Happening On Campus

Nottingham Labour Students Hosts Hustings Ahead Of National Labour Students Elections

Leacsaidh Marlow

On Thursday 22nd February, UoN’s Labour Students hosted a hustings for the candidates running to be Labour Students’ East Midlands Representative.

This was the second of 2 hustings events, following the first, hosted by the University of Leicester’s Labour Students group, both of which allow the society to vote on who they wish to endorse as a group for the Labour Students elections this year.

The two candidates, Alex Burt (they/them) and Ben Duffy (he/him), had a chance to present a manifesto to the students in the room, and then answer questions from anyone in the room (all questions were directed openly at both candidates, not candidate-specific).

After a coin toss to decide who would go first, Ben delivered his manifesto to the room. Ben cited his family history and his grandparents’ immigration to the UK as a key factor in his being a Labour member, and fighting for a Labour government, who would better support immigrants in the UK.

Ben wishes […] to involve local communities to increase turnout when campaigning

He then went on to explain why he wished to be a voice for students, who are currently facing insufficient student loans, crippling debt upon graduation, and a fundamental lack of voice due to ineffective Students’ Unions (including NUS). Ben wishes to use his position as East Midlands Representative to coordinate university campaigning with subsidy funds, involve local communities to increase turnout when campaigning, and link up with Young Labour to “fight effectively for student issues”.

Following him was Alex of the University of Leicester’s Labour Students. Alex argued for why they believed socialist policies are absolutely crucial for the future of the UK, which needs “radical, bold, transformative action for the education system”.

Alex wishes […] to lobby the government to restore and expand education funding

They asserted that a Labour government must put “people over profit”, and invest in education and educators in order to bring about change. Alex wishes to use their position as East Midlands Representative to lobby the government to restore and expand education funding, and amplify student voices on the issues we face, to support all students in the UK going forward.

The discussion was then opened up to the room, who were allowed to ask any relevant questions they wished of the two candidates.

The first question was “In the light of the ceasefire vote as an example, where do you stand on supporting Labour MP candidates who don’t always reflect your views?”.

Ben conveyed the importance of presenting a united front in the face of an impending general election, explaining that he may not always agree with his MP (in this case, Lillian Greenwood for Nottingham South) and Labour “should have voted on a ceasefire earlier”, but that the priority is getting Labour in government, and then lobbying them for change once they have that power.

Alex followed by offering their respects to all victims in both Israel and Palestine currently, but agreed that we must continue to back Labour candidates as our best chance at achieving positive change and, where possible, support only candidates who share our values.

Both candidates agreed that the student joining fee for the Labour Party should not be as high as it is

The following questions covered a range of focuses, from axed funding to Young Labour, initiatives to tackle the climate crisis, and bigotry within the Labour Party, among other current topics.

“The Current Labour Students Committee has quadrupled joining fees for students – would you support reducing this to the previous rate, why or why not?”.

Both candidates agreed that the student joining fee for the Labour Party should not be as high as it is. Ben expressed a wish to maintain the cost at manageable rates for students, especially during the cost of living crisis, and Alex also stated that we should be bringing student fees down, calling the increase “shameful”.

Unsurprisingly, a lot of the discussion content also revolved around the upcoming general election; “During the general election, how will you as a representative support students in getting out to win the next election for Labour?”.

Ben first explained how the East Midlands in particular would be crucial to winning the election, and how he intended to establish a travel fund so that campaigning was accessible to as many people as possible. In order to get the numbers needed both for logistics and morale, he would link up universities across the East Midlands, as well as team up with Young Labour to work on large and effective campaigning.

Alex echoed the integral nature of campaigning in the East Midlands, and explained their wish to decentralise Labour Students such that regional reps can mobilise regional groups for campaigns, establishing an East Midlands Labour Students forum to coordinate region-specific campaigning.

It was announced that UoN Labour Students had voted to endorse Ben Duffy

The final questions covered relationships with unions, factionalism within Labour Students, and maintaining effective democracy in Labour Students.

After hearing eleven questions from the audience, everyone in the room who was a member of UoN Labour was given a ballot to vote on a) which candidate they wished the society to endorse, and b) which slate they wished to endorse (Ben is running for Organise And Alex for Socialist Future). The votes were counted, and it was announced that UoN Labour Students had voted to endorse Ben Duffy and the Organise slate.

Both candidates are looking forward to the Labour Students elections in the coming months; after the vote Impact asked both how they were feeling about the election season:

“It’s a really good race. We’re both working really hard…And I think I’ll pull through but I know that if I don’t we’re in good hands.” – Ben Duffy, Nottingham

Ballots […] from March 14th to April 5th

“I remain pretty confident in myself and in my ideals and that we can win a socialist future for the region and for the country.” – Alex Burt, Leicester

Although the deadline to register has now passed, if you are already registered as a student with the Labour party then you are eligible to vote in the Labour Students elections to decide your new Labour Students committee, with ballots running from March 14th to April 5th.



Leacsaidh Marlow

Featured image courtesy of Shelagh Murphy via Unsplash. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image.

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