NUS Delegate Elections: Laurie O’Connell

Hollie Earlam 31 October 2017

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 Laurie.


How will you carry out the key points in your manifesto?

The key points in my manifesto are fees, rent, and ending exploitation/ casualisation. Many candidates will say they’ll make sure they vote for the NUS to oppose things like fee hikes, but the truth is that this is ineffective. Every year the NUS votes to oppose fee rises, but this hasn’t stopped the government from consistently hiking fees. Similarly, the NUS may be researching the fact that rent is too high, but it hasn’t outlined steps to deal with this problem.  In order to carry out this program, we need to push the NUS to treat these issues in a serious, organised manner. Previously, the NUS voted to support rent strikes, but I will push for them to organise them. It’s not enough to simply vote against fee hikes at conference, but we have to link up with other organisations of workers and young people to form a real opposition to this- on our own, students don’t have power to change society.

Free education also doesn’t just mean no fees- it means ending the business model for running centers of learning, so that learners aren’t just treated like paying customers. We also need to stop the privatisation of key services and accommodation. We need full maintenance grants and to abolish all existing debt. Policies like rent abolition and totally free education may seem radical, but in reality, we also have to link them to the radical demand of abolishing capitalism altogether. Capitalism’s reached a dead end for our generation- we’re the first generation that’s going to have a worse standard of living than our parents. In the current crisis, it’s dishonest to say we can achieve any of these reforms within the constraints of the capitalist system. People always accuse marxists of being utopian- but the real utopian thinking is that of liberals who can think that reforming capitalism is possible in this crisis.



Why would you be a better NUS representative than the other candidates?

I’m not in this for bolstering my CV- I’ve openly declared as Marxist! But also, the other candidates don’t really put forward a concrete program. I already made it clear that just voting on things at NUS conference isn’t enough. Without committing to  actually struggle for reforms, linked with other organised workers and youth, and without linking this program to the struggle against capitalism, we will always be faced with the question ‘how will we pay for this.’ I can answer that question, and I don’t think the other candidates can. We need to nationalise the banks and the fortune 500 companies, and use the wealth in society for everyone’s gain.



What would you like to achieve in the position?

I’d like to help build a socialist, fighting NUs with enough spine to act as a genuine union which links students and workers! An organised campaign for the lowering and eventual abolition of rent, including the organisation of rent strikes across the country, if that’s what it comes to. An NUS which can respond to the consistent attacks on young people’s futures and living standards with a fight against the government and against the system as a whole.



What do you think are the biggest issues facing Cambridge students today?

Cost of living- the rent is particularly high here, but also food and access to other resources. The knowledge that we’re faced with a lifetime of student debt. These all weigh heavily, both on our mental and physical health.

If you could only make one change in Cambridge, what would it be?

Well, I’d put it under workers’ control, of course.That means democratic rule by the people who study, teach and work here, not bureaucrats and businessmen. Now that’d be a right kick in the face to one of the oldest, most bourgeois institutions around.