A petition opposing the retrospective alteration to student loan repayments, begun by Durham University student Alex True, has been rejected by parliament. Having gathered over 120,000 signatures in the space of a few days, it demonstrates the strength of feeling against tuition fees and this latest modification. Nonetheless, it will not be discussed by MPs.
The petition arose as a response to secretive alterations of the student loan repayment system. As Martin Lewis, a former advocate of the student loan system, told The Guardian;
“This change by the government is a disgrace. It goes against all forms of natural justice. If a commercial company had made retrospective changes to what they’d promised about their loans, they’d be slapped hard by the regulator – the government shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it either… How can we ask young people to sign up to a deal for 30 years with the risk could be changed again at a minister’s whim – without any legislation?”
True added his own take;
“The idea that you are continually accumulating debt after you leave university is frightening. Unless you earn around £50,000 or more, you will never get to the stage where you actually pay off the loan. Because you have to pay the money back over 30 years, the amounts of interest you pay could be astonishing.”
This is a government that wields the illusion of genuine democracy as and when it sees fit. Consultation over the change yielded 5% positive feedback, compared to 84% negative. The move went ahead anyway.
We cannot look at this latest crime of the Tory government in isolation. It is a continuation of the policy of austerity, and in particular of economic attacks on students, which began with the imposition of tuition fees and scrapping of EMA in 2010. Workers and youth are being made to pay for the crisis of capitalism.
As the blocking of this petition shows, the Tories are not interested in finding the best solution for everyone, but the best solution for their class. This is not an ideological question. The attacks on workers and youth are made necessary by the capitalist crisis, for which the bosses have no solution. The reforms of the past cannot be afforded by the system of the present.
Whilst petitions can be useful, serious change will require more militant action as well. This is not the only case in which petitions have been thrown out without consideration in an attempt to lessen their political impact – a petition on 38 Degrees highlighting the blatantly anti-Corbyn stance of BBC News’ political editor was taken down under the false pretense of misogyny (one disgusting comment was found amongst tens of thousands of legitimate criticisms) in alleged collaboration with the government.
Relief from the brutal Conservative government and the system they defend will not come as a result of petitioning alone, but from an organised mass movement of workers determined to overthrow the capitalist system and take control of their own work and their own lives. As students, we fight against the same enemy as the workers. We must unite, and kick out the Tories and the system they represent!
by Frankie Toynton, Newcastle Marxists