The National Union of Students (NUS) emergency conference on 4 December was the first round of voting on whether the union should scrap most of its democratic structures.
The union leadership is proposing the abolition of the national executive in favour of a board of governors and a “representative senate”, and the replacement of national conference with a smaller, less powerful senate.
The changes – if passed through two conferences – would turn the NUS from a union into a professional lobby group.
Student Respect members were central to setting up the Save NUS Democracy campaign which aims to build enough opposition to deny the leadership the two thirds majority they need to get their review ratified by two conferences.
The emergency conference was a huge step forwards for our strategy of seeking to unite those committed to defending the democracy of our national union. Despite the large number of delegates who were appointed rather than elected, our early amendments were supported by 165 delegates (48 short of a third) who voted for rejecting the changes.
By the end of conference we were within seven votes of forcing a well rounded debate on the new changes.
The leadership were shaken enough to push through their motion after just one four minute speech against and refused to count the final vote.
We have a real chance of defeating the review at NUS annual conference, where there will be far fewer hand picked delegates.
Every student activist needs to get to conference to defend our national union, knowing we have a real chance of victory.