The National Union of Students’ (NUS) political campaign ‘Liar Liar’, targeting the Lib Dems, took a hit when their billboards featuring political messages were taken down in UK train stations. Network Rail claim that they shouldn’t have been authorised in the first place as Network Rail is an “arm’s length public sector body”.
The imagery on the billboards told students not to vote for the Liberal Democrats because of their ‘lies’ about tuition fees in the last general election. These were planted primarily across key Lib Dem constituencies, including Nick Clegg’s own Sheffield Hallam.
The campaign claimed that a number of Liberal Democrat MPs “traded lies for power” by voting for the motion to raise tuition fees. This claim is with complete disregard for anything else the Liberal Democrats have done in government and for the fact that, as the Lib Dems argue, the system is now fairer because of the higher income bracket required before any debt has to be paid.
NUS president Toni Pearce called Network Rail’s action a “gagging” attempt on students, 7 million of whom she claims to speak for. This is in spite of the fact that, by my rough estimate, 6,999,990 of these voices didn’t have any say in the campaign at all – despite the £40,000 used to fund it coming directly from their pockets.
The campaign was greeted with a frosty reception from the beginning, so some took to the news of the removals with delight. This included the people ‘attending’ the Facebook event ‘Troll the NUS by Donating to the Liberal Democrats’, who see the NUS as having “a long tradition of… aggressively pushing an agenda that hasn’t been endorsed by the many it is meant to represent”.
Once again the NUS has proved why we at the QMU, as well as the GUU and SRC, have done well to remain in the 5% of student bodies across the UK unaffiliated with them. To claim to be a ‘union’ and then use members’ money to fund a partisan political campaign without members’ consensus is frankly appalling. When the NUS boast a membership of 95% of UK students, one would do well to remember their discount card.
[Callum Price – @calprice28]