Plus ca change
As a recovering ex-student politician I am gradually, having reluctantly given up my NOLS card and given my last leaving speech in 1996, letting go of my interest in the internal machinations of NUS (I've now got to the stage where I can only just name the current President (though I've worked out from her presence at Compass conference last year that she is a) politically offside and b) politically stupid) whereas a few years ago I could have recited the entire Block of 12 NEC Members, their factions, and roughly how many transfers they got at each stage of the STV ballot that elected them).
However, I occasionally suffer relapses prompted by coverage of matters NUS in the mainstream media such as today's letter in the Guardian:
"On April 1 the National Union of Students leadership will ask its annual conference to vote on the governance review in the name of "modernisation" and "democracy". Like Tony Blair's reform of the Labour Party, the review will destroy the remnants of NUS democracy in favour of spin-doctors, full-time "professionals" and an old boys' network of sabbatical officers. We will not allow our union to be shut down without a fight.
They want the NUS reformed back to the 1950s, when it was little more then a network of rightwing students associated with the CIA. In 1974, the NUS transformed itself into a mass campaigning movement capable of launching a national grants campaign, coordinating occupations and leading 40,000 students to march on parliament. Under a leftwing leadership, the NUS managed to challenge the government and turn itself into a real national union.
Labour Students and Labour "independents" have spent the past 20 years running down our union. Their unwavering support for the Labour government has confined resistance to Labour policy. Now the leadership wants to ditch all principles in the run-up to the government's 2010 higher education funding review. New Labour's love of business and its immoral foreign policy have created a new generation prepared to struggle for a better world. The left has won the leadership of several local students' unions and will continue to challenge for national leadership.
Rob Owen NUS national executive
Dominic Kavakeb president-elect, Essex University Students' Union
Claire Solomon copresident, SOAS SU
Assed Baig, NUS black students' committee
Jennifer Jones Goldsmiths College SU"
A quick bit of googling reveals all of the signatories are in or allied to the SWP. Now there's a shock.
I am so enthused by the idea of getting "the NUS reformed back to the 1950s, when it was little more then a network of rightwing students associated with the CIA" (though I suspect there may be a hint of hyperbole in the SWP's rhetoric) that I am tempted to sign on for a basket-weaving or motorcycle maintenance course at an FE college so that I can go along and vote for this dastardly reform package.
Personally whilst I would have been well up for going "back to the 1950s, when it was little more then a network of rightwing students associated with the CIA" when I was NOLS National Secretary, I couldn't find the CIA under C in the phone book, and they were a bit too busy arming the Taliban at that stage to fund the student branches of British political parties, who had to make do with standing in the mud as stewards at the Reading Festival to pay for our activities.
The letter concludes "The left has won the leadership of several local students' unions and will continue to challenge for national leadership."
The number of signatories tells you exactly how many student unions the left has won the leadership of: three. Hey, a promising start as there are only, what, 600 student unions in NUS.