Why aren’t students taking a lead on saving the NHS?


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11:30 am - April 2nd 2012

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contribution by Edward Bauer

While the rise in tuition fees was met by demonstrations of tens of thousands, a mass movement against the largest attack on the NHS is yet to come. The lack of action by students does not represent apathy, but rather hugely repressed anger.

It has been a low rumble of thunder. But the lightning has not yet been struck; students nationwide haven’t yet been given an organisation to rally behind on the streets.

There hasn’t been a glaring spark in the public eye.

We have mostly been held back by our unions that have been broken and neutered under previous governments. After the miners’ strike Thatcher’s government passed laws attempting to limit student unions, making them legally bound to only campaign on narrow student related issues.

Under New Labour, these laws became even more pernicious and pervasive as the 2006 Charities Act changed student unions from exempt charities to charitable companies limited by guarantee. This change meant student unions went from charitable bodies that were regulated by their members to charitable bodies regulated by a government commission.

Even debate on the issue has been shut down.

But organisations like the National Union of Students are not tied down by the same legal barriers as individual students union – it could easily give the student body the outlet it needs to express its rage.

It is the only resourced student organization capable of a real political battle. It can call students out on mass to the streets. If it started supporting and co-coordinating sustained direct action, occupations of the firms pouring blood money into the system buying up the NHS and buying off our politicians, then perhaps we could witness a political miracle.

Direct action, occupations & tackling ministers are the actions we need now. The more attention we can get for NHS, the more people will wake up to the great robbery taking place, the closer the explosion of public anger will become.

It’s better that we fight now than as a movement to defend the NHS, than to fight later as a movement of the bereaved in 10 years time. Imaginative galvanizing action is the only viable option.


Edward Bauer is VP Education at the University of Birmingham and an activist with the NCAFC, and People and Planet

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Reader comments


1. Dr Éoin Clarke

We organised and staged 27 demonstrations throughout the UK on Monday 19 March at 8pm.

About 80% of those who attended were women.
About 75% of those who attended were over 35 years.

If you look at the polling data you will see that twice as many men wanted the NHS Bill to become law than men did.

Of the 1.4million workers in the NHS 78% are women.

All things considered, those most likely to suffer from the NHS carve up are women & older people.

It is one of the reasons that despite 16 hour days, for a period of 50 days campaigning we in the NHS campaign really really struggled to capture the interest & support of youngish men.

2. Dr Éoin Clarke

*If you look at the polling data you will see that twice as many men wanted the NHS Bill to become law than women did.

@Dr Éoin Clarke my point is that you didn’t fail. Students & young people are angry you got their attention but the official channels through which they often organize themselves onto the streets in large numbers didn’t react to their demand for a fight.

Student Unions have sat on the NHS issue and twiddled their thumbs. This is partly because grassroots student unions are shackled by law and the bureaucracies have use these laws to stifle the development of student taking to the streets.

4. the a&e charge nurse

Any attack by students on privatisation of the NHS will, sadly, be as effective as their attack on tripling of tuition fees.

The coalition is simply not listening (or they might have taken account of the tsunami of objections from the vast majority opposed to the HSCB) – the only way we can register our protest nowadays is to vote for men in pink lycra catsuits
http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_umlzAZEqQig/SUTymHR8YlI/AAAAAAAABW8/UNC6jWKtEbQ/s320/Galloway2204_468x611.jpg

5. Alisdair Cameron

Also, there’s a student myopia of sorts.
Making very broad generalisations, a typical student is of an age and health that they will make less use of the NHS, so threats to it may seem more distant and less personally immediate.

It was anger? I’m going to be cynical and say it is that “students” only care about things that affect them as students. Those students who have been affected by the NHS, have experience… NHS advocates if you will, might have done more.

People campaign on things that help themselves not lose money/lose rights/lose opportunities. Students are, as Eoin says, unlikely to see the NHS as something useful, so why would they, en masse, fight for it?

To generalise broadly and probably unfairly, and accepting that there are some activist types doing various things, students (and maybe even people in general) do seem more concerned about their phones, apps, TOWIE and other cultural detritus. £9000 a year? I’d be fucking livid but an acceptance of severe debt seems to be an ingrained part of our way of life now.

@Lee Griffin I don’t think there is any “student apathy” on the issue, students care great deal about the NHS. I’m suggesting that there is a immense anger from the younger generation and will come out at some point.

The SU laws have sat on the debate as they have allowed the bureaucracies to cite their interpretation of the law and restrain not only any action but also any debate as well. This has meant that SU’s all across the country, lots of debates and actions that could have taken place ultimately didn’t. We’ve seen how student movements develop with trickles becoming floods. Students groups copying good actions & events. However due to these laws and the culture they allow to be incubated by rightwing bureaucracies we haven’t had the multiplier effect come out as it could have done this year.

I think that these laws have meant that the student reaction on the NHS has been slower than it otherwise would have been, say with fees when we were out on the streets before the bill even went to Parliament. From talking to people and seeing their anger it is apparent to me at least that their is the same deep anger that lead to occupations to seemingly spread spontaneously about fees & cuts in 2010.

Money

“Why aren’t students taking a lead on saving the NHS?”

Maybe they are trying to study.

Other people do have their own interests to worry about.

Why should students be trying ”to save” the NHS more than anyone else?
Student politics is deadly dull and usually led by all the wannabe activists who most students try to avoid most of the time. Who want’s to go on another pointless demo carrying those SWP placards with the top bit torn off?

You have to be a real fan of all the political detail to even know what is actually going on with the NHS. I only have to see Andy Burnham about to be interviewed on TV for my heart to sink and want to change the channel.

Did Labour not invest in the NHS in a way that was unsustainable?

And why not ”football fans the save the NHS”? Or are they the wrong demographic?

12. the a&e charge nurse

[11] ‘Did Labour not invest in the NHS in a way that was unsustainable?’ – no, the NHS has ALWAYS cost less than Germany, France, Switzerland, and certainly the USA – the gap closed marginally under NuLab, that’s all.

Whenever the NHS does try to save money, for example by limiting access to cancer drugs that are hugely expensive but with little evidence for efficacy the likes of the Fail start frothing at the mouth.

13. Leon Wolfeson

@4 – Ah yes, gotta support the supporters of terrorism to have a say!

WHAT?

14. the a&e charge nurse

[14] that’s not my point at all – as shit as Galloway is, he is less shit than the alternatives (in the minds of the Bradford voters).

Galloway has been portrayed as a cipher for how low our politicos have sunk, as well as the level of disengagement amongst the general public.

Having said that I do not think Galloway is a supporter of terrorism.

15. the a&e charge nurse

Doh, meant @13

16. Leon Wolfeson

@14 – You don’t? Great, well, sorry, the evidence for me is quite clear.

I’m not going to argue against the problem of disengagement (as I agree, and I want a new moderate left-wing party), but Galloway is a symptom of the problem, not the solution. Afaik.

17. abcvkjbgttr

“I’m going to be cynical and say it is that “students” only care about things that affect them as students”

The current students protesting the other year will be unaffected by the new tuition fees regime. So you’re cynicism is misplaced.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Why aren't students taking a lead on saving the NHS? http://t.co/VKgsL9Wf

  2. Jason Brickley

    Why aren’t students taking a lead on saving the NHS? http://t.co/6SDECMap

  3. leftlinks

    Liberal Conspiracy – Why aren’t students taking a lead on saving the NHS? http://t.co/oB1yoszv

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    Liberal Conspiracy – Why aren’t students taking a lead on saving the NHS? http://t.co/oB1yoszv

  6. Edward Bauer

    http://t.co/FbSQz2l4 Anti-Student Union laws passed after the miners strike have held students back but, the anger is there if #nus leads.

  7. Edward Bauer

    Why aren't students taking a lead on saving the NHS? http://t.co/VKgsL9Wf

  8. Megan

    http://t.co/FbSQz2l4 Anti-Student Union laws passed after the miners strike have held students back but, the anger is there if #nus leads.

  9. John Smith

    @libcon Why aren't students taking a lead on saving the NHS? http://t.co/MpYrjAYi > Because they've got work to do? No, can't be that…

  10. Why aren’t students taking a lead on saving the NHS? | Vice President Education & Access

    [...] A article on the NHS & Students published on liberal conspiracy earlier today [...]

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    Why aren't students taking a lead on saving the NHS? http://t.co/VKgsL9Wf

  13. Edward Bauer

    some thoughts on the fight for #NHS & #NUS role ahead of #nusnc12 http://t.co/FbSQz2l4

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    Why aren't students taking a lead on saving the NHS? http://t.co/VKgsL9Wf

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    Student rage on the NHS is being held back by regressive laws & bureaucracies using these laws to keep a lid on a… http://t.co/tx353jQq

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    Why aren’t students taking a lead on saving the NHS? | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/66Dp8eQ3 #saveournhs #Tories #LibDems #dropthebill

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    Why aren’t students taking a lead on saving the NHS? | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/66Dp8eQ3 #saveournhs #Tories #LibDems #dropthebill

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    Why aren’t students taking a lead on saving the NHS? | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/66Dp8eQ3 #saveournhs #Tories #LibDems #dropthebill

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