This Week The Saint’s Peter Aitkent sits down with Siena Parker and Owen Wilton of the Students’ Association to talk about about their new “We Love Menzies” Campaign.
Sir Menzies Campbell is one of the LibDem MPs that signed a pledge drafted by the National Union of Students during the 2010 General Election promising to vote against a fee increase. Sir Menzies has delcared that he will stand by his pledge in the 9 December House of Commons vote.
The campaign was launched to encourage students to write letters to other LibDem MPs to ask them to honour the pledge they made. In particular, Michael Moore, a LibDem MP and Secretary of State for Scotland.
A guide to the plans for tuition fees on the Students’ Association website states that it does “not believe that this plan is in the best interests of students or the nation, and wants to put that case to those who have the power to stop it.”
TS: What is your aim in running the “We Love Menzies” campaign?
OW: We want to run a striking, alternative campaign highlighting our MP’s stand against higher fees. Using “we heart Menzies” as a campaign hook, we want to encourage students to write to other MPs asking them why they aren’t taking the same principled position as our MP. We also to make sure that when Menzies enters the Chamber on Thursday, he’ll feel he has his constituents behind him when he enters the ‘No’ lobby, and votes against.
SP: We need to show MPs that they cannot simply tear up their promises with the students who elected them – Menzies Campbell deserves heaps of praise from St Andrews students for maintaining his political integrity.
PA: What is your reaction to the rise in student fees?
OW: We’ve summarised our views and explained all arguments on our website: www.yourunion.net/weloveming. In essence, we feel that it’s deeply anti-meritocratic, and actually represents a terrible deal for universities, students, and the taxpayer.
PA: What is the university’s position?
OW: The University hasn’t taken a public position on the fee policy, but on the Browne Report, said this: “an elegant and realistic response to funding pressures”.
PA: Did the union actively endorse Menzies during the previous election?
OW: We didn’t endorse candidates in elections, but we gave them all the chance to sign up to the pledge to vote against higher fees. Menzies did, and Menzies won.
PA: Is there anything else you’d like to say?
SP: It’s fantastic to see the student body come together and show support for this campaign. No-one knows what will happen at Westminster on Thursday, but it is clear that students across the UK have done all they can to show the government the strength of their feelings on this matter.