Student 'civil war', after leaders pelted with eggs

Richard Garner
Monday 31 January 2011 01:00

Students' leader Aaron Porter, who was jeered and abused at an anti-cuts and fees rally at the weekend, is facing an increasingly bitter battle to retain the leadership of his union.

Mr Porter, president of the National Union of Students, had to pull out of addressing the demonstration in Manchester on Saturday on police advice after he was surrounded by angry demonstrators.

Mr Porter has indicated he would like to put his name forward to stand as president for a second year. Elections are due in the next couple of months in the run-up to the NUS annual conference and it is certain he will be opposed following controversy over the way he has lead the union.

Two students who have been active in the recent demonstrations are expected to be contenders for the post. They are Clare Solomon, president of the University of London Union and one of the students who entered the Conservative party headquarters at Millbank on the first fees demonstration, and Mark Bergfeld, who is spokesman for the Education Activist Network.

Both would like to adopt a more aggressive campaign against the fees rise – concentrating on occupations, barricades and walk-outs from universities. Campaigners have called for the resignation of Porter, claiming he has failed to represent students' concerns.

On Saturday, demonstrators called for Mr Porter to quit his post and he needed a police escort as he made his way to the students' union office at Manchester Metropolitan University. He was followed by around 150 demonstrators who tried unsuccessfully to enter the building.

During the incident, Mr Porter was subjected to chants of "students, workers, hear our shout! We want Aaron Porter out!" and "Aaron Porter we know you, you're a fucking Tory, too!"

His deputy, Shane Chowen, did take to the stage at the rally but was booed and pelted with eggs and apple cores.

Mr Porter said: "The NUS sought to organise a protest with our union partners at which all individuals could take part without being subject to verbal and physical intimidation. It's disappointing not to have had the opportunity to talk about the real issue of the Government's cuts to the next generation's future."

The demonstration was jointly organised by the NUS, TUC and University and College Union. Police said that 20 people had been arrested.

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