A recent visit to my old student union haunt reminded me of one of the most horrifying facts about modern politics. Sitting in my old bar, listening to some old acquaintances shouting to each other from across the other side, I remembered: our parliament is fed by the National Union of Students. In May, a brand new crop of ex student hacks is going ot be unleashed onto the hapless electorate. Most will be shiny young Blair babes, of both sexes, while a few will have accidentally strayed across to the right and will be placed on the list to hep Michael Howard score points with ‘minorities’ of whatever sort they might be. They will be airdropped into constituencies with names they have never heard of and soon will be turning their distant form of charm onto people they don’t really like much at all, all so that they can continue to get food and alcohol discounts at the grown-up version of the crèche that was the student union.
This isn’t just a trip down memory lane for me: the sight of baying NUS hacks in my old bar actually sent my blood cold. There’s no need to beat around the bush: these people are the enemy of democracy. Oh, they may be fluent in the language of diversity, they may talk of equality and opportunity, but the inflated powers given to student union officers creates a system where decisions are made entirely without accountability and the student electorate is kept, through structural exclusivity, as far out of the bubble as possible. An example of this was in one of my favourite meetings in which we were told by an elected officer that students were known to come in and attack luminaries like herself and so security locks would be much more appropriate than any form of drop-in reception. A rare beast was the student newspaper editor who had not experienced any attempt to censor them by the union that funded them to provide what was supposed to be a free press for students to learn in.
There is a simple way of showing how this translates into the world: Charles Clarke. The ex-NUS president who, in the interests of our security, wants the freedom to imprison us in our own home without recourse to trial, with or without a jury. A true man of the people there.
As we lead up to the next general election, we find ourselves in a political landscape that has been paralysed by ‘spin’ (a meaningless word in itself). The media and politicians are all trying to shout loudest about issues that do not in any way address the real problems of people but merely distract them. Like students and their unions, the public have not yet found the voice to challenge this established system. The signs of rebellion are there: dropping newspaper sales as well as dropping voting figures: but what will the alternative be? The internet might lead the way forward, as might small community-based action groups: people are showing engagement even if they are not being heard by the ‘powers’. It may not be long until the ‘powers’ prove themselves to be as irrelevant as all those chirping NUS barflies.