On paper, the Labour Party has 20,000 student members. But only 59 voting delegates attended Labour Students National Conference in Edinburgh on 24 February, representing a handful of Labour clubs.
The majority of the candidates on the unofficial “moderate” slate have been elected, despite the “Labour Students Left” slate, backed by Momentum, Open Labour and CLPD Youth, receiving many more nominations from clubs.
This year’s National Officer elections were the first to be conducted by OMOV (One Member One Vote). Numerous members complained on social media about the delay in sending electronic ballots, with many claiming they did not receive their ballot at all.
No data have been released on the number of votes cast. Many on the left suspect it is likely to be little more than a couple of hundred. For an organisation supposedly representing tens of thousands of students, this is a damning indictment.
Swathes of members were excluded from the vote and from conference due to a lack of information about how to affiliate their club to Labour Students. To apply for affiliation Labour Clubs must ask ten individual members to send proof of their club membership to Labour Students. Each club must reaffiliate each academic year.
Smaller clubs are barred from participating. Many larger clubs were unable to affiliate as they were not told about this requirement until the deadline had passed. Others have been disaffiliated for reasons include supposed breaches of the Labour Students constitution. Surrey Labour Students were disaffiliated in 2016 on the grounds they were affiliated to the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts.
In other words, National Officers gerrymander the system to bar left-dominated clubs. Five out of seven Scottish Labour clubs were barred from attending conference and voting, alongside many others including Leeds Beckett, Essex, Liverpool and Bath.
The position of North West rep remains unfilled as there are no affiliated Labour clubs in the region. The candidate for the Northern region could not get the required two nominations, as Durham is the only affiliated club.
The left candidate for Yorkshire and the Humber lost to “Reopen Nominations”, despite running unopposed. The right wing candidate for Vice Chair Campaigns and Policy beat the left candidate, despite receiving only six club nominations to the latter’s thirty-one.
In the wake of these results, several Labour clubs have voted to disaffiliate. These clubs come from across the political spectrum, citing concerns with transparency and having no confidence in the organisation.
The anger is good. However, for as long as Labour Students is seen as the official voice of Labour in the student movement and in the NUS, left-wingers should stay and fight.
Left wing clubs should come together to form a national network and call a conference to make plans for joint campaigning and organising while ramping up the pressure for democracy in Labour Students.