Elections for KUSU and NUS

Posted on March 5, 2012

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Well the time of year is fast approaching when we elect new leadership for both KUSU and NUS. Next week will see the opening of the ballot at KUSU for 27 positions, via online elections and polling booths on every campus. The NUS Conference (this year in Sheffield) will see election of the NUS Presidents and Vice Presidents and the National Executive Council in late April.

But what is the competition like for the top jobs this year?

Here in Kingston I am pleased to see a strong ballot paper and whilst I don’t agree with all of the candidates policies they are a very strong and diverse group of people. This is fantastic! I am certainly not the least controversial President that KUSU will have had but that is because I have my own strong personal views about representation. It is great to see a ballot sheet full of candidates who have strong personal beliefs and are willing to stand up for them. This is something to celebrate and embrace as it is what makes our movement strong.

The recent political and economic in my mind has brought out some of these differences and they I feel are worth celebrating, but they can also be divisive. NUS is a prime example of this.

This year sees another diverse ballot paper for NUS President. Three of the current senior leadership are standing for the position: Ed Marsh, Liam Burns (current President) and Usman Ali. They are also joined by a strong left wing candidate Clare Locke from London Metropolitan University and Kanja Sesay the current NUS Black Students’ Officer. They are all very different but also in many ways have very similar difficulties to overcome.

We have such a wide ballot with three strong centre candidates and the ballot paper looks destined to be fractured. 2nd preference votes will doubtlessly be key in this election. Clare will certainly attract the vote from the left wing of the movement but that will be unlikely to get her elected based on the previous numbers for candidates such as Mark Bergfeld. The key question is where will their 2nd preference votes go? To Ed? To Liam? To Kanja? To Usman?

Liam had an impressive record coming into the national job after a ‘Stirling’ performance as President of NUS Scotland where he successfully fought the tuition fee issue with Holyrood and kept tuition free for Scottish students. However since coming into the national job, the tuition fee debate has died down significantly since the days of the controversial Aaron Porter. Liam is significantly different from Aaron in temperament and appearance but also in terms of policy. Aaron was a lobbyist, Liam is slightly more of an activist. But we have seen little of this side of Liam since he came to power, and he hasn’t has the same media profile as Aaron did. It leaves an uncertainty as to what Liam would deliver if re-elected. We appear to be back at a question of tactics? Does if matter if we actually achieve our objective?

What of Usman? He has had a strong record within NUS over the last two years in higher education and has helped deliver a program aimed at empowering officers to make a direct difference in their education locally. But does he have the profile or support to do the national job?

Kanja will without doubt command respect and votes from amongst the black students community, but Usman equally could split that vote between them diluting support. Sadly every year I attend NUS Conference, I still see a floor dominated by white middle class delegates. Can either of them convince the moderates or the left they are worth the 2nd preference votes they made need for a run off?

Ed has an excellent record from the last two years of being Vice President Union Development. He has a great record on delivering more for unions and has put in place key reforms that will benefit the activists. But he has been involved with the NUS for a long time, and will need to command a greater majority of the moderates than Liam before he can even get into the round with 2nd preference votes. He can rely on these second preference votes coming as he has been an integrator amongst student officers and has wide appeal. But unless he can command his own majority amongst moderates these will not come into play.

The field is fractured and tactical and will require a sound political mind to steer through to the national presidency. Sadly this year the question may well be, who can play the game best, and who is most popular…

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