Why we want to ‘recall’ Aaron Porter as NUS President


11:20 am - December 16th 2010

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contribution by Eleanor Badcock

Yesterday, Sunny Hundal implied that so-called infighting within the student movement would detract from the burning political issues of EMA, tuition fees and cuts, in the campaign of no confidence against NUS President Aaron Porter.

The glaring omission, of course, is that the students pushing for a no confidence votes are the students who orchestrated 130,000 strong student protests against fees and cuts when Aaron Porter was ‘spinelessly dithering’ about whether he could support national days of action.

Much of the student movement is capable of organising the biggest student protests in British history. The official leadership, somewhat put out by the rise of a movement outside its control, organises a separate demonstration of two hundred people on the day of a crucial vote, leaving everyone else to get kettled and beaten by the police.

Hundal also worries that with the movement still in its infancy, the time is wrong. He raises concerns that the demand for Porter to resign comes out of the wave of student occupations, which were “new and transitory”, and worries that once they’re gone this demand will have no real student support. It may have slipped his attention that SOAS and Birkbeck, the two student unions to have passed the no confidence motion thus far, are both out of occupation and focusing on building the student movement further on their campuses.

In order to call for a vote of no confidence, the motion must be passed through the union’s democratic body – in SOAS’s case, a full-to-bursting Union General Meeting where only three students voted against.

He also argues the student movement doesn’t need leadership anyway. Now, it is clear that the failure of leadership on Porter’s part has not crushed the student movement. Despite his marked absence, despite his broken promises and despite the obstacle he is creating, students in their tens and hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets in a fierce and inspiring display of anger.

They’ve occupied their university buildings, stormed tax-dodgers Topshop and Vodafone, and are setting up local Student Assemblies to do the job the NUS is failing to. If this isn’t setting an agenda, then I don’t know what is.

Aaron Porter

The problem is that the NUS under Porter’s leadership has resoundingly failed to ‘follow suit’, and indeed have vocally criticised the student movement. Porter’s latest display of solidarity was to call for the exclusion of ‘violent’ students on protests. A union leadership that not only ignores the wishes of its members but actively resists them is not fit for purpose.

Whilst we can pull off huge demonstrations, waves of occupations and direct action, and create a fighting student movement without the NUS leadership, just imagine what we could do with them, fighting with one unanimous voice. We want a leadership that is truly at the forefront of our struggle, and it is our democratic right to demand so.

That old slogan still rings true: we’re with the union leaders when they’re with us, and against them when they’re against us. We will not allow the fight to oust Aaron Porter to detract from the crucial work the student movement is doing in fighting against cuts and fees in the face of desertion from our national union.

Rather, it is a necessary part of our fight; a fight which is directed against the Government, but needs the backing of the entire student movement. If we are to win then we need a united, strong student movement, with representative and fighting leadership.

Porter has emphasised during the past few months the notion of ‘Right to Recall’; the idea being that if your elected representative fails to represent you properly, or reneges on their promises, the electorate should have the right to recall them and force a by-election. Well, Aaron, this is our right to recall in action. Shouldn’t you be proud?


This was first published on Counterfire, which has a longer version, including the motion.

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Reader comments


Is this only a London movement, or have any unions outside the capital supported it?

Bloody good piece that.

As has already been articulated in the comments to Sunny’s original article, it seems painfully obvious that Porter doesn’t view his role as head of a union representing its members, but as a personal stepping stone to personal objectives.

In many ways he’s akin to the ‘big bad’ in all this Nick Clegg – both have seemingly said and done anything to get into a position of power, but when it comes to the enforcement of principle they have all the spine of a Portuguese Man o’ War.

Hopefully the constituents of whichever safe Labour seat Porter gets parachuted into will see this lack of spine and vote accordingly.

If it was brought up at my student union (Surrey) then I’m pretty sure that a lot of people would be ready to support this motion. After all, Porter’s record really doesn’t do him any credit. Not that it probably bothers him – he can probably expect a Labour safe seat in a couple of years.

I’m confused. Was Aaron Porter wrong “to call for the exclusion of ‘violent’ students on protests”?

@4 quite!

Too much stock in being put in the President of the NUS place in the wider anti cuts movement. Him going, a slight scuffle around it won’t change very much in the scheme of things. Focusing down on this is a bigger distraction than any accusations of ‘lefty infighting’ (the more I hear the term lefty unity the more hollow it sounds).

Why defending him is an issue for the whole of the British left is a little mystifying tbh…does Sunny owe him money or something?!

This is bigger and broader than who ‘leads’ the student movement. Students seem to be getting organised and active without the leadership as it is and that will continue and grow irrespective of who goes on BBC Question Time as their representative.

Of course if you have a leader who speaks “above board” while you lot are orchestrating protests it means that you don’t get your assets frozen and all that sorta ting like what happened to the miners in the 80s.

Do you want Scargill type leadership? Too easily pigeon holed and vilified.

Yoda says- don’t let “days of anger” distract you from your goal. Smashed windows are fixed. Graffiti is removed by people who don’t get paid very much. Don’t measure achievement by such things.

What do you want to achieve? What is the best methods to achieve? If you choose a path of anger Police outside your door greeting you by name in the morning is going to become very tiring. They have the funds and the facilities to do this easily to a very small number of people to burn a movement out. Think. How are you going to achieve change.

@4 Porter has really done a bang up job for the press. Not only has he failed to provide leadership, he’s been played to the media’s fears that there is a group of “hardcore activists” who have “hijacked” the demonstrations. We’re used to the press doing this sort of thing but when your union president parrots the same line, you know it’s time for a change.

Trouble is – president of the NUS is a bit of a free pass to a political career – which is of course the reason some people engage in student politics.

As such, the president of the nus is always likely to weigh his comments on how they might impact on his future career prospects. It wouldn’t go down too well with the press or when seeking selection for a seat if he failed to suitably criticise violence and law-breaking.

And as is often the case – that self indulgence over-rules solidarity.

Not sure a different leader would do much different.

Great to see the number of supportive comments here.

@George W, Potter – why not put the motion to your union? Drop me an email if you want to discuss this at 226645@soas.ac.uk

@Dave Bones – I’d love to have Scargill running the show – at least he led a proper, fighting, mass campaign!

Elly – I support this, as you know.

The upsurge in engagement, energy and campaigning creativity that we’ve seen in universities up and down the UK over the past month or so has been wonderful to witness (and to be a v.small part of). That spontaneous flourishing of grassroots activism had the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts and the many student occupations at its heart, with the occupations as a vitally important catalyst.

It should also have had the means and resources of the NUS fully at its disposal. The failure of the NUS to provide that material support was a basic failure to discharge its functions, in my view. That failure could not have come at a worse time, and we cannot afford a repeat performance.

I think this motion opens up the exciting prospect of the grassroots students movement harnessing the means and resources of the NUS and deploying them in the powerful and inventive ways that we’ve seen in recent weeks. The NUS can be a powerful tool for students, and if the feeling is that the current leadership is not making proper use of it, then members have the perfect right to reclaim it democratically, and the practical obligation to then use it themselves in a more effective way.

I wish you luck with this. I don’t know anyone involved in the occupations who won’t be backing you. And New Left Project will help where we can, for whatever that’s worth.

@Dave Bones – I’d love to have Scargill running the show – at least he led a proper, fighting, mass campaign!

Onwards, comrades. Glorious defeat is within our grasp.

@Sy – Yes, clearly what I meant was that I want the student movement to be defeated. Well done.

No, what I mean is that it would at the very least be better to have a leader that actually fights. I think, though, that the fight against fees and cuts is one we can and will win.

No, what I mean is that it would at the very least be better to have a leader that actually fights.

Scargill fought so hard he split the most powerful union in the country and left it neutered and broke. And beaten.

Good luck with your campaign against fees, but if you’re holding out for that kind of hero you’re gonna need a lot more than luck.

Elly,

To be fair, Mr Scargill thought the miners’ strike was a fight he could win. That is generally why people do this sort of thing…

It’s a bit obvious really, an agitation piece by the hard-left in SOAS to get the NUS on side and then set themselves up against the SWP.

Ah the wonders of student politics…..

At the last SOAS UGM, did the motion to refer to non-SOAS Students as Muggles get passed or not?

The glaring omission, of course, is that the students pushing for a no confidence votes are the students who orchestrated 130,000 strong student protests against fees and cuts when Aaron Porter was ‘spinelessly dithering’ about whether he could support national days of action.

Hang on, who “orchestrated” those protests? For better or for worse the protests have been just as organised as the annual convention of the British Amnesiac Society.

And, by the way, re: the Counterfire headline. You’re hardly “ousting” Porter, are you. You’re recommending that he be ousted.

“annual convention of the British Amnesiac Society.”

is that held every 2 weeks?

(sorry)

“Whilst we can pull off huge demonstrations, waves of occupations and direct action, and create a fighting student movement without the NUS leadership, just imagine what we could do with them, fighting with one unanimous voice.”

I’m trying…

No, I give up. What more do you think you could do? If you have pulled all this off, surely you’re doing fine and it’s hard to see how this isn’t a bit of a side-show. The only two substantive things I can think of that the NUS has and you don’t are email lists and an automatic media platform. It should not be impossible to cobble together challenges to these if you are imaginative about your use of technology.

I suggest this because “cobbling together” has actually been the mood of the protests/occupations etc so far, and it seems to work fairly well. I wouldn’t assume that everything will be perfect if only you could slot the NHS piece into place. Sometimes you just have to work with what you’ve got.

None of my biz, of course, just a thought.

*NUS piece into place. Obviously, having the NHS on side would be great too, but one thing at a time…

As the political strategist Olly Grender says in her tweet on this post, “the left they r currently winning the propaganda war, so why turn on the leader?” – exactly.

Well, they’re turning on the leader because he’s not radical enough for them.

Apparently he goes on to television and does horrible things like eat babies.. oh no, wait.. he’s gone on TV to say that there are some extremist elements among the students and they should not distract from the broader point about Libdem betrayal.

Shock horror! And this is exactly what I mean by people on the left who demand purity tests.

Why have Aaron Porter reach out to Middle England, which are supportive of the cause but not the violence, if you can reach out to your own buddies. As long as the socialists can hear someone echo their own viewpoints in the media, they don’t care if everyone else has turned off.

I’m sorry but this is exactly the sort of sectarianism I hate. Besides – you have Clare Solomon and Mr Chessum to try slipping and sliding to avoid condemning anyone at all (which is clearly a ludicrous position).

On Twitter, I’ve been harangued by NUS vice president Donnacha DeLong for having the temerity to praise the students who tried to protect the police van (‘baitvan’) at the second protest. Apparently that was divisive! Completely ludicrous.

Elly, I’m afraid the pining for the return of Arthur Scargill won’t do much to your cause, especially since all the polls show that people don’t like the violence. In the short term it won’t have any impact on the debate (as I said earlier) but in the longer term it would simply make it easier for the government to introduce even harsher tactics to control the violent elements. And then what are you going to do? Bring weapons on to the streets? You want an arms race with the police?

I think Aaron Porter fucked up by promising support to the occupations and then not keeping that promise. Also by trying to hold alternative protests and stopping people self-organising.

But to try and blame him for going on to the media and downplaying the violence is absurd. This is what I mean by lefties just wanting to talk to themselves: you’re actually not interested in getting Middle England on your side. You just want someone to echo what you’re thinking. That way lies marginalisation and the death of this excellent movement. I’m afraid the above editorial doesn’t convince me.

On Twitter, I’ve been harangued by NUS vice president Donnacha DeLong for having the temerity to praise the students who tried to protect the police van (‘baitvan’) at the second protest. Apparently that was divisive! Completely ludicrous.

NUJ.

OmiGod! I have to agree with Sunny – his comments (22) are spot on!

BTW, no-one seems to want to say this but … violence is just plain WRONG.

It’s not a question of reaching out to Middle England, to your pals, to Lefties or anyone else – it is morally (and legally) WRONG.

” he can probably expect a Labour safe seat in a couple of years.”

I remember that Woolas bloke used to be NUS pres. Whatever happened to him?

There is obviously a lot of energy and passion in the student movement but I think this piece and its responses illustrate how true Sunny’s previous posting have been. The energy must be controlled and a proper strategy must be agreed.

I’m a bit concerned that dear old Arthur Scargill is being romanticised in this thread. He walked straight into an engineered dispute with power stations stocked up with coal and the law changed to remove some of his greatest powers. He took on the government intent on toppling it, and when you do that it’s war!

The fight against the cuts is winnable, but not by confrontation on then streets but with politics. As cuts begin to bite alternative ideas will become more attractive to the public then arguments such as tax reform and economic stimuli might stand a chance. The ideological nature of much tory policy will become clearer too. This can only happen if opposition is organised, focussed and ready for a long fight.

@ Sunny: I can see the case that Porter should have been opposing student violence – but he could also have used his position to condemn police violence without ceasing to be moderate. He could have supported student action rather than divisively organising separate activities – if there had been a rally at the end of the march, it would have given protesters a focus once they reached Parliament Square (and perhaps prevented some of the rowdiness if people had had something to do!).

If Aaron Porter is failing to use his priviliged platform to stand up for students, how else do you expect people to show their dissatisfaction with his leadership (or lack thereof)? Accusations of “infighting” are invariably levelled against people whose voices won’t be heard at all unless they kick up a massive fuss.

Sunny, I’m slighly baffled as to who this is supposed to convince.

People have been reasonably clear that they believe Porter should go because he has not used his position to mobilise the NUS in support of the political campaigning being done by its members. Plainly that is something he should do, and plainly there is a very strong case that he hasn’t done it.

The function of the NUS is not decorative. Its function is to actively serve the interests of its members with all the means at its disposal, and in a way that is representative of their wishes. This latest argument that “we don’t need its support” is almost tragically risible.

If it is felt that the NUS is failing in its core duties, at this time of all times, then that needs to be addressed urgently. The impression that the leadership is failing has not arisen out of some of these left-wing pathologies that you sometimes appear to be unhealthily fixated on. The impression has arisen because of the acts and omissions of the NUS leadership.

Now if you want to tell people that they’re really only challenging Porter, not because of the straightforward, practical reasons they’ve given, but because they’re hard-left, sectarian purists, then that of course is your prerogative.

But since those people understand perfectly well what the actual reasons are for their actions, and since your caricature of them has nothing to say about any of this, what is it precisely that you expect to achieve by wheeling out the old clichés for the umpteenth time? Am I, for example, likely to change my mind because you are calling people like me “purists”? Obviously not.

I haven’t met everyone involved in the occupations, but I think I’ve met enough of them over the past few weeks – at UCL, Cambridge, UEL and elsewhere – to be able to say this: the idea that anti-NUS feeling at this point is the preserve of “trots”, the “far left” or sundry other cartoon characters is not one that has any credibility.

Now if those of us who support this motion turn out to represent a minority of students overall, then so be it. But it is clear that there is more than enough open discontent upon which to call into question the confidence that members have in the leadership. So if you want to convince students that they should have confidence in their leadership then I’m sorry, but you’ll have to do a damn sight better than this.

28. Luis Enrique

a lot of people are making arguments that Porter has performed badly, whereas to refute Sunny you need to be making arguments that trying to get rid of him now is the right move. It might be better to stick with a bad leader.

you could argue that he will be disposed of quickly and replaced with a new leader who will then wholeheartedly get behind the anti-cuts movement and strengthen it.

the alternative is that he won’t go easily, and that in-fighting will somehow weaken the movement. It’s not obvious to me why in-fighting within the NUS will hurt a movement that seems to have been created outside of the NUS.

So, would Porter’s removal be quick and painless, or not?

Porter is an apeaser – what the students need is a fighter.

The era of the weak compromisers is over – it’s time to make a stand.

I was there last Thursday – the first time I’ve ever seen a speaker boo’d at a rally (of any nature) was when Aaron Porter stood up to speak.

The timing may not be ideal – but history doesn’t always allow people to pick their moments, the moments come, actions are taken and history is written.

“” he can probably expect a Labour safe seat in a couple of years.”

I suspect he’s fucked now either way.

Hi David:
People have been reasonably clear that they believe Porter should go because he has not used his position to mobilise the NUS in support of the political campaigning being done by its members.

This is a good attempt at being unreasonable, but it’s pretty clear that a lot of the anger is down to the supposed “betrayal” by Aaron Porter by going on TV and distancing himself from the small bunch of hardcore idiots.

Its function is to actively serve the interests of its members with all the means at its disposal, and in a way that is representative of their wishes.

That is not its only objective. The objective in this case is to push through its agenda. It really isn’t about you guys – it is about the future generations who will have to pay high tuition fees. Please try and remember that, because it frustrates me that so many lefties think it’s about them, now.

You may think that you would get better results by being more confrontational and going on television and refusing to condemn the guy who threw the fire extinguisher, but there are deep downsides to that approach too.

Now if those of us who support this motion turn out to represent a minority of students overall, then so be it.

I’m afraid this doesn’t address my points, which don’t really revolve around using the word “trot” constantly (I haven’t in this thread – so it would help if you addressed the points I’m making instead).

My point is: why now, while in the middle of winning the war, instead of a couple of months later when the elections come around?

Secondly, do you not see the danger of spending the next few months organising against your own side?

Third, do you really think it’s credible to go on TV and say you refuse to condemn any of the violence or actions of students?

Fourth, what would be lost by waiting a few months until the elections?

‘@Dave Bones – I’d love to have Scargill running the show – at least he led a proper, fighting, mass campaign!’

Scargill represented communities made up of extended families who worked side by side with each other for generations – and he still lost. You have a transitory population who won’t recognise each other on Facebook five years from now.

You can’t win without cross-generational support and you can’t get that without distancing yourself from the violent minority. Porter might be ineffectual but he’s bang on about excluding the idiots.

I love the bathos of this:

‘Porter is an apeaser – what the students need is a fighter.

‘The era of the weak compromisers is over – it’s time to make a stand.’

…followed by the image of students booing someone.

Down with this sort of thing!

it’s pretty clear that a lot of the anger is down to the supposed “betrayal” by Aaron Porter by going on TV and distancing himself from the small bunch of hardcore idiots.

Is that what the motion rests on? No. Is that what I’ve said? No.

It really isn’t about you guys – it is about the future generations who will have to pay high tuition fees. Please try and remember that, because it frustrates me that so many lefties think it’s about them, now.

You’re out of order. Everyone I know involved in the occupations sacrificed their time and made their considerable contributions precisely for future generations, for the HE sector, for the teenagers on EMA, and for the sort of society we want to live in. The fees don’t affect current students. What impressed me most about all the people I met at the occupations was that they were doing all this for other people.

So please, Sunny, do us a favour and spare us these half-baked attempts at psychological insights into what the lefties in your mind allegedly think.

You may think that you would get better results by being more confrontational and going on television and refusing to condemn the guy who threw the fire extinguisher, but there are deep downsides to that approach too

Is that what the motion rests on? No. Is that what I’ve said? No.

I’ve said nothing about the violence, as you know perfectly well. Again, your imagination is intervening to no useful effect. I’m delighted to see condemnations of violence, as long as these are not expressions of selective pacifism but actual condemnations of all violence, both from protestors and police. And since the violence of the police is the organised, state-sanctioned violence, I think the bulk of the attention should be placed firmly on that.

Nothing controversial there, I hope.

I’m afraid this doesn’t address my points, which don’t really revolve around using the word “trot” constantly

That must be one of the few leftphobic clichés you’ve yet to appeal to so far. Purist lefty sectarians loom large, as ever.

My point is: why now, while in the middle of winning the war, instead of a couple of months later when the elections come around?

Why attempt to harness and deploy the full means and resources that ought to be working on your side in the middle of a struggle? Why not do without them for a while longer, when your need for them is greatest? Is this a serious question?

I have said this a number of times in the two threads today and yesterday. If you missed it, I’ll repeat myself. I think the benefits to the anti-fees/cuts campaign of harnessing the means and resources of the NUS to the energy generated by the grassroots students movement could be considerable.

I have said:

“The failure of the NUS to provide … material support was a basic failure to discharge its functions, in my view. That failure could not have come at a worse time, and we cannot afford a repeat performance.”

I also think it so obvious that members have the right to the full material support of the union – now, when it matters most – that I can’t quite believe the point even has to be made.

Secondly, do you not see the danger of spending the next few months organising against your own side?

This is the “why now?” point again, isn’t it?

I have been clear that this move is necessary precisely to strengthen our own side. I see no reason why students should have to campaign without the proper level of material support from their union. The idea that they should borders on the bizarre.

Third, do you really think it’s credible to go on TV and say you refuse to condemn any of the violence or actions of students?

If you can find where I’ve said that I’ll buy you a drink. Anyway, I’ve covered this.

And no, incidentally.

Fourth, what would be lost by waiting a few months until the elections?

um….This is the “why now?” point again, isn’t it?

My main gripe with Porter is that he is calling for a ‘Graduate Tax’. What the hell for? America spends 3% of its GDP and we will be spending something like 0.7% from now on. Porter should be arguing for a status quo in the very least.

Despite what the coalition says we are still a very wealthy nation. It is simply a matter of priorities. The want to marketize our universities, that is wrong. They are simply looking at the economic benefits (which is ironic considering the humanities budget is going bye bye) of university courses and not looking at the cultural or intellectual value of courses. Mr Porter needs to make these cases forcibly because as has been stated, at the moment he just looks like another career politician.

David,

I also think it so obvious that members have the right to the full material support of the union – now, when it matters most – that I can’t quite believe the point even has to be made.

To be fair to Sunny, his point here is that the members is more than just those engaged in occupations etc. Hence my question about support outside London at the outset – if there is none, this appears to be a localised radical faction in action (or at least a campaign which really needs to reach out a bit more).

The assumption that all students fully support mass protests (or even oppose fees, although that is probably more realistic) is not exactly proven is it?

37. Margin4error

Sunny

I don’t know if this is entirely relevant – but this site, with articles penned by you, carried a lot of very anti David Miliband stuff, during the labour leadership contest.

Those were largely derived from the view that he was not left enough on one issue or another.

I remember this as I kept pointing out that he was talked of in terms that should be reserved for enemies, such as propogandist, Daily-Mail-Follower and so on – not for fellow lefties even if they are not exactly the same degree of left. (I also, in turn had to keep repeating that I was not a David Miliband supporter and that my fabian vote didn’t go to him)

So it seems a little incongruous for you to then knock people for wanting rid of one rather inconsequencial leader who they deem is not left enough on one issue or another.

More over – it seems similarly incongruous that your defence of him seems to be that the left should not attack eachother – when he of course is being “ousted” if possible – for his lack of solidarity with those in his movement who he seems to have suggested should be expelled from uni.

Hence my question about support outside London at the outset – if there is none, this appears to be a localised radical faction in action

Occupations took place around the country. I gave a talk to one at Newcastle the day after Porter made his apology at UCL, and at a point when I was more sympathetic to his position than most and prepared to believe that his belated expression of support for the occupations was real, and would lead to genuine, material assistance. (I should say that I am quite uncomfortable with the personalisation of some of this against Porter – all these “careerist” jibes, etc – this is a practical matter to me and nothing else).

The occupiers at Newcastle told me that their SU had been actively obstructive towards them. I said that this may change post-Porter’s apology, though they did not share my optimism about that at all. I tweeted Porter asking him to persuade Newcastle SU to follow through on his pledge the preceding day and help the occupation there. I really hoped the Newcastle occupiers would get a pleasantly surprising response. As far as I know, they got nothing. And this was quite common, from my understanding. For weeks, people in occupations tried and tried again to engage Porter and the NUS, and were met with silence, rather than the real support that Porter himself admitted they were entitled to.

People should be under no illusions that the disaffection towards the NUS is now widespread. I can’t see any evidence to suggest that it can be pinned on whoever people think the “usual suspects” are.

I don’t see that students have been left with any alternative to a no confidence motion. This cannot simply be allowed to go on indefinitely. There is too much at stake.

“It really isn’t about you guys”

Yes, it is. It’s about who students want to represent them. Naturally, anybody is free to have an opinion. But this is not something that non NUS members actually can or should have a direct influence on.

Anymore than I get to elect people to the NUJ.

It seems “unity” means “shut up and listen to your betters”. Again.

As the political strategist Olly Grender says in her tweet on this post, “the left they r currently winning the propaganda war, so why turn on the leader?” – exactly.

Well, they’re turning on the leader because he’s not radical enough for them

I aint got anything against the guy personally but why you’re elevating him to the level of being the leader of the British left is baffling to say the least!

Leon: I aint got anything against the guy personally but why you’re elevating him to the level of being the leader of the British left is baffling to say the least!

Jeebus – I thought it was a bit obvious why this is being discussed. The student movement is vibrant right now and charged up. They’ve been involved in loads of actions and this has real potential.

But I’d also rather that the student movement allows a difference of opinion and tactics if it is to become potent, flexible and sustain itself. Hence the discussion.

David Wearing: Is that what the motion rests on? No.

It’s right there in the motion. And it’s the point made to me by almost everyone who has been criticising me for the last couple of days for taking a stand against this. Let’s not pretend it isn’t a big factor.

What impressed me most about all the people I met at the occupations was that they were doing all this for other people.

If that is the case, then consider and address the point I’m making – about people who want confrontation and someone to echo their thoughts, versus someone who can get tangible results.

I don’t believe that someone who cannot reach out to Middle England can earn enough political capital to win the media and political battles. It really is that straightforward. The revolutionaries think that getting everyone out on the streets will win the war. But if there’s one think Aaron Porter has resolutely stuck to: it’s putting up a reasonable and MOR demeanour that doesn’t turn off Middle England in disgust.

Purist lefty sectarians loom large, as ever.

If I was conjuring this up then you’d have a point. Except it is all over this thread and the previous one.

I’m also glad you agree that it isn’t possible to go on TV and avoid condemning the random acts of stupidity. This is precisely what Aaron Porter has done, and is being condemned for.

I’m not saying this is *all* he is being condemned for, but it’s part of it. It’s there in the motion too. That is part of my bearbug about this whole episode.

People should be under no illusions that the disaffection towards the NUS is now widespread. I can’t see any evidence to suggest that it can be pinned on whoever people think the “usual suspects” are.

This I agree with. I think he’s been fatally undermined by his own actions with students. I still don’t think trying to oust him now is the best thing though… as opposed to waiting for the elections. I would only argue that in the meantime you guys are welcome to build alternative structures for action and mobilisation until the election.

And David, I keep coming back to the point about the disaffection with Aaron Porter’s media appearances because it is also referred to in the article above:

Porter’s latest display of solidarity was to call for the exclusion of ‘violent’ students on protests. A union leadership that not only ignores the wishes of its members but actively resists them is not fit for purpose.

I saw the interview… and basically the interviewer kept coming back to how the NUS would deal with ‘violent elements’ – in the end he tried to bypass that by saying something like ‘we could look to exclude them’, which is clearly impossible, but his point was to try and come back to the real issue of Libdem betrayal. the BBC spun this as ‘NUS leader would exclude violent protesters’ – and now all these lot have nicely fallen for that old divide and conquer strategy. The same goes for people using the Telegraph hit-job as part of their motion. People want to find examples of AP betraying them, and they’ll happily use BBC and Telegraph spin to that purpose.

I expanded on my reply from yesterday, here – http://eastdunbartonshiressp.blogspot.com/2010/12/sunny-hundal-has-been-branding-all.html

I think it is important to remember that the NUS had little part of the occupatiions nor the organisation of the mass demos – they had a poorly attended and thought through candle lit sleep over… oer – vigil – and this, unlike other “good protestor/bad protestor” demonstrations of the past (think Auchterarder vs Bob Geldoffs London/Edinburgh deflections hastily organised within a fortnight or so of when it became obvious that the Aucherarder demos were to be massive) failed to deflect from where the REAL protestors – and for the most part poor working class protestors, where.

The problem, however, is that the media continue to go to Porter as a spokesperson – indeed, “leader” of the student movement. Lazy journalism?

Perhaps Hundal is right – let’s not spend too much time on this. But as I have said, wouldn’t the movement be much better represented by a number of grassroots spokespeople like Jody McIntyre?

It’s right there in the motion

Can you please cite and quote the clause in the motion where Porter is criticised for condemning protestor violence?

All I can see is 1.4, which as far as I’m aware, was Porter dismissing the entire ULU protest as though the whole thing was defined by violent behaviour. If that’s what he did, he deserves the criticism. Nothing in the motion posted by Counterfire criticises Porter for condemning violence. Its the motion that students like myself are being asked to support. And I’ve yet to be persuaded of what exactly it is in the motion that I’m supposed to disagree with.

then consider and address the point I’m making – about people who want confrontation and someone to echo their thoughts, versus someone who can get tangible results

But why would I want to debate with your caricatured version of what this motion is based on? We are being asked as students to support this motion. The grounds for ousting the leadership are set out in clause 3. They are:

3.1 That the National Union of Students should not be in the business of modelling cuts for the ConDem Government or discussing possible ways of cutting grants from the poorest of student.

3.2 That the NUS National President should keep his promises.

3.3 That the NUS should organise another National Demo, and officially supporting and coordinating other demonstrations and protest.

3.4 That the NUS should give practical support to occupations and students affected by police violence.

3.5 That Aaron Porter, given his failure to assist students & occupation, and to coordinate or support further National Demonstrations against the cuts, and because of his helpful emails to the government, is incapable of leading the student movement.

What does any of this have to do with “reaching out to Middle England”? How would not modelling cuts for Vince Cable’s department alienate “Middle England”? How would not breaking promises made to members alienate “Middle England”? How would organising a National Demo alienate “Middle England”? How would “Middle England” be alienated by the NUS leadership doing its job and materially supporting its members in occupation?

I still don’t think trying to oust him now is the best thing though… as opposed to waiting for the elections. I would only argue that in the meantime you guys are welcome to build alternative structures for action and mobilisation until the election.

What we’re entitled to is the immediate, material support of the existing structure whose job it is to support students, at this time of all times, which is the NUS.

Aside from the urgency of securing that support, I would also suggest that an immediate and specific move from the grassroots to recall the leadership would demonstrate powerfully to the next leadership the political costs of selling its members short. I can think of few better incentives for the next leadership to perform to the very best of its abilities, in the interests of its members, than the certain knowledge that failure to do so will not be taken lightly.

As well as sending that message to the NUS leadership, it would also send a similarly important message to other union, political and civil society leaders at this crucial time: either represent people properly and effectively, or be replaced by them.

Excellent article, Eleanor. Aaron Porter is indeed detrimental to what students are doing at the moment. You will notice that bien-pensant liberals are always quick to call for bland leadership and representation, which then automatically neuters any movement.

Anyway, David Wearing is doing a good job on this thread of explaining why Porter is a danger.

Perhaps Hundal is right – let’s not spend too much time on this. But as I have said, wouldn’t the movement be much better represented by a number of grassroots spokespeople like Jody McIntyre?

Maybe Jody McIntyre is the Arthur Scargill figure someone said was called for. Is he even a student? Maybe he could get the NUS to officially support Hezbollah.

So now people are concerned about student violence. I thought it was all just a bit of high spirits and a few smashed windows (plus rightful anger) that the police had totally overreaced to. I don’t think there was any anctual violence coming from the students. Not much anyway compared to the police who where cracking heads with batons while themselves wearing riot gear.

Jeebus – I thought it was a bit obvious why this is being discussed. The student movement is vibrant right now and charged up. They’ve been involved in loads of actions and this has real potential.

That aint gonna change if Porter goes trust me, you’ve placed too much stock in this and magnified a process issue too much. You’re playing into the media narrative!

“The glaring omission, of course, is that the students pushing for a no confidence votes are the students who orchestrated 130,000 strong student protests against fees and cuts when Aaron Porter was ‘spinelessly dithering’ about whether he could support national days of action.”

Speaking of spineless dithering, has Ed Milliband decided whether he’ll join one of the student marches yet?

He’s been trying to make his mind up for quite a while. Perhaps he should get Aunt Hattie to go along and hold a placard for him while he tries to decide 🙂

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: if you care about education then the best protest against education cuts is to go to class or to occupy your library for a few hours each day and read some books.

People who choose violence and strikes demonstrate their contempt for themselves and you, as all lasting settlements require active negotiation undertaken in a spirit of cooperation.

So ask yourselves are you looking for real change, or are you looking for some sort of pyrrhic victory to feed a vain sense of enduring fury?

Arthur Scargill lost, and he didn’t even have good hair! Epic role-model!

Hi all,

Sorry I’ve been a bit lame in replying to comments here – have been taking some much needed rest after the end of term/end of occupation mad week.

So firstly in reply to Sunny’s concern about ‘Middle England’. I’m not sure precisely who Middle England is, other than whatever section of British society remains unconvinced at the time, but the Daily Star of all places had an editorial vocally backing the protesters at Millbank Tower, and the Daily Mail had some very supportive online reader comments, if you can steel yourself to peruse them. Lecturers at my own university (SOAS) who you certainly couldn’t pigeonhole as ‘trots’ have vocally and physically supported our occupation, as have lecturers across the country. And, were it possible, I would tell you to check Clare Solomon’s mail – she recently recieved a tenner from an ex-police officer who was fully in support. Oh, and that well-known socialist cesspit Mumsnet had a long, wide-ranging and supportive discussion about the protests and the real value of education. Ask most of Middle England who Aaron Porter is and they probably wouldn’t be able to tell you.

Secondly, David Wearing has been spot-on in this thread and I won’t reiterate the excellent points he has already made.

Thirdly, and this is directed towards Sunny again – you say that Porter keeps trying to turn the issue back to Lib Dem betrayal. Well, so do other prominent figures in the student movement – watch Clare Solomon or Michael Chessum being interviewed and you can see this. That’s not a reason to not call for someone’s resignation as President.

And finally, for anyone suggesting that students should read rather than protest – we’re all quite capable of doing both, and some of us even got firsts in essays we wrote whilst in occupation. So ner-ner.

@Elly Badcock

“And finally, for anyone suggesting that students should read rather than protest – we’re all quite capable of doing both, and some of us even got firsts in essays we wrote whilst in occupation. So ner-ner.”

Clearly you don’t exercise your capabilities to their fullest.

I suggested reading is a form of protest, not an alternative to it, and a more effective one than violent disagreement at that!

Encouraging students to read more will enable more of them to get a toehold in officialdom where their decisions will be able to alter the course of events, rather than impotently bewail their misfortune from the outside: we are people, not pawns.

But your comment illuminates your intended outcome – you wish to take the place of the current establishment and then restrict access to your annointed few, not open it up to allcomers on the basis of talent and application. Heaven forbid anyone may not completely agree with you!

It is both ill-informed and self-defeating to think you can waste any educational opportunities with such profligacy while complaining about the exclusion of others.

Your misdirected argument only makes the case that your formal education is lacking. And why would low, middle or high England want to extend your failings?

It is vital to recognise that funding reform must, and will inevitably go hand in hand with structural reforms. So, without making the argument for specific structural improvements, you simply imply government must restrain spending.

And as far as student activists and representatives are concerned, they are failing the interests of both current and future students while they continue to resist presenting a more balanced debate.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Why we want to ‘recall’ Aaron Porter as NUS President http://bit.ly/e9SJor

  2. Jonathan Calder

    RT @libcon: Why we want to ‘recall’ Aaron Porter as NUS President http://bit.ly/e9SJor

  3. Daniel Furr

    RT @libcon Why we want to ‘recall’ Aaron Porter as NUS President http://bit.ly/e9SJor

  4. Olly Grender

    Thanks @lordbonkers for insight into the left they r currently winning the propaganda war, so why turn on the leader? http://bit.ly/e9SJor

  5. Therese

    RT @libcon: Why we want to ‘recall’ Aaron Porter as NUS President http://bit.ly/e9SJor

  6. Laurie

    RT @libcon: Why we want to ‘recall’ Aaron Porter as NUS President http://bit.ly/e9SJor

  7. Greg Stone

    RT @libcon: Why we want to ‘recall’ Aaron Porter as NUS President http://bit.ly/e9SJor

  8. Ben Folley

    RT @libcon: Why we want to ‘recall’ Aaron Porter as NUS President http://bit.ly/e9SJor

  9. Mark Smithson

    RT @libcon: Why we want to ‘recall’ Aaron Porter as NUS President http://bit.ly/e9SJor

  10. Leon Green

    Why we want to ‘recall’ Aaron Porter as NUS President http://t.co/MWuYwfM

  11. Aaron Peters

    http://bit.ly/epUEAO the curtain is about to fall on a stillborn political career

  12. Simon Davies

    NUS president calls for exclusion of violent students at protests – so the students want him out http://bit.ly/efUUdg

  13. Spir.Sotiropoulou

    RT @libcon: Why we want to %u2018recall%u2019 Aaron Porter as NUS President http://bit.ly/e9SJor

  14. vitoria

    @sdv_duras *waves* did you see the discussion following this article? http://bit.ly/dIbxJ6

  15. sdv_duras

    RT @vitoria_e_certa: @sdv_duras *waves* did you see the discussion following this article? http://bit.ly/dIbxJ6

  16. sdv_duras

    oh and I love the idea that Scargill broke the NUM… http://bit.ly/dIbxJ6 guess the person who wrote that comment isn't doing history…

  17. Rachel Hubbard

    Why we want to ‘recall’ Aaron Porter as NUS President | Liberal Conspiracy http://goo.gl/v8MZq

  18. If you’re looking for leadership, look away from the Labour Party | Guy Debord's Cat

    […] The Labour Party has been tepid in its support for the anti-cuts movement. It has offered no leadership at all. The NUS President, Aaron Porter also provided no leadership. His candlelit vigil on the Embankment became an even more laughable glowstick vigil (sic). He condemned some protesters as “a hardcore of activists” and played directly into the hands of the media.  Porter then backtracked after, it appears, he had taken advice from Labour Party Hq. His leadership remains weak and there are calls for him to be removed from office. […]





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