We spoke to people inside Labour Students to find out the real tea
Labour Students has been officially binned off this week
Labour has gotten rid of its own student wing.
On Tuesday this week, the Labour party's ruling body, the NEC, voted to disaffiliate the party from their student wing, Labour Students.
It’s been kicking up headlines in the national press. MPs have been tweeting about it. But honestly, what in the fresh hell is going on?
The Tab spoke to people in and out of Labour Students to try and explain the massive factional beef going on.
•There’s a big fight over supposedly unpaid affiliation fees
•The ruling core of Labour Students have been accused of ‘silencing’ their members
• Uni Labour clubs have been leaving Labour Students en masse this year
• Labour Students are just going to ignore the decision anyway
What does Labour Students actually do?
Labour Students supports Labour clubs and societies across UK universities. They run national events, which offer training and political education, as well as developing policies and campaigns.
"For years it’s been a fantastic force for mobilising and organising students, something crucial when it comes to election time and proven to get MPs elected,” Francesca Sellors, President of Edinburgh Labour Students, told The Tab. “It has always been a strong opponent of antisemitism."
Beyond arguing about politics, MPs including Jess Philips, Wes Streeting and Tom Watson credit Labour students with helping getting them elected.
But there’s also a deep, serious ideological divide at play. Labour under Jeremy Corbyn is obviously quite left-wing. Labour Students has traditionally been more to the centre. It was where centre-left MPs, including Tom Watson and Wes Streeting, built their political careers.
It’s supposedly because they didn’t pay up on time
The disaffiliation is supposedly all because of an argument about fees.
NEC member and Momentum founder Jon Lansman bought forward a motion arguing Labour Students had not paid their party affiliation fees and that they should be replaced altogether.
But Labour Students' National Chair, Rania Ramil, denies this. She told The Tab proof has been sent to Labour's General Secretary, Jenny Formby, that all fees were paid to the party in July.
Everybody associated with Labour Students The Tab spoke to told us that’s not the real issue. There’s been beef with Labour Students for a while.
Student societies have been leaving Labour Students this year
Over the past year, uni Labour societies have been leaving Labour Students. The Oxford, Cambridge, and Bristol, and LSE Labour societies have been among scores to leave since February.
Other uni societies also take a dim view of Labour Students. The current president of Swansea Labour Students, Michael Bawden, called Labour Students an “undemocratic clique that’s completely out of step with actual students.”
Labour Students is a laughably undemocratic organisation – it intentionally locks out almost all Labour-supporting students from getting involved – and has become a plaything for a small unrepresentative clique. Replacing it with a democratic grassroots movement is long overdue. https://t.co/CZr1LgtDhy
— Owen Jones? (@OwenJones84) September 17, 2019
The societies left because of a change to the Labour Students elections, which reduced the amount of people who could vote in their elections. Members had to pay an extra £1 and register with their uni email address. People claimed they didn’t get their ballots at all to vote in this year’s elections.
Only 507 eligible voters in the rump @LabourStudents election compared with 30,000 who pay Labour’s student membership rate. Time for Labour’s NEC to fulfil its duty to establish an organisation for all Labour students to replace the so-called affiliate https://t.co/b0nuZSJjjn
— Jon Lansman (@jonlansman) August 23, 2019
For the moderates, the changes keep the movement independent. For hard-left members, the changes make Labour Students undemocratic and suppress the voices of students who disagree. Michael tells The Tab it’s left students “frozen out”.
Rania, the leader of Labour Students, concedes there are issues with Labour Students, however she denies the organisation is outright undemocratic.
She told The Tab: "Labour Students does have democracy through how we do things as listed in our constitution.
"I understand there were problems with communication last year but that’s a problem that can be solved, there doesn’t need to be this nuclear option of disaffiliating Labour Students. Like any student organisation there are always divides and always people with different priorities and that’s always been the case with Labour Students.
Apparently Labour have gotten rid of Labour students to replace them with something more left wing
Still, why would Labour, who students love, get rid of their student wing?
One former Labour Students committee member told The Tab: "The hard-left are trying to take over Labour Students and create their own organisation where they will only pursue ideological grandstanding as opposed to the things that students actually care about day to day like cost of living, sustainability and employability."
Another member of Edinburgh Labour Students, Jane Prinsley, told The Tab: "Ultimately, the hard-left weren't able to infiltrate, and honestly that was probably because voting didn't represent membership. But it seems that Labour Students was one of the last remaining active campaigning groups that hasn't become hard, militant left.”
There are people who are sad about the decision
"Lots and lots of MPs have been in touch," Rania told The Tab. "A lot of them are very disappointed with the result because Labour Students has, for over 40 years, been one of the biggest campaigning forces for the party, particularly in marginal seats."
Labour MPs Stella Creasy, Tom Watson, Wes Streeting and Jess Philips all tweeted about the decision
Jon has forgiven Salma Yaqoob for standing against the Labour Party in elections, the last time two years after Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader. Sadly, he can’t forgive @LabourStudents and their campaigns for Labour victories over several decades. So he has had them abolished. https://t.co/R80p0mQqy4
— Tom Watson (@tom_watson) September 18, 2019
100s of Labour students undertook 1000s of hours campaigning in Yardley. In 2015 when we won the seat from the Lib Dems I mentioned them in my speech, I could not have done it without them. They are the work horses of our movement, the Boxer if you like a bit of allegory.
— Jess Phillips Esq., M.P. (@jessphillips) September 17, 2019
President of Edinburgh Labour Students, Francesca Sellors, told The Tab: "While I recognise that last year’s National Labour Students’ elections were very problematic, I’m saddened to hear of the NEC’s decision to disaffiliate the organisation.
But Labour Students say they’re just going to ignore the decision anyway
Despite all this, they’re just going to ignore it. Rania plans on fighting the NEC's decision and has already sent a letter to Jennie Formby arguing was unjustifiable and will be ignored.
The letter, which has been seen by The Guardian, says: “We have sought legal advice and been informed that there is therefore no justification for any changes in the status of Labour Students as a result of the outcome.
“We will continue to operate as the legitimately affiliated student wing of the Labour party.”