The banner, which read “Traitors Not Welcome, Hate Clegg, Love NCAFC“, reminds delegates of the pledge taken by every Liberal Democrat candidate before the last election to vote against a rise in tuition fees and press for a fairer alternative.
Despite this pledge many Lib Dem MPs voted for the tripling of university fees to a maximum of £9,000 – a figure which most universities have decided to charge. Scottish activists also occupied a lecture theatre at Edinburgh University yesterday in protest at the universities decision to charge the full £9,000 – a decision which will see students pay £36,000 in fees for the standard Scottish 4-year degree.
Local Lib Dem MP John Hemming was one of the MPs to have broken the tuition fees pledge. Following his decision to vote for the tuition fee rise, he decided that he had not in fact broken the pledge, by redefining the word “and” to mean “or”, claiming that because they are pushing for a fairer alternative, he had not broken a pledge to vote against the fee rise by voting for it.
NCAFC activists would argue, and we would agree, that the only fair alternative to tuition fees is free education, paid for by taxation. Such a system would not place any disadvantage on students from poorer backgrounds who are likely to be put off by the amount of debt a degree will now attract – a debt that someone who earns an average wage all their working life will never pay back.
In addition to tuition fees, NCAFC attacked the coalitions record on education – the scrapping of EMA, reduction in university funding, budget cuts to the School Sports Programme, cuts in maintenance budgets and the increased push for academies and introduction of free schools. Tom, an education worker and activist from Birmingham told us that
The Liberal Democrats have shown that they do not care about young people in the UK today. They have taken part in a systematic attack on our education system, overseen cuts locally and nationally to youth services and Connexions, at a time when youth unemployment is rising and now stands at 20%
NCAFC have called for young people to join the march for the alternative tomorrow in Birmingham, assembling at 11am on Granville Street, off Broad Street and marching through the city centre to a TUC rally at Lionel Street, followed by a Right to Work rally at the CWU building. There is a shorter route for disabled and elderly activists.
Birmingham Against the Cuts will have stalls at the assembly point, in Peace Garden off Bath Row Stall 10.30-12.00, at the TUC rally in Lionel St Car Park Stall 1.30-3.00 and the Right to Work Rally BATC stall 3.15-4.30. All help is appreciated.