Outgoing NUS president Aaron Porter aborted a bid to run for parliament in the face of fierce opposition from student colleagues and union staffers, Political Scrapbook can reveal.
On 13 March as speculation mounted that he would enter the Labour Party’s selection for the Leicester South by-election, the student leader tweeted to reassure observers he would not be “putting his hat in the ring”:
While seizing the opportunity to burnish his loyalty to the NUS, what Porter did not disclose is he had spent the previous few days laying the groundwork for a run. Porter was plotting even as he attended a student conference in Dublin on 12 March, from which he sent colleagues an email announcing his intention to stand. The wheels were in motion and the Independent on Sunday had already been briefed in preparation for a story the following day:
“You may have seen that on twitter it’s just been reported that I will put myself forward to be considered for the Labour nomination in Leicester South. Obviously where I studied and lived for 2 yrs as a [student union officer] … I’ve only made this decision in the last 24hrs, because the leading local candidate has pulled out, and a few local party people want someone with local connections to put themselves forward.”
With Porter already under fire for his handling of tuition fees and resultant protests, his message generated a deluge of phone calls urging him to pull out of a “fruitless kamikaze mission” in the East Midlands.
Porter’s officer support team, composed of permanent NUS staff, were “absolutely furious”. Sources told Scrapbook that the bid would inflict “significant reputational damage” to the union, presenting a conflict of interest and distraction to the President at a time when he should be leading a lobbying effort on the Higher Education White Paper.
Porter’s email reveals he was far from oblivious to the dangers to the organisation he headed — but had decided to run anyway because “it was a chance I couldn’t turn down”:
“I realise this adds something quite complicated for NUS, but any external attention this brings, I will obviously deal with myself … I will do everything I can to minimise the attention to NUS”
But 24 hours after emailing the selection timetable to friends, however, he admitted defeat and withdrew:
“I’ve done some more thinking, and I won’t be pursuing the nomination … the reaction from NUS/student movement has been somewhere between lukewarm and quite critical, and I’m not prepared to leave NUS under a cloud.”
In February Scrapbook posted on the utterly thuggish pursuit of Porter through Manchester. In addition to physical threats was the accusation — screamed through a megaphone — that “you’re just looking for a safe seat”.
What on earth possessed him to make that damaging critique a reality?