Many Liberal Democrats today are expressing surprise at the anti-Liberal Democrat line being taken by the NUS in today’s demo. Although I was never hugely involved in the political side of running a Student Union, I did have some involvement whilst at university. I have fond memories of counting STV votes, and watching at some stupid hour of the morning – and it must have been pretty late to have seemed stupid as a student – as the returning officer stared at a single scrap of paper and tried to transfer a fraction of a vote half a dozen times to figure out the result of one of the elections. Still, those years were a good example of why FPTP can fail badly, due to the controversy as the Islamic Society wanted to ban itself. They couldn’t overcome constant block voting by extremists trying to take over the society, but were capable of passing an overwhelming motion questioning their own existence as a society.
Enough with the Yes2AV arguments and back to the NUS. I remember the NUS as being a very left-wing organisation, so let’s have a look at past and current presidents of the NUS. There has only been one president in the last 35 years that has not been standing as Labour, a Labour coalition (“Broad Left”) or as an “Independent” who also happens to be a Labour party member. Here’s a list of jobs, taken from Wikipedia, that NUS presidents have gone on to perform: (Information prior to 1984 is more vague)
- Jack Straw – NUS President 1969-71. Current Shadow Cabinet member, former Labour Foreign and Home Secretary.
- Charles Clarke – NUS President 1975-77. Former Labour MP and Home Secretary.
- Phil Woolas – NUS President 1984-86. Ex-Labour MP and former immigration minister, You may have seen him in the news recently…
- Vicky Philips – NUS President 1986-88. Labour but unusually, no political career. She’s now a lawyer.
- Maeve Sherlock – NUS President 1988-90, became special advisor to then chancellor Gordon Brown. Now a member of the House of Lords.
- Stephen Twigg – NUS President 1990-92, Labour MP 1997-05 and Minister of State for Schools 2004-05. Re-elected 2010, Currently Shadow Foreign Office Minister.
- Lorna Fitzsimons – NUS President 1992-94, Labour MP 1997-05
- Jim Murphy – NUS President 1994-96, Labour MP since 1997. Minister of State for Europe and later Secretary of State of Scotland under Gordon Brown, currently Shadow Secretary of State for Defence
- Douglas Trainer – NUS President 1996-98, special adviser for the Labour Scottish Executive 2006-07
- Andrew Pakes – NUS President 1998-00, former Labour Councillor, special advisor to Labour Deputy Mayor of London, Labour Parliamentary Candidate for Milton Keynes North in 2010.
- Owain James – NUS President 2000-02, the only recent non-Labour holder of the post.
- Mandy Telford – NUS President 2002-04, became Special Adviser to Tessa Jowell MP
- Kat Fletcher – NUS President 2004-06. Another person standing as non-Labour, but went on to volunteer for Ed Miliband’s Labour Leadership Campaign
- Gemma Tumelty – NUS President 2006-08. “Independent”, but still a Labour party member even then.
- Wes Streeting – NUS President 2008-10. Labour
- Aaron Porter – Current President. “Independent”, but Labour party member.
So if you’re wondering why the NUS was relatively quiet about Labour introducing fees and commissioning the report that has lead to a proposed increase in fees but are now baying for blood, consider what those within the NUS power structure will be hoping to go on to do with their later lives.