Students raise the temperature in war with Lib Dems

The NUS' campaign against tuition fees looks set to enter the political arena directly
The NUS' campaign against tuition fees looks set to enter the political arena directly

By Peter Wozniak

Liberal Democrats who vote through a rise in tuition fees will be systematically targeted at the ballot box, the president of the National Union of Students (NUS) has told politics.co.uk.

Union president Aaron Porter promised he would "personally guarantee" attempts to to ensure that Lib Dem MPs who broke their pledge on tuition fees would never serve again.

In a comment piece for politics.co.uk, the NUS president wrote: "The promises they made gained them significant student support at the ballot box - and I can personally guarantee that we will do everything we can to ensure that any MPs who so flagrantly betray the public's trust are never given the opportunity to serve us again.


"52,000 people wanted to stand in opposition to the hike in fees, and to remind Liberal Democrat MPs of the pledge they made in the run-up to the election."

Mr Porter did acknowledge that the violence which saw some demonstrators storm the Millbank building housing Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ) had "let down" the rest of the protest.

He added: "We cannot ignore the fact that some people did attempt to hijack the event by engaging in acts of violence at Millbank Tower.

"Their mindless actions not only caused criminal damage and undermined our protest, but caused injury to police officers, local government workers and fellow protestors - and, having subsequently seen some of the footage, the injuries could have been far worse.

"I doubt they care that they have let down the peaceful majority who had a serious point to make."

But Mr Porter insisted the wider campaign against fees and particularly those Liberal Democrat MPs who fail to rebel against the government would continue unabated.

The NUS president told the BBC's Politics Show that the Union would consider running a candidate in the expected by-election in Phil Woolas' old seat of Oldham East and Saddleworth.

Prior to the student protest last Wednesday, Mr Porter announced the NUS would conduct a concerted campaign to unseat Lib Dems in student cities such as Bath, Bristol and Nick Clegg's constituency of Sheffield Hallam.

Asked why only the Lib Dems seemed to be being targeted, Mr Porter replied: "It's against anyone who breaks their pledge."

The NUS president, whose profile has risen dramatically as a result of the tuition fees saga, implied he would not contest the seat himself, but insisted the election should be used to highlight student anger over fees.

Mr Woolas is attempting to launch a judicial review over the verdict which stripped him of his MP status at a hearing tomorrow, but he is not expected to prevail.

The potential by-election will be the first real test of how the coalition parties will conduct Westminster elections against each other.

In May, Mr Woolas Lib Dem challenger missed out by the slimmest of margins.

Poor poll ratings - and the potential stirring up of student anger by an NUS candidate - makes the election an even more critical test for Mr Clegg's party.

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