The National Union of Students is a peculiar body. It has next to no democratic mandate. It has a membership that doesn’t engage, a leadership that is out of touch and an agenda that isn’t credible.
And yet, it is our union. Depressing, eh?
I have outlined my stance on the NUS before and, inevitably, will do so again in the future. But yesterday’s elections press conference reaffirmed in my mind what a stale organisation it really is.
Time and time again, candidates set about on a staunch anti-fees, anti-cuts and seemingly economically insane platform.
I asked why many of them want the Educational Maintenance Allowance to return, despite it failing to perpetuate the social mobility they claim and the fact large swathes of young people received it that didn’t require assistance.
I asked why the NUS continues to seek the unrealistic abolition of fees, despite there now being in place a more progressive system of loan repayments and a real vacuum for the body to step in and garner value for money in the higher education sector.
I asked why it is acceptable for an NUS Vice-President in the form of Vicki Baars, now running for President, to call for the Tories and Lib Dems to be burned on a bonfire.
Did I receive a satisfactory response to any of the above?
What do you think?
A four-and-a-half hour period listening to sabbatical drivel was concluded by some very excellent public speaking from the three Presidential candidates.
Peter Smallwood offered some hope, oozing pragmatism and an understanding of what students really want and what the national organisation can really offer. His feet are on the ground and he could really achieve something positive.
His chances electorally, however, are slim. Even he admits that. The left pulls the strings, turns out to vote and dominates National Conference, even if they themselves are split across many different lines.
This huge left-wing domination leads to another problem, that of who it really represents. The NUS probably should be renamed NUSU: The National Union of Student Unions.
Unless of course it ever gets around to doing what it should be doing: representing students and not sabbatical officers. There is, unfortunately, little chance of that.