Oxford University Labour Club has voted to reverse last year’s decision to disaffiliate from labour activist group Labour Students at its annual general meeting.
Labour Students, a national umbrella organisation grouping together universities’ and colleges’ Labour Clubs, is officially affiliated to the Labour Party and organises events as well as campaigning.
OULC voted 19-6 to disaffiliate from the organisation in February 2011 because of concerns about “the absence of contested elections, the lack of open access to the constitution and the dearth of opportunity to reform internal structures”.
However, at a meeting held on Wednesday 15th February, the club, which is constitutionally mandated to consider its affiliation every year, voted 20-4 to rejoin the organisation. A letter to members said that since last year “Labour Students has made a number of positive changes to improve transparency, internal democracy and has shown a willingness to respond to grassroots pressure.”
The letter also praised Labour Students’ Living Wage campaign, continuing: “This is a campaign we are proud to be involved with ourselves in Oxford and we can only achieve more by working together.”
OULC also said that many members felt the disaffiliation was “merely a temporary measure to register our protest”, adding: “At a time when people across Britain are facing an unprecedented attack on their standard of living, it is essential that progressive students speak with one voice.”
However, a press release from OULC reported that some students noted there were still “some unresolved issues”, and that reaffiliation could not be taken as a sign that “reforms were no longer necessary.”
OULC Co-Chair David Butler said: “I welcome the opportunity to positively engage with other Labour students and to continue to work for democratic change.”
Co-Chair Thomas Adams voted against the motion: “The main reason I voted to remain disaffiliated is that there is a cost to OULC of affiliation, a cost which I do not believe is remunerated by affiliation given that Labour Students election literature has been historically of poor quality, the cost of sending delegates to the conference to participate in debate is high, and those things which Labour Students do well, campaigning for Labour candidates and on the Living Wage, are still done very well by OULC without their help.”
Olivia Bailey, National Chair of Labour Students and former St Hilda’s JCR President, said: “’I am delighted that OULC have re-affiliated to Labour Students. I look forward to OULC getting involved nationally once again.”
Member Sarah Hutchinson added: “I was at the meeting, and I’m really pleased that OULC has reaffiliated to Labour Students. While I’d have preferred it if we had never disaffiliated, I think that it’s great that Labour Students elections have opened up and more people are standing – [National Chair] Liv Bailey has done some great work this year.
“I think we’ll all benefit from being a united front against the Tory-led coalition, but I think OULC members will also benefit from closer links to other clubs and activists across the country.”
Stephen Bush, a former Chair of OULC, said: “The case for disaffiliation last year was overwhelming, and the case for reaffiliation this year was overwhelming too.
“Left-wingers have a tendency to complain about being pressured into voting one way or another, but the reason for the massive swing from last year to this year is simply that the case for reaffiliation was so overwhelming. Those who complain are just unhappy to have lost.”