Category Archives: Comment

The Nations Set to Rule Britania

By Emilie Tapping

The political climate in what is commonly known within NUS as “The Nations” is arguably much less rigid than that of England. But Luke Young, the president elect of NUS Wales believes that this means it is their turn to reign. Most Welsh and Scottish delegates seem to be sporting Burns’ t-shirts, waxing lyrical about his wins in Scotland. However Young, a big name in NUS, is also hoping that people will send their second preferences to Shane Chowen.



Week Commencing: Day Of Rage.

By Emilie Tapping

It will not have escaped many delegates’ notice that this year has been a year of discontent and in many ways a year of violence. The controversy of the events on the 10th of November at Millbank and continued violence in London and other cities is definitely a hot topic. Whilst many delegates can probably see the arguments against violence, the Socialist Worker Party, situated in the main entrance, are keen for people to explore both sides of the debate.

Sporting Bergfeld t-shirts and quietly optimistic about the rise of the left, the SWP are supporters of direct action and are leading the fight against cuts.  “Collectively we can really try and stop the agenda of austerity that the government are pushing” claims Chas, a regular at protests and long term SWP supported. “I personally think a window is a window, if it gets smashed it gets smashed” says —- “It sounds corny to say ‘damage to society’ but it is huge damage to society… it’s real damage to people’s lives”. Lamenting the damage the government has caused across the world, another SWP-er is outraged “this government claims that we’re violent?… and they call themselves humanitarian? I call them hypocrites!

The use of direct action is something that has been debated time and time again at National Conference and regularly at NEC meetings. There was controversy earlier in the year when outgoing president Porter seemed to support an occupation at UCLU despite having NUS policy against this.

Who Will Fare Well in Welfare?

Conference is about to open and delegates are being called to the floor. Of course the other big election this year is for VP Welfare. It was set to be a race between the two Petes before Pete Woodward of Northumbria fame withdrew earlier this year. Pete Mercer of nearby Newcastle University is widely accepted to be the favourite is now running against only one opponent in the rather gentlemanly shape of Birkbeck’s Sean Rillo Raczka. Whilst you might be able to pass Mercer in the street without looking twice, the memorable Raczka, fresh out of his victory in the ULU Vice Presidential election, can often be found in full gentleman’s dress. He is by no means inconspicuous.

But who will fare best in this election? Pete presumably has the support of the Labour and OI factions whilst Sean is running on the far-left slate in what could be a 50 – 50 split. Mercer is keen not to appear cocky, professing that it’s “never goo to be too confident in an election”. The two certainly appear to be contrasting candidates, but which has the policies that are best for our national membership? Mercer is hoping to the role in a “new direction… one that actually improves the every day lives of students”, whilst Sean certainly has the experience of underrepresented groups such as mature and part-time students who arguably could be considered as more vulnerable.

The end of factionalism?

by Emilie Tapping

Never before has the NUS leadership race been so exciting. We are standing in the eye of the storm after what has been an incredible year for activism and the student movement. The factions are in disarray, with loyalties flying left, right and centre. A strong left slate has been presented for all positions, with a stoic Mark Bergfeld at the top. 

The far left has grown since the Tory – Lib Dem coalition government took power just under a year ago, vastly improving the far-left’s chances of winning positions. Previous attempts have been fruitless at NUS despite strong candidates such as Assed Baig who gave a mind-blowing speech last year but missed out on the VP Soc and Cit position to incumbent Susan Nash. The far-left have been enjoying victories across the UK with candidates winning at various institutions – the most notable being UCLU with the election of VP HE candidate Michael Chessum last year.

The Organised Independents seem to have taken the biggest hit since Aaron Porter’s decision not to rerun for NUS President dividing the group between Shane Chowen and Liam Burns. Philip Whyte, officer at Strathclyde Union and previously an OI member, has parted ways with the group to support Burns, the current president of NUS Scotland, whilst others are supporting current FE President, Chowen. Both will provide a different perspective on the position as neither come from the traditional England higher education background that we have seen in recent years. The OI’s still have officers running in most other positions, with what looks to be support for Usman Ali for VPHE and Pete Mercer for VP Welfare.

Labour Students are in a similar position with cracks beginning to appear. Usman, who has in the past seemed to fall in line with Labour Students, is backing Chowen whilst Labour Students themselves appear to be backing Burns.

The rumour mill has already started with hopes that this might be the end of factional manipulation of NUS elections, giving room for more independent candidates to stand. Following in your friend and my friend Kit Friend’s footsteps as the token ballsy Tory this year is Thomas Byrne. Friend stood on a platform that having a Tory officer would mean that the government would be more likely to engage with NUS and whilst we haven’t heard much from Byrne on the subject, the current government’s apparent disdain for the student movement at the moment would suggest that maybe he was right.

Will the Labour/OI factionalism continue to reign after this conference? Keep an eye on our updates for more speculation.