Things went badly wrong for Momentum’s youth wing this weekend, with moderates winning the top three Labour Students officer posts quite comfortably.
In November the electoral college that elected the youth rep to the party’s NEC was controversially abolished, the decision essentially handed over to three old white men who lead the biggest unions. But Momentum still desperately wants to win power in the organisation itself, if only because it would mark the symbolic fall of one of the last truly Blairite institutions in the party, the place where “Things Can Only Get Better” has replaced a balderised “Ghostbusters” (aka Trotbusters) as the shout-along-anthem of defiance.
Henry Kissinger once famously dismissed the viciousness of student politics as a reflection of its low stakes nature – but the Labour party’s student organisation – typically referred to as NOLS even though the “National Organisation” bit disappeared before most of today’s members were born – has been a nursery for aspiring politicians for over forty years.
Charles Clarke, Jacqui Smith, John Mann, Caroline Flint, Stephen Twigg and, yes, Jon Lansman all first made their mark as NOLS activists and the group continues to have an importance in training Labour activists that is out of proportion to its moderate size.
Once the focus was on winning control of NUS – where NOLS’s seizure of power in 1982, displacing the Communists of David Aarononvich’s generation, marked a decided shift to the left – but today’s students are much more interested in employability than demonstrations and protests while NUS seems consumed by endless rows about identity politics.
So, instead NOLS is something of a shock army in party campaigns and internal struggles.