Tom Harwood, who has announced that he will run against Malia Bouattia for the presidency of the NUS, has attacked the student union as having “been hijacked by a cabal of people who all think the same way”.
He has described the leadership as “from quite an extreme end of far-left politics”, and appealed for students to “drag the NUS back to the centre so that it can speak for all students”.
Mr Harwood, 20, an NUS delegate at the University of Durham, won his university campaign by promising to defeat Isis using NUS boycotts and to lower the price of Cadbury Freddos to 10 pence. His campaign attracted national attention for its satirical policy proposals and his public dislike of NUS president Ms Bouattia.
In a campaign video posted on his website, Harwood lists “silly things the NUS has done”, such as a call to “bring down the government” and the vote to ban clapping at NUS conferences.
Speaking exclusively to The Independent, he explained his decision to run for the leadership.
“I’m right where most students are, which is coincidentally probably not where most of the NUS is,” he said.
“For example, I want to lobby for lower taxes on alcohol in student bars. I don’t think the NUS has been in favour of that in the past – certainly, a few years ago the NUS passed a motion to increase alcohol prices. I think that’s exactly the opposite of what students in this country want.
In the past, Mr Harwood has campaigned against NUS motions on foreign policy, such as the August 2014 vote to support Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel.
He said the union “shouldn’t be making pronouncements on foreign policy” and suggested debates on Israel and Palestine weren’t relevant to the student movement.
Harwood’s manifesto includes calls for all lectures to begin with a pledge of allegiance to the NUS, to ensure jobs for all graduates by starting construction of a “real life death star” and to “enact sweeping agrarian reform across the British Isles”.
He argues that the NUS has become “far too serious in recent years” and that “being a student is also about having fun”.
“If everything is always 100 per cent serious in this world, it would be very boring and probably less productive,” he said.
“Addressing issues like anti-Semitism head-on is really key.. but that’s not to say that because you take one issue very, very seriously, you can’t have fun at other issues”.
The row over anti-Semitism in the NUS continues, after Ms Bouattia was condemned by a Home Affairs Select Committee for “outright racism” in October, following her comment in 2011 that Birmingham University had become a “Zionist outpost”.
An internal report recommended Ms Bouattia face no disciplinary action.
The vote on the next president of the NUS will be held at their conference in Brighton on 25-27 April. Mr Harwood is predicted to stand against the incumbent Ms Bouattia, who is yet to officially announce her candidacy, and Shakira Martin, current Vice President for Further Education.