Grace Skelton, General Secretary of the Students’ Union, slammed George Osborne’s 2014/15 budget, inviting him to come and meet some of the “terrified final years” at the University, in a speech at a city-centre protest held by the People’s Assembly last Wednesday.
Addressing protesters outside the John Rylands library on Deansgate, Skelton said, “I wish that George would come and visit the Students’ Union to meet some of the terrified final years graduating this summer and show them exactly where these jobs are, because all they are experiencing at the moment is rejection after rejection after rejection. And I know that this isn’t just the case for students.”
At this point Skelton also drew attention to the plight of students from low socio-economic backgrounds, arguing that cuts to higher education access schemes ‘are not economical, they’re ideological. The government simply doesn’t care’.
She also voiced her support of the proposed marking boycott at the end of next month.
“It’s not just university students that this government are repeatedly attacking, but university staff too
“Campus trade unions have now planned for an assessment boycott starting on April 28th. As a student rep you might expect me to stand up here and plead with university staff not to go ahead with this boycott. But I am proud to say that students from the University of Manchester stand in solidarity with their staff and call on UCEA to get round the table and renegotiate – only they can stop this boycott from happening.”
In the words of the leader of the People’s assembly for Manchester, the PA does not ‘support any particular political party. It endorses anyone who rejects austerity”.
The aim of Wednesday’s protest, which began in Piccadilly Gardens, was to “send a clear, loud, message to George Osborne and tell him what we think of his budget and what it means for us!” Protester’s slogans included ‘hands off our NHS’, ‘Austerity isn’t working’, and ‘Worst recovery in history’.
At one point, a 48-year-old woman from Birmingham also spoke about her suffering as a result of the bedroom tax. She said, “To survive bedroom tax I see it as a war situation.
“Bedroom tax is a diet of malnutrition.”
Also present and speaking at the demo were representatives of the trade unions UNITE and the NUT, the Green Party, Labour councillor Tom Evans, and former General Secretary of the University of Manchester Students’ Union Tom Skinner – although Skinner did not make a speech.
Skelton added, “Today’s budget was the clearest example yet of the same old Tories believing that the poor work harder if you make them poorer, and the rich work harder if you make them richer. Ed Miliband said today, ‘It doesn’t matter if the pound is square, round or oval, if you’re £1,600 worse off, you’re £1,600 worse off.’ Now this is quite a basic way of putting it, but then a cost of living crisis is quite a basic thing to understand.”
She concluded, “The government can talk all they want about economic recovery, but people just aren’t feeling it. Until we see a radical change in direction from this government or the next, we’re not going to see any improvements in the lives of ordinary people in this country.”
The People’s Assembly are a national organisation formed last year to fight against austerity measures passed by the coalition government. Their former president was the late Tony Benn.