Jim “Spud” Murphy (1992 – 1997) – The Student Union Years and his Carefully Planned and “Jammy” Rise to Political Office

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1. Jim “Spud” Murphy (1992 – 1997) The Student Union Years and his Carefully Planned and “Jammy” Rise to Political Office

a. President of the National Union of Students. (Full time member of the Union from 1992 until 1996). *Indications are that his studies did not progress as expected in the first 2 years of his attendance and becoming increasingly involved with student politics he gave up Studying in 1992 retaining this status until the end of his tenure as President of the Union late summer of 1996. When he gave up student politics and University membership taking up employment with the Labour party

*25 March 1996; Cash back. Jim Murphy, president of the National Union of Students and a former student at Strathclyde University, paid tribute to Strathclyde students association’s success in having resit fees abolished. “I’m hoping to get some sort of reimbursement for all the resits I did in first and second year,” he admitted.

b. During his time at University in Glasgow he suspended his studies when he was elected President of the Scottish National Union of Students, one of the “special region” organizations within the NUS, serving from 1992 until 1994.

c. Murphy further suspended his studies taking a further sabbatical from University in 1994 to serve as the President of the National Union of Students, an office which he held from 1994 to 1996, during which time he was a member of Labour Students. As NUS President, he also served concurrently as a Director of Endsleigh Insurance from 1994 to 1996.

2. President of the National Union of Students 1994-1996

a. October 31 1994; On the spot. Just as well the National Union of Students operates with a fair degree of openness, or journalists who spent last Tuesday morning seeking president Jim Murphy’s views on the Labour Party’s Learning Bank would have been completely stymied. Not that the press are completely lacking in resource when it comes to hunting out those in the public eye, but only hacks working on the principle of “look in the most unlikely place” would have otherwise thought of looking for a student leader ..

b. October 31 1994; Students to fight pay-later proposals. The Labour leadership of the National Union of Students will resist proposals outlined by the party-linked Institute for Public Policy Research Commission on Social Justice for charging students.

c. November 7 1994; Debt, doubt and diversity – Jim Murphy says the commission has identified the right problems but wants to talk about the answers.

d. November 14 1994; Carrying the banner. NUS president Jim Murphy at Battersea Park, London, for this week’s demonstration against the replacement of student grants by loans. NUS stewards traded hundreds of these red placards in exchange for those issued by the Socialist Workers’ Party saying: “30 per cent grant cut no way: make the Tories pay.” The police said that about 6,000 students were on the march: the NUS claimed a total nearer 25,000.

e. November 14 1994; Debt fears deterring sixth-formers, says NUS. More than a quarter of sixth-formers may be deterred from going on to higher education because of worries over rent debt, the National Union of Students claimed this week.

f. November 14 1994; Taxing questions for NUS leaders. Jim Murphy welcomes the publication of the Institute for Public Policy Research Commission on Social Justice on behalf of the National Union of Students. His organization has made some impressive strides in recent years towards engaging with reality, especially in stealing Tory thunder by instituting internal democratic reforms. However, if Mr Murphy is serious about facing the challenges ahead, the NUS needs to look seriously at the question of student finance.

g. November 14 1994; Taxing questions for NUS leaders. I was disappointed to see the democratically elected president of the National Union of Students Jim Murphy refusing to promote the Unions’ democratically decided policy on the funding of students in further and higher education

h. April 3 1995; Feel-real factor sweeps NUS. Student leaders have prepared the ground for a wholesale review of their policy on funding tuition and students in the further and higher education system.


i. April 10 1995; Murphy to fight fee contributions. Jim Murphy, president of the National Union of Students, will campaign against fee contributions in opposition of the review of student funding backed by four-fifths of delegates to conference last week.

j. April 10 1995; Levy the loaded. Last week Jim Murphy and other Labour leaders of the National Union of Students began to ditch the union’s commitment to free education.

k. May 8 1995; Follow my Labour. A discussion paper on the future funding of student support, launched this week by the National Union of Students, is heavily influenced by emerging Labour Party policy, student leaders claim.

l. May 29 1995; Derby day for student funding. Students give up fight for free education, is the headline some would have us believe of the National Union of Students education funding review. But a much more considered process is going on within the student movement.

m. June 5 1995; Clock stopped on reforms. Ambitious bids for reform by lecturers’ Jim Murphy and other students’ leaders have been thwarted by concerted opposition from the conference floor.

n. June 51995; Students are no doubt celebrating this weekend. As they see it they have won two famous victories, one in respect of strike ballots in further education, the other in respect of students’ grants and fees.

o. June 12 1995; By the book. There’s one book which Jim Murphy, president of the National Union of Students, has never got round to reading, although he says he has always meant to read it: the constitution of the NUS. “It’s meant to be the bible of the union but I’ve never got past the first page,” he said recently. Perhaps that explains the smooth running of last week’s NUS annual meeting, with none of the usual cascade of procedural objections interrupting its flow. This was the meeting Jim Murphy dominated breaking many of the rules of the Union forcing through major policy changes.

3. Union Support of Fee Charges – The Aftermath

a. June 12 1995; Students split over finance. The split among student unions on reform of student financial support widened this week as a group of “moderate” unions spoke of setting up their own consortium to push for reform.

b. September 25 1995; Students press for reforms. More than 100 student union officers have formed a pressure group, “The Committee for Free Education” (CFE) to lobby the National Union of Students for a “more realistic” policy on education funding.

c. Speech in Support of CFE by Tony Benn; “In 1995, the leadership of the National Union of Students forced through their policy dropping support for free education and living student grants, in order to smooth the way for the next Labour government to introduce fees. The Committee for Free Education (CFE) was set up to combat this move, mobilizing thousands of student activists in the NUS structures, in colleges and universities and on the streets. I bring support from the Campaign Group of MPs and I congratulate the people who have set up the Campaign for Free Education. It is clear that the present leadership of the National Union of Students have a great reluctance to support the policy agreed at the Derby NUS conference, and something independent of them needed to be set up. I can’t believe that the NUS leadership can go on for much longer following a policy that has been rejected by their members. There is a broad democratic issue here to be raised. I do believe that the argument for free education is an enormously powerful one and it is one that we will need to redeploy because people haven’t heard it for a long time. We are starting to have this argument now. Next week, the Conservatives announce plans to impose a graduate tax. There are people in the Labour Party who support that proposal”! http://anticuts.com/2010/09/22/we-are-campaigning-for-the-enrichment-of-life-tony-benn-makes-the-case-for-free-education/

d. September 25 1995; Tied in. Education union leaders displayed a remarkable consensus at a higher education fringe meeting at this week’s Liberal Democrat conference in Glasgow. Panellists David Triesman of the Association of University Teachers, John Akker of the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education, and Jim Murphy of the National Union of Students, all turned up with colour – coordinated ties in a fetching navy blue and pale yellow.

e. October 30 1995; NUS quizzes members on student funding; The National Union of Students is launching what it describes as its most widespread and in-depth research initiative, to sound student views on the funding of education in time for its annual conference in March of next year.

c. November 20 1995; HM loan arranger. The Government’s plans to privatise the student loans scheme were confirmed in the Queen’s Speech this week. Her Majesty said legislation would be introduced to enable students to choose between private and public suppliers of subsidised loans.

d. November 27 1995; Poverty protest. The National Union of Students organized a march to protest at increasing student hardship on Thursday. At a rally in Kennington Park, London, NUS president Jim Murphy said: “We are calling on the Government to conduct an urgent review of student hardship.”

vision murphy

e. January 1 1996; Loans boycott threatens banks. May 1995 the National Union of Students called an extraordinary conference to debate student funding. It promised to be a watershed event, marking a radical change in NUS policies. It turned out to be a bitter defeat for Jim Murphy and the leadership of the NUS.

f. January 1 1996; New year wishes… Jim Murphy.

i. “Student hardship is now at record levels, and for many it has reached crisis point. It has to be the priority of every organization involved in education to work towards finding a solution to student hardship. On campuses the crisis of hardship is alarmingly evident. Only Government ministers remain convinced that the problem does not really exist.

ii. The National Union of Students Values For Money survey conducted in February 1995 found one in three students missed meals because of hardship, one in four considered dropping out, one in three worked part-time during term and one in two thought their financial situation was having an adverse effect upon their academic work.

iii. A new report from the British Medical Association found that university medical centres were dealing with increases in stress-related illness and eating disorders brought on by financial problems.

iv. A Government policy which forces so many students into so much hardship is completely contradictory to pledges of increasing access to education. For mature students, student parents, students with disabilities, part-time students and students from low-income families, the Government’s boasts of increasing access are cruelly hollow, especially following the budget’s latest blow to students in need with the freezing of access funds.

v. The Government has scored an own goal. It had the opportunity to create education for all but then constructed so many financial barriers that many cannot now afford to participate properly.

vi. We have to work towards a solution to the crisis of student hardship, a solution which will give everyone of ability the opportunities of education without the obstacles of severe financial hardship. This must be our common aim for 1996, and one which we should approach with urgency.”

g. April 15 1996; Labour group deserts student interests. National Union of Students president Jim Murphy has done his utmost to undermine the NUS policy of free education policy over the past year. And at the annual conference in Blackpool last week, he added insult to injury by vilifying anybody who believes in free education as a Trotskyist, claiming they “wouldn’t be able to look a homeless person in the eye”.

h. March 11 1996; Bank thumbs down. The National Union of Students has welcomed the NatWest’s decision not to tender for private student loans. NUS president Jim Murphy said that the decision, which follows similar ones by the Midland and the Cooperative banks and the Woolwich Building Society, proved that the Education (Student Loans) Bill was now dead. He called on the Government to withdraw it immediately.

i. March 25 1996; Cash back. Jim Murphy, president of the National Union of Students and a former student at Strathclyde University, paid tribute to Strathclyde students association’s success in having resit fees abolished. “I’m hoping to get some sort of reimbursement for all the resits I did in first and second year,” he admitted.

j. June 17 1996; Loan voice. Student leader Jim Murphy breaches Union rules in suspending one of his own executive committee members for allegedly breaching union rules.

k. June 24 1996 Murphy rapped. Ten MPs have signed an early day motion condemning the improper suspension of National Union of Students vice president education Clive Lewis by president Jim Murphy. Ken Livingstone sponsored last week’s motion condemning the “intolerant and dictatorial behaviour” of Mr Murphy who, acting without official National Executive Committee approval, suspended Mr Lewis after he spoke against conference policy.


4. Who’s a Lucky Boy Then?

a. In 1996, upon ceasing to be NUS President, Murphy was offered a position as the Special Projects Manager of the Scottish Labour Party; he accepted the role, dropping out of university in order to do so. He was also selected at this time to stand as the Labour Party candidate in the seat of Eastwood at the forthcoming general election.

b. September 23 1996; Future face. Jim Murphy has gone from the presidency of the National Union of Students to Conservative-held Eastwood in Scotland, where he is a prospective parliamentary candidate for Labour.

c. 7 April 7 1997; Stumping Jim. How lucky can you get? Poor Jim Murphy, whose selection as Labour candidate for the safest of Scottish Tory seats, Eastwood, after his National Union of Students presidency appeared to offer a breathing space in a career of enthusiastic politicking. There he was, looking forward to a spot of gentle campaigning, gathering his strength in preparation for the gloriously winnable seat that would surely be his reward in the next election, when in stepped sleaze.

d. First stroke of luck. The sitting (and pickaxe-waving) MP Allan Stewart resigned amid claims he had been over-friendly with a woman he met in an alcoholism clinic. Next, bit of good fortune. Allegations of homosexuality stopped Sir Michael Hirst, chairman of the Scottish Tories, filling the shoes of Mr Stewart.

e. A young fresh faced Mr Murphy was plagued by phone calls from Walworth Road and massive support from local activists telling him to keep knocking on doors and kissing babies and he could be in with a chance. He won the seat. htttp://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/news/stumping-jim/159028.article All of the foregoing articles are contained in the archives of http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk

5. March 9 2001; Student Fees – The aftermath – Betrayal and Subterfuge

a. Should the National Union of Students have fought harder to keep the grant? Can it do anything to reverse the state of student support? Many student leaders believe the NUS took a wrong turn in the mid-1990s, moving too far towards pragmatism.

b. The leadership of the moderate Labour Students, typified by Jim Murphy, steered student action towards measured negotiation and behind-the-scenes contacts.

c. Mr Murphy was convinced that the union’s traditional support for the universal grant was a lost cause.

d. The leadership was certainly good at accumulating favours -former presidents Stephen Twigg, Lorna Fitzsimmons and Jim Murphy all became Labour MPs in 1997. But their influence proved to be limited, and the compromise solutions to the student funding issue promoted by the NUS were largely ignored by Dearing and the Labour government.

e. The favoured concept of the NUS in 1995 and 1996 was the maintenance income-contingent loan, or MICL, which Mr Murphy fought to get the movement to accept. The left leaning students put up a strong fight, and defeated Mr Murphy on the issue at an extraordinary conference in Derby in 1995, but 1996 saw NUS leadership finally win when conference voted to ditch its commitment to full grants.

f. Emily Baldock, a former president of Durham Students’ Union, believes that the NUS failed to find a sensible position between the ultra-pragmatists and the hard left.

g. Ms Baldock, now a doctoral student at Wolfson College, Oxford, and a part-time lecturer, doubts that the NUS could have affected the new government’s policy.

h. The vote coincided with the election of Douglas Trainer to the presidency. Mr Trainer had some tough times in office and was criticized for caving in to the government too easily on tuition fees.

i. Mr Trainer, who is now in public relations, believes the NUS did not grasp the financial constraints on the government. “The student movement failed to understand the power of the Treasury. When Labour… opened the books, they realised they couldn’t work on the funding models that had been talked about.”

j. And although he says the NUS’s access to government improved significantly once Labour got in, it was unable to convince the leadership to change tack.

murphy nuc

k. Many are convinced that the tide is turning. Owain James, the independent president, has provided a fresh direction. He believes he is well-placed to push for a return to maintenance support.

l. He does not believe that the events of the 1990s have weakened NUS’s position. “We’ve got a policy that unites the student movement and a campaign that we can win,” he said.

6. April 4 2003; NUS left forces a U-turn on grants. The National Union of Students this week returned to its historic support for universal grants paid for through progressive taxation.

a. Delegates to the NUS annual conference in Blackpool forced the national executive to abandon its seven-year-old policy of supporting only means-tested grants targeted at the poorest students and loans.

b. Conference, radicalised not least by the prospect of top-up fees and war in Iraq, also came within three votes of inflicting a historic defeat on incumbent Labour Student president Mandy Telford in favour of socialist candidate Kat Fletcher. No NUS president has ever failed to win a second term. Ms Telford won by 429 votes to 426.

c. Delegates at the Blackpool conference passed a socialist-sponsored amendment to the executive’s funding policy motion. The amendment said that the NUS would “campaign for a universal, non-means-tested maintenance grant to be available to every student.

d. “Those who ask whether the children of the rich (for example, Prince Harry) should be entitled to a full grant are missing the point. The rich should pay for everyone’s education through a system of progressive taxation.”

e. The amendment was backed by Will Straw, president of the Oxford University student union and son of foreign secretary Jack Straw. He said that means-testing did not work, as one in five students whose parents should make a contribution to their living costs received nothing.

f. He said: “If you are worried about people like me or Prince Harry getting a grant when we don’t need one, tax our parents – make them pay.”

g. The national executive’s Steve Bloomfield argued that he was “middle class and didn’t need a grant” and said that the union’s policy should be about targeting support, to those who need it most.

h. This week’s conference has undone the NUS’s controversial funding policy agreed at the 1996 conference. At the time, a leadership of new Labour students, typified by Jim Murphy – now Labour MP for Eastwood – who was president from 1994 to 1996, argued that a call for universal full grants was a lost cause. Mr Murphy and Labour Students persuaded the 1996 conference that a more pragmatic approach would win them greater influence.

i. The successful amendment this week described this policy as “wrong, both tactically and strategically”. “The national union should be demanding as much as possible in order to win the maximum concessions from the government,” the amendment said.

j. The motion was forwarded by Ms Fletcher, NUS women’s officer, who stood against Ms Telford on the Campaign for Free Education slate backed by the Socialist Workers Party and the Student Broad Left.

k. Ms Fletcher, in her election address, said: “In 1997, the Labour government introduced fees and took away the grant, and NUS helped them to do it.

l. History is repeating itself – the day the white paper came out and introduced top-up fees, Charles Clarke praised our president.”

m. Ms Fletcher said that the newly agreed campaign for universal grants was something only she could fight for, as Ms Telford was “cowering behind the coat-tails of Tony Blair”.

n. But Ms Telford will now have to back the pro-grants policy. In her election address, she said: “I applaud the Labour government when it gets things right. But when the Labour government gets things wrong, as it has with the war against Iraq, its policy on asylum seekers, the disastrous education policy which will send us back to the 19th century, I will attack them and will set out to beat them.”

o. She called for unity: “The NUS is at its strongest when we are fighting together. If ever there was a time for unity, it is now. We have the government on the defensive.”

p. Ms Telford promised a massive campaign against top-up fees, involving schools, parents and trade unions.



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