April by two votes and after a recount - a victory that marked a historic turn to the left, breaking 20 years of Labour Party dominance of the NUS.

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