It is essential that we keep up pressure on EMA. The government must not be allowed to get away with disenfranchising poorer young people from education.
EMA is simply vital for many thousands of young people, allowing them to get to college, eat lunch or see their friends. We knew the vote on EMA would be lost, as the craven Lib Dems adhere to the divisive policies of their coalition masters, and our campaign is not focused on one vote alone. We need to fundamentally challenge the false austerity agenda of the government and their allies in the City. We need to stand up for education, and wider public services.
The protests against the government must surely continue to grow as the cuts hit ordinary people, and the dole queues and homelessness figures increase. I see the student movement as an important part of the wider movement, and students and workers must unite and fight to be effective. The first sign of that would be an all out education strike, which I would wholeheartedly welcome.
I think it has been a huge mistake for the NUS not to back or even mention a protest of over 1,000, mainly 16-18 year olds, outside Parliament as the vote was taking place. Young people suggested and wanted a march to Parliament, but sadly they were not supported by the NUS President.
This lack of mobilisation, militancy and over-abundance of extreme caution, coupled with a bureaucratic approach have not done us any favours. The NUS accepted university tuition fees, they gave away an intellectually sound position on free education for false pragmatism. This left the NUS weakened and students unions depoliticised, it helped embed a market ideology in Higher Education. This must not be the approach for EMA campaigners.
I advocate living grants for FE students, and we will not waver in our commitment to campaigning for the retention of EMA. I hope the NUS will do the same, but it looks like a policy of 'pragmatism' may once again win the day. We should not weakly ask for the meagre replacement of EMA to be made better, we should demand the retention and improvement of EMA. Making a principled argument is key, and it does effect the debate, giving up does not.
For those who argue that the EMA should be scrapped because some recipients dare spend their money on going out or make-up, I say shame on you. The idea that poorer young people should not be able to go out and have a good time, or buy some make-up or an album download, like the majority of other teenagers is moralistic Victorian nonsense. Are only the pure deserving poor allowed to have a life? I'd challenge the kind of middle class commentators who usually come up with this nonsense to make £30 last them a week.
Activists are united in fighting for EMA, be they school pupils, EMA recipients, workers or pensioners. We're here to fight and resist this sickening government, and we're not going anywhere.
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