Students’ Unions breed the future’s MPs

Hi all,

During the recent uncertainty about when the last government were going to call the General Election, and when the Students’ Union at my university were in the middle of the election for next years school presidents; one of my lecturers said something which worries me somewhat.

I didn’t write down what he said and as such will have to paraphrase, but basically the comment boiled down to “Student politics like the students’ union is just for people who want to be MPs in parliament”. At the time I semi-dismissed it because most of the people I know who have been involved in the union at any depth have had very little interest in that sphere of our world known as “politics” but the more I think of it the more I seem to see his point, though I don’t think it is quite as simple as “wanting to be MPs” though that is one of my guilty secrets…

OK so we have at least established that I conform to the lecturers stand-point – though I will never make it to Westminster because I don’t do the whole lying thing very well – SUSU (the union) has produced two MPs that I can think of at the moment out of over 90 union presidents over 87 years… who happen to be two of my local MPs when I am in Southampton; Alan Whitehead and John Denham… both Labour.

The problem that student politics has is that it is seen by the wider student community as “cliquey” and uninviting… despite the efforts to make as many of the meetings open to all as possible. This is reflected in the fact that if you happen to be involved in the union in some way you will almost inevitably know most of the other people involved in the union by sight if not by name. By way of illustration I live with someone who works on the student radio station, and work as a student representative who has to attend some union governance meetings. This means that I know by sight most of the student radio committee, the sabbatical, executive and administrative officers, and the heads of all the union departments (Athletic Union, Community Volunteering, Wessex Scene Newspaper etc.) and many of them by name. Compared with one year ago exactly, when I was “merely” a course representative and knew only the VP Education and Representation and the Schools Liaison Officer by name, let alone by sight.

The result of this situation is that if you don’t get involved in the union in the first year of your degree or via a long winded route through being a lowly rep, journalist, DJ or technician… you are unlikely to be in a position to get well and truely stuck in over the other 2 or 3 years. I have no suggestions as to how to better this situation at present, and will get back to you when I have some; but there’s a big problem here, and it needs fixing.

Sorry to have spammed you all with my Election Coverage and Political ramblings over the last month… I promise my next blog will be somewhat more Geological.

Ben Brooks

Shortlink for this post: http://wp.me/pFUij-3x

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