The National Union of students called a National Day of Action on March 14th in response to the white paper being put before parliament and the pledge by the government to put it through before the end of the parliament.
The Birmingham demonstration was organised by Birmingham City University, with the Guild of Students refusing to put any resources or support into the event. Despite being under-promoted the demonstration managed to get media attention by use of direct action with a sit-in at the Vodafone store in the Bullring.
However, since the protest a sabbatical officer has claimed in the press that the Guild was not mandated to support the demonstration.
In a statement Hugo Sumner, Vice President (Democracy & Resources), said: ‘The Guild is not mandated to support the NUS Week of Action, there has been no Guild Council motion asking us to do so.’ (from Redbrick)
This is an outright falsehood; at the last Guild Council students passed the following by a massive majority
- “In the event of the white paper being presented to parliament in for either a bill or reading to as follows.” The guild shall :
- Join in calls for the NUS to organise a national demonstration against privatisation.
- To organise and participate in mass of lobby of MP’s at local surgeries, with lettering writing and at parliament.
- Organise a demonstration on campus calling on the vice chancellor to condemn the white paper. For this demonstration to be done in conjunction with trade unions on campus. If a national of local actions are called then this demonstration should take place on this day so as to better coordinate with the student movement.”
The white paper was presented to parliament which activated the clause – specifically section C. Although the paper was later “delayed” under pressure, its proposals are still being implemented and the government have said they will put this in again to parliament in the future. As such, the NUS are campaigning against the paper and local actions were called for. The guild was clearly mandated to support these.
The demo was fully organised by BCU, backed by the NUS and it is was fully risk assessed. The officers claimed that they could not support the demo because another demo organised by a different group hadn’t gone as they wished. This is clearly a ludicrous position – the Guild doesn’t stop using all club promoters if it has a bad experience with one.