On 14 December at the London Young Labour AGM, members voted overwhelmingly to pass the following motion submitted by the Labour Campaign for Free Education:
This Conference believes…
1) The National Union of Students (NUS) holds policy for free education to be paid for by taxing the rich, and 10,000 students marched in London for this demand on 19 November 2014.
2) Education funding is a particular issue for London, for it is where the majority of students and higher education institutions in the UK are based.
3) That the introduction of tuition fees was designed to undermine universalism, turn education into a commodity, and precipitate the marketisation of the higher education sector.
4) It emerged in March 2014 that the current system of tuition fees and student loans is likely to cost more than the policy it replaced.
5) That education is, above all, a public good which benefits society and not just individual graduates.
6) Higher education should be free to access, and funded through general taxation – with the richest in our society paying the most.
7) That although a degree is likely to a lead to higher lifetime earnings, this is not guaranteed, and the same can be said about post-16 education and many other services provided by the welfare state.
8) Wealthier graduates should therefore contribute more in income tax without an additional blanket tax on all graduates regardless of income or situation.
9) That Ed Miliband and the Labour Party should enter the 2015 General Election supporting the principle of free education paid for by taxing the rich.
London Young Labour mandates the committee:
1) To issue a statement of support for free education and for the Labour Campaign for Free Education
2) To ask Labour Prospective Parliamentary Candidates in London whether they support free education and to publicise the results to London Young Labour members before February 2015.
The motion passed despite attempts by London Region officials to bureaucratically rule it out of order. According to the London Young Labour rules, our motion was perfectly in order – it was about an issue that affected London and it mandated the incoming Committee. Region had clearly made up its mind to exclude the motions first for political reasons and then settle on a reason why – the problem was, their “reasons” were inconsistent and illogical, and London Young Labour members were angry at being treated like idiots.
Luckily, because of reforms introduced by the left in previous years, the motions section of the AGM was well-chaired and had proper standing orders (though these should have been made more readily available to members). We printed out our motions and distributed them to delegates, arguing that it should be the conference and not the Region that decides which motions are discussed. The conference overwhelmingly agreed, and we forced the motions on free education and immigration back on to the agenda. Both were passed!
On the night of Saturday 13, we held a successful fringe meeting at the conference. We distributed our model motion so that we can get it passed in as many Labour Clubs, Young Labour groups and other labour movement bodies as possible.
In the new year, we are planning to call a one-day event on Labour’s education policy, to discuss free education and gather activists together to fight for the policy in the labour movement.
After the 19 November demonstration, the student movement has built a momentum not seen since 2011. This dynamism is making itself felt inside the Labour Party too, and the Labour Campaign for Free Education exists as a vehicle to organise all those in the party who wish to fight for an expanded, publicly-run and freely accessible education system.
See also this extensive report from campaign supporter James McAsh.
To get involved, contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org