The week of frenzied campaigning is over. The results are in. York is set to retain its affiliation to the NUS. The referendum was a healthy and well-organised exercise in democracy and was rewarded with a turnout of nearly double that needed for quoracy, a rare event in almost any student plebiscite.
The result is also a good one. This paper endorses the NUS as an organisation and its principles of collectivism and strength through unity. We backed the ‘Yes to NUS’ campaign and commend the lengths they went to make the case to students.
But friends need to be frank with each other. The campaign is over. President Tumelty and her retinue of have left campus and, having worked hard to keep York in the fold, are unlikely to return for a while. They have taken with them whatever glamour this sort of politicking affords. The ‘Yes’ campaigners should pat themselves on the back for a well won victory but also remind themselves that they are York representatives not NUS apparatchiks.
To the ‘No’ camp’s credit they forced a vigorous debate on the merits and failings of the NUS. It is time for the ‘Yes’ camp to look to the future, especially the Extraordinary Conference called for December, and remind themselves that the NUS is far from perfect, and to get on with the job of making sure that it works for the students of York.
This process should start within weeks. One of the most biting criticisms of the NUS is its gaping democratic deficit and the almost laughably small mandates many of its decision-makers enjoy. York is worse than most – less than 50 people, almost all YUSU insiders, voted in the last round of delegate elections.
YUSU should capitalise on the interest the referendum has sparked and use its momentum to encourage as wide a field of candidates for the Extraordinary Conference as possible. They should throw also throw down the gauntlet to the ‘No’ camp. If they are truly interested in student governance and were not just acting out of a reactionary anti-union instinct, then they should be amongst the most vigorous candidates for the upcoming delegate election, and must work to change the NUS from within.