Tomorrow, a new group of young people will take to the streets of our glorious capital, filled with the revolutionary spirit of the student movement’s heyday ready to “make history this November” and tell our leaders to “fund our future: stop education cuts”. Its going to be great isn’t it?
Let’s try again. Tomorrow, a new (well, newish – most of the NUS leaders were on the last demonstration) group of young people will take to the streets of our glorious capital, filled with the revolutionary spirit of the student movement’s heyday (not 2010, okay, that spirit got some people into a bit of bother at Millbank and one chap a jail sentence for hanging off the Cenotaph) ready to ‘Educate. Empower. Employ’. Clear? Good.
As far as I can tell, the last one didn’t work so we’ve all voted to have another go and make things a bit clearer with less shenanigans. I say “we”, the delegates at this year’s NUS National Conference voted for this demonstration on behalf of all students. So off we go again, trying to make sure our voices are heard and to “show the government how angry we are at their betrayals and broken promises”.
Grrr, bloomin’ Government.
What we’ve basically voted to do is nag. We threw a bit of a hissy fit first time round and our boyfriend ignored it, so this time we are going to be a bit more subtle and remind him how important we are to him. Without us he’s nothing, and if he’s serious about stimulating his precious economy he needs to pay us some attention.
The major issue if you take this view is that, if he were a boyfriend, Mr Government would be a prime candidate for ‘Tool Academy’. He’s not listened to us so far and this last throw of the dice isn’t likely to get his attention any more than our last go.
And in some ways, that’s what tomorrow is – a last throw of the dice. Not for our relationship, we will be together forever, but for the way we communicate. Sometimes we might disagree but we need to learn to get along. There’s no way that this Coalition government can claim to be on good terms with students, when talking about GCSE results, tuition fees or graduate jobs, but neither will it stand up and say we’re the priority right now.
There are those within the student movement who want free education for all, who call the Government “scumbag millionaires”, who want dramatic change, now. Let’s be clear – that isn’t going to happen any time soon, and this march won’t change the attitude of the government towards such things one iota. The biggest thing at stake this week is how we deal with each other, and how we move forward.
For everyone involved, violence can’t rear its head as it did two years ago. The NUS needs to demonstrate its strongly held views in a mature manner and show it is capable of conversation, but equally the government needs to pay attention to the legitimate concerns of its people.
There’s a lot wrong with the way this has come about, and whether it truly represents the view of the body as a whole, but its happening. A demonstration has only come about because delegates at Conference felt it was the only way of being listened to, and if it doesn’t prove to be a platform for discussion and progress then the voices of the revolutionary element of the movement will only grow louder.
To the general public, this march needs to carry a clear message and regain some of the respect lost in 2010. Mark Bergfeld, an influential campaigner who I respect a lot, has been posting twitter messages urging people to make sure they bring a Palestinian flag to the demo with the hashtags #nus, #demo2012 and #gazaunderattack.
An important issue indeed, but the one that was voted on? This demo cannot be an excuse to get everything off our chests, but needs to carry a clear message and purpose to the people and leaders of this country.
Wednesday will be a watershed in the modern perception of the NUS and how the conversation with students is carried out for a decade. This is make or break, with a much bigger danger of being break. Let’s not miss the chance to be heard, but it’s crucial we are saying something worth listening to.
Read Jago Pearson’s thoughts on tomorrow’s demonstration and the National Union of Students here.