James McAsh

I am a National Committee member of the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC) and a National Executive Councillor at the National Union of Students (NUS). Unless stated otherwise the views expressed in here are my own personal views, not of any organisation.

Model NUS Conference Motion: Affiliation Fees

NUS has policy to try to reduce students’ union affiliation fees every year. At the same time, many democratic events (including those which elect members to the National Executive Council) have fees attached to them. Even more have other hidden costs associated with them, like transport, food and accommodation.


I asked recently why this policy was in place. I was told that, when asked, students’ unions consistently ask for lower affiliation fees.


This makes sense: why would anyone ask to pay more?


But in all my time in the student movement NUS has never asked its constituent members whether they’d prefer a reduction in affiliation fees to a reduction in participation fees.


For me, it’s a clear choice. While no one wants to pay affiliation fees it is surely fairer that unions pay a fee for membership (which is proportionate to how big/rich the union is) and then once they are members access to democracy should be completely fair. It is simply outrageous that unions with more money can afford more influence in their union.


I have written a model motion which unions can submit to National Conference before the deadline this Wednesday. It’s only 150 so won’t eat too much into your 1400 word count.


Please get in touch if you have questions: james.mcash@nus.org.uk


Affiliation Fees Motion – NUS National Conference AGM

Conference Believes:
1. That students’ unions are facing financial pressures and that budgets are tight.
2. That costs associated with NUS membership and participation can make up a substantial part of SU budgets.
3. That NUS charges participation fees for a number of democratic events, including ones which elect members to the National Executive Council.
4. That NUS is pursuing a strategy of reducing affiliation fees.
5.That affiliation fees are lower for unions with less money.

Conference Further Believes:
1. That participation fees are to affiliation fees what hidden course costs are to tuition fees.
2. That no union should be prevented from participation in NUS Democracy for financial reasons.
3. That while affiliation fees are not ideal, they are more progressive than participation fees.

Conference Resolves:
1. That NUS will not cut affiliation fees in real terms until all participation fees for democratic events are abolished.

NEC Report – January 23rd


Below is a report on the happenings of the last NEC. I’ve made it as short as I could and have not included everything. Sorry it took so long!


—- Read more…

Let’s actually challenge Maurice Glasman’s views

This is a response to Toni Pearce and Dom Anderson’s blog: ‘Challenging Views‘.

Tomorrow NUS is hosting an event called ‘We Are The Change’. The organisers invited Maurice Glasman as a keynote speaker. A group of student officers complained.  It then seemed he had pulled out.  Now he is back in.

Maurice “zero immigration” Glasman should not be banned but neither should his views be endorsed. It is not a question of ‘no platforming’ him: he is no fascist. But that alone is not sufficient reason to invite him to deliver a keynote speech. Toni Pearce and Dom Anderson’s defence is confused and muddled.

It falls down on two counts. They assert that Glasman is not a fascist so should not be ‘no platformed’. But this misses the point. They argue that his views should be openly challenged and debated. This is true. But it is not happening. As a result, NUS is endorsing his views when we should be challenging them.

Read more…

Who actually runs NUS?

During my time on the NEC, I have made it clear that I feel that NUS needs to be more democratic and participatory. I have realised though that the centralisation of power in the NUS leadership is disempowering them in the organisation more widely. This is perhaps best shown by the peculiar fact that the NUS fulltime officers organise in a trade union. Read more…

Lessons from being banned at #nuszc2013

Right now students are under attack. Teaching budgets have been decimated in higher and further education. The loss of EMA and the rise of tuition fees is pricing working class people out of education. The higher education funding system will polarise universities in the coming years, allowing the richest to become richer still, while underfunded institutions are at risk of closing down.


I don’t need to remind anyone of the seriousness of this. These issues will not be resolved by NUS officers having meetings with government ministers in fancy hotels. The only way we can fight back for our education is the same way that pretty much everything good has been achieved: mass mobilisation. And this requires democracy. We can’t fight for our futures without allowing all those voices to be heard, ideas to be genuinely debated, and decisions taken democratically.


NUS is not currently in a position to do this. This has been strongly emphasised to me in the past few days.

Read more…

My speech to #nuszc2013

I am a current member of the Zone Committee. My job is to ensure this conference is successful, and to hold the VP to account.
I’ve been banned, up until now, from participating in this conference, making my job basically impossible.

Read more…

Democratic Mandate Denied: Accountability and Bureaucracy at #nuszc2013

I’m currently sitting in the Manchester Palace Hotel where NUS Union Development Zone Conference is held. I’m in the bar, a public area, because NUS are currently preventing me from getting into the sessions. There are literally people on the doors, just for me. And this is despite the fact that I am an elected committee member of the Union Development Zone.

Zone Conference is the main democratic body for the UD Zone. As a committee member it is not my right but my responsibility to be here. I am responsible for making sure the conference runs as it should. I am responsible for holding the VP to account. I should be accountable to the people at this conference. None of that is possible if I am not allowed to go in. It’s more problematic still that the person who I am supposed to hold accountable is the person banning me.

Read more…

Democracy and boycotts: the example of Blurred Lines

A number of student unions have decided they will not allow Robin Thicke’s number one single “Blurred Lines” to be played in their commercial venues.

The trend began at Edinburgh University Students’ Association (EUSA) where the song was removed from playlists in line with their “End Rape Culture and Lad Banter on Campus” policy. This policy was democratically approved at an open meeting of around 600 students. According to the union’s Vice President, and National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts member, Kirsty Haigh, the song “promotes an unhealthy attitude towards sex and consent”.

When other unions followed suit, some decisions were taken in mass meetings or union councils, some by executives or lone officers. The difference between the two could not be greater. Read more…

NEC should not railroad through undemocratic decisions

This Tuesday’s NEC will see a paper proposing the creation of a NUS Area for London. I submitted an amendment to this paper which has been vetoed by the National President Toni Pearce: as it currently stands it will not even be discussed at the meeting.

While there are good things in the proposed paper, there are some major shortcomings, and the process that brought us here was a complete joke. In my capacity as an NEC member I want to shed some light on what has happened, and give my view on the ridiculous situation.

Read more…

Progressive elected officers should defend public services, not administer their destruction

You don’t have to look far to see the harsh impact of Tory cuts. Every day it seems there is a tragedy reported in the news: a woman committing suicide because she couldn’t find the £20 a week she needed to pay the Bedroom Tax; or hundreds of food banks springing up across the country. And while the cuts are hitting everyone (apart from the super-rich), the worst is being felt by the already most disadvantaged in society, disabled people and women in abusive relationships for instance.

But just when it feels like all politicians are out to destroy the support services we need most, one recent development restores faith in elected official. Councillors Against the Cuts is an inspirational group founded earlier this year by councillors, primarily but not exclusively Labour, who have committed to vote against passing on Tory cuts. They rightly argue that their role as councillors is not to administer austerity but to join with their local communities in fighting back. Read more…

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