Aaron Porter apologises for being a bit spineless.

This post was written by Jon on November 29, 2010
Posted Under: Education,Protest

NUS president Aaron Porter issued an apology yesterday for failing to give support to student occupations, describing his indecision as ‘spineless’. Tellingly, his apology itself seemed lacking in the vertebrae department: “For too long the NUS has perhaps been too cautious and too spineless about being committed to supporting student activism.” Yes, Aaron, perhaps it has.

The slippery face of bureaucracy threatens us all.

What is this person for? What does he do? From what I can tell, his main qualifications for representing students at this time are 1) having a kind face and 2) the possession of a scarf. (It is getting chilly). In the past month we’ve seen some of the most exciting student activism for years, and yet this man, the head of an organisation that supposedly represents students and fights for their interests, has to apologise for ‘dithering’ about showing support for it.

The recent wave of university occupations and marches (plus the innovative activism of groups like UK Uncut) has set a wonderful precedent for politics outside of parliament, organised with social networking and carried out on a more or less egalitarian basis. We’ve never needed ‘leaders’ less than we do now (and even if we did, the movement would need Aaron Porter like anyone needs an anal fissure.) And people know this – an assembly of students meeting at Birkbeck the other day decided not to invite Porter to a discussion with the police about tomorrow’s demo.

Porter has only strengthened the impression I’ve held for a while now: that people who seek to ‘get involved’, particularly in a leader role, at school and especially at university are degenerate slippery-faced careerists bent on taking power at the first opportunity. There’s a logic to sitting on the student council, doing your Duke of Edinburgh, getting a ‘Community Leader’ award for picking up litter and volunteering to help out during awful GCSE music recitals when you’re at school: personal statements need to be padded somehow. But once you’re at university, the point can only be the love of power itself. Porter is exactly the kind of bland do-gooder who shows a love of office for its own sake. (And it shows: after his appearance on the Daily Politics, Andrew Neil announced: “I think I was listening to a future MP there!”)

Let’s follow the example set by those students. If we ignore Aaron Porter long enough, he might go away.

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Reader Comments

David M

You’re very sweeping about people who “get involved” at uni. Usually Third Estate pieces are a bit more nuanced. Having done a lot of it myself, it’s way more than just a CV boost for most people (at least in Durham JCRs). Feeling part of something bigger than yourself that works towards doing great things for fellow students really is a liberating and maturing experience. No doubt egos are involved, and perhaps more so if you head into the stratosphere of NUS politics (how long is it now since Porter was actually a student?), but please don’t be so sweeping – it sounds like you have a personal axe to grind.

Not that I’m defending Porter – he’s a careerist almost certainly. But remember he’s heading a union which many of its members (and outsiders) either don’t care about and/or believe to be too radical (rather than not radical enough). It’s a difficult balancing act.

#1 
Written By David M on November 29th, 2010 @ 11:37 pm
Ed

Whilst I agree that Aaron Porter is a feckless careerist I think it would be wrong to give up on the NUS in the long run. Certainly it has been useless for many years, but a strong Union would clearly be a strength for the student movement in terms of organisation and resources. What we ought to do is get some decent people to run and campaign against more mediocrity.

#2 
Written By Ed on November 29th, 2010 @ 11:38 pm
Les

Arron Porter is personally and politically motivated.
Where was he when the fees were first intoduced?????
I will tell you kissing Blairs backside!!!!!
Yes as a member of the Labour Party it is not hard to find his “real motives”.

His father was a policeman, and maybe he is hung up on that. And in my opinion he has a very large chip on his shoulder about being mixed race.

The fees are just, and will not be paid till the student has started work and is earning nearly £400 a week.
At the moment they pay after £300 a week, and not a whimper from our gallent leader. Why??

So students will in the long term be much better off than they are now. Also he prefares a graduation tax,
just like Mr Milliband, sadly not David but red Ed…

Even the Labour Party don’t agree with this, but then the unions put red Ed in office.

And the real problem with our education system, is that children aged 13 cannot read or write or do arithmatic!!
After the years of “Education Education Education” of the Labour party.
What does this illustrious leader do or say about that??nothing.
Any student who pays union subs, or follows this bigoted, egotist, who thinks he is important, must be mad. Use your brains and think it through. I think Arron Porter should pay his University fees back as thay seem to have been wasted. He studied English but does not understand the word “Democracy”.
His idea of democracy is ” If I don’t get my way we riot”!!!

#3 
Written By Les on December 11th, 2010 @ 1:01 pm
owen

My problem with the NUS presidency and organisation has been that it has focused utterly and entirely on the student population. This may sound contradictory as the NUS is supposed to be focusing on THE student population. but students at university are some of the most privilaged people in society. This is not to say that the 200% hike in fees is outrageous. But right now in a government that has just cut some of the benefits of the more privilged, they are clearly and obviously planning on cutting benefits for those less privilaged. For example public sector workers, single mothers, and those who could never afford the 3000 fees, the unemployed and the homeless. The problem is not simply that aaron porter is a spineless career adict who partook in a mere popularity contest to win his election as president, the probelm is that there is no one, or very few who are appealing for solidarity with the rest of the population who will suffer much more than students. By aligning with trade unions and showing student support for those who are not just students then the student movement istelf will have more power and backing from the general public. A recent graduate, contemplating returning for Masters and Doc degree i find it hard to believe that many have sympathies with a radical student population who are not going out of their way to support anything that doesnt involve themselves. solidarity is key to success. activism should not just be based on ones own selfish interests, my helping others one gains suppoort for ones own movement. the main flaw therefore is not that aaron porter has personal flaws but that he has no political backbone or emotional attachment to other groups suffering. the student activism needs to focus on a wider scale to become succesful. apeal to trade unions, show a greater support.

#4 
Written By owen on December 13th, 2010 @ 12:56 pm

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