Students say no to loans

THE BLAIRITES within the NUS suffered a setback on Tuesday, when the special national conference in Derby defied the ‘new realist’ leadership and threw out a proposal that the NUS should ditch its long-running campaign (ineffective though it may have been) to secure the restoration of grants to 1979 levels, uprated in line with inflation.

The ‘new realists’ within the union, led by its president Jim Murphy, had argued that the poor old taxpayer - ie, capitalism - could not afford such an ‘onerous’ commitment (which they calculated would amount to some £8.86 billion) and were hoping to steer the conference in favour of a “maintenance income contingent loan”. If not, the ‘Murphyites’ were prepared to settle for an alternative funding option, such as a graduate tax or some sort of employer levy system.

No chance. After a long and quite understandably angry debate, delegates rejected the ‘Murphy Proposal’ by 55% to 45% and carried a crucial amendment which resolved “to campaign for free education as a right for all”. Even more heartening, the amendment also called for a “living grant” for all the students in post-16 education and for a restoration of a number of social security benefits, which were axed five years ago.

It is starkly obvious that the ‘Murphy Proposal’ was almost solely designed to curry favour with Tony Blair. Clearly, the NUS leadership has no interest in defending the rights of its members and is far more interested in securing the election of a Labour government - at any cost, it seems.

The fact that the conference took such a militant stand is healthy and shows the potential for a concerted fightback. However, we must not get complacent, as the 45% ‘pro-Murphy’ vote demonstrates.

More importantly, we must base our demands on what students need, not what the capitalist accountants say they can afford. Therefore, it is dangerously utopian for Militant (May 26) to argue that “the money is there, but the government uses it for other things”. Such will always be the case under capitalism, whether it is run by the Tories or Labour. Only by destroying capitalism can we get the education system we all deserve.

Eddie Ford