|Headquarters||London, United Kingdom|
Social democracy |
|International affiliation||International Union of Socialist Youth|
|European affiliation||Young European Socialists|
|National affiliation||Labour Party|
Membership comprises affiliated college and university clubs, known as Labour Clubs. Membership of Labour Students is through membership of a university or college Labour Club or through signing up individually as a Labour Student on the website.
The organisation's main activities include providing political education and training to its members, organising politically within the National Union of Students and sending activists to by-elections and marginal constituencies across the country.
Founded in 1946, in 1967, the National Association of Labour Student Organisations (NALSO), the Labour Party's student organisation, was derecognised by the party after it was taken over by supporters of the Trotskyist Socialist Labour League. While the Scottish organisation continued, the Labour Party was left without a national student body.
One of the principal areas of conflict was the Vietnam War, with Trevor Fisk, the leading member of the traditionalists, refusing to criticise Harold Wilson's government over its tacit support for the United States in the war. The fight against Fisk was led, in particular, by Jack Straw, who supplanted Fisk as President of the NUS in 1969.
In 1970 Labour students created the "Students for a Labour Victory" to co-ordinate campaigning in that year's general election. That organisation became the National Organisation of Labour Students, which held its founding conference in 1971. Despite changing its name in the early 1990s, Labour Students is still sometimes referred to by the acronym NOLS.
In its early years, NOLS was divided between two factions - members of the entryist Militant group and a mainstream left group, associated with the Tribune group of Labour MPs, which formed in January 1974 called Clause Four, after the central political statement of the Labour Party constitution. Militant controlled NOLS from January 1974 to December 1975. Members of NOLS in the 1970s included Charles Clarke, Bill Speirs, Peter Mandelson, Sally Morgan, Mike Gapes, Mike Jackson, Nigel Stanley, Margaret Curran and Johann Lamont.
During Tony Blair's premiership, Labour Students opposed the Government's planned introduction of university "top-up" fees. Labour Students were broadly supportive of Gordon Brown's government.
Labour Students is a 'socialist society', affiliated to the Labour Party. This means that, whilst its aims are broadly in line with the wider party, Labour Students is an independent organisation and is entitled to democratically dictate its own policy and governance. Labour Students members are also entitled to a vote in the 'affiliates' section of Labour leadership elections.
Generally, Labour Students holds four main national events each year, attended by club members from institutions across the country.
- Summer Training
- Summer Training is primarily intended for members entering their second and third years of study. There is often a focus on preparing Labour Clubs for recruitment drives at the beginning of the new academic year. The event is usually structured with a variety breakout sessions and workshops, led by industry experts, trade unions and other campaigning organisations. In recent years Summer Training has included sessions led by Matthew Doyle (former Deputy Director of Communications, 10 Downing Street), Kirsty McNeill (former adviser to Gordon Brown) and community organising group Movement for Change. There is also usually a heavy emphasis on training from the four liberation campaigns.
- Political Weekend
- Political Weekend is usually the event where Labour Students welcomes its new members each year. Labour Students usually hosts a number of high-profile speakers, including government ministers during periods of Labour government and members of the Shadow Cabinet in times of opposition.
- National Council
- National Council is the first formal democratic event of the academic year. Labour Clubs are entitled to send a delegation to represent their membership, as well as a number of observers. Delegates then vote on policy for Labour Students to adopt, which has been submitted by clubs across the country. The Labour Students Policy Forum and Steering Committee are also elected at National Council. Members who wish to stand as Labour Students candidates in National Union of Students elections are also formally selected.
- National Conference
- National Conference sees the election of the Labour Students National Committee for the following year, as well further policy debate. National Conference is often held in conjunction with Young Labour Conference, to help reduce members' travel costs.
The Labour Students National Committee convene regularly and work together to ensure the organisation runs smoothly and works effectively to represent members.
There are three full-time sabbatical officers who are responsible for the day-to-day running of the organisation:
- National Chair- currently Kate Dearden
- National Secretary- currently Josh Woolas
- National Campaigns and Membership Officer- currently Connor Rand
The Chair leads the organisation and is responsible for dealings with external bodies (including the NUS). The Secretary is responsible for the organisation's finances, communications and organises national events. The Campaigns and Membership Officer co-ordinates the recruitment and campaigning work of the organisation.
The rest of the National Committee is made up two vice chair positions, an international officer, eleven regional coordinators, four liberation officers and the chairs of Welsh Labour Students and Scottish Labour Students.
A number of other individuals attend National Committee meetings but do not have voting rights. These include the Chair of the Labour Students Steering Committee, the Labour Students NUS Group Leader/s, the Labour Students Rep on the Labour Party's National Policy Forum and the Youth and Students Rep on the Labour Party's National Executive Committee.
Within Labour Students there are four autonomous liberation campaigns. These include Women's, Lesbian Gay Bisexual & Trans, Disabled Students and Black Minority Ethnic Students campaigns, all of which are entitled to elect an officer to the National Committee. Labour Students holds caucuses for each of the liberation groups at every national event, has an equal opportunities policy and ensures all events are fully accessible.
Scotland and Wales
There are separate organisations for Labour Clubs in the devolved nations, known as Welsh and Scottish Labour Students respectively.
Labour Students takes on a major campaign each year, voted for in an all-member ballot. Recent campaigns have included:
- "Make Child Poverty History" campaign (2006-7)
- "Sex, Lives and Politics" (2005 - 2006) - This was followed by a government reduction of VAT on condoms to the EU minimum of 5%.
- The Living Wage Campaign (2011 - 2013) - Labour Students worked in collaboration with the trade union UNISON to equip members with the skills to fight for a living wage to be paid to staff on their university campuses. The campaign was extremely successful, with clubs including Manchester and Kent securing the living wage at their institutions.
- The Voter Registration Campaign (2012 - 2013) - Labour Students intended to increase the number of students registered to vote.
Campaigning for the Labour Party
Labour Students train and frequently deploy extremely experienced activists to campaign in by-elections across the country and in key marginal seats during general elections. They often operate from a "battle bus" so that large numbers of campaigners can be transported to target areas at short notice. Labour Students have been credited with helping secure Labour victories at a number of recent by-elections, including in Feltham and Heston, Barnsley Central and Oldham East and Saddleworth.
Labour Students and the National Union of Students
Every year, Labour Students actively organise and campaign within the National Union of Students (NUS). As a result of this, Labour Students is viewed as an influential faction within the NUS and its members are frequently elected to the NUS National Executive Council (NEC) and to full-time officer positions, although 2015 saw a majority of their candidates losing to those to Left.
History within the National Union of Students
In the late 1970s, Labour Students (then NOLS) worked within the NUS as part of the Broad Left, a student coalition which also included the student wings of the Communist Party of Great Britain and independent left wing students. The Broad Left stood slates of candidates in NUS elections. (The Broad Left is not to be confused with the post-1997 grouping Student Broad Left.) In the early 1980s NOLS broke with the Broad Left and presented its own slate of candidates in NUS elections. In 1982, NOLS won the presidency of NUS on its own for the first time. A succession of NOLS candidates were elected to the NUS Presidency until 2000 with the strongest challenges generally coming from those to the left of the Labour Party. Several former NOLS NUS Presidents, including Charles Clarke and Jim Murphy, went on to serve as Cabinet ministers, serving as members of a Labour government. Throughout this period, NOLS members of the NUS National Executive Committee were a minority, but exercised effective control.
Labour Students's flagship policy in NUS was the rejection of campaigning for universal grants, in favour of targeting student support funds towards poorer students through means testing. National Conference 2006 narrowly supported this policy, but it was renewed with a much increased majority in 2007.
Recent graduates of Labour Students have often gone on to work in Labour Party Headquarters, as ministerial special advisers, Trade Union officials and as members of left-leaning think tanks. Many also go on to enjoy successful careers outside of the politics.
Notable former Labour Students officers
- John Mann (Chair 1983 and 1984) - MP for Bassetlaw.
- Sarah Boyack (Chair 1985) - MSP for the Lothian Region.
- Ben Lucas (Chair 1986) - Former special adviser to Jack Straw.
- Simon Buckby (Chair 1989) - Former adviser to John Prescott and then advertising director for Labour's 1997 election campaign.
- Paul Richards (Chair 1990) - Former Special Adviser to Hazel Blears and parliamentary candidate for the seats of Lewes (2001) and Billericay (1997).
- Tom Watson (Chair 1992) - Labour MP for West Bromwich East, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party since 2015.
- Michael Dugher (Chair 1997) - MP for Barnsley East.
- Patrick Diamond (Chair 1998) - Former special adviser to Peter Mandelson and Tony Blair, Director of Policy at the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
- Ellie Reeves (Chair 2002) - Trade Union lawyer and member of the Labour Party's National Executive Committee.
- Jacqui Smith - First female Home Secretary.
- Caroline Flint (Women's Officer 1982-1984) - Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.
- Gloria De Piero - Former television presenter and MP for Ashfield.
- John Woodcock - MP for Barrow and Furness.
- Blair McDougall - Former Special Adviser to James Purnell and Director of the Better Together campaign.
- Rob Minshull (National Secretary 1986) - Broadcaster.
- Jonathan Ashworth (National Secretary 2000) - Former Deputy Political Secretary to Gordon Brown and MP for Leicester South.
List of Chairpersons
The Chair of Labour Students is elected to serve for one year. It has largely been a full-time role, but for a period during the 1980s and early 1990s it was unpaid.
- 1949-50 Dickson Mabon
- 1950s Roy Hattersley
- 1950s Kevin Mcnamara
- 1960s Alex Neil
- 1973 Ian Davidson
- 1974 Brent Kennedy
- 1975 Glenys Bithell
- 1976 Mike Gapes
- 1977 Mike Jackson
- 1978 Nigel Stanley
- 1979 Dave Smith
- 1980 Steve Page
- 1981 John Boothman
- 1982 Geoff Norris
- 1983 John Mann
- 1984 John Mann
- 1985 Sarah Boyack
- 1986 Ben Lucas
- 1987 Neil Usher
- 1988 Carol Judge
- 1989 Simon Buckby
- 1990 Paul Richards
- 1991 Alison Ryan (did not complete year in office)
- 1992 Paul Hewitt
- 1993 Tom Watson
- 1994 Ian Corfield
- 1995 Lizzie Watson
- 1996 Lizzie Watson
- 1997 Michael Dugher
- 1998 Patrick Diamond
- 1999 Joe Goldberg
- 2000 Brendan Cox
- 2001 Vicky Foxcroft
- 2002 Ellie Reeves
- 2003 Karim Palant
- 2004 Adam Hug
- 2005 Gareth Smith
- 2006 Ciaran Ward
- 2007 Kenny Young
- 2008 Sarah Mulholland
- 2009 Joseph Sherry
- 2010 Dean Carlin
- 2011 Olivia Bailey
- 2012 Emma O'Dwyer
- 2013 Callum Munro
- 2014 Finn McGoldrick
- 2015 Michael Rubin
- 2016 Kate Dearden
- Peter Barberis, John McHugh and Mike Tyldesley, Encyclopedia of British and Irish Political Organizations
- Originally known as the Revolutionary Socialist League, this name had been dropped internally within Militant by 1969, see John Callaghan The Far Left in British Politics, Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1987, p.177; Michael Crick (The March of Militant,London: Faber, 1986, p.60) has the change occurring by 1967.
- Michael Crick The March of Militant, London: Faber, p.97
- "How We Won a Living Wage at Manchester". Retrieved 6 September 2012.
- Official website of Labour Students
- List of affiliated University Labour Clubs
- Official website of Scottish Labour Students
- Politics Student - Political opinion from students and young activists