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Durham student union candidate pledges to 'defeat Isis' and build 217 ft statue of NUS President Malia Bouattia

'As long as we're in the NUS we need to work to make it ever so slightly less terrible'

Amy Gibbons
Tuesday 06 December 2016 17:30
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Tom harwood - NUs delegate campaign video

A disenfranchised student at Durham University is running to be NUS delegate on the basis he will “bring down the Tory government” and “defeat Isis”.

Tom Harwood, a second-year Politics student from Mary’s College, made the pledges in his largely satirical candidate manifesto, accompanied by an unconventional campaign video which been viewed over 13,000 times in just one week.

Having run the Durham’s NUS disaffiliation campaign ‘A Better Durham’ last year, when 40 per cent of students voted to leave the Union, Harwood is now contending to be a delegate with the view to address the problems with the system first hand.

The controversial candidate has saturated his campaign page with promises, also pledging to put NUS funds to more "productive ends" such as constructing a fully functioning real life death star and building a 217 foot bronze statue of controversial NUS President Malia Bouattia.

Although he concludes with a serious vow to call out the NUS’s ‘self-aggrandising motion’, and lobby for what students really need.

As voting opened on Tuesday, Mr Harwood told the Independent why, despite running the Durham disaffiliation campaign last year, he now wants to play an active role in the NUS.

“As long as we're in the NUS we need to work to make it ever so slightly less terrible,” he said.

“My candidacy isn't just about showing that discontent with the way the NUS works is still strong, it's also about working to make membership slightly more bearable while we remain a member of this ridiculous organisation.”

Mr Harwood had previously explained in a Facebook post that the outlandishness of his campaign reflected the ridiculous state of the NUS, a tone he claims is necessary to engage students properly.

“Most students rightly don't care about NUS elections. They're usually full of student politicians producing dull and lengthy policy documents,” he continued.

“People are rightly way more enthused about a serious message if it's presented in a fun way.”

As part of his campaign, Mr Harwood claims that he will represent the 40 per cent at Durham that voted to leave the NUS, and focus on issues that “actually matter to students,” unlike protest politics.

The 20-year-old student, who is from Cambridge, says his issue is not with the campaigns themselves, nor the interests of politically engaged students, but the prioritisation of the NUS as a platform to see these visions through.

He added that there are plenty of campaign groups for students to join, should they want to boycott certain country or protest government ruling, but it should not be in the NUS’s mandate to assume students’ interests.

“I'd argue that it is wrong to advance your own narrow sectarian political agenda through an organisation that purports to speak for all students,” he clarified.

As it stands, Mr Harwood already has a fair amount of support from his peers, with around 50 people registered ‘interested’ and 92 ‘going’ to his Facebook voting event at the time of publication. But he wants students further afield to get involved.

“I'd like to encourage all students around the country who think the NUS is a bit s***ly run to be delegates at this year's conference.

“Hopefully together we can make a difference, and have a bit of fun with it at the same time.”

Voting closes for students at Durham University on 9 December at 5pm.

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