What would you say is your most precious memory of your time at NUS?
My most precious memory in a funny way is probably still with me. That sounds an odd thing to say but for me, the most important thing personally, in relation to my time at NUS, was actually the friends that I made, and even many of the people who were viciously opposed to me.
Nothing is more vicious and unpleasant than student politics actually. Life and death depend on getting through some composite resolution at the conference and people attack each other's characters. It is the toughest school in politics still.
People in politics now and in the job I do say, “How can you put up with this? How can you put up with that?” But actually being on the NUS executive was I think harder than anything that I have ever done in terms of the stress and people's attacks on you.
The basic point is that I think the most precious memories were the times I spent with people that are still my friends, people like Charles Clarke and David Aaronovitch.
So in a peculiar way the precious memories are the memories that I shared with people who are still my friends and I think that is probably true for succeeding generations of NUS leaders.
What was it that inspired you to get involved in student politics in the first place?
I was born in London but I spent most of my childhood in the Caribbean, in Guyana, which is where my family comes from. So I came to the UK as an overseas student and as a consequence I had to pay a lot of money to be a student as it was at Imperial College which is where I studied.
It was worth it, but I thought it was pretty mean minded, unjustifiable and probably discriminatory. I was pretty outraged by that and at the time that was a very prominent issue because obviously as now, students from overseas were an important element in higher education, both culturally but also financially.
The raising of fees which was going on then quite dramatically, I think excited a lot of opposition obviously from overseas students but also from other students for different reasons. Reasons of, if you like, idealism - they thought it was unjust - as well as pragmatism because the truth is that overseas students are often the leaders of other countries in the future.
Frankly, if I can put it this way, if you piss them off now then we can't be looking forward to their friendship later on. All of that drew me into campaigning and at that time NUS was the biggest game in town.
I should also say, to be completely honest, I went to an NUS conference in my first term at university because we had a rule that there would always be a fresher on the delegation and I was it. NUS conferences, I don't know what they are like now, but it was fantastic fun.
At that time it was a four day party with politics. If you were politically minded, how much more fun could there be? So that was how I got involved.
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