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.
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.