Tom Harwood Can Save the NUS | Daniel Clark

The NUS is drowning in an ocean of its own bile. This week – as its annual conference began to get under way – the Independent reported on a deep problem of anti-Semitism right at the heart of its organisation. It was revealed that one current member of the National Executive Committee shared a video mocking Jews as having big noses, and being ‘tight with money’. Another, who seeks a position on the union’s executive, wrote a Twitter message that was derogatory to Jewish people, which was topped off with ‘#heilhitler’.

This is not the first time that the NUS has become embroiled in anti-Semitic related scandal. Readers may recall that Malia Bouattia, the NUS President (at the time of writing), was accused of ‘outright racism’ by the Home Affairs Select Committee for her remark that the University of Birmingham was ‘something of a Zionist outpost in British Higher Education’. There are intrinsic problems with the NUS, and anti-Semitism is not the only way it flashes its credentials of intolerance.

In 2014, the NUS Executive Committee rejected a motion to condemn Islamic State because certain members ‘felt that the wording of the motion being presented would unfairly demonise all Muslims’. The supreme irony of this is that they did not hesitate to condemn UKIP, whilst also voting in favour of boycotting Israel. To display their skewed priorities further, Malia Bouattia wrote a letter containing a brief tribute to the victims of the Westminster attack (with the notable exception of PC Keith Palmer.) This then proceeded to become a call for students to ‘be aware of the concerns of Muslim, migrant and racialised students.’ You really could not make this up.

The NUS appears to be in free-fall. Rather than focus on the concerns of the diversity of the student body, it anxiously wrings it hands over issues such as what the foreign policy of the British government should be. Instead of promoting the freedom of all of its students, the NUS instead decided to claim that gay men ‘don’t face oppression’, and (bizarrely) banned clapping.

There is an urgent need for somebody to catch this most valuable of institutions before it reaches the very bottom. With the election of the new NUS President rapidly approaching, there is one clear option as to who can achieve this: Tom Harwood. This 20-year-old Durham University student is running on the ticket of injecting ‘democracy, legitimacy, and inclusivity back into our movement.’ His plan pledges to ‘stick to campaigning on student issues’ and ‘welcome people of all opinions into our movement’, returning to the idea of the NUS being for students. He can talk the talk and, as his work with the campaign for Brexit demonstrates, he can walk the walk.

Harwood represents the rational, sensible, pragmatic face of student politics. Being an actual student, unlike the 30-year-old Malia Bouattia, means that he actually understands the concerns of the average student because he is one, and as a result can actually reasonably be felt to be representative. Refusing to take himself too seriously, his policies – such as enacting one member one vote – are interspersed with jokes (remember them?) like making Freddo’s 10p again.

At this 2017 conference, the future of the NUS is on a knife’s edge. If it re-elects Malia Bouattia, it can kiss its hopes of becoming a legitimate student movement goodbye. If it elects Tom Harwood, the NUS can start to move towards being a serious democratic organisation, and begin to – once again – make precious change. It cannot be denied that this will be a long, and difficult, path. But some things are worth fighting for.

Daniel Clark is a writer for Student Voices.  Read his articles here >
Tom Harwood Can Save the NUS | Daniel Clark Tom Harwood Can Save the NUS | Daniel Clark Reviewed by Student Voices on 15:03 Rating: 5

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