A monument to drivel.
Even more so than the Eurovision Song Contest, which a French minister referred to as such in the 1980s.
The really frightening thing about student politics, though, is that the people who engage in it are our future lords and masters. Have a look at the current political classes in Britain. A huge majority of them are career politicians - Jack Straw, for instance, a student member of the Communist Party and went through the ranks of local government in the 1980s. David Blunkett, who was formerly in charge of Sheffield until he became Education Secretary. The Brothers Miliband, who started out as junior policy wonks and rose through the Labour Party administration before being put up as a candidate. And so forth. All of them were active in student politics in the 1970s. And I dare say that a few people who I rubbed shoulders with at university who spent their evenings smoking weed and bellyaching about how it's all the fault of the (insert the Left's béte noire group of the moment here) bastards are going to try and get themselves a job in the Labour or Liberal Democrat party apparatus and, come 2030, they'll be in charge of the rest of us despite never having engaged in anything approximating "real life" ever.
But then again, what has student politics got to do with real life? Sweet Fanny Adams, that's what.
My first year of higher education was spent in halls of residence, for the most part, in Bloomsbury, north London. I arrived at university with a laptop computer, a fairly inoffensive and level headed set of political and moral viewpoints (to me anyhow!), and far too much time on my hands. Not being the sort of person who cares too much about celebrities or football or where the current "in" night spot in London is or who's winning Big Brother, I gravitated towards the folks at college (sorry, but I refuse point-blank to use the barbarism "uni") who had something slightly more thoughty to say. They transpired to be a number of people from SOAS, a university in London that is known for the social sciences and humanities and they seemed fairly clued up about things in general. Eventually I accompanied them to an all-night vigil outside the Houses of Parliament (this was prior to SOCPA, so you could still do that sort of thing without being moved on on suspicion of being a terrorist) which was aimed at putting pressure on Tony Blair to, erm, do something, about fair trade products in Africa and so forth in the run up to Live 8. So we all went along, sat in that church off the side of Westminster Abbey, and listened to a number of speakers on the topic before hitting the bricks and making some noise.
The whole event was done with the approval of the Irish hypocrite Bono and that get from The Boomtown Rats whose kids all have fucking stupid names. Everyone there was a student, pretty much. The affair was partly organised by students. The speakers alternated between pretentious poetry recital, "moving" acoustic guitar songs that people had been written just for the occasion about how awful it was to starve to death because of the race to the bottom regarding international trade, and African churchmen going off on guilt trips. So after this affair finished, I grabbed one of the folks I went with and told her I. if you're going to write a song about starving to death, it would be far better if it was a thrash metal number, and II. call me old-fashioned, but blaming your audience for the issue you're trying to convince people over and guilt-tripping them is not the best way to win converts.
This was the exact moment when I realised that student politics were full of shit.
She span, eyes afire, and spat at me, "Maybe we should feel fucking guilty, hm?"
I went out only because I wanted to get into one of the less hippyish protesters' undercrackers somehow (to be fair, she was rather tasty), and eventually bailed just after midnight because I was bored senseless, was surrounded by people who had absolutely no clue whatsoever, and was still to be convinced by it all.
Say what you will, but this is where student politics lost me because very little of it was based on logic. More just a vague sense of righteous indignation and a nodding acquaintance with the principles of socialism. It was big on appeals to emotion and character assassination of the other side and short on reasoned argument and trying to find a genuine solution to the issue. The issues involved were always the sort that celebrities can get themselves involved with to try and get their ugly mushes in the tabloids more effectively. Things like dropping international debt, banning smoking in bars (even though several proponents of this one were inveterate stoners), battling climate change, pro-abortion (I refuse to use the expression "pro-choice" because it is pure demagoguery - as is "pro-life"), the war in Iraq, and the ubiquitous and tired smearing of George W. Bush without a proper understanding of the issues he was drawing criticism for. While I am sure there are plenty of substantial arguments in favour of each of these positions, and substantial arguments against them, any questioning of their dogma was met with a fiery rebuff and an accusation of being a right winger, which is, to the minds of the student politician, a worse insult than "your mother is the whore of Babylon," or in league with Big Oil or giant soulless evil corporations.
They claimed to be trying to make the world a better place and increasing equality and freedom and fluffy happiness for all, yet were more than willing to advocate ridiculous and liberticidal measures to do so, positive discrimination, censorship, and tax-and-spend policies. They were also VERY easily bought; I remember in the run up to the 2005 general election they had spent most of their time damning Tony Blair for his role in the Iraq War yet were still going to vote Labour because they approved of his promise to increase foreign aid contributions if re-elected. Another claimed to be a feminist yet, when I asked her if it was surely more expedient and logical with regard to the general status of women in societies worldwide to, say, do something to kill off female genital mutilation in parts of Africa or gender apartheid in Saudi Arabia rather than mindlessly slapping stickers saying "dead men don't rape" on my copy of Bizarre magazine, she accused me of being an inveterate racist as well as a misogynist, and that I was being culturally imperialist.
Since finishing that year I have lived in Paris for a year, and graduated, and student politics are still totally worthless. The issues have changed; rather than trying to flog fair trade stuff and insist that everyone pay more tax to "encourage greater social justice,", they're now trying to flog hemp knickers and insist that everyone pay more tax to "combat climate change." Rather than trying to fine people for smoking in public, they're trying to fine people for using the wrong bin. Although they'll dodge the question endlessly - just as they did back in 2004-5 - they still applaud the encroachment of the database state and anti-terrorist measures. They still call for the character assassination of anyone who opposes them - or just the assassination, as George Monbiot (a Guardianista and idol of student politicos) well knows when he said that anyone who "denies" (read: questions the hysteria surrounding) climate change should be subjected to some sort of "green Nuremberg Trials". In short, they chase these Utopian ideals and call for the institution of authoritarian laws and attitudes to stomp them out, yet care not for the false positives, the people who are just trying to get by who would get it in the shorts as a result of these policies.
But then again, your average person who engages in student politics and wants to get into same once they enter reality tends to have had a privileged enough upbringing not to ever have to face such issues themselves. By their own admission, the folks I went on that fair trade protest with were, for the most part, privately educated, and often went on expensive travels and things round unusual parts of the world on gap years and in their summer holidays funded by Mummy and Daddy, whereas some of us had to work in order to stump up enough cash to survive at least the opening of the next year.
I actually want to get into politics at some point. But I'm going to leave it until I've actually had some real life experiences. Look for me in your constituency in, ooohh, 2020...