Students in political mood
A LARGE section of last week's National Union of Students conference in Blackpool was determined to push for a genuine fightback in the colleges. Some of the biggest cheers came for speakers promoting collective action against the government's theft of the grant and imposition of tuition fees, The overwhelmingly Blairite Labour Students group did not dare to stand openly for the presidency. "Independent" Owain James could only be re-elected by hiding his New Labour membership.
Members of the left United for Free Education slate won three posts on the national executive committee. Helen Salmon of the SWP got elected on a platform of promising "to be a troublemaker" against fees and the government. The most encouraging feature of conference was the number, size and vitality of campaigning fringe meetings.
Over 100 people packed the Socialist Alliance meeting, where Red Pepper magazine editor Hillary Wainwright expressed her belief that the Socialist Alliance could build a serious left challenge to Blair. Some 130 came to listen to George Monbiot and Babs MacGregor of Trident Ploughshares at the Globalise Resistance meeting. The excitement of the developing anti-capitalist movement was directed into building the G8 protest in Genoa. There was also a fantastic 160 people at a Palestinian solidarity meeting, where people expressed huge anger at Israel's bombing of the West Bank. At the same time 50 students attended an uplifting CND meeting.
- ANDREW STONE