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Another Labour Students stitch-up?

Inside Labour CorbynOn Wednesday 1st March, the Labour Students National Committee met for the first time in nearly four months, for little more than an hour. In keeping with the democratic standards we have come to expect from the Labour Students full-time officials, no agenda was circulated in advance and committee members’ attempts to have any items discussed were stonewalled with little more than a shrug.

One committee member had, for instance, moved that the Committee discuss and vote on publishing a statement condemning Community Union’s recent, disgraceful behaviour at ASOS, which amounts to little more than scabbing and represents a betrayal of the GMB’s impressive organising drive there. There are several reasons why Labour Students ought to have discussed this, the main one, of course, being that Labour Students has its own sweetheart deal with Community which involves sponsorship, advertising and, one presumes, substantial sums of money. Given this ‘special relationship’, which the Labour Students full-timers often mention, the organisation would be in a good position to offer public solidarity with the GMB. 

As luck would have it, they didn’t get a chance. The item was peremptorily dismissed by stating that “we won’t be taking extra agenda items”. No reason or explanation was provided.

Of much more concern was the content of the meeting itself. After years of effort, various unfulfilled manifesto pledges, and a drawn-out consultation, the Labour Students’ Extraordinary Conference of June 2016 finally voted in favour of a new constitution that implemented ‘One Member, One Vote’. On the face of it, this should seem rather simple-most affiliated branches of the Party and every Students’ Union in the country use a system of e-ballots.

The meeting was structured to explain why this was not the case. Despite being aware of the need to run a set of OMOV elections for the entirety of their term in office, the full-time officials have made no attempt whatsoever to ensure the organisation was in a fit place to hold these. Indeed, by this point last year, the elections had concluded. In contrast, the officials were unable to provide an answer to a direct question asking what the timetable for the elections would be.

Of course, the case put forward by the full-timers is a logically consistent one. According to them, there are 30,000 individual Party members who are currently ‘tagged’ as paying the £1 student membership rate and who would thus be considered as Labour Students members. As the officials pointed out, fifty percent of the current committee do not fall into this category. To run elections under that organising principle would be beyond belief and would also seem to be in direct contravention of the Ch. 1, Clause II, 2 (G) of the Labour Party Rulebook: “Student members of the Party shall be organised nationally as Labour Students”. Clearly, a resolution is needed.

There can, however, only be two mutually exclusive reasons why tasks like contacting the Party’s General Secretary in writing about the situation and working with the rest of Party HQ to work out basic things like who in the Labour Party is actually a student weren’t done months ago. (The former was, incidentally, was the only substantive decision taken at the meeting.)

The first would be rank incompetence. That an organisation with three full-time staff members collectively didn’t realise running a ballot of this scale would require prior co-ordination is almost beyond belief. Nonetheless, it is genuinely concerning that, for almost a year, the Labour Students sabbatical officers were working without knowing how exactly how many members the organisation had.

The other possible reason for this delay of democracy is both more likely and more worrying. Labour Students conferences have overwhelmingly voted for elections to be held on the basis of OMOV; unanimously so in the last instance. Elections of this sort would involve the tens of thousands of members enthused by Jeremy Corbyn’s two victories getting a genuine say over an organisation which has far too often worked against rather than alongside mass socialist politics. By delaying or sabotaging the implementation of this democratically agreed policy, this sort of outcome could be avoided and control would remain with the clique which has dominated Labour’s student wing for years. It is the duty of every Labour Student who cares about democracy to raise their voice against what our Shadow Chancellor might term, a ‘soft coup’.

6 Comments

  1. Bill says:

    Can you tell us what Community Union is and the disgraceful behaviour at ASOS?

    Thanks

  2. John Penney says:

    Community Union is the rump of the old Steelworkers union, renamed and with a few strange add ons. It is apparently asset rich, from its major industrial membership past – but now has less than 13,000 members. Under its essentially self-appointing right wing leadership it is now looking to create a new, post steel industry, life for itself as a “for hire” bosses nark company union, in activity areas it has no historic locus at all. To the anger of relevant unions organising in those sectors. like the GMB.

  3. Bazza says:

    Perhaps the NEC needs to give this group a jolt and demand democratic actions be carried out.
    Doesn’t this student body have a rep on the NEC who they must report to?
    End of term report, must try harder!

    1. Stephen Bellamy says:

      So the LSNC is as corrupt as the NEC. Somebody is surprised ?

  4. Karl Stewart says:

    Frankly, who cares if the political right dominate university politics anyway?

    The left should be focussing entirely on working-class young people. Get some socialist apprentice organisations going maybe?

    Or get out and about on working-class estates and politicise tomorrow’s generation?

    There seems to be an elitist mindset that only university students matter when it comes to engaging young people in politics – it’s a mindset that’s got to go.

    1. Bazza says:

      Karl perhaps we need an alliance between the working class and the potential future progressive middle class and these lot sound like future middle class careerists.

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