Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/342/5715
National Union of Students -
Left Candidate Defeats Blairite For Presidency
AT THE 2004 NUS Annual Conference in Blackpool (29-30 March) support for the Left continued to grow.
Peter O'Hare, Manchester University Socialist Students
In the elections, the left gained ground, as the Blairite Labour students stared silently into defeat. Although close, winning by just two votes, the election of Kat Fletcher of Campaign for Free Education to President was the biggest victory for the left. Careerist Labour students had held the position for the past 20 years!
Four other left candidates were elected into part-time positions within the block of twelve of the National Executive. Although the sessions were extended the opportunity for debate was still cut short with conference lasting for just one-and-a-half days due to the decision to lobby parliament on 31 March.
The actual motions discussed centred around funding, reform and welfare. The conference restated its commitment to campaigning against fees, for a return to the grant and against means testing.
The introduction of a part-time International Students Officer was confirmed. However the 'no-platform' policy, designed to kick out fascists, was extended to include three Muslim organisations in one of the welfare amendments.
Whilst these are far-right political groupings, the amendment devalues the policy of 'no platform' and restricts debate with these groups within the campuses.
Another in-depth discussion focused on the wearing of religious symbols on campuses, the discussion revolving around the French ban of the Hijab and its implications for Britain. The majority of delegates were in favour of freedom of choice and against the state intervening in this right.
Socialist Students in Sheffield had entered two emergency motions for conference, one against Gordon Brown's budget cuts in Higher and Further Education and the other calling for active NUS support for the AUT lecturers' struggle. However, due to time constraints, all emergency motions fell off the agenda.
Socialist Students had a highly successful conference. In the past three years we have sent a growing delegation in line with the growing rank and file members within Socialist Students.
At conference, interest in our stall and our ideas was significant. We held a successful late evening fringe meeting on the first night, ending at midnight, confirming that many students are interested in a socialist alternative to New Labour.
Our contributions to debates in the other fringe meetings were also influential. For instance, in the Unite against Fascism meeting our ideas were seen as politically precise. Several people approached us afterwards and commented that we were suggesting the only viable route to defeat the far right BNP.
Next year is looking promising. Socialist Students has the potential to have an even larger delegation at conference and an increased influence in policy debating.
Looking at the wider picture 2003-04 has been a year where the mass of students were let down by the leadership. At least now there is a President that genuinely stands for free education. This will make it easier for ordinary students to pressure the NUS leadership into acting on their manifesto promises.
In The Socialist 10 April 2004:
War and occupation
Socialist Party campaigns