by Chris Jarvis
Those on the left have for many years taken one of two views of NUS. Either they have seen it as a body which is so far removed from students on the ground, from progressive and grassroots struggle and dominated by a right wing cabal of careerist New Labourites that it is irrevocable and beyond reform, or else they have played a role of antagonistic opposition within the structures.
The dust has now settled on this year’s NUS conference, and it is clear that something important has swept through NUS, and that previous analysis is no longer relevant. Four of the six President and Vice President positions have been won by progressive candidates, as well as ten of the National Executive Council places elected to the Block of 15. Labour Students, the insidious, repugnant and reactionary group of ultra-Blairites, was all but eradicated, winning only one seat on the Block of 15.
For the first time in many, many years, there will be a left-wing majority on the NUS NEC. Moving forward, we can hope that NUS begin to mobilise the fightback against austerity, against further marketisation of our education system, and build a campaign for a free, fair and fully funded education system. Rather than an NUS which sits round negotiating tables with government ministers, winning little or nothing in the way of change, we can hope for an NUS that establishes progressive alliances with radical social movements, trade unions and student activists across the country to truly put pressure on government and University managers to win major concessions for students, workers and citizens.
the insidious, repugnant and reactionary group of ultra-Blairites, was all but eradicated
Victories at this year’s NUS conference constitute a second round in a battle for the heart of NUS that began last year. Round one took place at the 2014 NUS Conference, at which delegates reversed the policy in Higher Education funding that called for the introduction of a graduate tax as an alternative to tuition fees, and replaced it with support for free education, funded through a substantially more progressive taxation system, and additionally elected left wing candidate for Vice President Society & Citizenship, Piers Telemacque.
What’s clear then is that there are more rounds to come. Despite the ascension of the left, conference narrowly voted down a motion to create a full time Trans officer for the LGBT+ campaign. The outgoing leadership and Labour Students guaranteed that this post wasn’t created by ensuring that their delegates and supporters on conference floor voted against it, in spite of a caucus of Trans students unanimously calling for the creation of such a position early this year.
This vote, the final of the conference, along with the election of Megan Dunn and Richard Brooks to President and Vice President Union Development respectively, demonstrated that the right still have a grip on NUS. It reminds us that there are further battles still to be fought. Next year, the right within the student movement will attempt to regain control of NUS. It is up to the left, both within the new leadership and on campuses across the country, to stop them by re-building a broad based, wide reaching student movement, which inspires students who for so long have viewed NUS with disdain or with apathy, to get involved and shape its future.