Membership of the Young Greens increased by 10 per cent in just one weekend after Parliament voted to treble the cap on university fees in England to £9,000 per year.
The organisation, which is the youth wing of the Green Party of England and Wales, says that students and young people are abandoning their traditional support for the Liberal Democrats.
Students have expressed anger over the decision of 28 Liberal Decmocrat MPs, including the party's leaders, to back the fee hike in a Commons vote last Thursday (9 December). Prior to this year's general election, every Liberal Democrat MP pledged to vote against increase in fees.
On Friday, the day after the vote, the Green Party offered free membership for a limited period to students of any age and to people under 30. A similar offer was made by Plaid Cymru.
The Young Greens say there was a 10 per cent increase at the weekend, with 40-50 people joining in an hour at the busiest periods. Over 400 young people have joined the Greens since the vote in the Commons.
Responding to the recent education cuts, Caroline Lucas, Leader of the Green Party and MP for Brighton Pavilion, said “The huge hikes in tuition fees, together with the scrapping of Educational Maintenance Allowance and proposed cuts in college funding, amount to nothing less than a government assault on our young people – and an attack on the principles of universal education.”
She also countered the government's claims that rises in tuition fees are the only way to fund the gap left by the 80 per cent cut to the teaching grant given to universities.
“There are alternatives,” insisted Lucas, “For example, a business education tax levied on the top four per cent of UK companies would require business to pay its fair share for the substantial benefits it receives from higher education. Tragically, such alternatives haven’t even been looked at. Instead we have this ill-considered policy rushed through in the face of huge public opposition.”
Meanwhile, Adam Pogonowski, a Young Green councillor in Cambridge, said, “This is a shocking and depressing vote against universal free education. The Green Party is the only party who believes in fair and free education for all. I urge all voters to vote for a party who will not break such fundamental promises with such flagrant disregard for those who elected them, in the local elections next May.”
The Young Greens have also responded to the reports that the police have used excessive force in the recent tuition fee protests by launching a petition that calls on the Metropolitan Police Authority to ban the practice of 'kettling'- confining groups of protestors in small spaces and refusing to allow them to move, often for hours at a time.