Oxford University Labour Club is considering disaffiliating yet again from Labour Students, the national organisation of students in the Labour Party.
A motion proposed at the club’s general meeting on Tuesday by former OULC Co-Chair Joe Collin suggested that the club should disaffiliate from Labour Students, write a letter to the organisation to explain their reasons for doing so and conduct another vote on whether to re-affiliate at the end of Hilary.
Collin’s original motion noted that some members were concerned about the openness of Labour Student, saying, “It is the opinion of some of those OULC members who attended conference this year that Labour Students did not show themselves to be an open organisation.”
He suggested in the motion that the national organisation “does not act as a forum for debate on what Labour Party policy should be and is too eager to toe the party line” and that it, “fails to engage politically motivated students with important issues.”
The motion also stated, “It damages the club’s image and contradicts the club’s principles to be affiliated to this organisation” and, should OULC vote to disaffiliate, “pressure would be put on Labour Students to change”.
However, during the course of the meeting, an amendment to the motion was proposed and accepted as friendly, which instead mandated the Co-Chairs to write an open letter to Labour Students identifying the concerns their members have with the organisation.
Every year the club conducts a vote in Hilary term to decide whether or not to re-join Labour Students, which constitutes the main link between the society and the national Labour Party. The amended motion saw members in attendance at the meeting resolve to make the decision on whether to re-affiliate in Hilary 2014 based on the response to the open letter.
The motion was passed by a significant majority of members, with only two votes in opposition and one abstention.
The exact content of the letter is yet to be determined, but will be approved by OULC members prior to being sent to Labour Students at the club’s next meeting.
Current Co-Chairs Helena Dollimore and Aled Jones told Cherwell, “We are extremely glad that OULC decided not to repeat the disaffiliation that happened two years ago. Disaffiliation would have been extremely detrimental to the Labour Club in what would essentially be a pointless manoeuvre, and at a time when Labour Students are building up to the General Election, it is much better to be around the table, offering constructive arguments for change, instead of exiting the arena entirely.”
OULC has already severed ties with Labour Students in the past; in 2011, the club disaffiliated with Labour Students for a year, predominantly due to concerns about the democracy of the organisation. A statement released by the club at the time said, “We could no longer remain within an institution whose democratic failings we feel increasingly threaten to undermine its positive work.”
However, it joined the national organisation again the following year, and, a few months later, won the Labour Students ‘Best Labour Club of the Year’ award.
Collin said, “I’m very pleased with the passage of the amended motion. It was clear that nearly all members present had concerns with Labour Students, concerns that ranged from their ability to engage students, debate policy and their internal organisation.
“Hopefully, upon receiving our open letter, they will begin to address some of our grievances which may well be shared by other University Labour Clubs.”
Dan Turner, OULC Co-Chair Elect, told Cherwell, “Labour Students is effective in many ways, with the training programmes and campaign coordination it offers. There is a widespread feeling in OULC, though, that it fails to lead or even generate debate, and does not act as an effective voice for students with the Party.
He added, “Given that we only recently re-affiliated with Labour Students, many of our members (myself included) feel that an open dialogue with the Labour Students leadership would be the best way to achieve reform, and so we will continue to lobby for greater transparency and responsiveness.
“We hope that Labour Students will address the anxieties of our members before the constitutionally-mandated debate on affiliation next term.”