Question Time, or Time to Question Austerity

“You have to be realistic, and not just things do things that grab attention like scrapping tuition fees.” So said the Labour Party speaker at the election question time organized at the University of Leicester on Monday evening.

The Lib-Dem was honest enough to recognize that her party has a legitimacy deficit. She admitted that she had temporarily quit the Lib-Dems after they had dropped their commitment to scrapping university tuition fees… but then of course she rejoined.

The Young Greens speaker, a member of the socialist faction of the national party, Green Left, defied such non-logic. He pointed out that tuition fees were totally unnecessary, and pointed out that Labour’s idea of lowering fees to £6,000 a year was simply pandering to capitalism. “We need to aggressively enforce existing tax laws” he argued. On these points Socialist Students find obvious common ground with the Greens.

Labour responded by saying that they would not be “pandering to populism” by proposing the ““pie in the sky” idea of getting rid of tuition fees. Adding, “personally, I don’t think £6,000 is adequate” to guarantee a quality education.

In an effort to redeem the Labour Party’s alleged commitment to the working-class, their speaker blurted out that their party supported a £10 an hour minimum wage. But within seconds (almost) everyone else on the panel corrected her that Labour in fact supported a rise to £8 an hour… but only by 2020. This being a far cry from the £10 an hour that TUSC aims to implement with immediate effect.

Keen to ingratiate herself to the audience, the Conservative speaker claimed that the party of the ruling-class “do care for the working class.” Then attempting to provide some backing for this bizarre statement, the Conservative speaker proudly claimed that her party should be credited for legalizing same sex-marriages.

Like the Labour speaker, the Conservative had blundered somewhat. The other panellists quickly correcting her misconceptions about the Tories commitment to equality by pointing out that 150 Tory MPs had actually voted against the idea of same-sex marriages.

When fielding a question about their involvement with campaigning work, Labour boasted of their ongoing work to encourage the student union to become a living wage employer. But Labour’s actual commitment to supporting local workers was tainted somewhat when the Young Greens speaker pointed out that Labour had opposed calls for the student union to pledge support for the recent strike by staff at the University of Leicester.

On the other hand, members of the Young Greens and Socialist Students have always supported striking workers at the university. And while both groups agree with making the university a living wage employer, they think it is just as important to also campaign to scrap the universities use of exploitative zero hour contracts.

On the latter issue the Tory speaker even noted that until recently she had worked for the union on such an exploitative contract, although her party sees no reason to scrap such contracts when they prove themselves so useful for exploiting workers.

But while the Young Greens have much in common with TUSC, the Socialist Students speaker made it clear that the Greens did not have the political program necessary to shift the political terrain towards the needs of the 99%. Here he drew attention to their ongoing shortcomings in governance, as demonstrated by their highly problematic involvement in the politics of Brighton and Bristol, to name but two.

Drawing comparisons to the socialist fight-back led by workers in Liverpool during the 1980s, the Socialist Student speaker made it clear that only TUSC offered the 99% the type of political organization that could help build and sustain the sort of mass campaign that would be needed to win real gains for the working-class, right now, not years in the future.

For information about future meetings and campaigns organised by Leicester Socialist Students, see https://www.facebook.com/groups/31395067209/?fref=ts

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