“Good luck with this. I suggest as a starting point you look closely at increasing the number of centre-right delegates, as well, until you are there with any sort of number, you will simply get outvoted and ignored. The NUS hard left aren't in it for students, they are there to push an agenda under a huge vehicle and as such have vested interest in maintaining the status quo.”
I was not expecting what happened next. Matthews Bond, Disabled Students Campaign Member on the NUS National Executive Council posted;
“Hows you candidacy for the BNP going?”
Disappointed does not cover my feelings about this statement. We are students with mainstream political views and should be free to express them and come together and organise without others, let alone those who hold political power in the NUS, attacking us and branding us as members of a racist organisation.
I therefore replied to Matt. Although a little long, for the sake of transparency I have provided the text of the conversation below, my text in italics, Matt’s in bold.
“This group is an arena for open debate about the NUS among those students who are politically centre-right. To brand (name of original poster) as associated with the BNP is immature and frankly confirms what he has said. What you said is not befitting of a member of the NUS National Executive Council, and I ask you to withdraw it immediately. We look forward to working with those involved in the NUS in the weeks and months ahead to bring about change in the NUS, but that is going to be hard if we are immaturely branded as BNP members for being a member of this group.”
“My leftwing counterparts are in no way looking forward to working with you. My term in office finishes on Wednesday so we wont have to put up with each other. All I have to say is that I doubt any sort of force of people in NUS are going to welcome a bunch of tory apologists into the political arena. My liberation campaign, disabled students, would definitely be the last group of people who would be pleased to see your sort gain any political traction. Afterall, right-wing policies are responsible for the deaths of more than ten disabled people ever since the coalition got into power”
“You do not speak for the left wing. I know there are those who will work with us on areas of common ground to get the best for students across this country. Your rejection of our attempt to engage with the democratic process speaks volumes of the closed, inaccessible nature of the NUS – but it will not stop us. It is very disappointing that you have not taken the opportunity to retract your statement regarding the BNP.”
“Well as an Oxford student I’m sure you know all about getting the best for the average student across the country. I do not claim to speak for all the left but can safely say that NCAFC (National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts), of which I am on the national committee, certainly will not be working with you. What speaks volumes is that you wouldn’t comment on the impact right-wing policies are having on disabled people. You seem more worried about a comment from me about your group than the lives of disabled people. Sums up the right-wing though really”
At this point I felt enraged that someone would try and use my choice of Higher Education institution against me, obviously making assumptions about where I had come from based on where I had gone to University. I felt compelled to reply;
“I feel compelled to reply to the accusations you have made against me.
On the count of not replying to your charge of being party to the deaths of 10 disabled people; I did not comment because I do not know of the incidents of which you speak, and I dont comment on things I dont understand. If you were to give me more details I would look into it.
On the fact that my University makes me unable to understand the average student - you are very much mistaken. I come from a very humble background; my father is a builder, my mother a teacher. They worked hard to give me a good start in life, and I worked hard too, at the comprehensive school I attended after turning down the opportunity to go to Grammar School. My achievements were not handed to me on a plate - I worked for them. And I didnt come from a family with lots of money, I have been a recipient of EMA and a bursary at Oxford. This University has given me an excellent education, as it has done to many other people from my background. So just because I go to Oxford, do not assume I come from some privileged background. I understand the average student more than you think, and I dont belittle that average student when they better themselves by studying at one of the country’s greatest HE institutions.
Now I know we come from different political views, but I dont see why that means you have to attack me and my colleagues for who we are, rather than the policies we believe in. Democracy is about debate, but it should be a debate of policies and beliefs, rather than personal attacks.
I am proud of my background, I am proud of my University, and I am proud to be a Conservative. None of these things make me associated to the BNP, which is why I request you retract that statement.”
“The right-wing have no interest in democracy. I have seen this with my own eyes during my years of NUS. I have been prevented from running in my election for NUS Disabled Students Officer because the right wing could not cope with the idea of a left-wing disabled students officer. The rise of student union managers and chief execs, trustee boards and indifference to protesting the government on fee rises, the abject targeting of left wing activists in NUS and the constant voting down of motions critical of Israel have led me to the firm belief that the right-wing in NUS have only ever tried to tighten their stranglehold on the organisation and quell any left wing voice that may be found.
The fact you know nothing about the deadly impact the government, you presumably support, is having on disabled people only further confirms my view that conservatives have absolutely no concern for disabled people. My dealings with conservatives on the issue of welfare and disabled people have consisted of them telling me how disabled people are scroungers, fakers and undeserving of societies support, hell, I think most conservatives are ideologically supportive of the deaths of disabled people - less burden on society, less burden on the taxpayer and better productivity for the capitalist system. The conservative party has a long history of supporting the eugenics movement and prominent conservative politicians have made speeches in support of such an agenda (Lord Flight for example) and to be frank, these are policies that the BNP advocate too.
The current welfare policy and attitude towards disabled people that the government displays can only be one held by people who believe in the demise of disabled people and see no value in them as members of society. Given what I have seen happen to many of my disabled counterparts and the reactions displayed by conservatives, forgive me for not being very apologetic.
How have we got to the point where one of our student political representatives thinks such thoughts? While I am a believer in free speech, and I defend Matthew’s right to have these views and to vocalise them, I deeply worries me that there are people who believe that my political colleagues and I are supportive of the deaths of disabled people. Where have they got this from!? When have I or anyone else of my political views expressed support for this abhorrent view?
This is our problem. A problem for all students and young people across the political spectrum, from all over the United Kingdom. We have allowed a small but very vocal section of our society to become radicalised to the point they pervert the facts, or in some cases create new fictitious stories to fit their own entrenched political views. And why has this happened? Because we have not challenged them.
Debate has to be at the centre of our democracy. From General Elections, all the way down to campus elections for the Student Union, we should be debating with and questioning the candidates in elections. It is the only way we can expose the truths, and challenge those views we disagree with. If we disregard those on the Far Left as unimportant, we neglect to offer them the same scrutiny and debate our democracy requires. While they may not win the election, their word gets out, remains unchallenged, and persuades more people to their cause.
One person believing the views Matt holds is too much. This is why we must challenge them in discussion and debate, so that more are not convinced. Everyone should be free to believe in what they wish, but we also owe it to them to provide the facts, the true facts, so their views have a strong foundation in truth rather than fiction and fabrication.
You may think this is a minor problem. It is. But left unchecked we run the risk of a large section of our generation growing up, hearing and accepting the opinions being espoused by these people. That’s why we must engage with the Far Left and challenge them. To my colleagues in the centre-right of politics – get involved. You may not like the way your Students Union or the NUS is run, but if you don’t throw your hat in the ring, stand up for your views and debate, then nothing will change.
To those on the centre-left, many of whom I am proud to call friends, we may disagree on many things, but we must work together on this issue. For the time being, you rule the roost in student politics. You must use your position to scrutinise, question and debate. The Far Left may not be putting forward the strongest candidates, but don’t let that stop you treating them as seriously as your main rival. Our organisations deserve it, our democracy deserves it, and students deserve it.