Labour Students: Wikis


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Labour Students
Logo of Labour Students
Chairperson Joseph Sherry
Vice-Chairperson Adam Lewis
Secretary General Helen Gibson
Founded 1971 (1971)
Headquarters London, United Kingdom
Mother party Labour Party
International affiliation International Union of Socialist Youth (IUSY)
European affiliation Young European Socialists (ECOSY)
National affiliation National Union of Students (NUS)

Labour Students (formerly "Young Socialists") is the student organisation of the British social democratic Labour Party.

Membership comprises affiliated college and university clubs (these are known as "Labour Clubs"). Membership of Labour Students is through membership of a university or college Labour Club. Affiliation is open to any Labour Club generally supportive of the objects of Labour Students. It is often referred to - especially among officers of the National Union of Students - by its previous name, National Organisation of Labour Students (NOLS, which is pronounced "Nols").



In the 1967, the National Association of Labour Student Organisations, the Labour Party's student organisation, was derecognised by the party after it was taken over by supporters of the Socialist Labour League. While the Scottish organisation continued, the Labour Party was left without a national student body.[1]

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.[citation needed]

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 with its founding conference in 1971. Initially, NOLS' main goal was to put aside the conflicts of the 1970s and re-unite the two factions of Labour students. The factions were organised as the Trotskyist Revolutionary Socialist League (RSL) (later known as the Militant Tendency, after their newspaper Militant), and a group which emerged in about 1974 calling itself Clause Four, after the central political statement of the Labour Party constitution (this group occasionally called itself "Operation Icepick"). Members of NOLS at the time included Charles Clarke, Sally Morgan, Mike Gapes and Trevor Phillips.[1]

From the founding of NOLS in 1971 until the late 1970s, NOLS worked within the National Union of Students of the United Kingdom (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. Throughout this period, NOLS members of the NUS National Executive Committee were a minority, but exercised effective control.

From the early 1990s, NOLS began calling itself Labour Students.[1]

Politics and wider influence

Labour Students are broadly supportive of Gordon Brown's government. However, during Tony Blair's premiership, Labour Students opposed the Government's planned introduction of university "top-up" fees. Most Labour Students members are also members of the Labour Party and many are involved with the day-to-day organisation and work of the party.[citation needed] Indeed, Labour Students have been widely credited with ensuring the electoral success of Liam Byrne in Birmingham Hodge Hill and of Iain Wright in Hartlepool in recent by-elections. Labour Students has mobilized its members to take part in campaigns in marginal seats across the country.[citation needed]

Labour Students is also seen by some as a way for ambitious students to gain a rung on the political career ladder, and as such has attracted its fair share of controversy.[citation needed]. Whilst some students favour its pragmatic, generally supportive approach to the Labour government, others see it as not radical enough, and not prepared to challenge the party. This is partly because holding high office in Labour Students is perceived as a fast track to becoming an MP or to other jobs in the 'public realm'. Recent graduates of Labour Students have gone on to work in Labour central office, or as ministerial special advisers, Trade Union officials and members of left-leaning think tanks.

Elections are held openly, and are presumed to reflect the prevailing feelings of the membership. Many former chairs have gone on to wider success in politics. John Mann (Chair 1983 and 1984) is now MP for Bassetlaw; Sarah Boyack (Chair 1985) is now MSP for Edinburgh Central; Ben Lucas (1986) was special adviser to Jack Straw; and Simon Buckby (1989) was an adviser to John Prescott and then advertising director for Labour's 1997 election campaign. Paul Richards (1990) was a Special Adviser to Hazel Blears and a parliamentary candidate for the seats of Lewes (2001) and Billericay (1997), Tom Watson (1992) is now Labour MP for West Bromwich East; Michael Dugher (1997) is now working in 10 Downing Street as part of the media operation, and stood for selection as a parliamentary candidate against Ed Miliband in 2005, and Patrick Diamond (1998) was special adviser to Peter Mandelson and Tony Blair, Director of Policy at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, and is now a Downing Street advisor.[citation needed]. Ellie Reeves (2002) is now a member of the Labour Party's National Executive Committee.

Other former Labour Student officers have also gone onto wider success for example, Caroline Flint, Women's Officer 1982-1984, was Minister of State for Housing and Planning. John Woodcock was a Special Adviser to John Hutton before joining the Downing Street media team, working alongside Michael Dugher. He is now the Labour Parliamentary candidate for Barrow and Furness. Blair McDougall was a Special Adviser to James Purnell. Former National Secretary (1986)Rob Minshull worked for the BBC World Service & migrated to Australia to manage the ABC and former National Secretary (2000) Jonathan Ashworth is currently Deputy Political Secretary to Gordon Brown.

Labour Students takes on a major campaign each year. Recent campaigns have included the "Make Child Poverty History" campaign (2006-7). Policy is decided at the National Council, usually held in December, and at the National Conference in March. Labour Students' 2005-6 campaign, "Sex, Lives and Politics", was followed by a government reduction of VAT on condoms to the EU minimum of 5%.

Internal organisation

Labour Students has three full time sabbatical officers:

  • National Chair- currently Joseph Sherry
  • National Secretary- currently Helen Gibson
  • Campaigns and Membership Officer- currently Tom Christian

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 and organises national events. The Campaigns and Membership Officer co-ordinates the recruitment and campaigning work of the organisation. The three sabbatical officers work at Labour Party headquarters in London. Together with twenty other members they form the National Committee. Labour Students also has a seven member policy forum and a three member steering committee. The policy making bodies are National Conference and National Council, both held annually to which each Labour Club is entitled to send delegates.[citation needed]

The Labour Students full time officers work closely with permanent Labour staff on involving young people and students in the Labour Party. The Labour Party has an officer responsible for liaising with Labour Students and for generating youth and student involvement in the Party. This position was held by Sally Morgan from 1985-1988.

Labour Students is a member of the International Union of Socialist Youth and the Young European Socialists.


Campaign groups

Within Labour Students there are separate Women's, Lesbian Gay Bisexual & Trans, Disabled Students and Black Minority Ethnic Students campaigns. There also exists a separate organisation for Labour Clubs in the constituent nations known as Welsh and Scottish Labour Students respectively.

National Union of Students

Despite a drop in support for Labour Students since the government of Tony Blair introduced controversial measures such as top-up fees, it remains a significant faction within NUS.

Conferences (2000-2005)

In 2000, facing a predicted defeat, Labour Students decided not to select a candidate for NUS President choosing instead to support the Organised Independent Owain James (who was an ordinary member of Labour Students) as an independent. Labour Students regained the presidency in 2002, but in 2004 lost it narrowly to Kat Fletcher, who ran on the Campaign for Free Education ticket and subsequent to that group's collapse formed a coalition of centrist student officers. Labour Students did not run a candidate in the 2005 or 2006 elections for NUS President. In 2006, Labour Students rejected the bid for support from Pav Akhtar despite his Labour membership and voted for Gemma Tummelty, on the condition that she join the party.

Conferences (2005-2006)

Despite setbacks at the 2005 NUS Conference, in 2006 Labour Students secured an improved position. It secured four places on the NUS National Executive Committee: Vice President of Education (Wes Streeting), two positions on the part-time Block of 12 and the National Women's Officer. Until recently, Labour Students also held the positions of NUS Scotland President and NUS LGBT Officer (open-place), however, the resignations of James Alexander and Scott Cuthbertson from Labour Students has depleted the number of votes on the NUS NEC for Labour Students.[citation needed].

Conference (2007)

At the 2007 Conference, Wes Streeting was returned at the Vice-President for Education, and Katie Curtis and Benedict Pringle were returned to the Block of 12. Richard Angell lost a hotly contested election for Vice-President Welfare to Ama Uzowuru (OI).

Labour Students flagship policy in NUS has been 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.

Conference (2008)

At the 2008 Conference Labour Candidates achieved great success. Wes Streeting was elected NUS National President securing victory over independent Ciarán Norris by 120 votes. Ed Marsh, Susan Nash and Hollie Williams were all elected to NUS Block of Twelve. Labour Student Nicola Heaton was elected onto the NUS Steering Committee.

Meanwhile, Katie Curtis, the Labour Students candidate, narrowly won the full-time position of National Women's Officer at the Women's Campaign Conference. After Cat Smith of Student Broad Left was eliminated in the first round with 15 votes, 8 transferred to Sofie Buckland of Education Not for Sale, giving Curtis a victory of 4 votes with 33 to Buckland's 29.[2]. Josh MacAlister, the Labour Students' candidate for the full-time position of NUS Scotland President, narrowly lost the election to Gurjit Singh (the first independent candidate to beat a Labour Student in an NUS Scotland Presidential election since the organisation formed) and Gaz Hughes, the Labour Students' candidate for the part-time position of NUS LGBT Officer (Open Place) withdrew from the race shortly before the election.

Conference (2009)

The 2009 NUS Conference saw Wes Streeting re-elected as National President with 81% of the vote against Rob Owen, the Socialist Workers' Party candidate standing as part of the 'Another Union is Possible' slate. This conference also saw a second Labour Students' candidate elected to a full time office for the first time in a decade with the election of Susan Nash to the new position of Vice President (Society & Citizenship). In spite of the reconstitution of the old 'Block of 12' non-portfolio executive members into a new 'Block of 15' with five reserved places for Further Education representatives, both of Labour Students' HE block candidates were elected: Ed Marsh and Tobin Webb. Steven Findlay, former Labour Students Block of 12 member, was also elected to the new Democratic Procedures Committee, on which he will serve with fellow Labour Student Nicola Heaton.

Elsewhere, in what was tipped as a tightly contested election, Olivia Bailey defeated independent left candidate Jennie Killip in the election for NUS National Women's Officer. In line with the new NUS constitution, Estelle Hart was elected to the new National Executive Council as a Women's Campaign representative. Following their narrow defeat in the NUS Scotland presidential election during the previous year, Labour Students backed Liam Burns, NUS Scotland Depute President, against the incumbent seeking re-election, Gurjit Singh. The ballot was tied in the first round and subsequently resolved by a toss of a coin in line with the election regulations, making Gurjit Singh the first NUS Scotland President to lose a re-election campaign to that post since the organisation formed. Many of Liam Burns' opponent accused him of being affiliated to Labour Students, in spite of standing as an independent candidate, an accusation strenuously denied by Burns and Labour Students. Burns is a member of the Labour Party, however.

Chairs of Labour Students

The Chair of Labour Students is elected to serve for one year. From at least the 1970s the post was full-time, but, at least 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
  • 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


  1. ^ a b c Peter Barberis, John McHugh and Mike Tyldesley, Encyclopedia of British and Irish Political Organizations
  2. ^

External links


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