Labour Students

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Labour Students
Chairperson Finn McGoldrick
Founded 1971 (1971)
Headquarters London, United Kingdom
Ideology Social democracy
International affiliation International Union of Socialist Youth
European affiliation Young European Socialists
National affiliation Labour Party

Labour Students is the student organisation affiliated to the Labour Party of the United Kingdom.

Membership comprises affiliated college and university clubs, which are known as "Labour Clubs". Membership of Labour Students is through membership of a university or college Labour Club or through signing up individually as a Labour Student on the website.

The organisation's main activities include providing political education and training to its members, organising politically within the National Union of Students and sending activists to by-elections and marginal constituencies across the country.


Founded in 1946, in 1967, the National Association of Labour Student Organisations (NALSO), the Labour Party's student organisation, was derecognised by the party after it was taken over by supporters of the Trotskyist Socialist Labour League. While the Scottish organisation continued, the Labour Party was left without a national student body.[1]

One of the principal areas of conflict was the Vietnam War, with Trevor Fisk, the leading member of the traditionalists, refusing to criticise Harold Wilson's government over its tacit support for the United States in the war. The fight against Fisk was led, in particular, by Jack Straw, who supplanted Fisk as President of the NUS in 1969.[citation needed]

In 1970 Labour students created the "Students for a Labour Victory" to co-ordinate campaigning in that year's general election. That organisation became the National Organisation of Labour Students, which held its founding conference in 1971. Despite changing its name in the early 1990s,[1] Labour Students is still sometimes referred to by the acronym NOLS, which is pronounced "Nols".

In its early years, NOLS was divided between two factions - the entryist Trotskyist Militant tendency [2] and a mainstream left group, associated with Tribune, which formed in January 1974 called Clause Four, after the central political statement of the Labour Party constitution. Militant controlled NOLS from January 1974 to December 1975.[3] Members of NOLS in the 1970s included Charles Clarke, Bill Speirs, Peter Mandelson, Sally Morgan, Mike Gapes, Mike Jackson, Nigel Stanley,[1] Margaret Curran and Johann Lamont.

During Tony Blair's premiership, Labour Students opposed the Government's planned introduction of university "top-up" fees. Labour Students were broadly supportive of Gordon Brown's government.

In March 2014, many affiliated clubs asked for the introduction of One member, one vote which was blocked from being discussed at national conference in March due to a vote having already taken place in the National Council motion debates in December 2013. This led to over 10 clubs writing a letter threatening to disaffiliate should this not be discussed. When this letter was ignored and a motion of censure against the national committee was mocked, many clubs walked out of the conference and the clubs have held meetings to disaffiliate. So far, four clubs have officially disaffiliated, with the projected number speculated to be around seven to eleven clubs.

Internal organisation[edit]

Labour Students is a 'socialist society', affiliated to the Labour Party. This means that, whilst its aims are broadly in line with the wider party, Labour Students is an independent organisation and is entitled to democratically dictate its own policy and governance. Labour Students members are also entitled to a vote in the 'affiliates' section of Labour leadership elections.

National Events[edit]

Generally, Labour Students holds four main national events each year. These are attended by club members from institutions across the country. At every national event Labour Students offers a positive environment for students from all backgrounds, ensuring there is a zero tolerance approach to harassment.

Summer Training[edit]

Summer Training is the newest addition to the Labour Students calendar. It is primarily intended for members entering their second and third years of study. There is often a focus on preparing Labour Clubs for recruitment drives at the beginning of the new academic year. The event is usually structured with a variety breakout sessions and workshops, led by industry experts, trade unions and other campaigning organisations. In recent years Summer Training has included sessions led by Matthew Doyle (former Deputy Director of Communications, 10 Downing Street), Kirsty McNeill (former adviser to Gordon Brown) and community organising group Movement for Change. There is also usually a heavy emphasis on training from the four liberation campaigns.

Political Weekend[edit]

Political Weekend is usually the event where Labour Students welcomes its new members each year. Labour Students usually hosts a number of high profile speakers, including government ministers during periods of Labour government and members of the Shadow Cabinet in times of opposition.

National Council[edit]

National Council is the first formal democratic event of the academic year. Labour Clubs are entitled to send a delegation to represent their membership, as well as a number of observers. Delegates then vote on policy for Labour Students to adopt, which has been submitted by clubs across the country. The Labour Students Policy Forum and Steering Committee are also elected at National Council. Members who wish to stand as Labour Students candidates in National Union of Students elections are also formally selected.

National Conference[edit]

National Conference sees the election of the Labour Students National Committee for the following year, as well further policy debate. National Conference is often held in conjunction with Young Labour Conference, to help reduce members' travel costs.

National Committee[edit]

The Labour Students National Committee convene regularly and work together to ensure the organisation runs smoothly and works effectively to represent members.

There are three full-time sabbatical officers who are responsible for the day-to-day running of the organisation:

  • National Chair- currently Finn McGoldrick
  • National Secretary- currently Grace Skelton
  • National Campaigns and Membership Officer- currently Brad Marshall

The Chair leads the organisation and is responsible for dealings with external bodies (including the NUS). The Secretary is responsible for the organisation's finances, communications and organises national events. The Campaigns and Membership Officer co-ordinates the recruitment and campaigning work of the organisation.

The rest of the National Committee is made up two vice chair positions, an international officer, eleven regional coordinators, four liberation officers and the chairs of Welsh Labour Students and Scottish Labour Students.

A number of other individuals attend National Committee meetings but do not have voting rights. These include the Chair of the Labour Students Steering Committee, the Labour Students NUS Group Leader/s, the Labour Students Rep on the Labour Party's National Policy Forum and the Youth and Students Rep on the Labour Party's National Executive Committee.

Liberation Campaigns[edit]

Within Labour Students there are four autonomous liberation campaigns. These include Women's, Lesbian Gay Bisexual & Trans, Disabled Students and Black Minority Ethnic Students campaigns, all of which are entitled to elect an officer to the National Committee. Labour Students holds caucuses for each of the liberation groups at every narional event, has an equal opportunies policy and ensures all events are fully accessible.

Scotland and Wales[edit]

There are separate organisations for Labour Clubs in the devolved nations, known as Welsh and Scottish Labour Students respectively.


Priority Campaign[edit]

Labour Students takes on a major campaign each year, voted for in an all-member ballot. Recent campaigns have included:

  • "Make Child Poverty History" campaign (2006-7)
  • "Sex, Lives and Politics" (2005 - 2006)

This was followed by a government reduction of VAT on condoms to the EU minimum of 5%.

  • The Living Wage Campaign (2011 - 2013)

Labour Students worked in collaboration with the trade union UNISON to equip members with the skills to fight for a living wage to be paid to staff on their university campuses. The campaign was extremely successful, with clubs including Manchester and Kent securing the living wage at their institutions.[4]

  • The Voter Registration Campaign (2012 - 2013)

Labour Students hope to work to tackle the problem of large numbers of students not being registered to vote.

Campaigning for the Labour Party[edit]

Labour Students train and frequently deploy extremely experienced activists to campaign in by-elections across the country and in key marginal seats during general elections. They often operate from a "battle bus" so that large numbers of campaigners can be transported to target areas at short notice. Labour Students have been credited with helping secure Labour victories at a number of recent by-elections, including in Feltham and Heston, Barnsley Central and Oldham East and Saddleworth.[citation needed]

Labour Students and the National Union of Students[edit]

Every year, Labour Students actively organise and campaign within the National Union of Students (NUS). As a result of this, Labour Students is viewed as one of the most influential factions within the NUS and its members are frequently elected to the NUS National Executive Council (NEC) and to full-time officer positions.

Selection Procedure[edit]

The process for selecting Labour Students candidates for election to office in NUS is conducted in three stages set out below. Any member of Labour Students at an NUS affiliated institution is eligible to put themselves forward as a candidate, though prior experience in student unions or the National Union of Students is considered essential.

Application stage[edit]

Candidates submit a statement explaining why they wish to stand and a copy of their CV.

Selection Panel[edit]

A panel made up of the National Chair, NUS Group Leader, and a member of the National Committee make a shortlist from the applications. Shortlisted applicants are interviewed by the panel.


The panel recommends candidates to Labour Students National Council and they are voted on by the delegates at the council. If approved by the council, the candidate is then an official Labour Students candidate for the position they put themselves forward for.

History within the National Union of Students[edit]


In the late 1970s, Labour Students (then NOLS) worked within the National Union of Students of the United Kingdom (NUS) as part of the Broad Left, a student coalition which also included the student wings of the Communist Party of Great Britain and independent left wing students. The Broad Left stood slates of candidates in NUS elections. (The Broad Left is not to be confused with the post-1997 grouping Student Broad Left.) In the early 1980s NOLS broke with the Broad Left and presented its own slate of candidates in NUS elections. In 1982, NOLS won the presidency of NUS on its own for the first time. A succession of NOLS candidates were elected to the NUS Presidency until 2000 with the strongest challenges generally coming from those to the left of the Labour Party. Several former NOLS NUS Presidents, including Charles Clarke and Jim Murphy, went on to serve as Cabinet ministers, serving as members of a Labour government. Throughout this period, NOLS members of the NUS National Executive Committee were a minority, but exercised effective control.


In 2000, facing a predicted defeat, Labour Students decided not to select a candidate for NUS President choosing instead to support the Organised Independent Owain James (who was an ordinary member of Labour Students) as an independent. Labour Students regained the presidency in 2002, but in 2004 lost it narrowly to Kat Fletcher, who ran on the Campaign for Free Education ticket and subsequent to that group's collapse formed a coalition of centrist student officers.


Labour Students did not run a candidate in the 2005 or 2006 elections for NUS President. In 2006, Labour Students rejected the bid for support from Pav Akhtar despite his Labour membership and voted for Gemma Tummelty, on the condition that she join the party. Despite setbacks at the 2005 NUS Conference, in 2006 Labour Students secured an improved position. It secured four places on the NUS National Executive Committee: Vice President of Education (Wes Streeting), two positions on the part-time Block of 12 and the National Women's Officer. Labour Students had also held the positions of NUS Scotland President and NUS LGBT Officer (open-place), however, the resignations of James Alexander and Scott Cuthbertson from Labour Students depleted their number of votes on the NUS NEC.[citation needed].


At the 2007 Conference, Wes Streeting was returned at the Vice-President for Education, and Katie Curtis and Benedict Pringle were returned to the Block of 12. Richard Angell lost a hotly contested election for Vice-President Welfare to Ama Uzowuru (OI).

Labour Students's flagship policy in NUS has been the rejection of campaigning for universal grants, in favour of targeting student support funds towards poorer students through means testing. National Conference 2006 narrowly supported this policy, but it was renewed with a much increased majority in 2007.


At the 2008 Conference, Labour Students achieved significant gains. Wes Streeting was elected NUS National President securing victory over independent Ciarán Norris by 120 votes. Ed Marsh, Susan Nash and Hollie Williams were all elected to NUS Block of Twelve. Labour Student Nicola Heaton was elected onto the NUS Steering Committee.

Meanwhile, Katie Curtis, the Labour Students candidate, narrowly won the full-time position of National Women's Officer at the Women's Campaign Conference. After Student Broad Left was eliminated in the first round with 15 votes, 8 transferred to Sofie Buckland of Education Not for Sale, giving Curtis a victory of 4 votes with 33 to Buckland's 29.[5] Josh MacAlister, the Labour Students' candidate for the full-time position of NUS Scotland President, narrowly lost the election to Gurjit Singh (the first independent candidate to beat a Labour Student in an NUS Scotland Presidential election since the organisation formed) and Gaz Hughes, the Labour Students' candidate for the part-time position of NUS LGBT Officer (Open Place), withdrew from the race shortly before the election.


The 2009 NUS Conference saw Wes Streeting re-elected as National President with 81% of the vote against Rob Owen, the Socialist Workers Party candidate standing as part of the 'Another Union is Possible' slate. This conference also saw a second Labour Students candidate elected to a full-time office for the first time in a decade with the election of Susan Nash to the new position of Vice President (Society & Citizenship). In spite of the reconstitution of the old 'Block of 12' non-portfolio executive members into a new 'Block of 15', with five reserved places for Further Education representatives, both of Labour Students's HE block candidates were elected: Ed Marsh and Tobin Webb. Steven Findlay, former Labour Students Block of 12 member, was also elected to the new Democratic Procedures Committee, on which he served with fellow Labour Student Nicola Heaton.

Elsewhere, Olivia Bailey defeated self-proclaimed revolutionary candidate Jennie Killip in the election for NUS National Women's Officer. Estelle Hart was elected as NUS Wales Women's Officer.


The 2010 NUS Conference, held outside of Blackpool for the first time in decades at the Sage conference centre in Gateshead, saw a relatively low-key but successful intervention by Labour Students. Due to the proximity to the 2010 general election, Labour Students chose to field just one full-time candidate; Susan Nash was comfortably re-elected as the Vice President (Society & Citizenship). Their two candidates for the 'Block of 15', Thomas Graham and Dannie Grufferty, were both elected in the first round of voting. Ed Marsh, who had previously been elected to the NUS National Executive Council as a member of Labour Students, stood successfully as an independent candidate for Vice President (Union Development) having resigned his membership of Labour Students earlier that year.

The 2010 conference was also the last for Labour Students NUS Group leader and outgoing National President, Wes Streeting, after a tumultuous five years on the NUS NEC which saw Labour Students firmly re-establish themselves at the heart of NUS. His successor, Aaron Porter is a Labour Party member but stood as a candidate from the Organised Independents, with the support of Streeting and Labour Students.

Elsewhere, Olivia Bailey was re-elected unopposed as NUS National Women's Officer, while in NUS Wales Michaela Neild was elected as Deputy President and Estelle Hart was re-elected as NUS Wales Women's Officer. Luke Young, a member of the NUS Wales Executive Committee also sits on the NUS National Executive Council as one of Wales's representatives. He joins Samantha Kennedy, who sits on the NUS NEC as the Society & Citizenship zone's additional representative.


The 2011 NUS conference, also held in the Sage conference centre in Gateshead saw another successful year for Labour Students. Dannie Grufferty was comfortably elected as the Vice President (Society and Citizenship). Both candidates for the Block of 15, Lauren Crowley and Nesil Cazimoglu were elected. Labour Students also had success in their endorsement of and campaign for Liam Burns as the candidate for National President.

Luke Young was elected as the President of NUS Wales alongside Stephanie Lloyd who was elected as NUS Wales Women's Officer. Estelle Hart (previously NUS Wales Women's Officer) won her election as NUS National Women's Officer.


The 2012 NUS conference was held in Sheffield City Hall and saw a reasonable amount of success for Labour Students. Dannie Grufferty was re-elected with an overwhelming majority for Vice President (Society and Citizenship). However, Luke Young came third in the race for Vice President (Union Development), beaten by left-wing independent Vicki Baars. All three Labour Students candidates for the Block of 15, Emma Meehan (HE), Mark Sewards (HE) and Joe Vinson (FE) were elected. Labour Students once again supported Liam Burns for National President.

Prior to the national conference Stephanie Lloyd was elected as President of NUS Wales, alongside Rhiannon Hedge who was elected as NUS Wales Women's officer. Finn McGoldrick was elected NUS LGBT Officer (Women's Place)the first time Labour Students had held that position. Jo Johnson was also elected as the NUS National Executive Council as a Women's representative. However, Estelle Hart failed in her re-election bid to the position of NUS National Women's Officer, losing to independent left-wing candidate and NUS Scotland Women's Officer Kelley Temple.


The 2013 NUS conference was again held in Sheffield City Hall, a conference regarded as a huge success for Labour Students. Joe Vinson was elected as Vice President (Further Education), the first time Labour Students have controlled an education zone since 2008. Dom Anderson was also elected as Vice President (Society and Citizenship) with an overwhelming majority. One of two Labour Students candidates for the Block of 15, Ben Dilks, was elected to the NUS National Executive Council.

Prior to the national conference Stephanie Lloyd was re-elected as President of NUS Wales, alongside Rhiannon Hedge who was also re-elected as NUS Wales Women's officer. In addition to this, Finn McGoldrick was also re-elected unopposed as NUS LGBT Officer (Women's Place).


The 2014 NUS conference, held at the ACC in Liverpool, saw mixed results for Labour Students. Joe Vinson was re-elected as Vice President (Further Education), but Hugh Murdoch, their candidate for Vice President (Society and Citizenship), was beaten into third place in a surprise victory for left-wing independent Piers Telemacque. All three Labour Students candidates for the Block of 15 - Poppy Wilkinson (HE), Michael Rubin (HE) and Amy Smith (FE) - were elected.

Labour Students' third candidate for a full-time officer position was Robbie Young, who was elected NUS LGBT Officer (Open Place).


Recent graduates of Labour Students have often gone on to work in Labour Party Headquarters, as ministerial special advisers, Trade Union officials and as members of left-leaning think tanks. Many also go on to enjoy successful careers outside of the politics.

Notable former Labour Students officers include[edit]

Complete List of Chairpersons[edit]

The Chair of Labour Students is elected to serve for one year. It has largely been a full-time role, but for a period during the 1980s and early 1990s it was unpaid.

  • 1949-50 Dickson Mabon
  • 1950s Roy Hattersley
  • 1950s Kevin Mcnamara
  • 1960s Alex Neil
  • 1973 Ian Davidson
  • 1976 Mike Gapes
  • 1977 Mike Jackson
  • 1978 Nigel Stanley
  • 1979 Dave Smith
  • 1980 Steve Page
  • 1981 John Boothman
  • 1982 Geoff Norris
  • 1983 John Mann
  • 1984 John Mann
  • 1985 Sarah Boyack
  • 1986 Ben Lucas
  • 1987 Neil Usher
  • 1988 Carol Judge
  • 1989 Simon Buckby
  • 1990 Paul Richards
  • 1991 Alison Ryan (did not complete year in office)
  • 1992 Paul Hewitt
  • 1993 Tom Watson
  • 1994 Ian Corfield
  • 1995 Lizzie Watson
  • 1996 Lizzie Watson
  • 1997 Michael Dugher
  • 1998 Patrick Diamond
  • 1999 Joe Goldberg
  • 2000 Brendan Cox
  • 2001 Vicky Foxcroft
  • 2002 Ellie Reeves
  • 2003 Karim Palant
  • 2004 Adam Hug
  • 2005 Gareth Smith
  • 2006 Ciaran Ward
  • 2007 Kenny Young
  • 2008 Sarah Mulholland
  • 2009 Joseph Sherry
  • 2010 Dean Carlin
  • 2011 Olivia Bailey
  • 2012 Emma O'Dwyer
  • 2013 Callum Munro
  • 2014 Finn McGoldrick


  1. ^ a b c Peter Barberis, John McHugh and Mike Tyldesley, Encyclopedia of British and Irish Political Organizations
  2. ^ Originally known as the Revolutionary Socialist League, this name had been dropped internally within Militant by 1969, see John Callaghan The Far Left in British Politics, Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1987, p.177; Michael Crick (The March of Militant,London: Faber, 1986, p.60) has the change occurring by 1967.
  3. ^ Michael Crick The March of Militant, London: Faber, p.97
  4. ^ "How We Won a Living Wage at Manchester". Retrieved 6 September 2012. 
  5. ^ "". Retrieved 6 September 2012. 

External links[edit]