NUS leader Aaron Porter has backed all peaceful student protests and occupations on the eve of another day of action by students over cutting of the Educational Maintenance Allowance and student fees.

See the Guardian’s article ‘Student protests: NUS president apologises for ‘spineless dithering”

This is a verbatim transcription from the video of Aaron Porter visiting the UCL Occupation on the morning of the 28th of November where he was presented with the following demands from the UCL occupiers:

“The UCL student occupation calls on the NUS to:

1. Publically support all student occupations on the front page of the NUS website and through all available media

2. To call immediately for a new wave of occupations as a legitimate form of protest against fees and cuts

3. To organise financial, legal and political aid to all current and future occupations

4. To call a national day of action on the day of the parliamentary vote on tuition fees

5. To officially support any staff taking further industrial action on cuts in the education sector”

Aaron Porter’s response is as follows:

“Yeah, well, let me start off by uh saying, the good news is, uh, I will absolutely, I am happy to be able fulfill all of these. And uh, let me also say, I think the best thing that I… so I can completely fulfill them. Um, I should also be honest and say I won’t just talk about occupations but I will talk about other activities as well which students unions can do and I will ensure that, um, that occupations is described as a poli… perfectly legitimate form of, uh, of action and that will be on the front page of the website from, uh, tomorrow morning. (Applause)

Um, I just wanted to also um, uh, uh say that um, uh… you know, I think that um, uh for too long, uh, NUS has perhaps been, uh, uh too cautious and too um, spineless about, kind of uh, being committed to supporting student (Laughter and hands waving showing consensus agreement with this statement from most in the room) occupations and students **** through activism and uh, and you know, if I’m going to be critical of myself perhaps I spent too long over the last few days, uh, uh doing the same, I’ll, I’ll come back to that in a, in a second.

But I want to be clear uh and uh unambiguous right now; that wherever there is uh, non-violent student supported action, NUS should and NUS will absolutely support that because what we are facing is utterly disgraceful and um, uh for us to kind of engage in some kind of internal civil war wouldn’t be… it’s exactly what our opponents would want and I for one am not going to allow that to happen. So, uh, I, I just want to apologise for kind of, my dithering over the last, uh couple of days (Laughter), um but uh, um you know, I’ve seen, I’ve seen sense now and um this is a perfectly sensible way and indeed one of the, uh key ways in which this, uh campaign is still kind of, uh, uh, being out there.

And what we need to make sure we’re doing now is maximizing every possible avenue to keep this, uh keep the pressure up as much as possible, um, I know for a fact now that there are Liberal Democrats who um, had been moving towards the side of voting for the proposals, uh that are now very much uh, uh wavering and I think we are only two weeks away from a vote in Parliament on the first phase which is the kind of higher, uh, tuition fees. Clearly we need to still keep fighting, even beyond that, because we still need to be questioning uh, uh the cuts um, uh, kind of, um uh, in response to uh, what the sector is facing. Um and, uh, you know, I think it is absolutely right that we have uh, another day of action. I want to just kind of say, I, I want to… tomorrow I will also be kind of, making sure that NUS is clear and unambiguous in its support for Tuesday’s, uh, action. (Applause)

Provided that it’s followed up with uh, uh, another day of action, and, and then uh, you know, in the run up, to the, to the vote. Um, I don’t think I kind of want to say any…anymore. I think you’ve done uh, uh enough speaking with your actions and uh, I’m pleased to be here and I wanted to come and support you in, in the ways that I can to make sure that you keep up the good work. Thanks very much. (Applause)”

Thanks to Tami Peterson for the transcription.

The next national day of action is this Tuesday (30 November), followed by a further day of action on Sunday (5 December).

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Alex Snowdon

Alex Snowdon is a Counterfire activist in Newcastle. He is active in the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Stop the War Coalition and the National Education Union.​ He is the author of A Short Guide to Israeli Apartheid (2022).