This year, in the Guild of Students Officer elections, for the first time in a very long time there were no ‘Labour’ candidates. Something which has become quite a regularity at students unions across the country is the domination of particular sabbatical officers that are there to simply ‘Bring Labour values of collectivism to campus’. This is not an attack on previous Sabbs who were party members, it’s a critique on the idea of the ‘Labour Sabb’. Which is something that has bugged me greatly since joining the party, so here is a blog to have a good old rant about it…
In November, I attended the annual Labour Students Political Weekend. I thought i’d give it a go. What I will say is that the message I got from NOLS was a very narrow minded one. A one of a one size fits way of thinking, which couldn’t have highlighted how out of touch they are any better. ‘Let’s campaign for Ken in London’ was high on the agenda, while absolutely no mention was made to campaigning locally in other key elections happening this May, including Birmingham. ‘Let’s get as many of you elected onto the NUS and in Unions so you can be our puppets’ was also another common theme of the talks. Or one of my personal favourites, ‘Lets all pretend to talk to our Vice Chancellor and tell them they should pay cleaners more money, which they will then amazingly easily agree to’. The weekend really could have been summarised into those three snippets.
I believe that Labour Students attempt to have too much involvement in Union politics. It’s a well known fact that they ship supporters around the country to illegitimately boost support for their candidates (http://abercourier.com/2012/03/labour-troubles-tarnish-election-campaign/). They also offer training to their candidates and successful elects before they take office, to… well I imagine to tell them the policies to push onto their students. This is not what they should be doing! And this is not what the student movement is all about. Edd Bauer, current VPE at the Guild wrote during his time as EEO about this very issue on his blog, and I think he got it spot on. I’d definitely recommend giving it a read (http://edwardbauereeo.blogspot.co.uk/2010/07/leaving-post.html)
I am currently a Labour member and supporter, and that’s fine. I have my ideological beliefs and i’ll never claim to not have them. There is no denying that we all have a position politically, because we all have an opinion. However, the problem arises when you push your party’s policies onto students. Abusing your position as an elected officer to ensure the party you support, and probably want to work for in future years gets a foot in with students on your campus. Sabbatical officers are not there to influence the students they represent. They are there to serve them. They are there to make the time that their students spend at their university as enjoyable as possible. I believe it is that simple.
As you may be aware, I was elected as Vice President (Activities & Development) in those very guild elections just a few short weeks ago. And next year, I will be tasked with helping every single student society at the Guild and I can’t wait to get started. Because it doesn’t matter what your political beliefs are, what matters is that you want to do something and celebrate what you love doing. That is why I ran for it and why I didn’t ever want to run as a ‘Labour Sabb’, because to do so would to betray what I believe is truly important in student politics. Yes, you guessed it, STUDENTS.
So this will be my 3rd and very last blog I post on BULSonline. My membership to the party expires in May and I will be letting it do so. I’m doing this because I simply have to be as neutral as possible. I represent BUCF as much as BULS and to do so whilst being a Labour party member I feel would be unprofessional. I have no idea if I will rejoin after my term in office, I guess it will depend on how the next year goes for the party and for Mr Miliband. And it will most certainly depend on whether the party (and it’s affiliated organisations) can stop being so narrow minded and unaware that a single solution will not solve all their problems.
The next year is crucial for us all, I’m just looking forward to the journey.
@OllieCosentino, Former BULS Secretary