Friday 15-05-2015 - 12:55
Sad the General Election is all over? Here are five ideas to keep your colleges and campuses politically engaged all year-round.
Wish politics was for life and not just for the first Thursday in May once every five years? Well, it is, and despite constant calls of ‘its all over’, the metaphorical fat lady hasn’t actually sung her last note.
Friday 8 May was only the beginning of a new Parliamentary term and there are heaps of ways for students and students’ unions to speak up, campaign and organise in the wake of last week’s election results.
1. Encourage diversity in your SU elections and ensure your students’ union council meetings open their doors
Ever complained about how the politicians in the House of Commons don’t represent you or that they look anything like the diverse communities you live in? A massive contributing factor is that not enough young people just are energised with politics.
It’s encouraging that voter turnout amongst 18-24 year olds rose from 44 per cent to 58 per cent in this General Election – meaning six in ten young people voted. But there’s work to be done between now and the 2020 General Election.
Students’ union elections, are a great chance for young people to cut their teeth in the world of politics, and inclusive student union council meetings are equally important for encouraging political consciousness. Promoting these democratic spheres in your union will not only help your students to drive change locally, but it will wholly benefit your institution.
2. Does your union offer a Politics or Debating Society?
Student-led politics or debating societies are another great avenue that your students’ union can offer to students. Shining examples include the Oxford Union and the University of Sussex Debating Society.
3. Find an issue your students care about and start campaigning
In the lead up to the General Election, NUS set out its New Deal manifesto – policy asks based around education, work and the community - three key areas in which students are most affected. The Conservative Party’s manifesto met just one of these commitments to young people, meaning in the wake of last Friday’s election, the need for students’ unions to defend the rights of students and the community is more vital than ever.
Students’ unions can play a significant part by working closely with local groups, trade unions and of course NUS to oppose policies and spending cuts which will affect the most vulnerable in society.
Even if your union isn’t traditionally one to rally with placards, your commercial vehicles can do great things for social good – take this independent music festival in Glasgow for example, which is encouraging its guests to bring along non-perishable food donations for a local food bank.
4. Work with your local MP
Remind your students that even if they voted for a different candidate, they needn’t spend the next five years lamenting the result - they’re entitled to hold their local MP to account.
Students’ unions can promote lobbying in a number of ways but encouraging students to voice their opinion by writing to their local MP or meeting them in person is arguably the most effective method.
Why not join thousands of others on 17 June to lobby your MP on climate change? It'd be a great place to start.
5. Keep promoting voter registration.
Sure, 2020 seems like a long way away but again, politics isn’t just about a General Election every five years and with the referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union due before 2017, the next European Parliament election in 2019 and the possibility of local and mayoral elections dotted in between it’s fundamental that students are heard at the ballot box.
Look back at the highlights of NUS’ General Election campaigning online here and via social media #GenerationVote hashtag.