Why Sussex needs a UKIP society

Each individual student should decide who to put an “X” next to on May 7th – not the Students’ Union on their behalf

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Last May, UKIP became the first party other than the Conservatives and Labour in over a century to win a national election. UKIP won the 2014 European elections in the UK, securing over 4 million votes.

Now, given the historic importance of our victory, and the stream of opinion polls that predict that, come the general election this May, we will get more votes than the Lib Dems and the Greens put together, why are so many people at Sussex opposed to us being allowed a society, despite the fact that many other parties have one?

The answer is, I don’t think many people are. In the last week, as the various student media outlets have become aware of our plans to form a society, my colleague (and treasurer of the future society) Harry and I have received messages of support for our application from the leadership of all the political parties’ societies on campus, apart from Labour.

That’s right, our application for society status has been supported by the Greens, the Conservatives, the Lib Dems, and Harry has had support expressed to him in the past by the SWSS, the student arm of the Socialist Workers’ Party.

That last one is particularly surprising, until you look back to the autumn, when the Feminist Society tried to get the SWSS banned from campus. I remember one of the Feminists coming to my door, asking me to vote to ban the SWSS, and I remember arguing with her for quite a while, because, although I disagree with just about every policy the SWSS stand for, I will defend to my last breath their right to voice their message, so that students can make up their own mind. Perhaps that’s why they’re supportive of us being allowed to form.

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Either way, we’re desperate to be able to engage with the other parties on campus, because the students of Sussex deserve to be in full possession of the facts. The message we’re getting back is that the other parties want to engage with us too, in debates, and other events they have planned for the months before the general election. I’m very grateful to the societies who have expressed their support for us – they’re a credit to student politics.

Despite the student media only picking up on it over the last week or so, I’ve actually been in discussions with the Student Union for several weeks, and I was present at the Societies Committee meeting on the 29th January.

They raised a number of concerns, which I’ve been working with Michael Segalov, the Student Union’s communications officer, to address ever since. The first of these was the name of the society. As The Tab reported, we originally entitled it “Young Independence”, and the Union raised legitimate concerns about why that wasn’t appropriate – namely that they felt it wasn’t clear from the name that we are a UKIP society, and also that it wasn’t inclusive of older students.

As I explained at the time, the reason we put this name on the application is it’s the name of the Party’s youth wing (the same as Conservative Future are the Tories’ youth wing), and it’s also the name of many other UKIP societies at other universities up and down the country. I took the Union’s concerns on board, and when I submitted new application forms, the name at the top was “UKIP Students”, and this is the name that we’ll be sticking with.

The other concerns that the Union raised were what you might expect. They related to the seemingly constant stream of negative stories in the media about UKIP, and our views. These stories, however, are nearly always about individuals who undermine the party by expressing distasteful views.

Let’s not forget that UKIP is a party of over 40,000 members, at last count. Even if the papers managed to find a new member saying silly things on Facebook every day for a whole year, that would still not add up to even 1% of our members. It may have seemed like there were a lot of council candidates being exposed as racists or homophobes in the run-up to the elections last year, but it actually only added up to 0.3% of the candidates we had standing. No one wants to talk about or acknowledge the other 99.7% – decent people wanting to be given the chance to work hard for their local areas.

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A lot of people insist that we’re a party of racists because of our stance on immigration, but the policies we actually propose are no different from the immigration system in Canada, who think the country should welcome people who want to come here and be contributors to the country. UKIP stands wholeheartedly behind that.

Our message is not one of Little Englanders, who want to leave the EU and retreat back to our little island-nation cubbyhole. Our message is, “Out of the EU, and into the world.”

I’d like to address the accusation that immigration and the EU are the only things we care about, as well. They’re important issues for us, but all the latest polls show that they’re also among the most important issues for the British public, and we have many other policies that we think the students of Sussex University would like to hear about.

For instance, we’re the only party who want to ban the export of live animals. We also want to make sure that GP surgeries are open at least one evening a week and scrap tuition fees for many science-based subjects. People might be surprised to find out that the policy that finally convinced me to leave the Conservatives and join UKIP was our support for grammar schools, a policy designed so that all students can reach their potential, not just the wealthy ones.

It’s vitally important that we are allowed a society. Not just because of the issue of freedom of speech, but also because the students of Sussex, many of whom will be voting for the first time in May, deserve to have all the points of view, and all the options made available for them to analyse. That’s vital because, come May 7th, it should be each individual student who decides which party they put an “X” next to, and not the Students’ Union deciding on their behalf.