The beckoning call of student politics

15 02 2009

This article was published in the University of York’s Guardian award-winning newspaper Nouse on 18th October 2008

The University of York’s political scene is one of the most active and exciting in the country. There is a raft of societies, activities, events, and publications which provide for pretty much all political appetites.

Student politics has a reputation for being charged with excitement, intensity, and passion. There haven’t been many politically motivated riots at York in recent years, nor are there likely to be in the future. In fact a lot of the debate might at first appear fairly tame. But do not be fooled! Alongside the more presentable side of the political scene, there is no shortage of radicals, nutters and anoraks to get meaty debate started – you just have to know where to find it.

First port of call for many people will be the major political parties, all of which are represented at the YUSU Fair. I’m sure it is tempting bitter recriminations to provide a detailed description of each of them, but here is a cautious attempt: Lib Dems will find an intimate but devoted group of party faithful who are focussed on supporting the local party. Similarly, York Labour Club are dedicated campaigners out on the doorstep, but they also bring good speakers to campus. Being the party of government, they also have exquisite access to high-ranking ministers.
The Tories might not always be in complete concurrence with their party leadership on matters of policy, but they can always be relied upon to ensure a good night out and host debates every week. Most often seen at Ziggy’s dressed in exotic costume.

For those not comfortable committing to a part just yet, the NGS provides a welcoming alternative. Described by some as the king of speaker events, they were the largest political group last year. The weekly ‘Thinking & Drinking’ events are good fun, and are always thought-provoking but can get a little slurred late into the night.

In addition to these there is a highly active group of special-interest groups like Oxfam, Amnesty International, and People and Planet. Unlike the political groups these guys are less focussed on speaker events and debates. Instead they roll up their sleeves and get busy actively campaigning on their own projects.

If writing is your bag there are quite a few options open. The University newspapers Nouse and York Vision tend to focus on campus news rather than national politics, although all do have sections devoted to just that. The Yorker carries quite a few features on political issues.

Together with this the NGS Journal online and Vox, a magazine run by the club of PEP, include articles from politicians and academics as well as students.

YSTV have often made attempts to get a current affairs programme off the ground, but unfortunately haven’t managed it in recent years – perhaps a chance for some visionary fresher to make their mark this year?

The other broadcaster, campus radio station URY, have a good selection of discussion shows from the intense to the rather more flippant. Running your own show can be a lot of work, so if that does not take your fancy, try and make an appearence on another show or get involved when URY covercampus political events such as the YUSU elections.

All of the above are great opportunities for getting involved, so you shouldn’t have an excuse not to get stuck in.

The most attractive thing about the way York does politics is that after all the intense debate, nothing can’t be put aside for the sake of a good night in Ziggy’s.

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