The NUS have launched their ‘Liar Liar’ campaign today. This campaign aims to target election candidates who signed a pledge in 2010 against raising tuition fees and then didn’t stick to their guns, asking them to step down. They’re particularly targeting Lib Dems, initially focusing on Nick Clegg.
This campaign makes me angry.
NUS stands for the National Union of Students. It is supposed to be a representative body. It is supposed to represent all students at universities who are affiliated with them. This campaign is a sterling example of this representation not taking place.
There are students who are Liberal Democrat and Conservative supporters. Furthermore, there are a huge number of issues that student’s care about aside from tuition fees. Issues like getting a job post-uni, affording to buy a house and whether we’ll still be able to access free healthcare in a few years time. This campaign is only representing those students who both do not support either of these parties and who view tuition fees as the number one priority in this election – I would bet that the majority of students do not fall into these categories.
I don’t know how much this campaign has cost; I imagine a fair bit considering the publicity it has gained. Would this money not have been better spent encouraging students to register to vote given that only 44% of 18-24 year olds voted in the last election? Yes, the NUS have done a #GenerationVote campaign, but let’s be honest, it’s been a bit of a flop. Hardly any students I know have even heard of it, many more organisations have done much more effective campaigns.
The NUS should not be targeting specific candidates and creating smear campaigns. They should be positively encouraging students to research who they are voting for and to use their vote. If the various members of the NUS leadership team want to run smear campaigns in their own time, with their own money, then that’s entirely up to them.
As I student I do not feel represented by the NUS. I am angry that they are representing me in this way. I feel as though they should have run a consultation before broadcasting a major smear campaign a few weeks before the general election. Having mentioned this campaign to a few of my peers this morning, I can’t say that they’re over the moon either.
I’m all for encouraging political debate. I think it’s great to spark conversation and get people interested and involved in politics. But targeting specific candidates over an issue, which is a lot more complicated then headlines suggest, is not on. Especially when you’re ‘representing’ thousands of young people without consulting them.