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With student politics becoming an increasingly popular platform to voice and display strong opinions, I talk to Labour Society President Ben Seifert about why students should join Southampton University’s Labour Society.
Can you describe the society in 3 words?
Active. Organised. Welcoming.
What exactly does your society do and what is your role as President?
The Labour society does quite a few things, and we are a mixture of being a part of the national Labour Party and a society for students on campus.
Firstly in terms of on campus activities we run campaigns, for instance the Sweatshop campaign, to raise awareness for sweatshop Labour in the electronics industry. Our aim is to influence the university to sign up to an organisation which monitors factories in the global south to make the university more sweatshop free.
We have meetings where there is a lot of political discussion, formed around issues that affect students, for example housing, letting agencies, and tenancy rights. We also aim to make people aware of and try to send people to local Labour meetings, demonstrations and any politics events going on around Southampton, or in London.
My role as President is to try and tie both of these functions together. I aim to tie in with what Trade Unions and the local Southampton Party is doing to what the society is doing. I also co-ordinate with those who want to run campaigns, and monitor what is being done in the society overall.
How often does the society meet?
We meet publicly as a society every few weeks. The Committee tends to meet on a more ad hoc basis. We had our welcome meeting and social on the 17th October, and after that it will be every other Monday.
Do you need to be politically educated to join?
Anyone is welcome. We’re not that political, anyone who is just interested and wants to find out more is welcome to attend any of our meetings throughout the term. If you want to get involved and get more political to talk about the issues that affect your life, then do come along. Anyone can be active, you don’t have to be a politics nerd.
Does the society have any major events planned for this term?
At the bunfight we were trying to send people to the anti-fascist demonstration, a fringe EDL splinter, and we encouraged those interested to attend the counter-demonstration to stand up against racism in Southampton.
What sort of socials does the society offer?
We’re hoping to do a lot of different stuff, not all of which is related to politics. We’re currently trying to gauge interest to see Billy Bragg and Joe Henry Playing in Portsmouth in November. We also look to see any speakers who visit the University. We also organize some boozy socials – we’re toying with the idea of clubbing in Corbyn masks and playing Question Time drinking games.
What would you say has been your favourite moment with the society so far?
The Bunfight. We gained positive reactions from a lot of people. We handed out huge numbers of leaflets, and over 160 people signed up this year, which is highly encouraging for where the society can go in the upcoming year.
What relationship does the society have with the official party?
The Society itself took no position during the leadership debate, and everyone in the society has the right to their own personal views. We’re happy to have views from people across the Labour spectrum, and we try and be as broad church as possible.
Having said that we inform members about official party meetings in the local area. In our welcome talk the youth and student officer for the local party came to discuss ways students within the society can get involved with local politics. Similarly the local chair is coming to our renting meeting to inform members about tenant rights. We also collaborate closely with other societies and movements, particularly green action and the world view feminist society.
Collaborating with other societies; green action, world view feminist society – trying to host a joint meeting with the feminist society, close ties with Marxist society. Inform members about official party meetings – youth and student officer for the local party is attending the welcome party to talk about getting involved; the local chair is coming to our renting meeting to inform about tenant rights.
Where can people get more information?
We have a Facebook group, ‘Southampton University Labour Society’, which shows discussions, and most of what we do will be put on there. Otherwise, send an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re more than welcome to send you a list explaining everything we do!