Image Credit: Sophie J. Brown
National headlines have spilled into campus politics, as the row continues over Labour’s affiliation with Labour Students. The group, which supports local Labour clubs in colleges and universities across the UK, was disaffiliated by the party’s National Executive Committee earlier last month, due to the alleged late payment of affiliation fees. The University of York Labour Club (UYLC) actually voted to disaffiliate from Labour Students last term, arguing that its democratically-elected delegates had been “barred from voting” at two conferences held by Labour Students.
For its part, Labour Students argues that its affiliation fees were paid on time and deems the decision of the National Executive Committee void. The group’s chair, Rania Ramli, wrote to Labour’s general secretary, Jennie Formby earlier last month, saying that Labour Students “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."
The York wing of Labour Students agrees. In a statement to Nouse, Labour Students BAME Officer and former UYLC co-chair Jack Galea said that regardless of the ruling, “Labour Students will continue to operate.” “Labour Stu-dents remains the legally affiliated student wing of the Labour Party and has presented the appropriate evidence that the fee was paid to the general secretary and chair of the NEC, thus making the motion proposed legally invalid. Hopefully that will be recognised."
Underpinning much of the disagreement surrounding the dis-affiliation of Labour Students is the allegation that the group was removed for political reasons that run deeper than an organisational mix-up. Labour Students has long fostered more centrist political views than the rest of the party, which has often set it against the leadership.
Critics of the organization argue that it has failed to implement a one member, one vote voting system. In a statement to Nouse, they explained that its decision to disaffiliate from Labour Students was due to a “failure to properly implement a democratic and representative one member, one vote system of voting, resulting in only 500 people out of a membership of over 28 000 students being able to vote in this year’s elections."
Although Galea admits the flaws in the voting system, he argues that Labour Students was not given sufficient time to reform its decision-making process. “It’s particularly stinging that this occurs just as work was underway to strengthen Labour Students’democracy and rectify the disillusion that many felt during this year's election process.” He also alleges that the democratic deficit felt Labour Students is not unique to his organisation. “Lots of organisations associated with the left have questionable democratic practices... Labour Students wishes to actually rectify their own shortcomings, yet didn’t get the opportunity."
It remains to be seen whether Labour Students can re-affiliate with the party.