University of Kent Canterbury Student Assembly
My parents have been politically active all their lives, but it wasn’t until after the 2015 General Election that I started getting properly involved in campaigning and political action myself. The first time I heard of the People’s Assembly Against Austerity was when I saw the BBC’s report on the National Demonstration on June 20th the same year. Whilst unable to make it, I was inspired by the sheer size of the turnout, and the passion displayed against this destructive, divisive, disparaging Tory government amongst such a diverse group of protestors.
After joining the Labour party to help Jeremy Corbyn in his efforts to fight social inequality, fascism, injustice, war, and many other honourable causes – I joined the Student Assembly Against Austerity society at my university.
Inspired by the tireless dedication of my predecessor, Connie, I took part in many protests, demonstrations, and campaigns with the society – including my very first national demo – the Free Education protest, opposing the scrapping of the maintenance grant on November 4th 2015. Since then, I have joined the society on many other nationwide protests, including the Stop Trident demo in February 2016, and joining Kent Anti-Racism Network in Dover to counter-protest a fascist march.
On campus, our society has fought against rent increases for on campus accommodation, has campaigned for the living wage to be paid for Kent Union staff, and against the harmful, divisive government policy – Prevent.
What has led to me deciding to get more involved on a national level in the student movement, is that I can no longer simply stand by and observe the increasing injustice and inequality that is happening in our country, not through the fault of students or the working class, but the absolute disregard for us by this Conservative government, and Britain’s irresponsible wealthy. The deaths that benefit cuts to the disabled caused particularly struck me, and I realised why it is so important that we don’t just accept this as normal, but work together to stop the horrors that austerity creates. Of course, I know that students have suffered greatly as a result of austerity, with tuition fees rising, maintenance grants being scrapped, our economic prospects looking poor, and our entitlement to post-education support being restricted. I want to do what I can to oppose this, and make a real positive difference to how the student body is treated by the government.
As a democratic socialist, I believe austerity is not only completely economically unnecessary in a country as wealthy as ours, but is a tool used by the rich and powerful to make the poor and disadvantaged pay for their mistakes. Austerity is not an excuse to neglect the disabled. Austerity is not an excuse to give women unequal pay. Austerity is not an excuse to punish students wanting to improve their future life by going to university and contributing to the economy.
The 2008 recession was not caused by public servants, but by reckless, self-interested bankers. However, whilst their wages have risen in past years and they’ve received millions in personal bonuses, ordinary workers’ pay is frozen and the underclass, especially students, have been punished as a result. If all the rich paid their taxes, instead of hiding their money in offshore tax-havens, the government would receive more money than it saves by implementing austerity on Britain.
Students are bearing some of the worst of the brunt, losing their right to affordable education with tuition fee rises and the elimination of the maintenance grant, as well as not being allowed Jobseeker’s Allowance or the Living Wage until they are 25, and any disability benefits they require have been cut too, including the ending of housing benefit for 18-21 year olds, and PIP cuts. I believe that we, as students, have a responsibility to stand up for ourselves and our fellow disadvantaged, and fight back against the dangerous impact of austerity by challenging the Conservative government through campaigning, protesting, and lobbying – but importantly, by getting involved in politics ourselves, so that we can directly make change, and improve our society for the better over the coming years – ending austerity with our own solutions. We can do this by campaigning for nationalisation of industries, like rail and energy, exposing the crimes and fraud of law-breaking big businesses and super-rich individuals, like Starbucks and Google, and standing up for those suffering as a result of austerity, like students, the disabled, and those of us who are not ultra-wealthy.
As President of the University of Kent Student Assembly Against Austerity (UKCSAAA), I look forward to working with my own society on these important local and nationwide campaigns, but also with the national SAAA committee, where we can increase the already growing student movement.
Together, we will lead the student fight against austerity: opposing cuts and privatisation, and empowering the disadvantaged against our current government.