Unless you’ve plugged your ears with cotton and avoided Facebook for the last three weeks, it probably hasn’t escaped your attention that there are two pretty huge elections coming up for us at York soon. Namely, these are the EU and the NUS referenda. When talking to campaigners of either side, it seems that ‘sticking together’ has been a central theme of both campaigns. Certainly, the pro-EU side believe that we’re better off together, and certainly, this argument makes sense. What is seemingly paradoxical then is that, on campus, the most prominent “In” EU campaigners are also the most fervent supporters of an “Out” NUS vote. However, both of these campaigns share at their heart an overwhelming common belief – that we are stronger together. If we want to stick together; and if we are indeed stronger united than apart, we must vote to disaffiliate from the NUS.
This obviously requires expansion. To justify such an assertion, I would first like to take you back to the last NUS conference. In Brighton earlier this year, Malia Bouattia was elected the president of the organisation with over half of all votes cast going to her. Or, to put it in other terms, she received 372 votes. Now, I don’t think I need to tell you that for an organisation claiming to represent 7 million students, a mandate of 372 votes, or 0.0054%, is beyond pathetic – it’s farcical. However, given some of Bouattia’s previous rhetoric, there are grounds to say that this stretches to dangerous.
I don’t believe it is too radical to suggest that the vast, vast majority of students would object to the assertion that the UK is plagued by a “Zionist-led media”. Such a statement would usually be consigned to far right hate groups preaching about a Jewish cabal controlling the world. Interestingly though, this statement comes from Bouattia. Rather than concentrating on the terrifying implication of her words though, I would like to bring your attention to this: that such a statement is far from mainstream opinion. However, it is one that the representative of over 7 million students holds.
We also need to recognise that the NUS on the other hand, has consistently shown itself to be aggressively against any dissent from its political line. At the general election last year, the organisation, despite supposedly being apolitical, spent over £40,000 of your money campaigning against Liberal Democrats – a group that remains one of the most popular political parties on campus.
As such, the NUS is an organisation which harbours narrow and contentious views, apart from the majority of students, and is intolerant of dissent. What we need to recognise though is that this has resulted in a wide scale apathy within the student movement.
This means that students are divided and set against each other. To assert that the NUS is the voice of students would be false – such hostility to pluralism makes this impossible. Instead, it is the voice of the 372 delegates who voted for Bouattia; the voice of a sectional clique who do not appear to have any interest in the welfare of students.
As such, disaffiliation is essential. By moving away from the NUS, we can encourage plurality and we can bring back those students alienated by the organisation. Saying ‘No’ to the NUS is a vote for unity. It allows us to truly work in the interest of all students as opposed to the few that the NUS deems convenient.
I’m voting to leave because I believe in students. I believe in our power to change the world and challenge the status quo. We will be stronger, louder and more united outside of this warped organisation. Disaffiliation doesn’t silence York’s voice – it gives it back.