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An anti-austerity campaigner, a UKIP activist and the current National Union of Students Black Students’ Officer are to contest incumbent president Toni Pearce for the leadership of the NUS. The elections for its major positions will be held at the NUS 2014 conference in Liverpool.
Daniel Cooper is the Vice-President of the University of London Union, and has run a prolific campaign against the closure of the ULU and higher education cuts. Mr Cooper was recently arrested, but later released, for allegedly assaulting a police officer. Cooper’s manifesto says he is “a socialist standing to amplify grassroots student struggles”, decrying the “timidity, management speak and bureaucracy of NUS as it currently exists”. If elected, Mr Cooper seeks to “fight the wave of repression against student activists”; demand free education for all; plea “Labour ends Tory policies” and “tax the rich and put expropriating banks centre stage”; and “link up left-wing [students’ unions] independently, for a fight in NUS and struggle outside”. The manifesto states the NUS is “failing” to lead “a powerful national fightback”, after “betraying the 2010-11 student protests”.
Jack Duffin is a prospective UKIP parliamentary candidate for Uxbridge and South Ruslip, and is the secretary of Young Independence, UKIP’s youth section. Mr Duffin says “the NUS is the perfect vehicle to challenge the ruling elite in this country to improve the dwindling education in this country.” Duffin’s manifesto wants to reduce both student numbers and tuition fees, restore grammar schools, accentuate vocational education and establish universal maintenance payments, as students “shouldn’t have to work to put food on the table”. Mr Duffin says the “Westminster elite” are strongly opposed to grammar schools, suggesting: “Could this be because they want to keep the domination of the highest paid and most powerful jobs to themselves and their children?”
Aaron Kiely, the incumbent NUS Black Students’ Officer, wants a ‘fighting NUS’ that will take on “the Tories, austerity and racism”. Mr Kiely believes the NUS should be “at the heart of the People’s Assembly Against Austerity movement”, as “we need to be part of a fighting coalition of the 99% against austerity”.
The manifesto has appraisals from Labour MP Diane Abbott and columnist Owen Jones. Mr Kiely is the co-founder of the ‘Bring Back EMA’ campaign, a student officer for Unite Against Fascism, and sits on the national committee of the People’s Assembly Against Austerity. Mr Kiely wants to “turn the NUS around”, from “standing on the sidelines” to “building a united, fighting opposition that’ll make the government think twice”.
The present NUS President Toni Pearce now seeks her second term – ‘Getting the job done’. Ms Pearce’s manifesto opens: “This year we chose to start rebuilding our movement, focusing on the issues that really matter to students.” A second term promises a General Election strategy for every students’ union, “deliver community organising training” to campuses and automatic registration to vote upon enrolment. Through mobilisation, Ms Pearce seeks to “an end to market driven competition” in education, a “fair pay deal for staff”, “a new drive to secure democratic institutions” and protections for international students. A re-election would mean the development of accreditation for student employers, as well as campaigns against student poverty and ‘lad culture’.
Whilst Ms Pearce has concentrated on further education issues during her first term, VP Higher Education Rachel Wenstone has picked up university concerns. Ms Wenstone is in her second term, and cannot stand for re-election. The delegates’ choice for Ms Wenstone’s successor will be between Megan Dunn, the President of Aberdeen University Students’ Association, and Tom Flynn, the VP Education at the University of Bristol Union.
Note: This article was written for the News section of bathimpact, which is edited by Helen Edworthy.