The Left, the Student Unions, and the NUS: We Were Warned But It's Not Too Late

Jack J Matthews (President-Elect, University) is reading for a DPhil in Earth Sciences, and has been recently elected NUS Delegate for the Oxford University Student Union.

Some things are just accepted as a given. The United Kingdom won’t do well in the Eurovision Song Contest. The NUS and Student Unions are mainly controlled by students who are politically left of centre. The Pope is a Catholic. However, just because it is so now, doesnt mean it always has to be so.

Following the sad death of Baroness Thatcher, I took some time to discover more about her time as a member and President of the Oxford University Conservative Association. While looking through the archives from the late 1940's, I discovered a letter written to the Editors of the Association’s magazine, News Digest, by one of Thatcher’s contemporaries. This letter was a prediction, a warning, and a solution - and one that stands as true today as it did when it was written over 70 years ago.

It reads;


               There exist certain student (or should I say undergraduate?) organizations whose aim is to promote cultural and social contacts between universities at home and abroad, and, in this age of collective bargaining, to represent the point of view of the university student to the rest of the community. At present there is a grave danger of these organizations becoming the tools of Left-wing political parties. The tendency of this sort of bias is, firstly, to discredit the student community and eventually the country; secondly, to bring the organizations themselves into disrepute by the backing of irresponsible, though doubtless desirable, political schemes. It would be a tragedy if the public at home and students abroad come to consider some of the statements made by delegates as representative of university opinion.

               The remedy is in our own hands. Unfortunately our Political opponents often take a far more vigorous interest in such movements than ourselves, and the present situation is only due to our apathy. We must make use of the democratic machinery provided to redress this bias. Our aim should be, not like the Socialists, to stamp our own political creed on these organizations, but to lift them above politics and to make them achieve the ends for which they were founded.

               Yours, etc.


New College, Oxford.

Its all there really - what more can I add? We can continue to simply moan about our Student Unions and the National Union of Students, or we can follow the lead given to us over 70 years ago by Mr G.H. Elliot and get involved, give students a real choice, and make some change.

Yes, it’s going to be an uphill struggle, but what’s truly worth doing that isn’t? So if you want to learn more of how you can get involved, I encourage you to check out the Democrats and Reformists Network - a relatively new group within the NUS, bringing together centre-right students.

And remember, "the present situation is only due to our apathy".