Political Perspectives – Labour Students’ New Constitution

Alistair Craig is a Co-Chair of Scottish Labour Young Socialists, he writes here in a personal capacity.

Constitutions are a boring business. However as a self-identified bore, I have agreed to spend next Saturday travelling halfway across the country to vote on Labour Students’ proposed constitution. Sadly that involved reading it and therefore without further ado I’d like to present my findings in listicle format.

So here’s 10 Things That Are Rubbish About the New Labour Students’ Constitution;

1. The extraordinary national conference. When most organisations ratify a constitution they do so through amendments and parts. Instead Labour Students will vote on the constitution as a whole document. This is a particularly sneaky move given that the finished draft contains many features that weren’t listed in the interim findings report or that have been passed into Labour Students’ policy.

2. The extraordinary national conference again. The National Office appear to have only booked the venue for an hour and a half so there won’t be much time for debate either.

3. The aims and values. The constitution establishes a set of aims and values for Labour Students as an institution which are separate to that of the wider Labour Party. In particular, the aims and values of Labour Students will include an obligation to “secure support for Labour Student candidates standing in Students’ Union and National Union of Students Elections”. This is a problem because…

4. The candidate selection for NUS elections remains unreformed and undemocratic. To secure a Labour Students’ nomination you have to submit an application, pass an interview with the NUS Group Leader (appointed by the Chair) and finally be ratified by a democratic event. Not all members of Labour Students will, nor should they be expected to, agree with that candidate selection. It’s democratic centralism, without the democracy.

5. The executive committee are given the power to suspend members and clubs that don’t fit their interpretation of the aims and values of Labour Students. This could apply to members who campaign against a Labour Student NUS candidate, or members who are deemed to be insufficiently “democratic socialist”. Farewell to the Trots and Social Democrats.

6. The disciplinary powers given to the executive committee far outweigh that of other Labour Party affiliates and tread on the toes of the Compliance Unit and the NEC.

7. Everyone can attend the Liberation Conference. Cue collective eye-rolling.

8. You need five or ten Labour Club nominations to make the ballot for a National or Executive Committee election. OMOV was supposed to open up Labour Students to individual members, apprentices, and college students that aren’t organised into Labour Clubs. Yet Labour Clubs remain the gatekeepers. There’s also no procedure on how these nominations are to be made – which leaves plenty of opportunities for “fiddling”.

9. Club delegations to national conference are capped at four. The new constitution widens participation in the election of committee members and limits participation in policy making.

10. We should probably vote for it. I’m old enough to have seen half a national conference storm out and disaffiliate over OMOV. The decision that members of Labour Students have to make this weekend is whether they want OMOV with caveats.

However ultimately the constitution is a symptom of Labour Students malaise. The milquetoast response to the HE White Paper and failure to even tweet in support of the recent UCU strikes is evidence of a deep cultural and political problem. Labour Students is an organisation that doesn’t know why it exists in a changing labour and student movement. It needs more than a new voting system to stop the rot, Labour Students needs a purpose.

Political Perspectives is a series of opinion pieces written by members of Scottish Labour Young Socialists. If you want to contribute, contact myself (Conor Boyes) or our Facebook and Twitter accounts. 



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