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The NUS Has Pulled Its Support From the Free Education Demo - Good Riddance

12/11/2014 17:31 GMT | Updated 12/01/2015 10:59 GMT

My first bitter taste of the NUS was on a damp day in 2012, filming the creatively-titled '#demo2012' for my student television station. Like most students, I had only previously been able to identify the NUS by the Extra card that I hadn't yet gotten round to signing up for.

Expecting scenes akin to the storming of Millbank in 2010, or even the London riots in 2011, the deficit of any sort of enthusiasm at the march was such that we deemed it best to spend most of the day in Costa. Why did we bother turning up? Why did they bother turning up?

The demonstration itself, according to the snippets we caught from Twitter, involved a group of students briefly circling Westminster and shouting clumsy slogans as they marched through residential areas. Those who stuck it through found themselves loitering about in a park somewhere in South London towards the end of the day, at which point they established they weren't really getting anywhere and decided to go home.

But the utter calamity that was #demo2012 is only one knot in a string of disasters that could provide Armando Iannucci with enough source material should he choose to hash together a The Thick of It 'youf' spinoff featuring awkward, out-of-work, twenty-something drama graduates toddling about at conferences supervised by Alex MacQueen.

When student activists - those who haven't yet totally given up - came to learn the NUS had pulled out of the NCAFC's upcoming Free Education demo they collectively lost their minds, formulating conspiracy theories at which even Norman Baker would baulk.

Although the NUS isn't actually in cahoots with the coalition government, it's no secret that it never wanted to take part in the first place; brave activists in Hong Kong, Mexico, and the Middle East wouldn't usually hinge their participation on having or having not secured public liability insurance.

As shown by Birmingham's Guild of student politico-nothings too deciding the trip down to London probably isn't worth the bother, the NUS' withdrawal has critically undermined the efforts of the NCAFC to do anything meaningful at all. But could this prove to be a blessing in disguise?

For some time the NUS has been flirting with its own self-inflicted demise - yet like Arnold Schwarzenegger's T-800 it refuses to die - rearing its grotesque head every two weeks or so to issue a press release or some such nonsense as part of its vague strategy to influence the media narrative.

A dangerous mixture of the deluded, the self-gratifying, the ideologically-uncompromising, and the power-mad have commandeered this once vital cog of the student movement and turned it into a rancid caricature of the out-of-touch organisation that could have, until recently, relied on the innocence of anonymity to excuse itself from its shortcomings.

In April, this gander of self-professed liberals toasted the champagne as they banned members of Ukip from speaking at future events; championing the notion of a 'safe space' one minute, and bullying poor Jack Duffin into shutting up the next.

Only last month its committee refused to condemn Isis because the wording of a particular motion allegedly endorsed Western interventionism, and seemingly had not been crafted in such a manner as to detach itself from any semblance of Islamophobia.

The leadership wonders, meanwhile, why ordinary, hardworking students cannot bring themselves to engage with politics, as the NUS continues to promote its lamentably ironic #GenerationVote campaign.

The sooner student activists abandon this inward-looking, machine-like Labour Party leadership production line, the sooner the student movement might actually achieve something.