A year ago, almost to the day, Theresa May came back from a walking holiday in Wales and decided to call a snap General Election. I could scarcely imagine just how much her decision that day would turn my life upside down to such an extent that I am now writing this article from my office in the House of Commons, as the new Member of Parliament for Glasgow North East and the Shadow Scotland Minister on Jeremy Corbyn’s front bench.
As the late Charles Kennedy said, and as the gold leaf inscription above the debates chamber now proudly reminds us all, “The University may give you a degree, but it’s the union that gives you your education.” It is true that the more you put into this place, the more you will get out of it. This Union has moulded me into who I am today.
Being selected as a first-time candidate by the Labour Party and running in a snap General Election at such short notice was a bewildering and stressful experience, but I soon learned that the late Charles Kennedy’s words proved to be very true.
The skills I learned in running for GUU board elections, participating in hustings and taking part in the Union’s infamous Friday night Parliamentary debates during my time as a student meant that many of the skills I needed to be effective on the campaign trail, and now as an MP, came as second nature.
The Union offers so much for all its members; my advice to you is to throw yourself into this amazing place as much as you can during the time you have here at University.
While ending D*** F***** on the podium of the HIVE, surrounded by all your mates is an essential part of Union life, and always will be, the GUU was the central pillar of my university life in so many other ways too. It was where I met many of my friends, be it through debating or getting involved with the Dialectic Society and eventually the Board of Management.
Cut your teeth at debating, building your confidence at public speaking and follow in a great tradition of political leaders and world champion competitive speakers who have emerged from the Glasgow University Union over the last 133 years. Join the G-YOU magazine contributors page, as many fine journalists and writers have done, and voice your opinion on what’s going on at university. Sing at Open Mic as Emily Sande once did, or head down with your mates and try your luck at the Beer Bar Quiz, which I always excelled at losing. There is something for everyone in our Union.
It’s also important to remember that this isn’t just a students’ union, but a members’ club for all generations who have passed through its doors. I ran as a Former Student Member on the Board of Management after I graduated because I had practical project management skills in my previous career in shipbuilding that helped to deliver the new HIVE extension. Alumni don’t run for board positions because we want to keep the Union the way it is, but because we want to support our student board members to make positive changes and safeguard the future of the Union. We want to offer the best possible experience for future generations of students, so they can have just as superb an experience as we did. If you feel you have a passion for what we do in the Union and want to make a change here, think about joining a committee, or run for a board position at the next round of elections – it will certainly be an education!
-Paul Sweeney MP for Glasgow North East
Shadow Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland
Former Student Member, Glasgow University Union, 2013-Present
Editor: Owain Campton, Editor-in-Chief