I couldn’t have been prouder to be the Chair of Edinburgh Labour Students over the past year. It’s been a year of change, growth and achievement (not to mention a few giggles – I fear I’ll never live down falling off my chair on stage at the Christmas Pub Quiz). Saying that, I know, without a shadow of a doubt, this year will be bigger and better than ever (check out the new team on our Meet the Committee page here…)
Fresher’s Week 2012 was the first time ELS decided to host a women’s event in Freshers week. We welcomed local Labour women, the women of ELS and any potential new members to discuss their feelings towards feminism over cake. It was a roaring success and we’re really looking forward to round two. We were delighted that Johann Lamont MSP, Leader of the Scottish Labour Party joined us at our annual reception, Champagne Socialism, alongside club favourites Cllr Andrew Burns, leader of Edinburgh City Council and Kezia Dugdale MSP. A successful Freshers was topped off by the good old pub crawl – a roaring success as ever.
This year, there was a conscious effort for the club environment to develop into something bigger, more varied and ever more inclusive. We did this by making sure that members didn’t feel out the loop. By making sure to fully introduce the weird and wonderful world of Labour Students and its place in both the wider student movement, and the Labour Party. So we decided to have an introduction to Labour Students event – complete with slideshow and flowcharts. We also made sure liberation was at the heart of what we did, at every step. A personal highlight was seeing all four Liberation Officers being elected for the first time.
We also widened the extent of campaigning opportunities available to club members. Allowing those who had not experienced it before to put their thoughts into action. We joined a cross campus effort to successfully ensure EUSA remained part of NUS. We went out on the doorstep for Labour with our local party. Whilst many of our members travelled the length and breadth of the UK to bring about Labour gains all over the UK. Many ELS members began to get involved in Kezia Dugdale MSP’s Debtbusters campaign – pointing out the wrongdoing of payday lenders such as Wonga who profit from the most vulnerable people. This is, of course, not to forget our involvement with Better Together. As September 2014 draws ever nearer more and more of our members have been involved in regular national campaign days and volunteering in the Head Office. We were also very proud to have many of our members successfully become Better Together Youth Reps and look forward to ramping up the fight this year.
Our club strives to have something for everyone. This year our events have included parliamentary receptions, tours, socials, and speakers – including ELS alumnus Douglas Alexander MP – as well as everyone’s favourite, Pint & Policy. This year we introduced a polling system so members could choose which topics they really wanted to discuss. All this variety means our average attendance at a weekly event has doubled over the past year. Having won the Best Events award at the national Labour Students Awards, we must be doing something right! (We were also short listed for Best Chair and Best Club, just saying).
There have been huge personal achievements for members too. Most notably, Stephen Donnelly being successfully elected Chair of Scottish Labour Students, Emma Meehan national Campaign & Membership Officer and Hugh Murdoch, President of EUSA. All of which involved time, effort and support from their friends in the club. We also saw members getting jobs and internships on the back of the club’s strong ties with the wider Party network.
It’s been a whirlwind year, but one thing ELS hasn’t lost, despite us growing and diversifying, is the sense of comradeship and friendship within the society. It’s one of the first things members mention about why they join, and keep coming back. I’m looking forward to meeting a whole new bunch of future friends and activists this September, and seeing just what ELS can achieve next.