Students in Oxford have started a Facebook campaign to “troll the NUS” by donating to the Liberal Democrats in response to the NUS’ #liarliar initiative, targeted at constituents of MPs who reneged on promises to scrap tuition fees. The NUS campaign in question is directed against 31 MPs who voted for an increase in tuition fees in 2010, despite promising either to vote against increases or to scrap fees outright. Out of these, 28 were Liberal Democrats.
The campaign includes billboards displaying the slogan, “Broken promises leave a permanent mark”, alongside an image of knuckles tattooed with “Liar Liar”, which have been put up in London, Manchester and Sheffield.
Vans carrying the advertisements and slogans are be driving through the constituencies of the “pledge breakers”, and adverts have been placed in national newspapers. In total, the costs will amount to £40,000, which the NUS said “is still less than the debt students will graduate with for the first time this year.”
The NUS has reinforced the campaign on the official NUS Connect site using recent polling statistics, which suggest that 54 per cent of the students asked believe the government’s tuition fee policy has failed, while 75 per cent say that lowering tuition fees should be the most important government policy.
In a statement on the NUS page, NUS President Toni Pearce said, “It’s payback time. I’d like to say directly to Nick Clegg that your apology won’t cover any of the £40,000 debt that students will graduate with for the first time this summer. They pledged to scrap tuition fees – they lied. We represent seven million students and are urging every single one across the country to vote against broken pledges.”
However, many Oxford students have questioned the wisdom of spending such a large amount on the campaign.
Eleanor Sharman, a third year at Oriel, told Cherwell, “I’m not sure what the NUS actually does for most students, but it could probably do more of it if it hadn’t wasted £40k on alienating a load of them.”
Sharman is one of the organisers of the “Troll the NUS” campaign on Facebook, encouraging students to donate to the Liberal Democrats on 21st April in order to “make the NUS executive think twice in future about pushing a Labour Students narrative,” which is “aggressively pushing an agenda that hasn’t been endorsed by the many it is meant to represent.”
Joe Miles, who created the Facebook event, said, “It’s a total waste of money. A social media campaign could be run at a lot less than £40,000. Not only that, but it’s blatantly partisan – note that one of the key destinations for the battle bus is Sheffield Hallam, a Labour-Lib Dem marginal.”