student

The Young Greens’ letter in the Guardian today

The Young Greens are in the letters page of the Guardian today arguing that the Green Party are the real third party in British youth politics.

It follows a fawning Guardian article earlier this week on Young Independence, the youth wing of UKIP.

I was pleased to write and sign the letter along with over 50 other Young Green activists and the entire National Committee.

Please share widely!

Young Greens’ growth spurt

While we welcome opening up the debate about parties, your article on Young Independence (Not all rich, not all white, totally Eurosceptic: meet Ukip’s youth, 4 August) ignored the real third force in youth politics right now – the Green party. The Young Greens, the youth branch of the Green party, has grown by 70% since March this year alone, now standing at well over 3,000 members – more than Young Independence – and we have 60 branches in dozens of towns and cities across the UK.

This puts us ahead of the Liberal Democrats and catching up with Labour to be a highly significant force among young people, both within the student movement and outside. Poll after poll puts Green party support among young people at over 15%, more than the Liberal Democrats and Ukip combined.

Young Greens are at the forefront of campaigns across the country opposing the politics of the hard right and fighting for decent housing and jobs for all, free education, a living wage and publicly owned services – and opposing austerity, which hits young people incredibly hard. In contrast to the mainstream parties, we are also proud to be against the scapegoating of migrants and the refusal to tackle climate change.

This October we will be holding our convention in Brighton. We welcome all those who similarly value social and environmental justice to come along.
Siobhan MacMahon and Clifford Fleming Young Greens co-chairs, Josiah Mortimer, Laura Summers, Thom French and Fiona Costello National committee members, Charlene Concepcion National treasurer and London Young Greens co-chair, Amelia Womack Lambeth Green party, deputy leader candidate, Bradley Allsop Chair of Northampton Young Greens, Howard Thorpe Green party campaigns coordinator, Sahaya James Gloucestershire Young Greens chair, Karl Stanley Co-convener Young Greens North, Hannah Ellen Clare, Co-convenor Young Greens North, Joseph Clough Manchester Young Greens treasurer, Jantje Technau Canterbury Young Greens chair, Deborah Fenney Leeds University Union Green party secretary, Pete Kennedy Coordinator, Doncaster Green party, Samantha Pancheri Chair Milton Keynes Young Greens, Jo Kidd Chair Canterbury district Green party, Ross Campbell Liverpool Young Greens chair, Benjamin Sweeney Co-chair Dudley Green party, Mani Blondel North Staffordshire Green party, Keele University Young Greens, Rory Lee Bath & North East Somerset Green party, Darren Bisby-Boyd Peterborough Young Greens, Alex Bailey Peterborough Young Greens, Jack Tainsh Peterborough Young Greens, Emma Carter Leeds Young Greens, David Stringer Teesside Young Greens organiser, Alexander Catt Blackwater Valley Green party, Glen Marsden Manchester Young Greens, Duncan Davis Nottingham Young Greens, George Blake Keele Student Greens, Mike Lunn-Parsons North Staffordshire Green party and Keele Young Greens, William Pinkney-Baird Durham Young Greens, Harriet Pugh Manchester Young Greens, Merlin Drake Ceredigion Green party, Lisa Camps York Green party, Grant Bishop Birmingham Green party, Sam Peters Surrey Green party, Matthew Genn Sheffield and Rotherham Young Greens, Lucy Bannister Manchester Young Greens, Rustam Majainah Surrey GP, Matthew Maddock Keele University Young Greens, Huseyin Kishi London Young Greens, Portia Cocks Mid Sussex, Crawley and Horsham Greens, Graham Bliss Rugby Greens, Andrew Iredale Young Greens, Andrea Grainger Keele University Young Greens, Julia Lagoutte Durham University Young Greens, Lee Burkwood Waltham Forest and Redbridge, Alan Borgars Welwyn Hatfield Green party, Miles Grindey South East Hampshire Green party, Merryn Davies-Deacon South West Young Greens

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Greens now third party amongst students

Students are now more likely to vote Green than Liberal Democrat or UKIP, a recent poll has shown.

Support for the Green Party amongst students is now higher than ever before, with 14% of students backing the Greens – ahead of the Liberal Democrats on 6% and UKIP on 5%, the poll conducted by YouthSight found.

The poll, taken as part of the comprehensive Student Vote 2014 survey, follows another from the Tab this month showing Green support at 12% to the Lib Dems’ 10% and UKIP on 8%.

Siobhan MacMahon from the Young Greens, said: “The Green Party is the only party campaigning for university to be free, as it is across much of Europe. This is one of the many reasons students are leaving the Liberal Democrats and joining the Green Party. Pushing the Lib Dems into third place shows they have rightly paid a high price for their betrayals.

“Students are flocking to the Greens as a serious alternative to the right-wing consensus of the main parties, and Labour, the Lib Dems and the Conservatives should take notice.

“With Green support amongst students higher than ever before, our progressive message for a Living Wage, an end to zero hours contracts, publicly-owned services and a fair deal for the planet is resounding with thousands across the country.”

The Tab survey also showed students supported Green Party policies, such as same-sex marriage, legalising marijuana and remaining in the European Union. The Conservatives topped the poll with 33%, beating Labour into second with 30%, while YouthSight’s survey had Labour on 43% and the Conservatives on 24%.

The YouthSight poll was conducted at the start of April and surveyed over 1000 students. Over 5,000 students responded to the poll on the Tab’s website.

Young Greens join university strike pickets and call for student support

[My first press release for the Young Greens in my new post at Press Officer on the national committee! See original here]

Young Greens groups across the country will be backing lecturers and other university staff on strike this Thursday, following a unanimous vote by the Young Greens National Committee to support the industrial action over pay and other issues.

Members of the Green Party’s youth branch will be joining picket lines in Manchester, Norwich, York and elsewhere.

The strike action is over a 13% real-terms pay cut over the last four years and a below-inflation 1% pay offer this year, as well as calls for equal pay between male and female workers. There is currently a £1bn surplus in the higher education sector which the Unite, Unison and UCU unions argue should be used to ensure fair remuneration.

Manchester Young Greens will be joining the action, with Young Greens national Co-Chair Clifford Fleming speaking at a strike rally on the day, where he will say: “We are united against an ideological affront to Higher Education, an affront which has resulted in tripled tuition fees, course closures, cuts, and the shoddy treatment of workers in the sector.

The attacks to university pay and conditions are part of a broader attack on education by the coalition government, and it’s vital that students support the strike.”

In Norwich, University of East Anglia Young Greens will be joining picket lines on the day. Chris Jarvis, society Equality & Diversity Co-Ordinator, said: “The UEA Young Greens are proud to support our lecturers and other university workers faced with a measly 1% pay offer – a real-terms cut in the income of thousands of staff at the University.

‘Students must show our solidarity in the face of the government’s attempts to undermine education and the public sector as a whole. This race to the bottom has to stop. With 15 members of staff at the top paid more than the Minister for Higher Education, decent pay for our cleaners, catering staff, technicians and other workers should be a given”.

University of York Green Party members have launched a student petition in support of the workers taking action. Chair Nick Devlin said: “We are encouraging all students to visit the picket lines during the strike and show some support for the people who keep our university running. This petition is calling for fair pay for all at the University and is a show of solidarity from students.

“With the Vice Chancellor paid nearly 18 times more than the lowest paid, it’s time for fair pay on campus – a Living Wage for all and a maximum pay ratio of 10:1.”

The petition is available here, and calls on students to boycott lectures and seminars in support of striking staff.

The strike comes after the launch of a Young Greens report, The Fair Pay League, which shows that the average Vice Chancellor pay is over £248,000, and 1,633 senior staff members in the sector are paid over £140,000 per year – more than enough to pay the nearly 5,000 workers on the Minimum Wage at Universities a Living Wage.

More information on the strike and a petition for those backing the strike to sign is available here: http://www.fairpayinhe.org.uk/

The spirit of youth discontent wasn’t dead, just resting

This was first published here at OpenDemocracy

Student radicalism is making a come-back. About time, I might add.

It’s now nearly three years since the infamous riot at Milbank Tower, Conservative Party HQ, at the height of student unrest in November 2010. Mention Milbank to a student – or ex-student – leftist today and you will hear a sigh of nostalgia. It’s no wonder – there hasn’t been anything like it since.

You always know a movement is soon to wane when you hear the desperate cry: ‘this is just the beginning’. It’s usually just the end. I heard the phrase repeatedly in the winter of 2010 as a naïve, but increasingly angry, college student. A month or so after ‘Demolition’ – the 50,000 strong NUS-backed protest in London, a bunch of my friends organised a protest against the scrapping of the Educational Maintenance Allowance. Just a dozen turned up – mostly ageing socialist sect members we’d asked to help mobilise the protest, actually. We blamed the weather and exams. Possible factors, true. Either way though, our movement was dying, abandoned by the NUS amid the age-old accusations of ‘mindless violence’ (i.e. property damage). Needless to say, most of the actual physical violence, as Alfie Meadows and others learned, was from the riot-geared and mounted Met police.

Yet it was followed by an upsurge of worker action over pensions and cuts – a mutually reinforcing cycle that built solidarity among the public sector and those in education. Once the strikes had ended however, the whole edifice of activism did too.

2011’s anniversary protest of Milbank, though spirited, was a damp quib, despite the best efforts of the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts. Police estimate 2,000 marched, organisers reckoned 15,000. The reality was obviously somewhere in between. Kettling, pre-arrests and the lack of a mobilising issue – since the tuition fee vote had long passed – all played their part in putting youngsters off. On top of the fact that the NUS’ backing of the march was only nominal.

‘Demo 2012’ crushed spirits even further, a stage-managed A-to-B walk through London’s remote corners in the rain. Liam Burns bore the brunt of the blame, heckled as a traitor to the cause and careerist. It was a funeral march, the speeches mere eulogies for a lost battle. For many, it marked the end. I came home that day, on the long coach journey back up to York, mourning.

But, another year on, we have a spark. October marked the start of a wave of industrial action in the education sector – starting with the NUT/NASUWT school strikes on the 17th that saw nearly 3,5000 schools closed or partially closed in a regional warm up to an upcoming one-day national walkout before Christmas. Young people joined rallies and marches in their thousands, defending their teachers pay, pensions and jobs.

Two weeks on, Britain sees its first ever joint UK-wide strike by Higher Education unions over the pathetic 1% pay rise on offer. Both academic and non-academic staff will refuse to work, and uni students are planning to join them. Take a look at the support statement here. It’s time to rekindle that forgotten solidarity.

All this comes at a time when the government has confirmed its plans to privatise the student loan book – to literally flog off all student debt (under the Student Loans Company) to big business. Students haven’t been quiet – despite the little known nature of the plans – blocking (and in some cases occupying) a number of Liberal Democrat MPs offices just last week, including Vince Cable and Simon Hughes. Young Greens led a protest outside the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills on the same day – it looks like Cable can’t hide. The NUS, as usual, has been weak. But pressure has also already forced over 30 MPs to sign an Early Day Motion in Parliament condemning the sell-off.

These are just a couple of trends building up, alongside a flurry of radical student conferences, from Student Fightback to the Student Assembly Against Austerity on November 2nd in London, Shared Planet on the 2nd and 3rd and the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts conference on the 23rd and 24th of November, hundreds are already expected to attend events which could kick-start a hitherto moribund movement, just days before a country-wide postal workers’ strike and the People’s Assembly’s all-day ‘Bonfire of Austerity’. Expect creative action in every major city – from bank occupations to road blocking.

There’s something in the air. The next few weeks could be pivotal in revitalising the radical student movement and bringing back that nostalgic spirit of passion, anger – and most importantly, solidarity. I won’t jinx it and say ‘this is just the beginning’ – I’ve learnt my lesson. But if we seize the moment, something interesting might at last be on the rise again.

Back in ’68…Building an anti-cuts NUS and an international movement

[This piece was written for Militant Student]

The president of the London School of Economics student union, David Adelstein, and Marshall Bloom, president of the Graduate Students’ Association, have been suspended for taking part in demonstrations and direct action against their leadership. Millions of people are taking to the streets in France, and there are massive protests in the US after the government ignores its people’s demands. The year? 1967.

But there are some crucial differences. In the ‘60s university education was free – indeed they actually paid students to go to university. Britain was under a relatively left-wing Labour government. Today we are facing the most brutal cuts for generations – and university fees are being tripled, alongside unprecedented cuts to teaching budgets and the humanities. These are disturbing, and simultaneously exciting, times. As nearly 100,000 workers join forces with students every day in Wisconsin, revolutions break out in the Middle East and Northern Africa and Britain prepares for it’s largest demonstration in years on March 26th – times seem to be changing. In a very big way.

And yet the head of the Bank of England, Mervyn King said recently he’s ‘surprised people aren’t angrier’. When a representative of the bourgeoisie says makes this kind of comment, students and workers know it is time to take the action to another level.

This action is becoming international. Spurred on by the student protests of last year, UK Uncut formed to challenge tax dodging. Just a few months later it has spawned off-shoots in the US, France, Canada and Sudan. In a globalised economy, direct action is too becoming globalised.

At home, however, over 100,000 UCU members look likely to strike this month, and like the radical students of the 1960s we should be joining these lecturers in solidarity – a concept summarised in the book ‘Student Power’ over 40 years ago – ‘the first students to revolt…may not be those who suffer most acutely’. For school and college students to see people already in university protesting against the rise in fees is immensely inspiring, and has strengthened the movement. In this ‘renewal of revolutionary politics’ we are seeing 17 year olds radicalising people in their 50s who were active during the miners strikes of the ‘80s. This is a unity the left hasn’t seen for a long time, and the recent election result in Ireland (five United Left Alliance candidates were elected) only adds to the evidence that unity can have a fortifying impact upon the cause for democratic change.

Figures alone mean little, but the left groups of the UK have seen their numbers grow over the past year, a fact that all socialists and students should welcome. These developments add to the call for a fighting NUS, and after Aaron Porter’s standing down, Mark Bergfeld (for president) and Michael Chessman’s (for vice-president of FE) election campaigns have shown there is a real chance for the National Union of Students to be transformed, as in the late ‘60s, to a body that truly defends its members.

But after the exam period, it is imperative that the movement is revitalised. Hundreds of thousands of public sector workers are set to lose their jobs this year. Two thirds of public sector workers are women, who are being hit disproportionately. Pandering to the national press, however, is the ‘freedom of the lemming’, as one commentator put it. November’s student protest last year put young people on the map, and sparked a national revolt. Both the March 26 demonstration and the march from Jarrow to London on the 1st of October will bring together many groups, but it is in the student unions and local communities that we must develop the fight – the anti-poll tax campaign had groups in nearly every part of the country when it was introduced.

So as youth unemployment reaches a million, like the LSE student union president of 1967, SU’s must put all they can into building diverse and progressive campaigns against the cuts, and ensuring that this year is the year for a left NUS. Adelstein, it’s worth knowing, was reinstated as president after a militant 10-day occupation at the university. Just something to take note of…

All Eyes on the Uprising – Mubarak Must Go

[This post appeared here at Militant Student]

For a blogger to suggest that what is happening in Egypt right now was not caused by Facebook or Twitter is perhaps slightly heretical – but when 40% of people in a population of 80 million live on less than $2 a day, it is clear many are struggling to afford food, never mind a laptop or internet connection, as George Galloway made clear in his Stop the War Coalition speech just a couple of days ago.

This is a revolution which has grown from solidarity with Tunisia but has now surpassed the scale of that revolt, and today, Friday, we watch as what is expected to be the largest demonstration in Egypt’s recent history takes place. The Day of Departure. Whether it will result in a popular overthrow of the government, or bloodshed is a frightening question. But whatever happens, Egypt has inspired the world to fight back against the forces of oppression and capital. Mubarak’s membership of the Socialist International means nothing – his has been a regime propped up by Western powers to protect private interests, and only under the sheer scale of the mass revolt is the US and UK admitting Mubarak must step down.

Students take note. 90% of those unemployed are under 30. The movement in Egypt is one against an economy that lets millions of young people be condemned to an existence without a future or any hope. And while the IMF and WTO have been pushing for decades to end food subsidies in Egypt (despite the massive malnutrition rates) , world food prices are at the highest recorded since records began.

We must not underplay the role of organised labour in these revolutions. The general workers union in Tunisia, the UGTT, was instrumental in organising general strikes and keeping the movement going – in fact, organising it altogether – until Ben Ali stepped down. The unions in Egypt should and are doing the same.

Revolutions are contagious. And there are no blueprints. What has happened in other countries may happen elsewhere, but never in exactly the same manner – democracy, after all, is about the people choosing how to run things. And my mind is almost changing – if millions do take to the streets and demand something, I would say their demands against poverty, against tyranny, against the brutal fist of capitalism should be met. “One unstoppable mass of humanity” was how one observer describes the current events in Egypt. Humanity as a whole must now embrace the historical inevitability that is an irreversible shift in power from the rich to the workers, the unemployed and the downtrodden.

Striking a Balance – Jegan Wood argues for a more considered approach in the student struggle

We in Britain, and in many countries the world over, are suspended in constant debate over the values on which our society is based. Some argue that tradition should guide our decisions, and that our goal as a society is in defence of ourselves, and ourselves alone, while others argue that we must seek no less than perfect co-operation and universal equality of means.

However, the ideas that seem perhaps etched most boldly into our culture are those of Freedom and Utility. While governments in succession from as far back as you care to look have promised us ‘Freedom’ and ‘Opportunity’ while claiming to “do what is best for everyone”, we wonder whether or not the terms still carry any meaning. They have been overused, parroted and distorted so many times that we are left feeling dizzy.

This should not be so! We in Britain may have no single written constitution, but we have the principle, unwritten as it may be, that any government claiming rule over this society must do so in the people’s best interest and its sole aim must be to balance the desires and grievances of its populace.

The governments ‘Mandate to govern’ is, as in any democracy, is derived only from their claim to ‘do what’s best for all of us’ and as such we have a duty to speak out on our own behalf against actions such as the cuts when they in fact jeopardise our best interests.

However the most salient point, and one that can be gleaned in light of violence at Millbank, is that aggression proves and symbolises nothing but capacity for aggression itself.  If any marking impact is to be made upon the debate over measures such as tuition fees it is not to be through shouting “Free education for all” it is to be made through convincing the government that their proposal is not the compromise that they first justified it as and pushing for concessions.

And in haste of feet, flash of temper and rush of adrenaline, pause a second and consider; the streets are merely the platform, the voice is the weapon.