The NUS and the Student Unions have made great play in the last few months about the Coalition’s supposed lack of “democratic legitimacy” or a “mandate”. Cameron and Clegg, we are told, don’t really represent the voters.
The Student Union establishment is on shaky ground here, as today’s news from Sheffield University shows. In publishing the results for their SU elections they proudly boast that they have achieved “the highest ever election turnout for a Students’ Union election in the UK”.
So what was this staggering percentage? Erm, 23.82%
Yes, you read that right. They who complain about the democratic legitimacy of the Government can only achieve a turnout from their own constituents that would make most local councils blush.
Thom Arnold, the Sheffield student president elect, received 1,933 first preference votes out of 6765 cast – a miserable 28.5% of the 23.82% of the constituents who bothered to vote. It was only after six rounds that he was able to go through on others’ lower preferences.
This is the same old story – most Student Unions are far worse. I remember when I was elected to represent Durham at the NUS conference (for my sins) we had a miserable turnout of 10% or so. When we arrived at the conference we were amazed to find that most other delegates viewed our “high” turnout as a remarkable success.
At the core of this news is a simple truth that they don’t want to accept – the so-called “student leaders” are utterly disconnected from the people they claim to represent. They don’t inspire attention from most students, never mind confidence or actual support. Next time they throw stones at the Government, they might want to pause to consider their own glass house.