In the run up to the elections for the new Cambridge NUS delegates, TCS is speaking to all candidates about their manifestos, what they would accomplish, and why they are best suited to carry out their roles. Voting opens at 00:00 on the 31st of October, and closes on the 3rd of November. The following is a transcript from an interview with Keelan.
How will you carry out the key points in your manifesto?
So, I’m aware that my manifesto is a very radical one. Things like the abolition of tuition fees, and abolition of student rent are big topics, and difficult to carry out. However, bringing important issues like this forward to the NUS Conference will encourage it to become an active organisation in fighting for students – through organising rent strikes and using its coverage as a nationwide organisation to make a campaign that takes place in all universities, generating press coverage. We should be organising demonstrations, linking up with other struggles in the trade union movement and elsewhere. The NUS should become a more political organisation, instead of a vehicle for careerism. There are lots of people in it because they want to become MPs, which is a betrayal of students because the NUS is the only organisation that has the ability to defend students collectively. My policies can only be achieved through the NUS working with other organisations, linking with the Labour movement, and the struggle taking place within the Labour party and other trade unions. At the moment it attempts to be so apolitical that it cannot defend our interests.
Why would you be a better NUS representative than the other candidates?
One thing is that I want to put Marxist ideas forward at the NUS Conference. They are vital because we’re now at a stage where the system cannot guarantee our generation the same living standards as our parents. Even the most vociferous critics of capitalism could have recognised some progress from generation to generation, but no longer. Now, Marxist criticism is becoming even more important.
The trend of societies expressing anger through political decisions will only grow. We still have not recovered from 2008, and we’re seeing a real crisis in capitalism. For capitalism to function, we unleashed austerity to maintain economic equilibrium, but that has destroyed social equilibrium. We see this discontent in support for Corbyn, for example, and anger in countries all across Europe.
We need people in NUS prepared to raise these ideas, because things are changing rapidly. We are in a critical phase, and cannot ignore these ideas anymore.
What would you like to achieve in the position?
One thing I would love to do, as I am aware of Marxist delegates succeeding at SOAS and UCL, is form a block of Marxists at conferences to articulate our ideas and the need for radical change in societies. I want to genuinely represent the interests of students as a body, and not use the conference as a chance to network. I would put forward my programme apologetically.
What do you think are the biggest issues facing Cambridge students today?
These are largely issues that face all students across the country. Specifically at Cambridge, we have a very acute rent problem. My college, King’s, just saw a rent rise of 6%. College rents are far too high. There are also circumstances where students who come from relatively wealthy backgrounds will cut off by family, when the University assumes all parents will be supportive.
Obviously tuition fees are a huge issue as well. I'm angry about fact we pay £9,250 a year – and then we saw threats when Tories were at peak arrogance in May that they would be raised to £12,000 a year. This puts a huge amount of pressure on students, which is unsettling and unnerving. I have friends at home who were put off by the fees, and it’s unacceptable that you have working-class kids feeling that they can’t shouldn’t go to university for financial reasons. So, the concerns of Cambridge students are shared by many across the country. We’re fortunate in the sense that Cambridge is a wealthy university and can offer help, but many other universities can’t.
If you could only make one change in Cambridge, what would it be?
One achievable thing in Cambridge specifically is to ensure that all University staff receives a living wage. All universtities should pay a living wage, and there should be an end to the casualization of work – for example using agencies to organise staff, and putting academics on part-time contracts. It lets them squash workers' rights. If Cambridge were to bring all of its workers in-house and pay all of its staff a living wage it would make a big difference. We shouldn’t just see this in Cambridge, however. It should be at every university.