My speech from the ULU hustings (31, January, 2012):
My name is Daniel Lemberger Cooper. I’m a socialist and President of Royal Holloway students’ union. I’m standing in this election because I want to build a powerful student movement in London. I’ve helped do that on my own campus and in my own union; elect me and I’ll do it at ULU too.
You hear people say that student unions shouldn’t be political. I say – students’ lives are political. We work, we face cuts, we face austerity and prejudice and racism. If ULU is going to help change students’ lives for the better, it needs to fight. I’m the candidate who has led political fights and won. Last term, Royal Holloway management announced 30 job cuts. The SU and the anti cuts alliance organised a campaign. We linked up with trade unions on campus. We took action, demonstrated and occupied. We were uncompromising. And the result was that management backed down and withdrew the cuts. We were organised, we were political, and we won. That’s the organising approach I want to take to ULU.
My politics start with democracy – real, mass, grassroots democracy. Currently most students see ULU as a building with some services and facilities, where only sabbatical officers are engaged in its political structures. I want to open ULU up so it becomes a tool for students on every London campus in their battles against fees, cuts, and closures. That means opening ULU up to affiliation from institutions like London Met, and the FE colleges that formed the backbone of our movement in winter 2010 ULU should be more than a service provider; it should be the organising centre for the London student movement. I’ve transformed my union to play that role; I will do the same at ULU.
I’m standing in this election as a socialist. That means fighting for a world where the needs of the majority of society come before the needs of profit.
That’s why I’ve organised, as part of the GMB in Kingston, to win trade union recognition and working on winning better rights for working students on my campus. The situation for young people at work is scandalous – I want to do the same across London. This also includes a campaign for decent, affordable housing for all in London; soaring rents, rip off landlords and deteriorating halls of residence shouldn’t be a common place.
It’s my socialist politics which have animated my work at Royal Holloway in building anti-racist and anti-fascist campaigns alongside our ACS, ISoc, JSoc and campus trade unions. It’s my socialist politics that has formed the basis of my campaigning work alongside our Feminist Society and others against sexism, homophobia and transphobia. I believe that those oppressions must be combated as part of a fight to change the system that generates them.
You don’t have to be a socialist to vote for me. But you do have to believe that students can’t win battles to defend and extend our rights without uncompromising activist campaigns that are based on grassroots democracy and mass participation.
Vote for me, and let’s turn ULU into an organising hub for campaigns which will turn the tide against the cuts-making, privatising, education-as-a-commodity bosses that run all of our institutions. This year in my Union, we’ve beaten back those bosses. Elect me, and together we can beat them on every campus in this city.