By Eugene Smith
Durham University undergraduate Tom Harwood has finished third in this year’s National Union of Students (NUS) presidential election, falling behind the incumbent Malia Bouattia in second place and former NUS vice-president Shakira Martin, who won by a landslide.
Running on a platform of “re-legitimising” the student organisation, Mr Harwood secured just 35 votes from the Conference’s 1,200 delegates, compared to Ms Bouattia’s 272 and Ms Martin’s 402.
Ms Martin, a 28-year-old former student at Lewisham College who describes herself as a “black, working class single mother,” said in her victory speech: “Today students voted for an NUS that’s taken seriously in the sector, by government and society.
“Students voted for an NUS with fun and energy that brings the fire back to their campus. Students were fed up of hearing about change, and voted to see some impact for a change.”
The result is a blow for incumbent president Ms Bouattia, who won the presidency last year but soon became mired in accusations of anti-Semitism following allegations she had described the University of Birmingham as a “Zionist outpost” in 2011.
It is also a disappointing outcome for Mr Harwood, who launched his presidential campaign in March this year after his election as a Durham NUS Conference delegate by a significant margin last December.
The third-placed candidate told Palatinate: “I’m very proud to have pushed the conversation to address some of the deep structural failings of the NUS.
“My candidacy clearly has had a big impact on this election and I’m delighted that our new president has taken on board so many of the concerns my campaign raised.
“I believe that we have the chance now to start moving in the right direction and I look forward to working with Shakira over the next year.”
The NUS presidency has long been a coveted position for aspiring politicians and activists. Previous presidents include the former Home and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, ex-Home Secretary Charles Clarke, and the writer, broadcaster and Labour politician Trevor Phillips.