NUS Presidential Candidate Leon French is withdrawing his candidacy from the election after the Liar Liar campaign proved the NUS maybe too far from reforming, arguing “some cheeky sod who you didn’t even get the chance to vote for has signed off £40,000 of our money to attack a national political party”.
He makes a challenge to all students that the student politics cannot be changed by involvement in the NUS and that disenfranchised students should get involved with real politics in order to make real change.
LSU Media has an exclusive insight.
The 20 year old finalist music student from Hull was to run on a campaign focused on making the NUS relevant to students again, taking it back to the professional roots His full manifesto can be found here.
A striking proposal was the desire to change NUS Executive elections to one-member, one vote in an attempt to ensure a clearer mandate for the NUS from students across all political persuasions, not just those elected to conference by a tiny fraction of the student population. His campaign also highlighted Mental Health as a serious issue affecting students today.
In spite of support from delegates from across the country and students from parties other than the Conservatives (of which he is a member), Leon has decided to withdraw and will now not be attending conference at all. He commented, “The NUS isn’t worth it. I’d love to do it for the students disenfranchised by it all, but none of it’s going to change.”
— Leon French (@LeonSeanFrench) April 18, 2015
Leon gave this statement exclusively to LSU Media:
I decided to stand for NUS President because of my annoyance at seeing these people stand up and claiming to represent students. Surely considering the President is voted for at Conference they’re representative? Not in my book. I’d have it so that all students at Universities or Colleges that have a Students’ Union affiliated with the NUS are able to vote on who their National Exec are. Currently that isn’t the case. Whether you realise it or not, you have no vote on any matters to do with the NUS, despite the fact that they claim to represent you. Crazy, isn’t it?
It’s actually the best campaign to be part of if you don’t have much spare time for campaigning in your last year of studies or whatever because you only have to appeal to a few people in one room anyway. You think you can go and talk to people who will be at the NUS Conference and say who you want as President? Go and try it. I asked for support from delegates and SU Presidents on the basis that I would introduce a One Member, One Vote system of voting for the National Exec (basically I’d be giving all of you who aren’t involved in student politics a vote, ‘cause I actually care what you think!) If I had a quid for every person who had already decided who they were voting for based on the fact they knew the candidate already (so not on policy) I’d be a very happy person.
I’ve decided since that I can’t be bothered. There’s no point me spending the money going to the conference just to waste my time trying to win over a room with a programme of democratic reform when they’ve already decided. And now a vendetta… sorry, ‘principled campaign’ against the Liberal Democrats has been started by the NUS that is costing £40,000. That’s right, some cheeky sod who you didn’t even get the chance to vote for has signed off £40,000 of our money (because a lot of NUS money comes from our Student Unions that we put money into partly with money coming from Universities) – which is more than a standard Undergraduate University degree costs in the new system of fees – to attack a national political party. It’s become clear to me that the NUS is pretty much a front for another student organisation that is affiliated with a political party. Hint: It currently forms the HM’s Official Opposition in the House of Commons.
If I want change in student politics then there’s no point me going through the NUS route. I’m now throwing it open to all of you who are disenfranchised with it all. And while you might think it unimportant – and I think there’s a good case for that point of view – bear in mind that these people claim to represent you in the National Media and create a certain opinion of all students because of the way they go on. The way we’ll change the NUS and force it to accept that it has to respond to the desires of students through proper democratic structures won’t be through the official channels. They don’t work. Instead, I say we should just starve the NUS of its power, authority and influence. Get your Student Union out of the NUS and start representing your students at your local level. I think it’s the best way forward.
Is Leon’s story an isolated one? Does the NUS have a fundamental flaw that means Unions should try and disaffiliate?
Send your comments ahead of the NUS National Conference this week to @LabelOnline or use the hashtag #NUSNC15.