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Labour Students is the official, autonomous student wing of the Labour Party of the United Kingdom. It is a network of affiliated college and university clubs, known as Labour Clubs, who campaign in their campuses and communities for Labour’s values of equality and social justice.
|Headquarters||London, United Kingdom|
|International affiliation||International Union of Socialist Youth|
|European affiliation||Young European Socialists|
|National affiliation||Labour Party|
Labour Students’ main activities include providing political education and training to its members, sending activists to by-elections and marginal constituencies across the country and organising politically within the National Union of Students and Students Unions.
The Labour Party's first organisation for students was the National Association of Labour Student Organisations (NALSO), which was founded in 1946 but had its recognition by the party withdrawn in 1967 after it was taken over by supporters of the Trotskyist Socialist Labour League. While the Scottish organisation continued, the Labour Party was left without a national student body. One of the principal areas of conflict was the Vietnam War, with Trevor Fisk, the leading member of the traditionalists, refusing to criticise Harold Wilson's government over its tacit support for the United States in the war. The fight against Fisk was led, in particular, by Jack Straw, who supplanted Fisk as President of the National Union of Students in 1969.
In 1970 some Labour supporters created Students for a Labour Victory, a group intended to coordinate campaigning in the general election that year. That group then became the National Organisation of Labour Students (NOLS), which held its founding conference in 1971. Despite changing its name in the early 1990s, the current body, Labour Students, is still sometimes referred to by the acronym NOLS.
In its early years NOLS was divided between two factions — members of the entryist Militant group and a mainstream left group, associated with the Tribune group of Labour MPs, which formed in January 1974 called Clause Four, after the central political statement of the Labour Party constitution. Militant controlled NOLS from January 1974 to December 1975. Members of NOLS in the 1970s included future parliamentarians Charles Clarke, Bill Speirs, Peter Mandelson, Sally Morgan, Mike Gapes, Mike Jackson, Nigel Stanley, Margaret Curran and Johann Lamont.
During Tony Blair's premiership, Labour Students opposed the Government's planned introduction of university "top-up" fees. Labour Students were broadly supportive of Gordon Brown's government.
Labour Students is a 'socialist society', affiliated to the Labour Party. This means that, whilst its aims are broadly in line with the wider party, Labour Students is an independent organisation and is entitled to democratically dictate its own policy and governance. Labour Students members are also entitled to a vote in the 'affiliates' section of Labour leadership elections.
Generally, Labour Students holds four main national events each year, attended by club members from institutions across the country.
- Summer Training
- Summer Training is primarily intended for members entering their second and third years of study. There is often a focus on preparing Labour Clubs for recruitment drives at the beginning of the new academic year. The event is usually structured with a variety breakout sessions and workshops, led by industry experts, trade unions and other campaigning organisations. In recent years[when?] Summer Training has included sessions led by Matthew Doyle (former Deputy Director of Communications, 10 Downing Street), Kirsty McNeill (former adviser to Gordon Brown) and community organising group Movement for Change. There is also usually a heavy emphasis on training from the four liberation campaigns.
- Political Weekend
- Political Weekend is usually the event where Labour Students welcomes its new members each year. Labour Students usually hosts a number of high-profile speakers, including government ministers during periods of Labour government and members of the Shadow Cabinet in times of opposition.
- Liberation Conference
Liberation Conference sees the election of Labour Students’ four Liberation Officers (see ‘Liberation Campaigns’). It also includes panels and sessions around issues of particular importance to Liberation groups, for example mental health services or tackling antisemitism on campuses.
- National Conference
- National Conference sees the election of the Labour Students National Committee for the following year, as well further policy debate. Though nominally described as an "election", only a small number of delegates vote, along lines pre-determined by their nominating clubs. National Conference is often held in conjunction with Young Labour Conference, to help reduce members' travel costs.
The Labour Students National Committee convene regularly and work together to ensure the organisation runs smoothly and works effectively to represent members.
The Executive Committee is made up of three full-time sabbatical officers who are responsible for the day-to-day running of the organisation:
- National Chair - currently Joe Dharampal-Hornby
- National Secretary - currently Sheri-Ann Bhim
- National Campaigns & Membership Officer - currently Jack Stacey
The Chair leads the organisation and is responsible for dealings with external bodies (including the NUS). The Secretary is responsible for the organisation's finances, communications and organises national events. The Campaigns and Membership Officer co-ordinates the recruitment and campaigning work of the organisation.
The rest of the National Committee is made up two vice chair positions, a further education representative, an international officer, eleven regional coordinators, four liberation officers and the chairs of Welsh Labour Students and Scottish Labour Students.
A number of other individuals attend National Committee meetings but do not have voting rights. These include the Labour Students NUS Group Leader/s, the Labour Students Rep on the Labour Party's National Policy Forum and the Youth and Students Rep on the Labour Party's National Executive Committee.
Within Labour Students there are four autonomous liberation campaigns. These include Women's, Lesbian Gay Bisexual & Trans, Disabled Students and Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) Students campaigns, all of which are entitled to elect an officer to the National Committee. Labour Students holds caucuses for each of the liberation groups at every national event, has an equal opportunities policy and ensures all events are fully accessible.
Scotland and WalesEdit
There are separate organisations for Labour Clubs in the devolved nations, known as Welsh Labour Students and Scottish Labour Students respectively. The Chairs of these two organisations also sit on the committee of Labour Students as full members.
Labour Students takes on a major campaign each year, voted for in an all-member ballot. Recent campaigns have included:
- "Make Child Poverty History" campaign (2006-7)
- "Sex, Lives and Politics" (2005 - 2006) - This was followed by a government reduction of VAT on condoms to the EU minimum of 5%.
- The Living Wage Campaign (2011 - 2013) - Labour Students worked in collaboration with the trade union UNISON to equip members with the skills to fight for a living wage to be paid to staff on their university campuses. The campaign was extremely successful, with clubs including Manchester and Kent securing the living wage at their institutions.
- The Voter Registration Campaign (2012 - 2013) - Labour Students intended to increase the number of students registered to vote.
- Somewhere To Call Home (2017 - 2018) - Campaign aimed at tackling "poor living conditions and extortionate rents for students."
- Time For Rights (2018 – Present) – Campaign to protect the rights of workers in Students’ Unions and Universities from Brexit.
Campaigning for the Labour PartyEdit
Labour Students train and frequently deploy extremely experienced activists to campaign in by-elections across the country and in key marginal seats during general elections. They often operate from a "battle bus" so that large numbers of campaigners can be transported to target areas at short notice. Labour Students have been credited with helping secure Labour victories at a number of recent by-elections, including in Feltham and Heston, Barnsley Central and Oldham East and Saddleworth.
Labour Students and the National Union of StudentsEdit
Every year, Labour Students actively organise and campaign within the National Union of Students (NUS). As a result of this, Labour Students is viewed as an influential faction within the NUS and its members are frequently elected to the NUS National Executive Council (NEC) and to full-time officer positions, although 2015 saw a majority of their candidates losing to those to Left.
History within the National Union of StudentsEdit
In the late 1970s, Labour Students (then NOLS) worked within the NUS as part of the Broad Left, a student coalition which also included the student wings of the Communist Party of Great Britain and independent left wing students. The Broad Left stood slates of candidates in NUS elections. (The Broad Left is not to be confused with the post-1997 grouping Student Broad Left.) In the early 1980s NOLS broke with the Broad Left and presented its own slate of candidates in NUS elections. In 1982, NOLS won the presidency of NUS on its own for the first time. A succession of NOLS candidates were elected to the NUS Presidency until 2000 with the strongest challenges generally coming from those to the left of the Labour Party. Several former NOLS NUS Presidents, including Charles Clarke and Jim Murphy, went on to serve as Cabinet ministers, serving as members of a Labour government. Throughout this period, NOLS members of the NUS National Executive Committee were a minority, but exercised effective control.
Labour Students's flagship policy in NUS was[when?] the rejection of campaigning for universal grants, in favour of targeting student support funds towards poorer students through means testing. National Conference 2006 narrowly supported this policy, but it was renewed with a much increased majority in 2007. However, the position was reversed again when National Conference 2016 voted to campaign for universal living grants, funded through progressive taxation, in both further and higher education, in a policy change that had been pushed forward by the left-wing group, the National Campaign Against Fees & Cuts.
Recent graduates of Labour Students have often gone on to work in Labour Party Headquarters, as ministerial special advisers, Trade Union officials and as members of left-leaning think tanks. Many also go on to enjoy successful careers outside of the politics.
Notable former Labour Students officersEdit
- John Mann (Chair 1983 and 1984) - MP for Bassetlaw.
- Sarah Boyack (Chair 1985) - MSP for the Lothian Region.
- Ben Lucas (Chair 1986) - Former special adviser to Jack Straw.
- Simon Buckby (Chair 1989) - Former adviser to John Prescott and then advertising director for Labour's 1997 election campaign.
- Paul Richards (Chair 1990) - Former Special Adviser to Hazel Blears and parliamentary candidate for the seats of Lewes (2001) and Billericay (1997).
- Tom Watson (Chair 1992) - Labour MP for West Bromwich East, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party since 2015.
- Michael Dugher (Chair 1997) - MP for Barnsley East.
- Patrick Diamond (Chair 1998) - Former special adviser to Peter Mandelson and Tony Blair, Director of Policy at the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
- Ellie Reeves (Chair 2002) - Former member of the Labour National Executive Committee & MP for Lewisham West & Penge.
- John Howarth (National Secretary 1981-2) MEP for South East England.
- Jacqui Smith (National Secretary) - First female Home Secretary.
- Caroline Flint (Women's Officer 1982-1984) - Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.
- Gloria De Piero (Campaigns & Membership Officer 1996) - Former television presenter and MP for Ashfield.
- John Woodcock (National Secretary 2002) - MP for Barrow and Furness.
- Blair McDougall (Chair, Scottish Labour Students 2001-2003) - Former Special Adviser to James Purnell and Director of the Better Together campaign, Labour candidate for East Renfrewshire 2017.
- Rob Minshull (National Secretary 1986) - Broadcaster.
- Jonathan Ashworth (National Secretary 2000) - Former Deputy Political Secretary to Gordon Brown and MP for Leicester South.
- Vicky Foxcroft (Chair 2001) - MP for Lewisham Deptford
- Iain McNicol (Campaigns & Membership Officer 1993) - General Secretary of the Labour Party
List of ChairpersonsEdit
The Chair of Labour Students is elected to serve for one year. It has largely been a full-time role, but for a period during the 1980s and early 1990s it was unpaid.
- 1949-50 Dickson Mabon
- 1950s Roy Hattersley
- 1950s Kevin McNamara
- 1960s Alex Neil
- 1973 Ian Davidson
- 1974 Brent Kennedy
- 1975 Glenys Bithell
- 1976 Mike Gapes
- 1977 Mike Jackson
- 1978 Nigel Stanley
- 1979 Dave Smith
- 1980 Steve Page
- 1981 John Boothman
- 1982 Geoff Norris
- 1983 John Mann
- 1984 John Mann
- 1985 Sarah Boyack
- 1986 Ben Lucas
- 1987 Neil Usher
- 1988 Carol Judge
- 1989 Simon Buckby
- 1990 Paul Richards
- 1991 Alison Ryan (did not complete year in office)
- 1992 Paul Hewitt
- 1993 Tom Watson
- 1994 Ian Corfield
- 1995 Lizzie Watson
- 1996 Lizzie Watson
- 1997 Michael Dugher
- 1998 Patrick Diamond
- 1999 Joe Goldberg
- 2000 Brendan Cox
- 2001 Vicky Foxcroft
- 2002 Ellie Reeves
- 2003 Karim Palant
- 2004 Adam Hug
- 2005 Gareth Smith
- 2006 Ciaran Ward
- 2007 Kenny Young
- 2008 Sarah Mulholland
- 2009 Joseph Sherry
- 2010 Dean Carlin
- 2011 Olivia Bailey
- 2012 Emma O'Dwyer
- 2013 Callum Munro
- 2014 Finn McGoldrick
- 2015 Michael Rubin
- 2016 Kate Dearden
- 2017 Melantha Chittenden
- 2018 Joe Dharampal-Hornby
- Peter Barberis, John McHugh and Mike Tyldesley, Encyclopedia of British and Irish Political Organizations
- Originally known as the Revolutionary Socialist League, this name had been dropped internally within Militant by 1969, see John Callaghan The Far Left in British Politics, Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1987, p.177; Michael Crick (The March of Militant,London: Faber, 1986, p.60) has the change occurring by 1967.
- Michael Crick The March of Militant, London: Faber, p.97
- "National Committee – Labour Students". labourstudents.org.uk. Retrieved 2018-02-10.
- "What We Do – Labour Students". labourstudents.org.uk. Retrieved 2018-02-10.
- "How We Won a Living Wage at Manchester". Retrieved 6 September 2012.
- "Welfare Zone Live Policy 2014-17 @ NUS connect". www.nusconnect.org.uk. Retrieved 2017-07-16.
- "Left-wing motions for NUS National Conference 2016". National Campaign Against Fees & Cuts. Archived from the original on 2016-03-29. Retrieved 16 July 2017.