NEW LABOUR failed to push through attacks on internal democracy at last week's National Union of Students conference. It also suffered an unprecedented defeat when it tried to pose a graduate tax as an alternative to progressive taxation.
The left wing 'People Before Profit' slate got a consistently high vote, with presidential candidate Carli Harper-Penman coming within ten votes of knocking out the eventual winner, Labour's Mandy Telford. Telford was forced to promise opposition to Blair after conference defeated the graduate tax proposals.
The enthusiastic hearing for anti-imperialist arguments also forced Telford to claim opposition to war on Iraq. Student CND activist Louise Hutchins topped the poll for the part time national executive committee, after a speech lambasting New Labour's warmongering and complicity with Israel's massacres in Palestine.
Socialist Workers Party member Helen Salmon was re-elected to the national executive. She was one of four successful left candidates, ensuring the left's best result for years. This resurgence was also evident in large, lively fringe meetings on Palestine, war and anti-capitalism, and in the election of Satpal Ram, jailed for defending himself against a racist attack, as honorary vice-president.
Delegates also voted to prioritise an emergency motion against Israel's invasion of Palestine. New Labour was so paranoid about this being debated that this result was not announced, let alone discussed, and conference was shut down to prevent comedian Jeremy Hardy reporting on his visit to Bethlehem. But activists went away determined to mobilise in their colleges for May Day and beyond.