Network Rail ordered the removal of National Union of Students (NUS) posters displayed at UK railway stations on the night of Thursday 23rd April. The posters were considered to discourage people from voting Lib Dem in the forthcoming General Election.
The posters had been on display for just one day. The NUS had paid for the posters to remain in place until after 7th May.
A Network Rail spokesperson said, “As a politically-neutral organisation, we do not allow political activity on our stations and this applies to any form of advertising or campaigning. In this instance, it is clear that an error has been made… We will be apologising to the NUS for the misunderstanding and will ensure that they do not have to pay for the display.”
NUS President Toni Pearce condemned the move as a “mass gagging attempt on students”.
The NUS has come under heavy criticism since the recent launch of its ‘Liar Liar’ campaign which cost around £40,000.
Matt Sumption, the Co-Chair of the Oxford University Liberal Democrats, stated, “This campaign does nothing for the widely held impression that the NUS is merely a campaign group for young Labour students, rather than an organisation that represents all students in the UK. This year the NUS could not find the money for a full-time Trans Students Officer, but could find £40,000 for a one-sided political campaign that is subject to legal challenge.”
In seeking to tackle accusations of partisanship, Toni Pearce said,“NUS has always believed that politicians from all political parties should be accountable for the decisions, but also the promises they make.”
She added, “This campaign isn’t about party politics – it’s about holding MPs accountable for the decisions they make in office and the promises they made when they were a candidate so that no one can get elected by telling lies.”
A Lib Dem spokesperson said, “There will be some people who will judge us for one thing we could not do. But many fair minded people will judge us by what we have been able to do: tax cuts for millions of working people, more money for poor children in schools; a record two million apprentices, equal marriage, shared parental leave and many more policies that have made Britain fairer.”