The National Union of Students has expressed its formal opposition to UKIP after a motion at their annual conference was passed – with the help of OUSU President Tom Rutland.
A motion concerning NUS strategy in the run-up to the 2015 general election was amended with a proposal raising alarm at the “electoral rise of a respectable nationalist right, including UKIP.”
The amendment resolved that the NUS “must fight the idea there is a problem with immigration. Strain on jobs and services is a result of the government and private sector cuts…withdrawal from the EU would not solve these problems.” The passage of both the amendment and the motion means that “opposition to UKIP and the nationalist right” will be “a central part of [NUS] campaigning in the run up to the general election.”
OUSU President Tom Rutland voted in support of the amendment. He said on Facebook: “International students make up 50% of [Oxford’s] student body – and are facing ever-increasing checks on their immigration status, as well as charges to use the NHS, in the race to the bottom on ‘who can be toughest on immigration’. We have a responsibility to combat the politics that endanger our students.”
He denied, however, that the motion’s opposition to UKIP was primarily concerned with their stance on the EU. Rather, he argued: “It’s about the racism, sexism, homophobia and ableism that runs through the party.”
“I’ve read a lot about the importance of NUS being an inclusive environment for students. I couldn’t agree more: let’s stand up against parties that spread fear and hate about oppressed groups in society, and make sure we’re protecting the students who are most likely to face oppression and discrimination – women, LGBT, BME, disabled and international students.”
The motion has come under attack by those who feel it goes beyond the scope of the NUS. NUS Delegate and former OUCA President Jack Matthews told the OxStu: “I went to the NUS Conference to represent the students of Oxford, some of whom are UKIP members and voters. Until I see evidence to the contrary, I will not write-off these students.”
“The NUS should absolutely stand up to discrimination – but let’s focus on the people who perpetrate these crimes, rather than organisations convicted by conjecture. Its time the NUS talked more about our education, and less about cheap political statements that unnecessarily divide the student body.”
UKIP activists amongst Oxford’s student body have likewise criticized the motion as evidence of NUS’ political partisanship.
Max Jewell, an undergraduate at Queen’s, said: “I honestly couldn’t care less about what a group of self-righteous ideologues think about UKIP. UKIP might not reflect the views of the NUS but Tom Rutland doesn’t represent the views of students.”
“Opposition to mass immigration is a legitimate view and I’ll continue to hold and espouse it even if I end up as the subject of the next Rad-Cam/white-board photo-shoot,” he added.
Undergraduate Jane Cahill, however, rejected that the motion was unrelated to the interests of students and their education: “UKIP wants to scrap tuition fees, but then fund that by dramatically cutting levels of university participation so we can go back to the good old days when only people like Nigel Farage went to university. Even if you don’t think the NUS should be speaking out against discriminatory policies, opposing UKIP is perfectly consistent with promoting education policies that benefit students in the UK, and I’m glad they did it.”
The annual NUS conference brings together delegates from the students’ unions of affiliated universities, and was this year held in Liverpool. Oxford students will be able to vote this term on whether OUSU should remain one of the 600 affiliated unions.