By Alison Ordnung
“Assuming most students share your view of the world would be a bit out of touch, don’t you think?”
Richard Brooks, NUS Vice President for Union Development
In part one, the democratic deficit of the NUS was detailed, showing how students have little to no say in the people representing them or the policies they vote for. Factionalism and self selecting political groups and low-participation-by-design result in extreme and performative politics being the norm. I also covered the Liberation campaigns and their ingrained extreme ideologies, along with the even smaller number of votes that are allowed to elect their officers.
One additional problem with the identity politics-driven Liberation campaigns is disproportionate influence. This is worse than the Women’s campaign, which always represents an ideology shared by less than 9% of women, claiming to stand for all women and passing policies that affect male students who can have no say in those policies. It means that because minority identities have a minimum guaranteed place at the table, some are over-represented by design.
This is most notable with trans identities. In the LGBT+ campaign alone, at least 5 of the 18 places are taken up by trans students – i.e. 27% of the committee is held by a group that is 0.3% of the general population. That serves as a good example of how unrepresentative the representatives are – So what effect does that have on the motions they put forward?
It’s very tempting to fill pages with outlandish NUS policies that passed in conference, but for concision, I’ll select a top 10.
10) Motion 503: Defend Migrants and Support Free Movement
The NUS, which is to represent students in UK institutions, wants extra resources for illegal immigrants on campus and immigration law to be ignored in a ‘Sanctuary Campus’ policy. That is, someone in the country illegally should be allowed to carry on – given the concerns around fake colleges that only serve to offer visas as a gateway into the UK, this is a concerning policy and a fairly extreme one. If you read the live policy documents, you’ll see frequent anti-borders rhetoric, which has very low levels of support in the UK. The NUS also disagrees with the Bank of England’s assessment of immigration reducing wages, particularly for working class people, which is hardly a good example of solidarity.
9) Motion 406: Zero-Tolerance for prejudice in our Unions and NUS.
From an anti-authority extreme open-borders position, to a very authoritarian one. Having zero-tolerance for prejudice sounds well-intentioned and a popular policy, until you consider who defines ‘prejudice’. Under this motion, prejudice is whatever the sitting Liberation Officers determine and because there is zero-tolerance, you cannot argue your case.If your actions are determined prejudiced by the sitting Liberation officers, you are prejudiced. It’s a good thing that those roles aren’t populated by identity politics-spouting extremists who have very niche perceptions of reality, right? It’s a good thing they aren’t people advocating violence against people whose ideas they disagree with, right?
What example of heinous prejudice did they decide to include in the text to be clear what they need to stamp out? Crossdressing and drag. Apparently banning prejudice includes banning recreational drag or cross-dressing for fun AND banning societies that permit it at events. That is only for those bigoted, simpleton straight students however: “drag (in any direction) as an expression or exploration of queer identity is to be encouraged, since it is easily distinguished from pillory of trans people”. How you would know the crossdresser in question is partaking in queer exploration, I don’t know. The NUS believes it has a role banning crossdressing for humour or anything other than queer exploration. As ridiculous as this is, the power they want to have over every student for what they consider blasphemy is disturbing. It’s a funny example, but chilling in the censorious, identitarian prejudice it displays. The Rugby club dresses up as princesses for a pub crawl after a big victory? Banned. What harm was actually done? Someone’s feeling may be hurt and the NUS speaks for all trans students, of course. The NUS is very attuned to student’s feelings you know.
8) Motion 304: BDS
Oh, unless those students are Israeli or Jewish. This is one of many anti-Israel, pro-Palestine motions passed by the NUS amidst its numerous antisemitism scandals. No motion relating to the murder of LGBT people in Palestine was filed. Needless to say, where countless diplomatic efforts have failed, it is unlikely that the NUS alone is going to solve the Palestine/Israel issue. This is a prime example of the NUS unnecessarily, loudly weighing in on a divisive issue that isn’t its business. There is a case to be made for the BDS movement, but when you have Jewish students barricaded in and fearing violence from a Pro-Palestine society, maybe fanning the flames is not a good idea? The NUS here signals virtue and achieves nothing, which means time and resources are wasted.
7) Motion 301:International peace and justice – no to Trump, wars, poverty and climate change
Here’s another related example: a mix of the uncontroversial (‘Anti-poverty! Anti-war!’) and the controversial: Anti-Trump, anti-US sentiment. No mention of military action by Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran, China, etc. No, the NUS has its popular Left wing target and no nuance. It took the NUS many struggles to ban The Sun newspaper and yet they want to stop all wars. This is virtue signalling, this is time wasting, this is facile pretending to be world stage politicians and your unions pay for it.
6) Motion 106: Tackling Knife Crime: #EnoughisEnough
Apparently, the NUS should fight knife crime which has the negative impact of pathologising and stigmatising black people (as a side note, it also leaves many dead from stabbings). The NUS should fight this by… opposing Stop and Search and leading a march on the Mayor’s Office, probably along a nice middle class, non-stabby route. The NUS Black Students campaign gains a brief moment of self awareness, noting: “Student Unions are institutions, not rooted-in and rarely if ever reflective of the working-class Black and Brown communities affected by this latest knife crime surge.” That may be because they at least nominally exist for the students that pay to be members. The delegates must have got confused with the Tottenham Kitchen Knife DIY Concealed Carry Union.
Realistically, in their middle class, safe universities, is the NUS going to achieve anything to reduce knife crime? No. Is this their job? No? Is stopping Stop and Search going to make it worse? Yes.
5) Motion 401: Free Education, Attainment and Equality in Education
Shade? In my Black Students Campaign motion? It’s more likely than you think. The NUS Black Students campaigns notes that despite making a lot of noise about making higher education free in the UK, the NUS has “done nothing practically to support this.”
Well, quite, but that’s an understatement. The NUS has not only not managed to get the government to abolish tuition fees, the NUS failed to stop them being introduced at £1,000, then failed to stop them tripling twice to £9,000. As debates begin about removing the £9,000 cap on fees, the NUS prepares to embarrass itself again.
It’s understandable that the NUS would support abolishing tuition fees, but realistically what can their strikes and demos do? They’ve already paid and students need their degrees to nominally have a shot at a job. They have no power, no realistic threat. So an academic gets more time to research instead of teaching hungover freshers? Deal. Predictably though, the NUS doesn’t just want free higher education for UK students, they want them for international students too. That’s right – taxpayers should have to pay for foreign students to take places in UK universities for free. Given that they also want to remove immigration checks, you can see the problem that would cause. This is a simply ridiculous proposition and would further deflate the quality of a degree and the value of one.
4) Motion 112: Pronouns Introduction Policy
Everyone’s pronouns are to be stated at the start of every NUS event, not inferred from someone’s visible sex characteristics or more relevantly, their presentation. Anyone not using someone’s pronouns – which can be anything at all – is to be dealt with with ‘appropriate action’ to ensure safety. Compelled speech, in other words. Do you believe Greygender is not a thing and won’t use ‘Ae/Aer’ pronouns? Well, you can’t even debate this in the NUS now unless you want to be branded a bigot and kicked out of whatever event you’re attending. Remember, the Liberation officers decide what counts as prejudiced, and as the majority of the trans campaign are non-binary, I think questioning these newer genders is out of the question.
This might be coming off as bigoted, anti-trans ranting, but it is not intended that way. People are free to identify however they like, but it becomes illiberal when they can force you to go along with it, when institutions have to present as fact what is niche ideology. There are transsexual people and feminists alike trying to rein in the excesses of the fringe trans ideology that denies the existence of biological sex and insists you should not assume someone’s pronouns. I would wager most transsexual people want you to assume their pronouns, as they have put great effort into presenting as women or men. To decry even their wishes as bigoted and exclusionary isn’t the tail wagging the dog, it’s the grain of sand moving the ocean.
3) Bonus Double Feature: Emergency Motion 001: No Women in Men’s Prisons…
A common feature of the NUS campaigns, whose purpose, it should be made clear, is to represent the needs of students at UK Higher and Further Education institutions, is motions about prisons. The NUS LGBT campaign aims to make the prisons minister resign, to have at least one trans woman (no non-binary presence?) on the Ministry of Justice prison review panel and to ensure that trans prisoners end up in the “general population of a prison conforming to their self-defined gender”. The child murderer until recently known as Ian Huntley will be delighted of course; it’s probably marginally easier to be a child-rapist in a woman’s prison than a man’s. How this works with non-binary people or completely non medically transitioning people, who’s to say? Thankfully we might dodge this problem because of…
Motion 309: Abolish the Prison Industrial Complex
A recurring theme of the national, LGBT, Trans, Black Students and the Women’s campaigns is to entirely abolish Prisons. Recently self-declared trans woman Ian Huntley owes the NUS a (10% discounted) pint.
To be clear, the National Union of Students does not run any prisons, though its more radical members are likely due to occupy them. It has no say in the Ministry of Justice. Its job is to represent students’ needs in British higher education. The NUS has no means of achieving this and if they could, students would likely strongly object: the British public’s main objection to prison is that it isn’t harsh enough, with 81% thinking sentences are too lenient.
2) Motion 512: Dear White Gay Men: Stop Appropriating Black Women
Freedom of expression has no place in the NUS, thanks to the Women’s campaign. This was just another example of the NUS getting smug and censorious about what it doesn’t like. It will pass this and ban drag, but posting #KillAllWhiteMen and advocating violence against women for disagreeing with the NUS line on trans politics is absolutely fine with them. The increasing revocation of the oppression status of gay men under the NUS rule has been very interesting to watch and only makes sense if you also follow the Progressive Stack concept. It is also worth noting the infantile and smug tone of this motion – which says a lot about the attitudes of the people involved in NUS politics at the highest level.
1) Motion 302: Universal Basic Income
The NUS is going to make Universal Basic Income happen. Whilst the merits and demerits of a UBI are interesting and discussion worthy, the NUS has no say in this and is tilting at windmills. This was a total waste of everyone’s time, attention and money.
I’ve limited this to 10 policies, many of which are repeated across all campaigns, for brevity. If you think those are unfairly selected, read through the live policy documents for each campaign. Look at the repeated flaws in each one: irrelevancy, extremism, censorious grandstanding, virtue signalling, economic illiteracy and authoritarianism.
In all their events, given the numerous statements of concern about the welfare of Muslim women in the UK and the NUS’s other international concerns, where is the NUS Women’s statement on women’s rights in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan and so on? Why did they make time to repeat their generously laxly defined Anti-Fascist policy, but have no anti-communist policy? I despise fascism and I despise communism too: both are authoritarian, illiberal and call for atrocities. The NUS, in neglecting to condemn communism and in calling for communist policies, is showing its bias. If your union is affiliated, you are funding it.
It is fine to have the points of view that the elected members of the NUS hold, however they are repeatedly highly ideological, exclusively in far left ways, and clearly unachievable. My point here is not merely to show the hypocrisy of the NUS Women complaining about the negative impact of gender imbalance on women in STEM, whilst ignoring the clear female majority in every other subject.
The hypocrisy of claiming to represent diverse views and religious communities whilst demanding everyone accept infinite genders, self-ID, abortions and the immolation of ‘Lad Culture’ is also amusing, if beside the point. My point is that the niche ideologies that NUS leadership hold as articles of faith – that the UK suffers with Patriarchy, Cis-hetero-patriarchy, White Supremacy, Toxic Masculinity and a wage gap – are fine to hold personally, but are clearly not definitive fact nor the views of the majority of NUS Members.
As the quotation that started this section pointed out, students are not politically united or likely to be, so in going so far beyond its remit the NUS not only looks impotent and absurdly egotistical, they frequently unnecessarily alienate huge parts of the student population who have no means to object. It is also insufficient to object by pointing to reasonable policies, that demonstrably do exist, as the NUS still spends its time and resources on the ridiculous ones.
Furthermore, identity politics paralyses the movement and prevents some sensible policies: an earlier LGBT conference proposed a motion condemning all circumcision or cosmetic natal genital surgery on the basis of consent, cruelty, body autonomy, loss of sensation and the impact on future surgeries for trans and intersex students. Muslim and Jewish students shouted this sensible policy down as Islamophobic and anti-Semitic and condemned the NUS conference for attacking their heritage: the motion was defeated, identity politics won out.
The grandstanding is pointless and divisive virtue signalling from young people LARPing as grand politicians. The NUS is not going to impact the geopolitical situation in Palestine. The NUS is not going to dissolve the borders of the United Kingdom and the wider world, and they are not going to abolish prisons. Their Scrappy Doo approach to politics saps credibility, alienates most students and encourages apathy, which in turn allows greater extremism in leadership and then further calls to disaffiliate.
As most students won’t share their view of the world, maybe the NUS doesn’t need to waste resources grandstanding about these issues? According to NUS Connect, the NUS held 43 events last year – these are jollies funded by the students the NUS claims to represent. The events are repetitive and achieve little if anything as you’ve seen. If the NUS abandoned its ideological identitarian representation policies, they could run fewer of these events and waste far less of NUS members’ time, money and resources. They might even have the time and money to focus on issues that actually matter to the people they supposedly serve.