Friday 8 January 2016
Queen Mary Labour Society are one of the largest societies on campus, and one of the most active university Labour groups in the country. Student Communications Intern, Kajal Kumar, caught up with Labour Society President, Oliver Davis, to find out more.
When was the Labour Society at QMUL created?
The society became active in the 2013-2014 academic year, and has grown in size and activity level ever since.
What are the aims of the labour society?
We aim to:
- Involve QMUL students in the Labour Party and the wider Labour movement
- Campaign for the party at local, regional and national level
- Play an active role in our local constituency party – our members are: Tower Hamlets Labour Youth Officer, Vice-Chair of Tower Hamlet Young Labour, and we have three delegates at the General Council and one on the Executive Council
- Contribute to party policy through our participation with the national Labour Students organisation
- Contribute to the wider community through volunteer and charity work
What kind of events do you hold for your members?
We hold speaker events on a wide range of issues including ‘inequality and the 1%’, ‘reproductive rights’, ‘the housing crisis in London’, ‘influencing foreign policy from opposition’ with speakers including Professor Danny Dorling, Mike Gapes MP, Neil Coyle MP, Sadiq Khan MP and candidate for Mayor of London, Rushanara Ali MP.
We hold a weekly stall in Library Square giving away our famous free hot chocolate, signing up new members and selling cupcakes to raise money for the charity, Whitechapel Mission.
We also have a weekly phone bank, calling the thousands of new members of the party to get them involved, as well as a weekly canvassing session meeting voters across London on their doorsteps to hear their thoughts and campaign for our party in elections; fortnightly socials (alcoholic and non!); trips to Labour Students events, including Political Weekend in Birmingham, Council in London Conference in Scarborough and National Conference in Liverpool; fortnightly training sessions on all aspects of campaigning for all our members; and a fortnightly ‘Labour Issues Forum’ discussion group. We also place our members in local party offices for a 12-week election training programme.
The labour society has grown immensely over the past year – how do you feel about this?
It is incredibly exciting to have so many new members, particularly as so many, including over half our committee, are first years, so it bodes well for the future.
Our challenge has been to channel all this enthusiasm into meaningful, effective and enjoyable action, recognising that people join for different reasons and are into different activities – we try to take good care of everyone!
The Labour Society won Society of the Week at QMSU – how did that feel?
It was lovely to have all our hard work recognised by the SU. We recognise their huge commitment to supporting all societies, and we are always conscious that it is only this continued support that allows us to do everything we do.
As President of the society, what do you most enjoy about your role?
Although we are now one of the larger societies, it is still a real challenge to keep such a diverse range of activities going each week, so I was keen to empower as many members as possible in their areas to do their own thing and take responsibility. My favourite part of the role has been watching so many fantastic members grow into their roles and bring their own initiatives to fruition.
Are there any achievements or highlights of the society that you would like to mention?
Our huge contribution to the General Election campaign, in which we helped Neil Coyle MP win election in Bermondsey & Old Southwark. We had 26 members campaigning on election day, and several of us walked through the Rotherhithe Tunnel at 4am and worked 17 hours straight.
Launching our website www.qmlabour.org was a very proud moment for us – it has everything we do in one place and was the result of many hours of work.
Another highlight was our activists appearing on BBC1’s Sunday Politics working on the Missing Million campaign to register voters. We also played a big part in the VOTE:QMBL campaign to register students to vote on campus – we had fantastic support from QM Young Greens, Politics Made Public and SU President Carolina Mantzalos
Hosting the London Young Labour Policy Conference with Sadiq Khan was a real coup for us, and the SU worked miracles helping us organise it at very short notice.
Other highlights have been having Labour Students National President Michael Rubin name us as his favourite society in the country, which was great considering the other much larger and better established societies at other universities, and our mascot, Kermit, getting a selfie with Deputy Leader Tom Watson – it was hilarious: https://twitter.com/kermit4qmlabsoc
Any exciting plans for future events?
Dame Tessa Jowell will be speaking at our event on Monday 25 January – this will be brill. We’re also discussing a big event with other parties and the Debate Society, but this is top secret at the moment!
We can’t wait for the Mayor of London campaign to kick off, and in the six weeks before 5 May, we will be campaigning five times a week. The Europe referendum will be huge for us, and we are looking at working with the Greens and Lib Dems on campus to work together on the ‘in’ campaign.
How do you plan to expand your society over coming years?
We will elect an International Students Officer in January as we think there are many politically engaged overseas students who might like to get involved. We plan to work with other societies on joint speaker events to reach out to a wider audience, and we want to redouble our support for our Liberation Officers to reach out to groups which are traditionally under-represented, including women, BAME, disabilities and LGBT.
Where can students find out more and keep up to date with your society?
The best place is our website – www.qmlabour.org – which has absolutely everything and will be completely updated in time for the start of this term. There’s also Facebook and Twitter:
- Facebook https://www.facebook.com/QMLabourSociety
- Twitter @qmlabsoc