The campaign has barely begun and already the social media shells are beginning to drop around me. The big dogs of the University of York’s Students’ Union (YUSU) has fully mobilised its army of campus politicos and assorted hangers on. The Yes campaign’s Facebook events page outnumber us three to one on invites and I’m starting to question whether it was really such a good idea assisting on the “No to the NUS referendum” campaign at this University.
We’re not even a day in and so far the Yes campaign have resorted to such inspired fear tactics as comparing the No campaign to UKIP and stating that if York was to, heaven forbid, leave the National Union we would all be forced to pay council tax, which is just an outright lie of herculean proportions.
All in all, the core message from Yes is that leaving the NUS would cause the world to fall off its axis. The campus politicians preach this message to their umpteen thousands of Facebook friends accrued from years of being a smiling face on the back of a Uni Bus. They’re gunning for us on all cylinders, and you know what: let them come. This isn’t a cry for pity, a petulant whinge of “s’ not fair miss, they’re not playing properly”.
No indeed, the fervour with which virtually the entire student political elite of this University have taken to attacking the No campaign from the off is extremely telling. They’re genuinely worried we might pull this off, that we might force them to leave their precious club, and deprive them of their annual beano down to NUS conference.
They’ll tell us that we need their money, and that the NUS hold all of our student discounts to ransom. Which is why sabbatical officers at the University of Southampton’s Students’ Union, which disaffiliated in 2002, estimate that they actually save about £40,000 a year from not being a member, and that they can get even cheaper and more numerous student discounts, because the NUS no longer cherry picks what companies they can do business with.
They’ll tell us that it’s better to stay in and try and change things, but we know the NUS will never change; it never has. In fact, when York’s delegates spearheaded a “one member, one vote” motion at the last NUS conference, a particularly controversial idea that every member of the National Union should have a y’know, direct vote on its President, the motion was filibustered into the long grass with rounds of votes and speeches on, amongst other things, whether or not to have another round of votes and speeches.
They’ll tell us the NUS is the only national student organisation with any real clout and that only by staying in can we hope to exert any influence or pressure on the assorted powers that be, that we really are “better together” in the vernacular of the Yes campaign.
Which dear reader, you will recall as being why the government buckled back in 2010 and kept University tuition fees at £3,000 a year.
They’ll tell us that the NUS stands up for students. But this is the same NUS which backed a UCU marking boycott, an act completely contrary to the best interests of the students they pertain to represent. This is the same NUS which voted for minimum alcohol pricing, because they fundamentally don’t trust their members to make their own life decisions.
They’ll tell us that the NUS represents us all, which is why their last five presidents have all been members of the Labour Party, and the NUS counts amongst its former presidents members of parliament from such a broad range of political parties such as Jim Murphy (Labour), Stephen Twigg (Labour), Phil Woolas (Labour), Lorna Fitzsimmons (Labour), Charles Clarke (Labour) and Jack Straw (Labour).
This is the same NUS which voted FOR the introduction of tuition fees in 1998 under a Labour government, despite the rebellion of a number of university student unions, and then opposed their increase fiercely under a non-Labour government.
This is not just a national student’s union with a few minor issues which are best worked through together, as the Yes campaigners say. This is an organisation which is rotten to its very core, and which has resisted, often viciously, any attempt at meaningful reform.
But of course none of that matters. Because as the Yes campaign says, we can’t vote to leave, what with the whole world-axis-falling-off thing. So I guess that’s that settled then, or perhaps, just maybe, not.